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Buzz continues to grow for elite 2014 recruit Dante Exum

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This year’s crop of incoming freshmen is already receiving a tremendous amount of buzz. Between Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s class that includes the Harrison twins and Julius Randle, and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, there will be plenty of star power next season in the college ranks.

But could another big name be joining them in college basketball this season? That appears to potentially be the case as Australia-native Dante Exum — son of former North Carolina alum and ’82 NCAA champion Cecil Exum —  will graduate from his high school sometime this winter and could opt to join a program by January of 2014.

A 6’6 point guard, Exum could technically enter the 2014 NBA Draft since he born in 1995 and lives outside the United States. Dante turns 18 on July 13th and according to a report from Adam Zagoria, he’s eyeing college in the United States before the draft.

“[The 2014 Draft] is going to be an option that my family and I will look closely at, but for the time being my eyes are set on college,” Exum told Zagoria.

Exum already visited Indiana earlier this year and also told Zagoria that the other programs on him the “hardest” include Michigan, Louisville, LSU, SMU, Tulsa and Kentucky.

But Exum is going to have to weigh the serious prospects of entering the 2014 NBA Draft with the way he’s currently playing at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague. Draft Express analyst Jonathan Givony has been raving about Exum’s performance on Twitter, which included a 30-point second half in an upset win over Spain to reach the U19 Final Four.

Givony previously had Exum as No. 9 on the 2014 Draft Express mock draft, but has elevated Exum to No. 3 — above Gordon, Marcus Smart, Parker and the Harrison twins — in a draft that is already being hailed as one of the best in the last decade.

While Givony is only one man with one mock draft, his opinion holds plenty of weight and Exum certainly appears to be the real deal.

Exum will have to weigh whether to attend college in January of 2014, the fall of 2014 or just forego college completely and focus on the 2014 NBA Draft, but his stock looks to be skyrocketing in a very deep class.

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

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.