Deonte Burton

Nevada’s Deonte Burton deserves national respect but needs wins to get it

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Nevada Athletics

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

Their first season as a Mountain West member was a tough one for the Nevada Wolf Pack. Lacking depth in the front court, David Carter’s team took more than its fair share of lumps in a season that ended with eight straight losses and an overall record of 12-19 (3-13 Mountain West). Offensively guards Deonte Burton and Malik Story were asked to lead the way, with Burton averaging 16.3 points and 3.6 assists per game.

For his efforts the Los Angeles native was a third team All-Mountain West selection, and the league’s coaches named him to the league’s preseason all-conference team earlier this month. But due in large part to the Pack’s lack of success, Burton remains anything but a household name outside of the conference, and that’s something both player and coach understand.

“I think sometimes it falls on your record and how you finish,” Nevada head coach David Carter told NBC Sports. “In our conference I don’t think he’s overlooked at all. We finished at the bottom of the league last year and he was still a third-team all-league selection. I just think that around the country he’s probably one of the most underrated players, especially at his position.”

(CLICK HERE to read NBCSports.com’s Mountain West Preview)

Amongst Mountain West players who factored into at least 24% of their team’s possessions Burton ranked sixth in offensive rating per kenpom.com, and with four of the top five players ahead of him gone (Boise State’s Anthony Drmic is the lone returnee) Burton should be able to improve his standing in that statistical category. And if there’s one area in which Burton saw the need to improve entering the 2013-14 season, it was his perimeter shooting.

After making 37.2% of his three-point attempts as a sophomore, Burton shot just 30.1% in his Mountain West debut. Burton noted that he worked on his perimeter shooting and overall shot selection throughout the offseason, but on a team that didn’t have a high number of consistent scoring options, the shot selection was bound to be an issue last season. A contested shot by Burton was, at times, their best option offensively.

“Myself and Malik Story were the only two guys who had the ability to pick the team up offensively, so it was tough in that regard,” said Burton. “This year I have great teammates, guys who can finish and score inside and hit perimeter shots that I can rely on.”

It’s a lot to ask a point guard to run a team as well as be a primary scoring option, and for that reason there aren’t a high number of players at the position entrusted with both tasks. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and California’s Justin Cobbs would be two examples of this, but both had multiple scoring options at their disposal and that ultimately led to more team success. The hope in Reno is that even with Story having graduated, there are enough pieces around Burton to help him flourish while also lightening the load on his shoulders.

The team’s summer trip to Italy helped with the growth process, as Burton and the other returnees were able to get some valuable court time with the team’s seven newcomers.

(CLICK HERE to read through the rest of NBCSports.com’s feature stories)

“They want to get better each and every day. That alone is a big step for them,” said Burton when asked of the newcomers with one being UTEP transfer Michael Perez, who’s expected to help fill the void left by Story. “They’re willing to listen and want to get better, and they come in each day and work hard at everything we do.”

With Story gone Burton’s role won’t change much at all, but the presence of those seven newcomers means that the senior point guard’s role as a team leader becomes even more important. The summer trip to Italy certainly helped in regards to Burton’s individual skill set and his bond with his teammates, but it also helped Burton improve as a leader.

“I think for him, his role stays the same in terms of being a leader and taking ownership of the team, and that’s what he’s done so far,” Carter said of his point guard. “His teammates were obviously excited that he chose to come back, and I think when he decided to come back that sent a strong message to our guys who were returning that he’s the leader. I think Italy just strengthened that bond between Deonte and his teammates.”

Ranking in the top ten in school history in points (10th), assists (8th) and steals (9th), Burton’s destined to go down as one of the most productive players in Nevada history. The respect from Mountain West foes is there as well.

The national praise hasn’t come as quickly however, but all involved know that the only way to change that is to go out and win more games.

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.