Jahii Carson

Arizona State aims to play even faster in 2013-14

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Before the 2012-13 season began Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils were picked to finish 11th, with few buying the preseason claims that the team would play faster thanks in large part to the addition of redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson.

In Sendek’s six prior seasons at the school his “fastest-playing” team was the 2010-11 edition, which averaged 63.9 possessions per 40 minutes (ranking 296th in the country that season). So of course the idea of Arizona State playing at a higher tempo was met with much skepticism.

In the end Sendek and his program did play faster in 2012-13, and while their jump to 65.8 possessions/40 minutes didn’t reach “run and gun” status the addition of Carson (and the improvement of veterans Jordan Bachynski and Carrick Felix, to name two) kept Arizona State in the NCAA tournament at-large discussion until late-February.

So what will Arizona State look to do in 2013-14? They want to play even faster, with three key numbers being their focus during the offseason according to Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com.

Three: seconds to get across midcourt.

Twelve: the number of seconds in which he’d like his team to shoot the ball.

Twenty-four: the number of seconds on the shot clock that will help accelerate Arizona State’s new offense, the one designed to get your attention and maximize the talents of sophomore Jahii Carson.

In working towards this goal, Sendek will have the team practicing with a 24-second shot clock when workouts begin in the fall. Also helpful in this process is the presence of assistant coach Eric Musselman, who has been both an assistant and head coach at the NBA level.

But despite those tools, there’s one very important reason why Sendek can push his team to play faster than any prior Arizona State squad during his tenure in Tempe: Carson.

“A few years ago, people thought I actually wanted to play a slow-down offense,” Sendek told Bickley. “I did it because it was our only chance to compete. And now people think I’ve had an epiphany. No, I have the fastest point guard in college basketball.”

Carson hit the ground running after being forced to sit out the 2011-12 season as a partial qualifier, averaging 18.5 points (47.3% FG) and 5.1 assists per game and sharing Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. And with the amount of talent that has left the conference since the end of the season, Carson could very well be the player picked to be Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year come November.

How much faster Arizona State plays next season remains to be seen, but it’s a lot easier to make such plans when armed with one of college basketball’s quickest players.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.