California v UNLV

Allen Crabbe looking to prove he’s more than just a scorer

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Labels. They’re everywhere, and in many cases the easiest thing to do is attach a specific label to something or someone. When it comes to the NBA Draft process, receiving a particular label can be both a gift and a curse for prospects. A gift in the sense that if a player is good enough at that specific role, that label could open the door to a long and lucrative professional career. But it can also be a curse, especially if the player can’t show that they’re capable of doing a little more to help a team.

This is the issue that confronted California junior guard Allen Crabbe as he began the process of making a jump to the next level. In three seasons at Cal, Crabbe proved to be one of the nation’s best perimeter scorers and won Pac-12 Player of the Year honors in 2012-13. The Los Angeles native left Berkeley ranked in the top ten in three major statistical categories: scoring (1,537 points), made three-pointers (209) and three-point percentage (38.2%).

With numbers like those, it’s safe to say that Crabbe can score. But what can also happen as a result of such numbers and his ability to knock down jump shots is that some decided Crabbe’s a scorer and that’s it. With that in mind, Crabbe went through the process of working to become a more versatile player during his time at Cal.

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“The scouts look at things that you can’t do, and you just go back and you work on those areas,” said Crabbe in a phone interview with NBCSports.com. “So the next time they see you, you can prove that you’re capable of doing the things they said you weren’t capable of.”

Crabbe’s journey to the draft began last summer, with the guard deciding to remain on campus all summer. It would have been nice to be able to enjoy some time off, but Crabbe saw the value in remaining on campus and continuing to expand his game. With that being the case, Crabbe was able to make improvements to his game in regards to both his skill set and his physical strength.

“We kept talking about how he needed to improve off the dribble,” Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said in a phone interview. “He needed to be able to set up his shot, in that if teams drove him off the three-point line he had the ability to break them down off the dribble.”

While the majority of his shot attempts were jump shots last season, Crabbe did manage to make improvements when it came to his ability to beat opponents off the dribble. With the move to the NBA, Crabbe can continue to make progress in this area while proving to be a valuable commodity as a shooter. NBA scouts are well aware of his ability to shoot the basketball; one goal of the process for Crabbe was showing that he can score in a multiple ways.

Herein lies the balance that players need to maintain throughout the pre-draft process: showing themselves to be capable of handling the tasks that come with that particular role while also displaying the ability to contribute in other areas.

“The balance tends to go more towards trying to show more,” said Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld in a phone interview with NBCSports.com. “Only because if you lump guys together as “specialists” at particular things, you’re going to have to separate them somehow. Even though, in terms of “franchise” players you’re not getting much in this draft, the people you do see at the top have the potential to [contribute in the most areas].”

Crabbe being labeled a scorer is likely to result in the junior being a first round selection Thursday night. How much value Crabbe provides to the team that selects him will depend upon his ability to not only score but also contribute in other areas. With the feeling being that the spacing of the pro game will prove beneficial, Crabbe aims to do just that when the time comes.

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)
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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
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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.