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The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Utah, Kansas to meet next season in Kansas City (Utah Athletics)
On Wednesday it was announced that Utah and Kansas will meet on December 13, 2014 in Kansas City. While this may not be a significant boost for the Jayhawks it is for Larry Krystkowiak’s program, which didn’t put together the strongest of non-conference schedules this season.

Willie Cauley-Stein’s “sickle cell problem” (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein put together yet another solid performance in the Wildcats’ win over Boise State on Tuesday night, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and nine blocked shots. And he did so playing at less than full strength due to a medical condition few knew about prior. Cauley-Stein disclosed that he has the sickle cell trait, which at times has resulted in “bad chest pain.”

Trenton Catholic Academy’s Malachi Richardson ready to announce college choice (Trenton Times)
Top 25 2015 guard Malachi Richardson (Trenton, N.J.) announced on Wednesday that he will announce his college choice on Friday afternoon, picking one of the six schools on his final list. In the running for the 6-foot-5 Richardson’s services are Syracuse, Indiana, Villanova, Arizona, Connecticut and Rutgers.

Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon begin potential rivalry Saturday (Arizona Daily Sun)
On Saturday afternoon provisional Division I member Grand Canyon will visit Northern Arizona, with the two schools playing for the first time in 26 years. While this may not move the needle much in a state dominated by Pac-12 rivals Arizona and Arizona State it is an important game for both GCU and NAU, as both programs look to establish themselves within the state.

College Basketball Caucus: The most surprising team in the country? (USA Today)
A group of selected college basketball scribes have taken in the question of who’s the most surprising team in the country to this point in the season, with both Villanova and Wisconsin among the schools mentioned.

How do college basketball’s elite freshmen compare to former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony? (Syracuse Post-Standard)
One of the first names that comes up when discussing successful one-and-done players is that of former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony, who in his one season at the school helped lead the Orange to their lone national title. With this being the case, Mike Waters of the Post-Standard took a look at this year’s crop of freshmen with an eye towards how their debuts compare to that of Anthony.

Ex-N.C. State coach Lowe pleads guilty to tax charges (Sports Illustrated)
Former N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe pleaded guilty to charges of failing to file his North Carolina tax returns on Wednesday, with the state alleging that he did not file from 2009 to 2011. As part of his sentence Lowe received a suspended 45-day jail sentence, 100 hours of community service and he’ll have to pay $79,000 in restitution and a $2,000 fine.

2015 center Deyonta Davis verbally commits to attend Michigan State (MLive.com)
On Wednesday Michigan State added a recruit to its 2015 class as 6-foot-9 center Deyonta Davis (Muskegon, Mich.) verbally committed to attend the Big Ten school. Davis, who picked the Spartans over the likes of Iowa State and Memphis, stated that the school’s closeness to home factored into his decision.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.