Arizona receives important messages upon their return to campus

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Classes at many schools begin Monday, which means we’re that much closer to having actual college basketball games to discuss. And with the returns to campus come the team meetings used to establish the course of action in the weeks leading up to the start of practice.

At Arizona, head coach Sean Miller uses the return of his players to campus to remind the team of the importance of handling their affairs off the basketball court. From academics to social situations, many seasons have been derailed over the years thanks to bad decisions that have nothing to do with a shot or turnover.

According to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, this is the second consecutive year in which the Wildcats have kicked things off with a meeting of this variety.

Arizona basketball players were scheduled to return to campus by this morning, then attend what coach Sean Miller calls a “state of the union” meeting this afternoon. During that, the players will listen to talks by trainers, doctors, police officers, public relations representatives and others.

“We try to give our players a sampling of everything that can happen to them outside of our locker room, first and foremost,” Miller said earlier this month. “A lot of things go on in today’s world — a phone can take a picture, and all of a sudden you know about it quicker and more often. It’s a lesson for all of us that we have to be extremely careful and diligent, and know that we represent a team, a program, a university, and we want to do it in a first-class manner.”

The Wildcats begin classes Monday amidst high expectations, with two McDonald’s All-Americans (Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) and a highly-regarded transfer point guard (former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell) joining a group that includes junior guard Nick Johnson and sophomore big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.

But there are some holes to fill as Arizona looks to improve upon its Sweet 16 run of a season ago. Versatile forward Solomon Hill’s now in the NBA, and fellow veterans Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom are gone as well. And there’s also the matter of who will consistently knock down perimeter shots, with freshman Elliott Pitts and sophomore Gabe York being two of the possible answers to that question.

Talent-wise the pieces are in place for Arizona to not only win the Pac-12 but accomplish some things nationally as well. With so much ahead of them it’s a good idea to make sure the players are cognizant of what exactly is at stake, both on and off the court.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.

Cal promotes assistant Wyking Jones to head coach

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Cal will promote interim head coach and former assistant coach Wyking Jones to head coach, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of FanRagSports.com

A native of Inglewood, California, Jones has been an assistant coach for the Golden Bears for the past two seasons as he replaces former head coach Cuonzo Martin, who departed to take the Missouri job. This promotion comes as a bit of a surprise for some since Jones has never been a head coach at the Division I level.

Jones has spent 15 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level at places like Cal, Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount — where Jones spent his playing career.

Helping Louisville to the Final Four in 2013, Jones is a respected coach and recruiter who gets a great opportunity for his first head coaching job at the Division I level with Cal.

The Golden Bears made the NCAA tournament last year but finished 21-13 this season as they missed making the field of 68. Sophomore big man Ivan Rabb has already declared for the NBA Draft and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster Jones gets to work with right away.

One of the reasons Jones might have been retained is to help Cal keep its solid five-man recruiting class from bolting. While the Golden Bears don’t have any five-star talents coming in, it is a solid foundation for the program’s future led by a four-star guard in Jemarl Baker.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.