JohnnyJones

Plenty of positives for LSU in loss to UMass

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AMHERST, Mass. — Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee are seen as the three top teams in the SEC this season. LSU, like the Vols, is much improved heading into this season, and despite a 92-90 road loss to UMass on Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers showed a lot of promising in their opening game of the 2013-2014 season.

“I thought our guys did an excellent job of continuing to battle regardless of guys on the bench with foul trouble or injuries,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. “And I thought they did an excellent job of hanging in there, battling until the end, hitting big shots. We didn’t make enough stops against a good team.

“I think it’s great experience for us. We played a very experienced basketball team on the road, the first game of the season for us. And I thought our guys passed the test in a lot of areas, unfortunately the score wasn’t too our liking at the end, but I thought a lot of positive things happened.”

The opening minute could not have been more of an ominous sign for the Bayou Bengals. Jarell Martin, a five-star forward and the prize piece in Jones’ recruiting class, went to the bench with an ankle injury and did not return. Jones didn’t want to risk it, he needs the 6-foot-9 Martin during conference play, not to get a November win.

In his absence, another freshman, Jordan Mickey stepped up with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in 38 minutes during his collegiate debut.

“Jordan helped a lot,” LSU junior forward Johnny O’Bryant added. “I told him after the game, even at halftime, that I was proud of the way he played. Jarell goes down and he stepped up.”

The first half saw 34 fouls called with UMass taking one more field goal than free throws through 20 minutes. O’Bryant, who had 14 points and six boards in the first half, picked up his third foul late, and then his fourth foul with 13 minutes to go and LSU trailing 64-59.

UMass opened up its second double-digit lead a little more than a minute after O’Bryant was seated on the bench. Following an LSU timeout, the Tigers went on a 13-2 run — with key buckets from Mickey, Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey —  that cut the lead to one with 10 minutes to play.  The Tigers cut it to one two more times, but could not tie or take the lead.

Still, Mickey’s impressive debut, contributions from other players not named O’Bryant and Martin, and a narrow loss to a contender in the Atlantic 10 isn’t a bad way to start off the year if you’re the Tigers.

“It was a challenge,” Jones said. “That’s something that we needed and something we have the opportunity to grow from.”

LSU will look to do just that on Saturday against Northwestern State.

Top-25 guard trims list to six

Trae Young , Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
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One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.

Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.

The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.

Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 12.41.16 PM
Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.