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 (
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.

Creighton lands 2016 combo guard

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.

News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.

Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.

Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.

Three-star power forward commits to WVU

Bob Huggins
Associated Press
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Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.

6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.

West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.

Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.