Michael Williams

Mike Williams getting more attention after first Nike EYBL event

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The Nike EYBL circuit events are a unique experience for anyone that has been around AAU basketball.

It is more than just a tournament held in a different locale every weekend. It’s a league that stretches on throughout the spring and the summer, where the 32 teams affiliated with Nike will play five games a weekend at four different events before the season culminates at Peach Jam, the EYBL playoffs. It’s intense. It’s competitive. And it’s populated by the best players, the most well-known coaches and the biggest name writers in college basketball.

“The EYBL is not like anything that I’ve seen before,” said Mike Williams, a 16-year old junior that played in his first EYBL event in Hampton with the NY Lightning in April. “It’s completely different. The players are better, playing against top competition every game. The atmosphere is really crazy.

“All the head coaches were there. Everybody. And my heart just jumped through my chest. It was really nerve-wracking just to see all those head coaches.”

If Williams’ nerves were wracked, I would hate to see what happens when he is playing loose. In his first game of the weekend, Williams went for 25 points, hitting 7-7 from three, and never slowed down. He finished the weekend averaging 18.2 points while hitting 51.4% (18-35) from three and chipping in with nine assists and six steals. The Lightning went 4-1 on the weekend.

“It was a great experience for me,” the Brooklyn native and Bishop Loughlin product said.

While the 7-7 performance from three got him noticed, Williams made a name for himself in his first game on the second day of the event. The Lightning were playing Mac Irvin Fire, one of the best teams in the league. Jahlil Okafor is the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014. Cliff Alexander is top five. Both are being recruited by every school in the country. Throw in the likes of Josh Cunningham and Jalen Brunson, and it’s no wonder that the Fire packed the stands every time they took the floor.

But it was Williams who stole the show, finishing with a team-high 20 points and hitting the would-be game-winning three with just a couple of ticks left on the clock; his coach called a timeout when they had no timeouts remaining, and the Fire eventually won in overtime.

Making the performance all the more impressive is that Williams is playing up a year. He won’t turn 17 until September 23rd, a month into his senior year. Temple, Creighton, Rutgers, Fordham, Quinnipiac, Manhattan, Rhode Island and Fairfield are among the schools that have offered Williams, but his performance at the EYBL has gotten him some attention from bigger programs, including Virginia.

Only, Williams doesn’t quite know who.

“My brother’s heard from a lot of coaches, but he won’t tell me,” he said. “He wants to keep me focused.”

The one school that Williams hopes to hear from this summer is Florida, a program that a number scoring guards from New York — Mike Rosario, Erving Walker — have found a great deal of success. “Their style of play fits my style of play,” he said.

Williams cares about academics as well. When I talked to him, he was just leaving a test for an honors physics class he is taking. He also said he wants to find a school with a good pre-law program because he sees himself being a lawyer one day.

Why?

“Because everyone from New York can argue,” he said.

“Especially Brooklyn.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.