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Billy Kennedy’s condition has to be a factor in the decision for every Texas A&M recruit

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Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy has Parkinson’s.

This has been public knowledge for almost two years now. I know this, you know this, the kids that Kennedy is recruiting know this and you damn well better believe that the coaches he is recruiting against know this.

Coaching at the collegiate level is a demanding, volatile industry, one that could result in a promotion that triples your salary just as quickly as it can leave you out of a job. The most important part of the job, especially at the highest level of the sport, is recruiting, so it should come as no surprise that coaches competing for a recruit can get cutthroat.

As Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com wrote yesterday, Texas A&M’s newest commit, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Texas named Alex Robinson, had to listen to coaches that were recruiting him use Kennedy’s diagnosis as a recruiting tool.

“They actually did [use Kennedy’s Parkinson’s diagnosis against Texas A&M],” Robinson told Parrish. “But I just kinda brushed it off like, ‘Hey, that’s part of recruiting. [The other coaches are just] trying to get me to their school.'”

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is a life-changing event, quite literally. Kennedy has no control over his disease. There is no known cure and there is no known cause. Kennedy got dealt a crappy hand, and now he has to live the rest of his life knowing that he has a degenerative neurological disease that is only going to get worse. Making matters worse is that there is no time frame at play. In a worst case scenario, Kennedy could lose his ability to walk by the time Robinson graduates. Some Parkinson’s patients are bedridden within 10 years. But on the flip-side, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed 22 years ago and is starring in a sitcom right now.

That’s a heavy dose of perspective to dump on a guy that has a wife, four kids, and a high-profile job.

As you can imagine, Kennedy is none-too-pleased when he hears about opposing coaches using his disease against him on the recruiting trail.

“It angers me when people tell recruits I may not coach much longer because it’s coming from people who don’t really know me,” Kennedy told Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports. “I’m in the best health I’ve ever been in my whole life. I don’t really have any symptoms right now to be honest with you. Nobody would even know my situation if they saw me.”

“I learned a long time ago all is fair in love, war and recruiting, so I’m not surprised people would bring up something about my health. There are some insecure assistants in high-profile programs that do whatever they have to do to get a player. But that’s not the norm. I don’t think most people are that way.”

Parrish called the negative recruiting “deplorable”. Eisenberg called it “shameful”. Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com called it “disgusting”. Frank Martin, South Carolina’s head coach, simply said it was “sad” and ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted “no honor amongst thieves”.

And for the most part, they’re right.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Kennedy’s diagnosis has to be something that every recruit and their family take into account.

The bottom line is that Alex Robinson and Tony Trocha and any other recruit that decides to play his college basketball for Texas A&M is doing so because they believe that Kennedy will help them grow as a basketball player and as a person while winning games and going to NCAA tournaments in the process. And while all of us — myself included — want to see Kennedy remain healthy for a long, long time, there’s a chance that doesn’t happen. It’s a risk that player is taking, one that he should be talking over with his family and his coaches.

It should factor into his decision.

And if an opposing coach wants to make a kid he is recruiting aware of Kennedy’s disease, I don’t see a problem with that. Telling the recruit to make sure he does his homework on prognosis for Parkinson’s patients and to have that conversation with Kennedy is OK, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works.

Recruits are being told that Kennedy’s career will be over soon, that he may never coach them in college. Some are even telling kids that they could catch Parkinson’s from Kennedy, which is most assuredly not true.

That is unacceptable.

Honest and open conversation about Kennedy’s health is a good thing, regardless of where it is coming from. Slander and lying about the severity of his condition is the kind of negative recruiting that gives everyone in the business a bad name.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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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

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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
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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.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.