Pat Skerry

Towson extends head coach Pat Skerry’s contract through 2019

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In 2011 Pat Skerry took on one of the nation’s toughest rebuilding projects when he accepted Towson’s offer to become the men’s basketball program’s head coach. And that first season revealed just how difficult the job would be, as the Tigers managed to win just one game (1-31).

Things would get even tougher as it was revealed that the program would be banned from postseason play in 2012-13 due to low APR numbers. But despite the additional hurdle of having their season come to an end prematurely the Tigers increased their win total by 17 games, going 18-13 and finishing one game behind Northeastern in the CAA.

With the dramatic improvement on the court and success on the recruiting trail putting Towson in position to be a consistent contender in the transformed CAA, Skerry’s been rewarded with a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.

“Watching Coach Skerry’s historic turnaround with the Towson men’s basketball program both academically and competitively in the last two years, we are excited to announce this extension,” interim Director of Athletics Tricia Turley Brandenburg said in the release. “Pat and his staff have done a tremendous job developing and recruiting the type of student-athletes that are willing to work hard on the court and in the classroom.

“With the opening of SECU Arena this year, Towson is poised to be an annual contender in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and carry the banner for its alumni and the city of Baltimore. A stable and winning basketball program will only provide more financial security to our department and provide all of our teams the resources needed to be successful.”

There are plenty of changes happening that will directly affect the Towson basketball program, and Skerry’s work to this point has the Tigers well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunity. Not only is there the aforementioned new arena but they’re now in a league that added the College of Charleston, while losing traditional powers such as VCU and George Mason (both are now in the Atlantic 10) the last two years.

Towson returns its top four scorers from last season, most notably forward and reigning CAA Player of the Year Jerrelle Benimon (17.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg). While teams such as Charleston, Delaware and Northeastern will be heard from, Towson has the look of a program capable of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since they made consecutive appearances in 1990 and 1991.

“We would not be primed for greatness if it was not for the support of our President Maravene Loeschke and our athletics administration over the last two years,” Skerry said. “I also want to thank our interim Director of Athletics Tricia Turley Brandenburg for her time and persistence negotiating this contract extension. There has never been a better time to be a Tiger.”

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.