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Top 50 big Reid Travis to visit Gonzaga, continue working on his versatility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va — Reid Travis is as tough as they come on the basketball court.

A 6-foot-8, 240 lb bruiser, Travis has developed a reputation for himself nationally as a bully in the paint. He’s a double-double machine with a nose for the ball and a sense of how to gain position down-low. He finishes well through contact as well, which makes sense given the fact that he’s gotten scholarship offers from Big Ten schools as a quarterback.

With all that in mind, it’s funny to consider the fact that the next step that he needs to take in his game is to become … softer?

Well, that’s not quite right, but for Travis to be able to make the leap to the next level, the Minnesota native needs to become a more versatile player, diluting that raw power with a dash of finesse and a dollop of face-up game.

“I think the next step that I have to take is just to expand my game to the outside, and be able to knock down a three here and there while still keeping my principles of being able to pound down low,” Travis said after his first game at the NBPA Top 100 Camp on Thursday afternoon, mentioning that he watches film of NBA power forwards like Amare Stoudamire to help him learn. “I’ve been working on my post game a lot, especially since I’ve been going against all these bigger guys in the post. I’ve gotta expand a lot more, working on my jump shot and my jump hook and stuff like that.”

The better Travis gets from the perimeter, the more attention he will receive as a ballplayer. But attention isn’t all that Rivals’ 41st-ranked player in the Class of 2014 is after, as he already has plenty of it.

Travis already has upwards of a dozen high-major offers. In fact, he’s in the process of whittling that attention down and trying to figure out where he will be playing his college ball. Academics are important to Travis, which is one of the reasons that west coast programs like Stanford and UCLA have garnered his interest. Travis said that he likely will end up visiting those two schools, but the first visit that he has locked-in is a trip to Gonzaga, which will take place in the next couple of weeks.

“The coaching staff [at Gonzaga] intrigues me a lot,” Travis said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Tommy Lloyd and Mark Few, and I’m trying to keep building that. I just want to see what the campus is about and how they develop their players. Get a first hand look at what they do over there.”

Gonzaga would be a nice fit for Travis, as he could very easily put together a career reminiscent of the one that Elias Harris had over four years in Spokane, but leaving home wouldn’t be an easy thing to do, not with the current excitement in-state of the hiring of Richard Pitino. And you better believe that the new Gopher coaching staff has made the effort to sneak in and earn a commitment from Travis.

“It’s been great talking to Coach Pitino. I think I talk to him like twice a week,” Travis said. “I’ve had a number of unofficials since he came over. It’s been great to build that relationship, I like their whole staff and I like the program.”

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.