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Tyler (Ulis) the Creator embraces point guard ideal, looking to cut list to four

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In theory, exposure camps like the NBPA Top 100 are great.

Bringing some of the nation’s top talent together to workout together and get coached by guys who make their living through basketball, and then allowing them to perform in front of a who’s-who of national media members seems like a perfect combination.

And while the successes of the camp outweigh the downfalls, one major negative is that players realize that they’re being watched, and scouted, and evaluated. These athletes aren’t dumb. They know that a strong performance can improve their national ranking, that word of a hot shooting night will get back to the coach or coaches they want to start being recruited by.

The result? Too often, the kids become shot happy and any semblance of an offense breaks down.

The problem solver? Tyler Ulis.

A 5-foot-9 point guard out of Chicago, Ulis not only makes an effort to distribute the ball to the players around him, he embraces the ideal of being a point guard. He wants to be Tyler the creator.

“Most kids think they gotta come to camps and just score, score, score. Get their ranking up,” Ulis told NBCSports.com on Thursday evening. “I just try to do what they don’t do. I like to pass anyway, so I try to pressure the full court defense and kick to players when they’re open, because in a camp like this you’ve gotta keep everybody happy. Otherwise, you’re team will just shut down. ‘I don’t get the ball, I don’t get to show what I can do.'”

It’s a lost art, really, the ability to penetrate the defense, get a foot into the paint, draw a defender, lay the ball off for a dunk or a three. Ulis can do it, and plenty of people have taken notice. Ulis is ranked 69th nationally in the Class of 2014, according to Rivals, and has gotten enough scholarship offers that he’s needed to whittle his list down to seven schools: Michigan State, Iowa, DePaul, USC, Florida State, Purdue and Northwestern.

“Me and my dad are going to sit down and try to break it down into four schools,” Ulis said of his recruitment status. “I only have four officials left, so we want to get that out of the way. After the rest of the camps and the Peach Jam and all that, we’re going to sit down and schedule officials.”

One school that may have the inside edge is Michigan State. Former Spartan Travis Walton is reportedly related to Ulis, and Ulis has said that the Spartans are “kind of my dream school“.

For now, however, Ulis isn’t concerned with where he’ll end up playing his college ball.

He’s simply focused on getting better and trying to absorb all the coaching that he can get.

“I’m just trying to learn for the NBA guys that are here,” he said.” Andre Miller, John Lucas. They are great people to talk to and ask questions about because they are making a living doing what I want to do.”

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.