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The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Coach starting to get heat for Red Storm’s struggles (New York Post)
St. John’s has a big game on Thursday night when the take on Seton Hall, with Steve Lavin’s team looking to pick up its first Big East victory. And those struggles have been a surprise to many, and as a result the coaching is being questioned by some. Can the Red Storm turn things around?

Burke and Hardaway gone, yet Michigan rolls on (New York Times)
Even with the departure of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan was expected to factor into the Big Ten race. And despite the loss of Mitch McGary the Wolverines are undefeated in Big Ten play, with Nik Stauskas leading the way for a team looking to win a conference title.

Towson’s Skerry, Marshall’s Herrion team to raise autism awareness (Sports Illustrated)
Towson head coach Pat Skerry and Marshall head coach Tom Herrion are both raising children who have been diagnosed with autism, and they’re using their status to help educate people about autism while also raising money for research.

Vols’ Martin wants more consistency from Stokes (Associated Press)
Tennessee has the talent to not only reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in Cuonzo Martin’s tenure but also contend in an SEC that looks wide-open after Florida and Kentucky. But in order to do so the Volunteers will need junior forward Jarnell Stokes to be a more consistent force in the paint.

The pressure on 13th-ranked UMass doesn’t compare to the lean years (MassLive.com)
No. 13 UMass may have escaped its fair share of close games this season, but the “pressure” to keep things rolling doesn’t compare to the pressure the program felt in lean post-John Calipari years. The program, which hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in more than a decade, is headed in the right direction under Derek Kellogg after going though some rough years.

College in Vermont signs 10-year-old cancer survivor to basketball team (WPXI Pittsburgh)
Diagnosed with leukemia when he was eight months old, 10-year-old Jimmy Giroux is now a cancer survivor whose path can serve as a source of inspiration for anyone who’s been diagnosed with the disease. And Giroux, whose growth was affected by the disease, signed a letter of intent to join the basketball team at Norwich University in Vermont.

Bryce Cotton is PC’s latest diamond in the rough (Providence Journal)
Providence has a long history of players who arrived on campus amidst little national fanfare putting together outstanding college careers, and senior guard Bryce Cotton has added his name to that list. Second in the Big East in scoring, Cotton’s rarely left the floor for a team that has now won four straight Big East games.

Big Ten atmosphere brings a certain thrill to Pitino (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Minnesota’s surprised some people under first-year head coach Richard Pitino, with the Golden Gophers having the look of a team capable of getting back to the NCAA tournament while adjusting to a style of play different from the one employed by Tubby Smith. And despite the challenges of putting his stamp on the program and facing some of the nation’s best coaches, Pitino’s embraced the opportunity.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

Ernie Kent
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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.

UNLV transfer to finish career at Michigan State

UNLV forward Ben Carter, right, celebrates after his team defeated Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. UNLV won 80-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)
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Former UNLV center Ben Carter announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring to Michigan State to finish his collegiate career.

Carter, who began his career at Oregon, averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 boards in his one season with UNLV before tearing his ACL in late January. He spent two seasons with the Ducks before transferring to Vegas, which is why he’s eligible immediately for the Spartans.

And that’s the biggest reason that Tom Izzo and company targeted him.

The Spartans lost Deyonta Davis to the NBA Draft after one season, a fact that became an inevitability midway through the year but one that the Spartans didn’t necessarily plan for heading into last season. Carter isn’t going to be an instant impact kind of player, particularly not when he’s coming off of an ACL injury, but he is a big body and a veteran presence on a front line that wasn’t going have much of either.