Wyoming UNLV Men's Basketball

Welcome to 624, Wyoming’s most exclusive nightclub

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One of the ugliest in-season, off-court headlines of last year came when Wyoming’s Luke Martinez was charged with felony aggravated assault and battery stemming from a bar fight on Dec. 30 that put one man in the hospital with serious facial injuries.

That incident, along with others the Cowboys have seen with other programs, has led to a few older players creating an alternative option to hitting downtown Laramie on the weekends.

Welcome to 624. Laramie’s newest club…. that you probably can’t get into. Unless, of course, you’re a member of the men’s basketball team.

The concept was created by Wyoming players Derek Cooke, Jr. (pictured at right) and Charles Hankerson, Jr., presumably as a way to avoid stuff like the Martinez incident in the future. In 624, they’ve found a way for players to hang out and have fun, and most of all, lessen the risk of any extracurricular trouble.

“Me and [Hankerson] Jr. kind of started it. It’s not always good for us to go downtown, so we figured we’d have our own fun,” Cooke told the Casper Tribune. “So we invite our teammates and friends over to our apartment, make sure it’s before quiet hours and just have a good time.”

The “club” mainly consists of college-kid stuff: video games, movies, just general hanging out. And that’s pretty cool considering that some of my best memories were made in nights like that in college.

The club is, if you haven’t figured out by now, the residence of Hankerson, Jr. and Cooke, Jr. It closes at midnight, when quiet hours start and every guest has to leave. The club is exclusively Wyoming basketball’s. And many of the biggest frequenters are freshman on the team.

Though not everyone has been to take part in Wyoming basketball’s newest program. Apparently senior Nate Sobey is playfully resilient to the place. For others, it’s just a matter of distance.

“I don’t go out there, it’s too far for me. But yeah, those are great guys, like I said. They’re always inviting everybody,” Redshirt senior Jerron Granberry told the Casper Tribune. “There’s no cliques. It just happened that those two guys live together, and they’re probably the two clowns of the team. They’re always making people laugh. It’s just a joy to be around them.”

This is a pretty solid idea by the leaders of this team. The Cowboys nose-dived last season after starting 13-0, and some of that had to do with Martinez’s arrest. The then-fifth-year senior was averaging 14.5 points and three rebounds before his arrest and subsequent suspension. His case is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 26-28 and he never played in another game for the Pokes. He’s also being sued by the victim’s family for $150,000 in damages.

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.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.