Chaz Williams continues to be a player to watch after UMass’ 105-96 win over BYU

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –  The game had been over for nearly 20 minutes, though, UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams clearly was not done dishing out the assists. He was the last to be seated at the postgame press conference, as he ventured over towards the table of Poland Spring water bottles, grabbed three extra ones and handed them to Sampson Carter, Maxie Esho and his head coach Derek Kellogg before he sat down and faced the rows of reporters and cameras.

Moments earlier, Williams had exited the floor to a standing ovation from the 7,331 fans in attendance after he poured in 32 points and recorded 15 assists, both career highs — with only one, yes, one turnover — in the Minutemen’s 105-96 win over BYU on Saturday afternoon at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

He accounted for 66 points on the day.

“My teammates made the shots,” Williams. “Fifteen assists, I credit them guys. They were open and they always tell me, ‘If I’m open, I’m going to make it for you.’ And that’s what they did tonight.”

Williams made plenty of his own shots on the afternoon. In the first half alone he had 16 shots, off a perfect 5-for-5 (3-for-3 on threes) shooting. He ended the game 9-of-14 from the field with a career-high five triples on the evening. And although the talented BYU back court of Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino went for 25 and 23 respectively, the Cougars 2-3 zone defense was no match for the Minutemen’s offensive attack.

The Minutemen and Cougars played at a rapid pace with UMass winning the shootout, knocking down 56 percent of its attempts. In the halfcourt set, UMass was able to beat the BYU zone, with not only 3-pointer shooting, but also getting the ball into the paint.

The Minutemen took an 11-point lead into the locker room, and after BYU tried to climb back into the game early in the second half, it quickly became the Chaz Williams Show, a showcase of drives, dimes and threes.

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UMass is No. 21 in the latest AP poll — ranked for the first time since 1998 — and will likely see  a bump when the new ones come out next week. Starting the season 8-0, with wins over then No. 19 New Mexico, LSU and now BYU, the Minutemen have a good early season resume that should help them reach postseason expectations.

“The guys around us, they’re hungry for more,” Williams added. “Every day can be a loss, so we need to keep our foot on the gas. We say there’s a target on our back, but we still have a target on everybody else’s back because we are chasing one thing and that’s making it to the NCAA tournament.”

Williams is the key piece to that potential tournament run. He’s a two-time Atlantic 10 first team selection, and currently listed on the Bob Cousy Award watch list. But more importantly, the Brooklyn native is the Minutemen’s fearless leader. If you needed any proof of that, go ahead and rewind to nine minutes remaining in the first half.

Raphiael Putney was whistled for a foul, as Haws hit the deck. A scuffle began after Haws pushed aside Putney, who was trying to avoid stepping on Haws. Players from both sides surrounded the scene, with Williams and BYU center Eric Mika, going toe-to-toe. A tale of the tape would show that Mika stands 6-foot-10, 230-pounds while Williams checks in at an exaggerated 5-foot-9, and weighs 175.

“I expected that,” Carter said. “I’ve been with him everyday for three years now. That’s our point guard. He’s got some fire in his heart and I know he’s not going to back down. His energy is so contagious, just seeing that, that automatically fires us up.”

Williams’ dazzling performance cements his place as one of the more exciting players to watch this season. UMass has 10 more televised games this year, and if Williams and UMass continue its early season play, games on TV will extend into March.

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.