UCLA Introduces Steve Alford

After two tough days, what’s next for UCLA at the point?

1 Comment

On Wednesday 5-11 point guard Jordan McLaughlin verbally committed to attend USC, picking the Trojans over crosstown rival UCLA. And if that wasn’t enough for UCLA head coach Steve Alford, Quentin Snider picked Illinois on Thursday evening.

The question: how much of a bind does this put the Bruins in when it comes to the point guard position in 2014?

Well, that depends on what they get from the position in 2013-14.

At this point the Bruins have three options, with two being freshmen. There’s Bryce Alford, who was committed to attend New Mexico before his father accepted the position at UCLA, and he put together some excellent numbers as a high school senior. Alford averaged 37.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning Gatorade New Mexico Player of the Year honors as a result.

The other freshman would be Zach LaVine, who was considered to be one of the top combo guards in the country in the 2013 graduating class. He averaged just 2.5 assists per game as a senior however, doing the majority of his damage as a scorer (28.5 points per game). While both are talented neither has played a game at the collegiate level, and this could be a cause for concern amongst the Bruin faithful.

That third option: using sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson as a point forward now that leading assist man Larry Drew II is out of eligibility. Anderson finished last season second on the team in assists, posting an average of 3.5 helpers per game. Add to that the fact that he led the team in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and was second in steals (1.8 spg), and it’s pretty clear that the New Jersey native is UCLA’s most versatile player entering the 2013-14 campaign.

UCLA has three options this season, but the problem is that not one of those options is the clear-cut solution to their question at the point. Given the shrinking pool of available talent at the point guard position in the 2014 class, UCLA will need someone to step forward and grab control of the offense with an eye towards the future. Of the top 20 point guards on 247Sports.com’s composite rankings list just four are uncommitted, with Tyler Ulis scheduled to announce his decision Friday.

The other top prospects remaining are Tyus Jones (he’s already begun taking official visits, and UCLA wasn’t among his choices), Dante Exum, Alex Robinson (officially visiting Texas A&M this weekend), and Lourawls Nairn (according to reports earlier today he’ll be visiting Michigan State this weekend).

There’s also the transfer and junior college markets from which to land a quick fix (UCLA reeled in Lazeric Jones from the JUCO ranks a couple years ago), so UCLA isn’t without hope. But for as important as the point guard question is for the 2013-14 season, it’s even more important for UCLA in regards to the long-term future of the program.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
Leave a comment

Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
3 Comments

Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.