Kelly Kline/Under Armour

2014 guard Isaiah Whitehead is New York’s next big thing

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Isaiah Whitehead gets buckets at a very high level and the guard from New York City is regarded by many as the next big thing to come out of the basketball mecca.

It doesn’t hurt that the 6’4″ Whitehead comes from Lincoln High School, which has recently produced NBA guards Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and NBA playoff breakout player Lance Stephenson.

“It’s been great these past three years being the next great one out of Lincoln so I’m just trying to live up to the hype,” Whitehead told NBC Sports.

Whitehead is currently regarded as Rivals’ No. 17 player overall in the 2014 class and as the next “big thing” out of Lincoln, he’s kept in touch with some of the NBA players that have come from Lincoln before him.

“I talk to them often about how to handle the pressure and how to handle the spotlight,” Whitehead said. “I probably talk to Lance the most because he came right (in front of me) but I talk to Sebastian sometimes too.”

Stephenson had a good campaign with the Indiana Pacers this season and played an integral part in their playoff run that saw them fall in seven games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Whitehead noticed the play of Stephenson and has used it as motivation for his own game.

“He just tells me to keep working,” Whitehead said of his relationship with Stephenson. “He told me I can come work out with him whenever I want and to keep getting better; that’s the key. I feel like we have the same kind of situation. The first couple of years (in the NBA) he played at one speed, so we’re both just maturing as players and he did really good this year.”

Whitehead has been a white-hot name among scouting circles after a great performance at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in June and his scoring roll has continued into July. His play at the Under Armour Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports has been stellar thus far.

“It’s been great; the competition is good and we’re just looking to push forward,” Whitehead said of July. “I’ve played well, and moved up in the rankings. I think I’m a hot name on the circuit right now.”

Isaiah listed scholarship offers from Syracuse, Louisville, Minnesota, Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Arizona and UCLA to NBC Sports and said that he’s open to whoever wants to recruit him.

“Everybody basically (is able to join my recruitment),” Whitehead said. “My recruitment is open to anybody that wants to come in and join.”

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.