josh smith georgetown

Nate Lubick on guarding Josh Smith in practice: ‘Ugh. It’s miserable.’

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Nate Lubick is a senior at Georgetown. He’s spent three years grinding it out in the Big East, battling in the paint against the likes of Louisville and Syracuse and UConn on a nightly basis. He’s as veteran as a veteran can get, which is why you can trust his opinion on what it’s like trying to guard Josh Smith in the post.

“Ugh. It’s miserable,” Lubick said guarding Smith in practice. “He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.”

That’s all you really need to know about Smith if you’re a Georgetown fan.

There may not be a better low-post scorer in the country, which is scary when you consider that the most underrated aspect of Smith’s game is his passing ability.

“When he’s really good, he’s really good. When he’s a little off, he’s a little off,” senior point guard Markel Starks, who happens to double as Smith’s roommate, said with a smile. “It’s not like he’s a bad passer. Very good instincts, a good feel for the game.”

In other words, Smith should fit quite well into the hybrid-Princeton offense that the Hoyas run. The fact that it’s a “big man school” is one of the reasons he made the choice, but it wasn’t the only one.

“The coaches, they don’t just care about you on the court,” Smith said, “they care about you off the court. For me, being that far from home, [that’s big].”

And while there is always a learning curve for players entering John Thompson III’s program, it’s important to remember that Smith isn’t a typical addition; he’s been with this team for almost a year, having enrolled for the second semester last season. He’s got plenty of practice time under his belt.

“When I first go there I was really confused,” Smith said to reporters in his first meeting with the media as a member of the Hoyas. “It was kind of hard. But being here almost a year now, being able to practice with the guys last year and being able to play this year. The thing with Coach Thompson offense is, with bigs especially, you have to be able to handle the ball and make passes. We’ve been working through it and I feel comfortable.”

Smith isn’t a dumb kid. He’s well-spoken with a quick wit and a goofy sense of humor. He seems to fit in well with this group. On paper, it’s a perfect fit, but looking at it on paper won’t tell you whether or not he’s dedicated himself to getting into good enough condition to be able to contribute 25 minutes per game. Neither Thompson nor Smith would divulge how much Smith weighs or how much weight he’s lost. Instead, they focused on the ideas of production and minutes. What the scale reads when he steps on it isn’t as important was how long Smith’s able to play at maximum effort. Will he be too gassed to move his feet defensively after playing for three or four minutes? Will he be able to get to where he needs to be offensively in late-game possessions?

That said, it’s obvious looking at him that he’s slimmed down some since his days in Westwood.

“He’s in a lot better shape,” Starks said, although to a man, everyone in the program said he’s not yet where he needs to be.

“I been here for almost a year, so even though I haven’t been on the court, I’ve been at every practice with them, every conditioning, lift, workout, playing,” Smith said. “I’ve been doing all of it. I’ve just noticed a really big change, being able to go for a little bit in practice and now being able to go for a full practice, I feel better running up and down the floor.”

“I’m more motivated because I’ve been off for about a year. I keep telling these guys, I haven’t played a game since I can’t remember.”

For now, Smith, who was on the then-No. 11 UCLA team that lost to Georgetown at the Barclays Center, seems to finally just be happy to get back on the court, if for no reason other to regain some of his locker room bragging rights.

“Ever since I’ve been here,” he said, “the guys have been giving me crap, saying, ‘Oh, we beat y’all when y’all were top ten.'”

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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.