Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid shines for Kansas in 86-66 win over Iona

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By now you should know that No. 2 Kansas had other heavily-sought after recruits not named Andrew Wiggins. One was starting guard Wayne Selden and the other was 7-foot center Joel Embiid.

The latter of the two had his best performance to date in KU’s 86-66 win over defending MAAC champion Iona on Tuesday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Embiid started the game off the bench to score 16 points, grab 13 rebounds and reject two shots, connecting on all seven shots he took.

“You guys saw just a small glimpse of how good his feet are,” Kansas head coach Bill Self told reporters after the game, via Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “And he’s smart, and he gets it, and he’s just figuring stuff out all the time. I’m real pleased with his development, but I still think we’re not even scratching the surface of what he can become.”

The Cameroon native, playing in front of his father, showed enough glimpses to warrant a second half start over transfer senior Tarik Black. In the first half, Embiid showed terrific footwork in the lane for the smooth finish at the rim. And in the first minute of second half he rose up and caught a high alley-oop feed from Naadir Tharpe.

Kansas led 41-36 at halftime, but pulled away in the last 20 minutes behind Wiggins’ defense and Perry Ellis’ team-high 21 points. Wiggins and Ellis connected on a great play, that started with Wiggins picking off a pass at halfcourt, before surveying the court. Wiggins attacked the basket and hit Ellis with a pass, and from there the sophomore forward went up and under the hoop for the acrobatic lay-in, to stretch the Jayhawks’ lead

I get it, a double-double game against Iona may not be a big deal, but this is a big step for a kid that didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16. Embiid is full of potential, and this was a step in the right direction. What’s even better for Kansas: he’s got 10 more games to get more reps, more minutes before conference play starts. And by then he’ll have games against Florida’s frontline, Joshua Smith of Georgetown and Alex Kirk of New Mexico under his belt.

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
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Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.

“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”

The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.

What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.

The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.