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Isaiah Whitehead-Ja’Quan Newton package deal is ‘serious,’ could take official visit to Minnesota

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ARDSLEY, N.Y. — A few tweets sent three weeks ago, and another college basketball package deal was born.

Isaiah Whitehead (Lincoln High/Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Ja’Quan Newton (Neumann-Goretti/Philadelphia, Pa.) initially confirmed the rumors to Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports on June 28. Following the first July live period this weekend, Whitehead continued to fuel the fire of the package deal that would send two top-50 players to one school’s backcourt.

“We’re just talking about it,” Whitehead told NBC Sports at the BasketBull Summer Championships on Saturday. “We’re serious, but we haven’t pictured ourselves at a school, actually play together.”

The duo both hold offers from Georgetown, Minnesota, Rutgers and Syracuse. As Borzello mentioned in June, Richard Pitino and his staff have made an effort to recruit the northeast and it appears it is paying off for the Golden Gophers

“I’m taking [my official visits] after the live period,” Whitehead said.

As for taking any official visits with Newton?

“Possibly Minnesota,” Whitehead answered.

Whitehead, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard is ranked as the No. 17 overall player in the Class of 2014 by Rivals while the Newton, the 6-foot-2 point guard, is listed as the No. 41 by the same site. Both have a wide-open recruitment, and Whitehead said has no interest in cutting down his list of offers.

If this package deal were to become a reality, it will likely happen sooner rather than later.

“I’ll probably commit early in my senior year,” Whitehead said. “Probably like September.”

Though Whitehead says the talks with him and Newton are serious, he did tell NBC Sports that the school would have to be the right fit for both. He listed UCLA as school they are both interested in — however, Newton is still waiting for an offer from the Bruins.

This weekend athe BasketBull Summer Championships, St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin and an assistant were in attendance to watch Whitehead play with the Juice All-Stars (N.Y.). Lavin had a front-row seat to watch Whitehead score an easy 25 points in a win Saturday afternoon. St. John’s has yet to offer Newton, as well.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.