Nick Koza

Oklahoma move results in a fresh start for Ethan Telfair

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Marbury and Telfair families have been a fixture on the New York City basketball scene for decades. With that name comes a great deal of responsibility, and that was the case for 2014 point guard Ethan Telfair as he grew up in Coney Island. Following the footsteps of older brother Sebastian, a lottery pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, Ethan had to deal with the frequent comparisons to his older brother while growing up.

And such expectations can become downright suffocating if a young man and his family aren’t careful.

There were bouts with immaturity along the way, and the pressure to be the “next one” didn’t always allow Ethan to be himself. A move to Oklahoma, where he attends United Prep, has allowed Telfair to flourish as both a basketball player and a young man.

“I wanted to do my own thing and spread my wings a little bit,” said Telfair when asked about the move following his game Thursday night. “Leaving New York gave me that opportunity.”

Telfair’s journey began in Las Vegas, but that stay was short-lived as he made the move to Oklahoma after finding out the school he was attending wasn’t approved by the NCAA. That led him to Oklahoma Magic head coach Bryatt Vann and the move, which has been embraced by both of Telfair’s families (basketball and immediate), has resulted in Telfair becoming a more mature person as he writes his own story.

“When he first came to us in Oklahoma his maturity level wasn’t all the way there, and we were able to help him to relax and realize that if you lose a game or turn the ball over it’s not the end of the world,” said Vann. “That’s when he started to grow up and understand that if he makes a mistake on the floor or in the classroom he can make it up.

“He’s a great kid,” Vann added. “I don’t know about his past; all I see is what he’s doing now. I’ve had no problems with Ethan. He’s always a ‘yes, sir’, ‘no, sir’ kind of kid with myself and the coaching staff.”

Telfair’s running the point for the Oklahoma Magic in the adidas Super 64, and his ability to run a team was on display during the Magic’s victory Thursday night. Playing on a team that includes 2014 big man Jacob Hammond, Telfair’s quick with the basketball put played under control, and he’s also improved his perimeter shot. But even with those changes, Telfair’s ultimate goal is to affect the game in all aspects as opposed to just scoring.

“I want to be like a Tony Parker or Chris Paul, someone who [has the ability to] control the floor without even scoring and get my teammates involved, and just have fun,” said Telfair, who also noted that he’s enjoying the game a lot more at this stage in his development.

The progress that’s been made has resulted in increased attention on the recruiting trail, with Telfair mentioning programs such as Baylor, Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, St. John’s and Weber State when asked which schools have been the most active.

But none of this would be possible without the changes Telfair’s been able to make off the court. Now in control of his own story, Telfair can chart his own path to success.

(Image from MaxPreps.com)

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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.