Bond of T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson goes beyond Arizona basketball court (USA Today)
Two of the players prominently involved in No. 1 Arizona’s hot start are point guard T.J. McConnell and shooting guard Nick Johnson, and it’s a connection that has been a couple years in the making. Johnson hosted McConnell while the latter was making the decision of where to transfer two after playing two seasons at Duquesne, and the friendship that began at that point can be seen as a turning point of sorts for the Arizona program as a whole.
Kobe Bryant is right and wrong about college basketball (CBS Sports)
Last week Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant grabbed some attention with his statement that college basketball wasn’t exactly training players for the professional ranks. Was he right? Wrong? Or, maybe he was both right and wrong in his comments.
Martin, Gamecocks face long losing streak (The State)
With eight newcomers on board, South Carolina was expected to take its lumps in SEC play this season. And that’s exactly how things have played out for the Gamecocks, who are looking to avoid losing their first seven conference games for the first time ever as an SEC member.
Broncos tight end was a basketball player first (Philadelphia Inquirer)
With the Super Bowl just a few days away, one of the stories that is sure to grab some headlines is that of Julius Thomas, who played basketball at Portland State before landing in the NFL and breaking out as one of the Peyton Manning’s key targets in his third NFL season.
Arik Armstead leaves Oregon basketball team to focus on football (The Oregonian)
Oregon lost a member of its basketball program on Tuesday, as it was announced that burly forward Arik Armstead has left to focus on football. Armstead, who could be a high NFL draft pick after his junior season (2014), was one of northern California’s best basketball players while in high school.
Basketball balancing act (Austin Statesman)
For young players the grassroots slate can be just as important as their high school games, resulting in basketball becoming a year-round sport. That makes it important for players to properly balance playing games with making the developmental steps needed to land a college scholarship.
Roberto Nelson is a reliable Carte Blanche cardholder (The Oregonian)
Through three-plus seasons at Oregon State, senior guard Roberto Nelson has not only been one of the Pac-12’s best scorers but he’s also managed to do so while improving from an efficiency standpoint. That’s earned him a “green light” of sorts, and it’s a distinction head coach Craig Robinson doesn’t hesitate to give Nelson given the fact that his star doesn’t abuse the privilege.
Louisville’s Russ Smith learns to pass on shots – and to teammates (Sports Illustrated)
Louisville senior guard Russ Smith had some adjustments to make once he decided to return for his senior season, with the desire to show NBA scouts that he’s a capable lead guard being one of the objectives. In order to do that Smith had to become wiser in his shot selection, and he had to become better at getting his teammates good looks.
Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.
Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.
“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”
Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.
Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.
In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”
Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.
He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.
His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.
More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org
There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.
Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.
“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”
The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.
Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.
Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.
The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.
The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.
“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.
“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”
Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.
Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.
Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.
“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”
The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.
Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is the latest to decide to see what the NBA might offer.
“I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent!” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!”
Mitchell, who is expected to be joined by dozens of players, is taking advantage of new NCAA rules that allow him to work out for teams and attend the NBA draft combine before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft and return to school.
Players have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school.
Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore, shooting 40.8 percent overall and 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts.
The 6-foot-3 guard is projected as a potential first-round pick, but should he return, the Cardinals would project as one of the top teams in the country with nearly the entire core returning from this year’s 25-9 squad.