The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Paige lighting it up for North Carolina – at off-guard (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
One of the biggest keys in North Carolina’s improvement since their loss to Belmont has been the play of sophomore guard Marcus Paige. A highly regarded point guard out of high school, Paige has done the majority of his damage off the ball for a team whose best perimeter scorer (P.J. Hairston) sits on the bench in a suit. And with no one knowing when (or if) Hairston will return to the court, that may have to be the case for the Tar Heels to factor into the ACC and national conversations.

Louisville basketball’s Chris Jones described as a “living trophy” (Louisville Courier-Journal)
One of the most important pieces in the Louisville attack is junior college transfer Chris Jones, who’s averaging 14.5 points and 3.2 assists per game for the ninth-ranked Cardinals. But he may not be in the position he’s in now if not for the help of Melrose HS (Memphis) coach Jermaine Johnson.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd addresses, explains altercation with USC’s Andy Enfield (Knoxville News Sentinel)
Following the Miners’ 78-70 win over Tennessee on Thursday night UTEP head coach Tim Floyd was asked about the altercation between he and USC head coach Andy Enfield (and assistants from both programs).

College basketball teams take bigger bite of Big Apple (USA Today)
With the addition of the Barclays Center, college basketball has seen its presence within the city’s two major arenas grow in the last couple of seasons. In 2013-14, counting conference and NCAA/NIT tournament action the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden will host a total of 81 college basketball games. While this adds inventory for the facilities, New York also offers programs a stage you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else when considering factors such as media and recruiting.

Altercation with teammate during practice led to San Francisco PG Cody Doolin’s departure (San Francisco Chronicle)
Details are beginning to emerge regarding the circumstances surrounding the departure of San Francisco starting point guard Cody Doolin, and according to USF athletics director Scott Sidwell it was an altercation with an unnamed teammate that led to Doolin’s departure. Doolin will remain in school, as he’s scheduled to graduate with a degree in finance this spring.

Defense may hold key to season for No. 2 Kansas (Associated Press)
No. 2 Kansas has a number of offensive weapons to call upon, but if the Jayhawks are to win a national title they’ll have to get the job done on the defensive end as well. It certainly helps to have a freshman in Andrew Wiggins who takes pride in his ability as a defender, an area in which he feels a bit underrated.

Young Cats can’t count on intimidation, Raftery says (Lexington Herald-Leader)
The risk for many high-profile freshmen is that they step on the floor believing that their reputation and scholastic accolades will give them an edge over the opposition. Not to say that this has happened with No. 3 Kentucky, but it is something the Wildcats need to guard against according to Fox Sports color commentator Bill Raftery. Raftery will be on the call when the Wildcats take on Providence in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Friars know they need to improve on offensive end (Providence Journal)
As for Kentucky’s opponent on Sunday, Providence acknowledged that they’ve got some things to clean up on the offensive end after struggling in a loss to Maryland in the title game of the Paradise Jam. And with players such as guard Bryce Cotton and forward Kadeem Batts, the Friars have the talent needed to turn things around offensively.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.