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New Zealander Jack Salt becomes Virginia’s third 2014 commitment

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With Akil Mitchell entering his senior season, the Virginia Cavaliers could have used another front court body in their 2014 recruiting class. On Wednesday the Cavaliers accomplished that task, as 6-foot-10 power forward Jack Salt verbally committed to attend the ACC school according to Evan Daniels of Scout.com.

Salt, a native of New Zealand, was called up by the New Zealand Breakers earlier this month as the team was dealing with injuries to a couple of its key interior contributors (Salt isn’t expected to play much during the regular season, so as to preserve his college eligibility). And Salt, who is also a standout volleyball player, performed well during his stint with the Breakers. Apparently the team was hopeful that Salt would sign on to play professionally, but ultimately his desire to play college basketball won out.

“It was a really tough decision, as the Breakers have done so much for me, and [New Zealand Breakers academy coach] Judd Flavell has helped me out so much. It took me a long time but I decided it would be best for me to go to college,” said Salt before his [New Zealand national team] debut in July.

The left-handed Salt played last season with the Super City Rangers, averaging 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Salt’s experience at the international level for New Zealand could end up benefitting Virginia when he arrives in Charlottesville next year. With Salt now on board head coach Tony Bennett, who played professionally in New Zealand for North Harbor of the Kiwi National Basketball League, has a four-man rotation at the power forward and center positions.

Darion Atkins (4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Mike Tobey (6.8, 2.9) were contributors on last season’s team, and in Tobey’s case he gained valuable experience playing with the United States Under-19 team at the U-19 World Championships this past summer. Add in South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill (7.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg in 2011-12), who is eligible after sitting out the 2012-13 campaign per NCAA transfer rules, and the Cavaliers should have a solid interior group to work with in 2014-15.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.