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Elite 2014 forward Cliff Alexander shines in the EYBL

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FRISCO, Tx. — Despite his lofty top-5 ranking, Cliff Alexander might be slighty underrated. While Alexander is the No. 5 player in the 2014 class — according to Rivals — he doesn’t command the media attention and exposure as some of the other top players in the class. Cliff is not a career EYBL player and has only joined the Nike traveling circuit full-time this season after a few EYBL events with the Mac Irvin Fire last year. This year, the 6-9 power forward from Curie High School  has enjoyed running in the EYBL with the Mac Irvin Fire and is starting to get more national attention after a few strong weekends.

“It’s a great experience,” Alexander said of the EYBL. “It’s great competition that pushes me to get better and you have to come out here with great expectations and come out to win.”

The first two weekends of the EYBL, Alexander averaged 14.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 60% shooting from the field without the help of the No. 1 player in the class, center Jahlil Okafor.

This weekend, Okafor and Alexander played together for the first time in the EYBL this season and the results were at times devestating. Cliff enjoyed how the new twin towers played together.

“It’s great, teams double (Jahlil) and they forget about me and I can get my shine on,” Alexander said with a smile. “He’s a true center and I’m a power forward. I get all of his misses; everything he misses I go and get.”

Cliff also acknowledged that he enjoys playing with Okafor so much that he’s discussed playing with the Whitney Young center in college. Also in the disscussion for that package deal according to Cliff: the nation’s No. 2 point guard, Tyus Jones.

“Yeah, me, Jahlil and Tyus have talked about it,” Alexander said of a package deal. “There aren’t any schools in particular we’re all looking at together.”

Alexander is still pretty early in the recruiting process and he doesn’t have any upcoming visits. Cliff listed scholarship offers from Indiana, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, DePaul, Baylor, Arizona, and Memphis to NBC Sports.

“Everybody has been recruiting me the same,” Alexander said. “I’m just looking for a school that has a great relationship with my parents, a school that gets out and runs and me and the coaches have to see eye-to-eye.”

Scott also writes for NY2LA Sports and can be followed on Twitter @sphillipshoops

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.