D.J. Haley, C. J. Aiken

USC announces addition of former VCU center D.J. Haley

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Just before the start of the Atlantic 10 tournament, 7-foot center D.J. Haley made the decision to leave the VCU basketball program in order to concentrate on his academics. In three seasons at the school Haley started 48 of the 102 games in which he played, averaging 2.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

In announcing Haley’s decision to no longer play at VCU, head coach Shaka Smart made the following statement:

“We appreciate DJ’s contributions to our program over the past three years. Unfortunately, he has decided that his heart is no longer invested in basketball. Clearly it takes a significant commitment to compete as a student-athlete at this level and we understand that DJ’s priorities have changed.  We wish DJ nothing but the best for his future.”

Having completed his undergraduate studies, Haley’s decided to play his senior season…at USC, where he’ll be eligible to play immediately due to his having graduated.

Haley joins a program that has a new head coach in Andy Enfield, and the program also doesn’t have much in the way of front court depth. Senior Omar Oraby is the most experienced returnee, as he averaged 6.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in 2012-13.

USC adds power forward Nikola Jovanovich, and given their options at small forward (veterans Ari Stewart and Byron Wesley, and freshman Roschon Prince), it’s likely a safe assumption that the Trojans will go “small” at certain points this season. But with some of the front court players both arriving and returning to the Pac-12, USC needs all the help they can find in the paint. Haley will help USC in this regard.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)