High Points John Brown, via HPU Men's Basketball

2013-2014 Big South Preview: High Point, Charleston Southern return strong in league with sleepers

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

High Point and Charleston Southern finished atop the North and South Division standings last season, both teams fell at the hands of Liberty — a team that lost 20 games and didn’t beat a Division I opponent until Dec. 31 — in the Big South tournament. Liberty went on to steal the automatic bid, and narrowly missed advancing to the field of 64 after dropping a one-point game to North Carolina A&T in the First Four.

The Panthers and Buccaneers return strong teams again this season, and while both should be atop the regular season standings, the Big South will be one of the conferences to experience chaos come March. High Point returns sixth-year forward Allan Chaney, but more importantly redshirt sophomore forward John Brown has recovered from the broken right foot he suffered at the beginning of March. Charleston Southern has one of the best back courts in the conference returning with Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. The duo both averaged more than 15 points a game for the Buccaneers, but they will have to replace starters Mathiang Muo and Jeremy Sexton.

While High Point and Charleston Southern are once again the projected favorites in their respective divisions, several teams looked poised to be this year’s Cinderella come spring. Radford has one of the best perimeter attacks with the trio of Ya Ya Anderson, R.J. Price and leading scorer and rebounder Javonte Green. They’re a young team but they may have enough returners to make that jump. Charleston Southern will battle a pair of contenders in its own division as well, as Winthrop and Gardner Webb both return multiple starters.

PRESEASON BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: John Brown, High Point

The redshirt forward was named freshman of the year after averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. His season was cut short, and High Point’s NCAA tournament hopes were dashed when he broke his foot a week before the conference tournament. He’s one of the nations most exciting players to watch:

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Saah Nimley, Charleston Southern: Charleston Southern has some of the best returning guard play in the Big South with Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. The 5-foot-8 Nimley was the team’s top scorer and fourth in the Big South in assists last season.
  • Davon Marshall, Liberty: The Flames senior guard scorched nets down the stretch with his 3-point shooting. The senior guard shot 43 percent on the season and shot 18-of-32 during a four game stretch beginning in the Big South quarterfinals and ending in the First Four for his 20-loss Liberty team.
  • D.J. Covington, VMI: The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.0 points, 7.2 boards and 3.0 blocks per game last season. He’ll have a bigger role with the loss of Stan Okoye, who averaged almost a double-double last season.
  • Javonte Green, Radford: The junior wing led the Highlanders in scoring and rebounding last season with 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Radford has one of the conferences best perimeter attacks with Green, Ya Ya Anderson and R.J. Price.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @BigSouthSports

PREDICTED FINISH:

North

1. High Point
2. Liberty
3. Radford
4. VMI
5. Longwood
6. Campbell

South

1. Charleston Southern
2. Winthrop
3. Gardner Webb
4. Coastal Carolina
5. UNC-Asheville
6. Presbyterian

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.