Given the amount of talent that’s made its way to Lexington, Kentucky, it comes as no surprise that the Kentucky Wildcats are one of the biggest stories in college basketball with the start of the season less than 24 hours away. The nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, which includes six McDonald’s All-Americans, is expected to get John Calipari’s program back where many believe it should be after last season ended with a first round loss in the Postseason NIT.
With the number of blue-chip talents Kentucky lands annually, assistants Orlando Antigua, Kenny Payne and John Robic have an important job ahead of them every spring given the ever-changing roster. Antigua’s role is of particular importance, as he can also serve as a “good cop” who explains to the youngsters why the head coach just ripped into them in either practice of a game.
And Antigua has an interesting story himself when it comes to how he reached this stage in his career, with many believing that it won’t be long before the former Pitt forward is running his own program. In a story written by Tim Keown of ESPN the Magazine readers get a look at the path Antigua took in getting from the Bronx to Lexington, which includes him being shot at the age of 15.
Fifteen, with a bullet in his head, listening to the paramedics radio ahead to the emergency room. The language of panic: “GSW near left eye. Entry, no exit.”
Don’t close your eyes.
He repeated those same four words to himself, over and over, like a prayer. A child’s logic: If you can see, you can’t die. A child’s fear: If you close your eyes, darkness wins.
The entire story is an interesting read, with hard work and the game of basketball taking Antigua across the world (he was also a Harlem Globetrotter) before he landed on Calipari’s staff at Memphis. He’s been with Calipari ever since, and his enthusiastic message being one that has captivated many recruits.
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.
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.
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
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.
VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.
After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.
“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”
Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.
It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.