Fuquan Edwin, Russ Smith

Assigned Reading: Sports Illustrated’s ‘The art of the steal’

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I really enjoyed “The art of the steal” by Sports Illustrated‘s Brian Hamilton on Thursday, which broke down many of the nation’s best at producing steals.

The piece takes an in-depth look into the thought process and methodology of players such as Jordan Adams at UCLA, Briante Weber at VCU, Fuquan Edwin at Seton Hall and Shannon Scott at Ohio State — to name a few of the players profiled — as they attempt to swipe the ball from an opposing player.

I particularly liked the Fuquan Edwin passages and the introduction of The Fu Effect, in which Seton Hall picks up their defensive energy, as a team, after Edwin makes a great defensive play, even though Fuquan needs to cut his fingernails.

The Fu Effect also may prompt medical assistance. Edwin notes that his fingernails tend to grow long, so when he swipes at the ball, he often leaves a mark for opponents or even teammates to remember him by. One Seton Hall player received a red slash on the face from one of Edwin’s forays. Edwin understands his teammates get frustrated, and he laughs about how they complain about him playing dirty. He believes he’s a Pirate in every sense, taking what’s yours and making it his in practice in order to ensure he can do so in a game. The best in the nation at boosting the ball are wired for it. They never emerge from stealth mode.

Players that play — and swipe — with long fingernails are the worst to deal with and knowing that information makes it easier to see why Edwin is one of the best in the Big East defending on the perimeter. Not only does Edwin have great hand-eye coordination, but his nails could potentially cut you open at any time. Nobody wants to deal with that.

And fingernails don’t just “tend to grow long”, Fuquan, they require cutting or biting. CBT is on to your Pirate tactics…

There are plenty of other great parts in this article about other players’ approach to the defensive end, and you can find the full Hamilton piece for Sports Illustrated here.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how CBSSports.com summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told CBSSports.com Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.