Sandy Cohen’s break out, Ja’Quan Newton update, Terrance Ferguson intro

Leave a comment

HAMPTON, Va. — The best part about covering an AAU tournament is following along with the kids who go from relative unknowns to hot commodities, and at Nike EYBL Hampton, Wisconsin Playground Elite’s Sandy Cohen may just be that guy.

Cohen entered the game with just four offers — Wisconsin-Green Bay, La Salle, North Dakota and George Washington — but that will likely change after this weekend.

On Friday night, Cohen, a 6-foot-4 combo-guard, was one of the best players on the floor despite going scoreless in a loss, as he finished with seven boards, seven assists and two blocked shots. He found his shooting stroke on Saturday, however, as he led Playground Elite to a win over Tyus Jones’ Howard Pulley squad with 24 points on 8-14 shooting (4-7 from three) to go along wit six boards and three assists.

Cohen has played well on back-to-back weekends in the EYBL, and some of the big boys have started to notice.

“It’s definitely picked up my recruitment,” the Seymour, WI, native said. “I was getting low-major D’I’s and now I’m starting to hear from high-majors.” Minnesota and UCLA are two of the high-major programs that have reached out to him recently.

Minnesota, in particular, seems like an intriguing destination for Cohen as the lanky combo-guard should be a perfect fit in the pressing style that new head coaching Richard Pitino likes to play.

“I’m just looking for a coach I really like and a school that plays to my personality and style of play,” he said. “I like a fast-pace, pick-up pressure.”

Cohen, who is rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals, sees himself playing the point in college, but there is some work to be done in order for that to happen. At this point in his development, Cohen is a playmaker, but he’s admittedly not yet ready to be a primary ball-handler.

“I think I got alright handles,” he said, “but I need to work on them more.”

Ja’Quan Newton continues to collect offers: Ja’Quan Newton is everything that you should expect out of a Philly point guard.

He’s quick and strong getting into the lane, and he’s tough enough to take a hit and finish through contact. His jumper isn’t where it needs to be yet, but he’s got the (ahem) intestinal fortitude to take, and make, a shot when his team needs it.

As you might expect, all of the Philly schools are coming after the Neumann-Goretti product and the 60th ranked recruit in the Class of 2014, but he’s not all that concerned about staying in Philly for school.

“It doesn’t really matter if I get away,” Newton said. “Whatever school fits me. If it’s in Philly or all the way on the other side of the country on the west coast, it doesn’t matter.”

Newton currently holds offers from Georgetown, Miami, Cincinnati, Missouri, Villanova, Temple, La Salle and Xavier, but he says he’s not trying to narrow his list down until after the AAU circuit.

“I’m just playing out the summer,” he said.

Remember the name Terrance Ferguson: Terrance Ferguson has been putting on a show at the Nike EYBL Hampton this weekend. In three games for Texas Pro, the Dallas native is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 54.1% (13-24) from three, playing with the 17’s.

Should I mention that the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter doesn’t turn 15 until May 17th?

Yup. He’s still a freshman at Prime Prep, but he’s been impressive enough this weekend that he was offered a tryout for the 16U USA team on Saturday.

“It feels amazing to be my age and doing all this,” Ferguson said, although acknowledging that he needs to really improve his ball-handling to be “more than just a jump-shooter.”

So how good is he?

“Terrence Ferguson is the best freshman in the country.” That quote is from Rivals No. 2 player in the Class of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay, who is Ferguson’s teammate at Prime Prep and with Texas Pro. He may be biased, yes, but in time we may find out that it was a factually correct statement.

(Image via Green Bay Gazette)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1 Comment

Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
1 Comment

Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
2 Comments

Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.