Another top point guard in the 2014 class is off the board, as Marian Catholic (Ill.) product Tyler Ulis announced Friday evening that he will be attending the University of Kentucky. The 5-8 Ulis picked the Wildcats over Michigan State and Iowa, leaving the two Big Ten programs to seek other options at the position. He becomes Kentucky’s second verbal commitment in the 2014 class, joining versatile 7-footer Karl Towns Jr.
Even though Kentucky is still in contention for the services of Tyus Jones (most experts seem to believe he’s headed to Duke), Ulis’ decision to verbally commit to Kentucky is an important development for head coach John Calipari. Anything can happen in sports but the general consensus is that freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison will be first round picks in next June’s NBA Draft. Add to this the fact that Jarrod Polson is entering his senior season and it’s clear that UK needed some depth at the point guard position.
Enter Ulis, who isn’t considered to be a “one and done” prospect by scouts but is more than capable of running the show for coach Calipari. As a junior Ulis averaged 22 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game on a team that won 29 games and its first-ever sectional title in 2012-13. He may not be the point guard fans have grown accustomed to seeing Calipari work with in regards to his size, but Ulis is a player Kentucky needed to land given the depth situation they could face in 2014.
As for Iowa and Michigan State, what next? Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery has options at the position, with Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell both being sophomores this season. As for Michigan State, the Spartans have Lourawls Nairn on campus this weekend and Ulis’ decision to commit to Kentucky makes the chase for Nairn even more important.
Michigan State loses Keith Appling at the end of the 2013-14 season, leaving them with Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine (despite being 6-5, Valentine did play some point in high school) as possible options at the position next season. Just as Kentucky needed to improve its depth at the position leading into Ulis’ commitment the same goes for Michigan State.
Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.
Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.
Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.
The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.
Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.
Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.
The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.
Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.
Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.
A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.
Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.
This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.
Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.