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Texas forward Ioannis Papapetrou the focus of a European suitor?

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6-8 forward Ioannis Papapetrou started 25 of the 34 games that he played in as a freshman for Texas this past season, posting averages of 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest.

In a season that was uneven for the Texas program as a whole (16-18 overall record) the same could be said for Papapetrou, who would show flashes of the potential needed to be a key factor for the Longhorns on one night and then struggling the next.

With that in mind a summer playing for Greece’s Under-20 national team served to benefit Papapetrou, as he would take on some of the continent’s young talent in the Under-20 European Championships. Papapetrou led Greece to a fifth place finish, posting averages of 15.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

While those numbers likely caught the attention of Texas head coach Rick Barnes, they apparently caught the attention of one of Greece’s most successful professional teams as well.

According to a report from gazetta.gr, two-time defending Euroleague champion Olympiakos B.C. has offered Papapetrou a five-year contract thought to be worth in upwards of $1 million (the page is in Greek, so a program like Google Translator works well). With that kind of money on the table there’s a strong chance that Papapetrou goes pro, right?

Not exactly, according to Jeffrey Haley of Burnt Orange Nation:

Additionally, Papapetrou reinforced this message during an interview with Greek media. While the interview is in Greek, I was told that the key quotation from Papapetrou roughly translates to:

I have already booked my ticket and my first priority is to get back to Texas. My dream is to be drafted some day, and I consider Texas the best way to make my dream true. I really want to graduate (Sports Marketing), but you can never know if I will stay for the whole 4 years in college. I am aware of Olympiakos’ interest, actually they have already contacted to my family-not to me personally due to college restrictions, but I always put Texas first on the list.

Texas has just one upperclassman (junior forward Jonathan Holmes) on its roster for the 2013-14 season, so they’re going to be young regardless of his decision.

But having lost their top three scorers from last season (Myck Kabongo, who was suspended for most of the season, went pro and both Julien Lewis and Shelden McClellan decided to transfer) Texas can ill afford to lose Papapetrou, especially at this stage in the offseason.

Based on the reports it seems as if Papapetrou is focused on returning to Austin and helping the Longhorns in their quest to improve on last year’s showing, and that’s good news for the fans on the 40 Acres.

h/t Burnt Orange Nation

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)
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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.