Marcus Smart put on a show last night.
He scored 24 of his 39 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, adding in five steals and two blocks for good measure.
Everyone was impressed.
Every sports website currently has some kind of column up about how good Smart was and the fact that a sophomore is finally — finally — gaining some traction in what is bound to be an epic Player of the Year race.
You know who else was impressed? Kevin Durant. He was court side at the game last night, and USA Today’s Eric Prisbell caught up with him afterwards.
“That is a tough shot to make, and that is a gutsy shot to shoot,” Durant told USA TODAY Sports. “But he earned the right to take those shots. Marcus can play in the league right now. Definitely.”
“He was just unbelievable for them tonight,” Durant continued. “He was doing it all for them, rebounding, blocking shots, passing, scoring. He led them. I knew he could do everything pretty well. But I like his demeanor. I like how he handles his teammates. A player like him, he always can burst out and get 30 or 40 points.”
The line that everyone is going to pick out of Prisbell’s column off of the game is that Durant said Smart “can play in the league right now. Definitely.”
The line that is more impressive to me is where Durant lauds his ability as a teammate. I think that is what makes him so special as a player. Look, there’s always going to be another talent coming down the pipeline, and as good as Smart is, he’s not LeBron. He’s not Jordan. He’s not a once-in-a-generation talent.
But he’s a very good basketball player that is willing to do whatever it will take to win, even if it means playing second or third fiddle on a title contender.
With the July Live Period coming to an end, it’s time for schools to starts deciding who they’re going to target, who they’re going to offer a scholarship to and who they’re going to cut bait with.
At the same time, we’re going to see a flurry of players starting whittling down the number of schools they’re actually considering.
D.J. Harvey was once considered a top ten prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the DeMatha product has seen his stock slide a bit in the last year, he’s still a top 50 player that has a number of power programs knocking on his door.
Over the weekend, he announced that he has cut his list to ten schools: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Duke, Texas, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, Maryland, Arizona and Louisville.
Rick Pitino hopped on the air with 93.9 in Louisville recently and discussed the stuff you expect to hear a coach discuss on the radio in July.
He talked about the players that are improving (Jaylen Johnson). He talked about how he’s worried about how his team is going to score next season. He talked about the glut of big men on his roster and how none of them have done much to separate themselves from the pack.
It was all fairly typical.
But this line did catch my eye:
“Defensively, we’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed,” Pitino said. “We’ve pressed a lot in the past but this team is very long, very athletic. I’m very bullish on this basketball team.”
Pitino’s teams have always pressed but he hasn’t been mentioned with the likes of Shaka Smart (Havoc) or Bobby Huggins (Press Virginia) because it isn’t an all-out press. Typically, the Cards run a 2-2-1 zone press that drops back to a half-zone/half-man amalgam that’s designed, in part, to confuse opponents as much as it is to force turnovers.
Is that going to change this year?
It would make some sense. This team is as athletic, long and versatile as any that he’s coached in recent memory. Think about the kind of physical tools that Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel have. Think about what Donovan Mitchell can do if he’s allowed to ball-hawk the way Peyton Siva and Russ Smith did in the past.
This group can cause a lot of problems if they’re allowed to fly around the floor, and it sounds like Pitino may let them do just that.
Yesterday, when we released our July Live Period Superlatives, we listed Malik Williams as being the biggest stock riser in the country.
He went from being a kid that wasn’t playing in a shoe-company affiliated league in the spring to a five-star lock that has a bright future and NBA potential.
And on Monday, he announced that he has trimmed his list to eight schools:
N.C. State, Georgetown, Louisville, UCLA, Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa and Indiana.
In two seasons as a member of the Southern Miss basketball program from 2011-13, forward Jonathan Mills made an impression based on how hard he played the game. Monday afternoon it was reported that Mills was shot and killed in Chicago, not too far away from his alma mater of North Lawndale High School.
Before attending Eastern Utah CC and Southern Miss, Mills plied his trade at North Lawndale where he helped the school win a state title in 2008 and the Chicago Public League title as a senior in 2009. North Lawndale HS coach Lewis Thorpe told the Chicago Tribune that he and Mills had plans to work out at the school Monday afternoon, only for Thorpe to receive a phone call from his nephew informing him of Mills’ death.
Mills was going through workouts with his high school coach in preparation for a move overseas to play professionally.
The coach said he heard from witnesses at the scene that Mills had gone to a corner store with some friends and, when they came out, a car drove up and someone inside shot him.
“I’m so messed up. I am so shocked,” he said. “When I say he was well liked…everybody loved him.’’
Thorpe said Mills called him “Pops” when he coached him in high school.
After word of Mills’ death made the rounds many paid tribute to him via social media including Donnie Tyndall, who coached Mills at Southern Miss.
With the NCAA allowing college basketball programs to take one trip outside of the country every four years, some coaches look at it as an opportunity to get a head start on preparations for the upcoming season. Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders are one team taking a trip this summer, as they’re due to leave the United States for Europe on August 8 with three exhibitions scheduled for their 12-day tour.
The trip was originally scheduled to begin in France, with the Spiders spending their first week there before making stops in the Netherlands and Germany. Monday afternoon the program announced a change to the itinerary, with the Spiders now spending their first week in Ireland and not France.
“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Mooney said in the release. “We were able to make some changes to our travel itinerary, and we believe that this new itinerary will give our team a great opportunity to grow together and see other parts of the world.”
It isn’t stated as the reason for the change in the release but this news comes just over a week after a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, claiming the lives of 84 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.
Richmond, which returns two of its top three scorers from a season ago in forward T.J. Cline and guard ShawnDre’ Jones, is schedule to return to the United States August 20. Per NCAA rules they’re also afforded the opportunity to practice for two weeks leading up to the trip, and heading to Europe can help the team build stronger connections in unfamiliar surroundings.