Expressions Elite

Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell to announce September 7

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Expressions Elite teammates Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell have cut their respective list of offers to 10, then four and as of Saturday have reached a conclusion for their college decisions.

On Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, the duo will announce their commitments. Abu, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Kimball Union Academy (N.H.) is down to Florida, N.C. State, Providence and UConn. Terrell, a 6-foot-3 guard who plays at Brewster Academy (N.H.) will pick from Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Providence and Rhode Island.

Since Expressions Elite’s season came to an end last month, the duo has been busy cutting a list and then scheduling visits. Abu, made unofficial trips to N.C. State on Aug. 11 and then Florida on Aug. 14.

“Abdul liked N.C. State and the fact that he could come in and play right away,” Expressions Elite head coach Ty Boswell told NBC Sports in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “He liked the overall atmosphere of the school, and he had a real good conversation with the coaching staff.

“He liked the tradition, and the way they develop power forwards for the next level,” Boswell said of the Florida visit. “He also liked Billy Donovan with how he interacts with past and current players.”

The most recent, and final visit for Abu was UConn earlier this week. Kevin Ollie showed the Boston native the new facilities, and according to Boswell, the staff made a great presentation to Abu.

Terrell returned from an official visit to Oklahoma State this past weekend, and is trying to plan a trip to Cincinnati this upcoming weekend.

“He liked the opportunity,” Boswell said of the OK State visit. “Obviously, Marcus Smart is leaving, and he’ll have big shoes to fill. He liked the fact he could come in and play right away.

Though he has the high-major offers, Danny Hurley and the Rhode Island staff have been aggressive in recruiting Terrell, which clearly has paid off.

“Jared liked Danny and the vision they have for him, coming in and being a focal point,” Boswell added. “They see him a guy that can help lead them to an Atlantic 10 championship.”

One school is still in play for both: Providence . Abu and Terrell have been high priorities for the Providence coaching staff, and landing commitments would be great additions to its 2014 class that includes Huntington Prep (W.Va.) small forward Jalen Lindsey. Rumors of a package deal have been consistent throughout their recruitments, though, both stated repeatedly that it would have to be the best possible option for both of them.

Abu and Terrell visited Providence on Aug. 10 for an unofficial visit, and participated in PC’s elite camp.

“It was a great atmosphere and a great situation,” Boswell said. “Ed Cooley has done a great job thus far, and has made it clear he really wants them.

“They have the opportunity to leave a legacy in the New England area.”

Boswell told NBC Sports that the two friends have spent considerable time talking to each other about the process, comparing and contrasting the visits they’ve had. Despite a date being set, Boswell says he doesn’t not know which way either of them are leaning at this point.

“Not yet … we’ll see,” Boswell said, “We’ll sit and chop everything up, and try to make the best decision possible as a group. Then we’ll leave it up to the kids.”

Abu is ranked as the No. 50 overall player in the Class of 2014 by Rivals. Terrell is listed as No. 62 by the same recruiting service.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson

 

Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior season

Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 67-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Wisconsin has cemented itself as one of the teams to beat in the Big Ten for the 2016-17 season.

Forward Nigel Hayes, the Badgers’ leading scorer and assist man, is withdrawing his name from NBA Draft consideration to return to Madison for his senior season, he told the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday evening.

Hayes declared for the draft last month, but did not hire an agent, taking advantage of new NCAA legislation that allowed him to attend the NBA Draft combine and workout for pro franchises. He was largely regarded as a fringe first-round prospect by draft observers.

His decision is a major boon for Greg Gard, who may have the Big Ten’s best team in his first full season at the helm after taking over for Bo Ryan in the middle of last season. Wisconsin had a major turnaround under Gard, which ultimately resulted in him moving from interim to full time. The Badgers were 7-5 when Ryan stepped down, but recovered by going 13-4 to end the season and make the Sweet 16. 

Now, the entirety of that team, headlined by Hayes, is returning for another year and almost assuredly will be a top-15 (or better) preseason pick. Michigan State will welcome in a dynamite recruiting class that features five-stars Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, and Indiana should remain strong, but the Badgers, with some players having the experience of  playing in two Final Fours, could very well have the best roster on paper with its blend of talent and experience. Whichever team is pegged as the favorite, the top of the Big Ten is shaping up to be a fantastic race.