2014 center Jabari Craig verbally commits to attend USC

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With centers Omar Oraby and D.J. Haley out of eligibility at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, the USC Trojans can use some more big men as they look to improve their standing within the Pac-12. On Thursday head coach Andy Enfield and his staff received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-10 center Jabari Craig, who becomes the Trojans’ third commitment in the 2014 class.

Craig joins power forward Malik Price-Martin and point guard Jordan McLaughlin in USC’s 2014 class, and each player plays a position in which the Trojans had a need for additional depth. Craig, who currently attends Fishburne Military Academy, took official visits to both USC and Arizona State last month. Craig attended Tucker High School in Georgia last year, where he averaged 8.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.

“USC was a dream school for me. I always wanted to go to the school. I’ve been there, I’ve seen what it’s like,” Craig said on Fishburne’s athletic website. “They have everything to offer for me, and I have what they need.”

Outside of seniors Oraby and Haley (one-year transfer from VCU) the Trojans are young in the front court, with sophomores Strahinja Gavrilovic and Darion Clark (Charlotte transfer; will sit out the 2013-14 season per NCAA transfer rules) and freshman Nikola Jovanovic being the only players with eligiblity remaining after this season.

With that being the case both 2014 front court commitments should have the opportunity to compete for minutes as freshmen, and the same can be said for McLaughlin on the perimeter with USC losing Pe’Shon Howard and J.T. Terrell.

Here are a few highlights of Craig in action.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)