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Isaiah Whitehead, No. 14 in Class of 2014, commits to Seton Hall

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After a wild recruitment that saw some fireworks down the stretch, the latest in a long line of Brooklyn-bred, Lincoln HS stars finally announced where he would be attending school on Thursday afternoon.

“I’d like to announce that I’ll be taking my talents to Seton Hall University,” Isaiah Whitehead, the No. 14 recruit in Rivals 2014 top 150 announced from a press conference at his high school. Lincoln has also produced the likes of Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson.

Whitehead is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard and one of the most potent scorers in the Class of 2014. He’s got sone size and strength to him, and when he gets hot, he can knock down four or five jumpers in a row. He has a tendency to be a bit of a gunner, however, and is known to take some bad shots from time to time. One recruiting analyst called him “the best bad shot maker in the country”.

Whitehead joins a loaded recruiting class for Seton Hall, one that already includes top 100 recruits Angel Delgado Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo.

Whitehead’s recruitment was a roller coaster. He shocked a lot of people in the recruiting world when he announced this week that he would be making his decision on Thursday, a day after taking a visit to St. John’s. Popular sentiment had Whitehead going to St. John’s, but some movement behind the scenes on Wednesday night and Thursday morning changed things.

One factor that may have played a role in Whitehead’s decision? Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, the Lincoln HS coach and the founder of Whitehead’s AAU program, the Juice All-Stars, will reportedly become a member of Kevin Willard’s staff at Seton Hall. Morton had very publicly made a push to fill Mike Dunlap’s position at St. john’s after Dunlap went to the NBA last summer.

Hiring Morton as an assistant is a completely legal move by Willard, even if it does come across as a bit unsanitary. A few years back, the NCAA implemented a rule that eliminated package deals and job for third-parties connected to a recruit unless the job that was being filled was one of the three assistant coach positions on that staff. Morton would be an assistant coach for the Pirates.

To land a five-star recruit as talented as Whitehead at a place like Seton Hall, that’s a risk that’s worth taking for Willard. His program is in a bad spot right now. They went 3-15 in the Big East. Their second-leading scorer transferred out and their top two players are seniors this season. Willard had a good recruiting class already, but he had to get Whitehead.

And he did.

Whitehead was the first top 25 recruit from New York City since Stephenson and Durand Scott made their way out of Lincoln and Rice, respectively, in the Class of 2009. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of high-level talent in the city in the Class of 2015 or 2016. Outside of Whitehead, New York has more-or-less become a dead zone for elite high school talent. Some of the players end up heading to prep schools outside the city. Other players buy into their hype too early, while some of the city’s best players are written off thanks to local kids that have been overhyped in the past.

But for one day, the insanity of an old school, no-holds-barred New York recruiting battle was on full display.

And it just felt right that the two schools left swinging at the end were St. John’s and Seton Hall.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

rp_primary_Linder_Jeff_Action_vs_Dayton_031815_2_
Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.