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

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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.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.