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The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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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.

Florida State continues recruiting momentum with 2017 commitment

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Florida State has been active on the recruiting trail recently and the Seminoles continued that momentum on Wednesday with a commitment from in-state wing Wyatt Wilkes.

The 6-foot-7 Wilkes is considered a three-star prospect and ranked No. 113 in the Rivals 150 in the Class of 2017 as he gives Florida State its fourth commitment in the class.

A versatile and skilled forward who can knock down shots, Wilkes joins a Florida State Class of 2017 that includes wing Anthony Polite — who committed on Tuesday — forward Raiquan Gray and guard Bryan Trimble.

The last two recruiting classes, Florida State has done a nice job of focusing on its targets and landing them early. It’s hard to say if finishing the Class of 2016 early helped the Seminoles complete this group in a similar timely fashion, but it’s worth monitoring for the next class as well to see if this becomes some sort of trend.

Oregon lands Georgetown transfer Paul White

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 19: Paul White #13 of the Georgetown Hoyas fights for position with Drew Brandon #22 of the Eastern Washington Eagles in the second half during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Moda Center on March 19, 2015 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Oregon pulled in a former highly-touted recruit via transfer on Wednesday as Paul White committed to the Ducks.

Spending his first two seasons at Georgetown, White battled injury problems as he only registered 67 total minutes last season during his sophomore year. As a freshman, the 6-foot-8 native of Chicago averaged 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

A skilled wing forward who can handle the ball a bit, White is a good passer from the elbows and also isn’t afraid to help a bit on the glass. Offensively, White will have to figure out his calling as a scorer, but he’s versatile enough of an offensive players to get others involved while he’s on the floor.

Formerly the No. 50 overall recruit in the Class of 2014, White will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Oregon has had a lot of success with transfers under head coach Dana Altman, but it will be interesting to see how White looks when he’s able to play. With basically two full seasons off between competitive games, we’ll have to see how White looks, or if he’s added to his game, when he’s able to take the floor in 2017-18.

VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. dunks on N.C. State students

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Last week, it was North Carolina freshman Seventh Woods dunking on a crowd of his classmates late at night.

This week, it’s Dennis Smith Jr., the uber-athletic redshirt freshman for N.C. State.

Rutgers’ twitter ‘gaffe’ is a pretty standard recruiting technique

Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell  congratulates guard Roland Nyama (24) after a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Rutgers has been the butt of quite a few jokes on social media the last 24 hours, as the school’s official men’s basketball twitter account posted the following picture late on Tuesday night:

That’s an image of six UConn grads and two Pitt grads with the title “$1.1 billion earned”, which, on the surface, doesn’t really make any sense, right? Those eight guys — names like Shabazz Napier and Ray Allen and Steven Adams and Rip Hamilton — have no connection to the Scarlet Knights beyond the occasional beating back when they were still in college.

It’s the Rutgers coaching staff that has a connection to them.

New head coach Steve Pikiell, who was hired from Stony Brook less than six months ago, used to be on the UConn staff. Karl Hobbs, who was an assistant at UConn for both Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie, joined Pikiell. Another assistant coach, Brandin Knight, a former star player at Pitt, was on Jamie Dixon’s staff with the Panthers last season.

None of those guys have coached a single Rutgers player yet.

And they won’t for another month, when practice finally starts.

So what do they have to pitch to recruits? How can they market the Rutgers program? How do they make it appealing to the loads of talent playing basketball in New Jersey high schools? By selling kids on what these coaches were able to accomplish with the players they actually have worked with, the stars from their former schools. If you don’t think that is what Rutgers’ new staff — or any new staff, for that matter — is using as a recruiting pitch then you don’t know a damn thing about recruiting.

Or Rutgers.

The program has no basketball history worth mentioning. None. But neither did SMU when Larry Brown took over, and he turned the Mustangs into a program perennially in or around the top 25 that literally beat out Kentucky for a recruit (Emmanuel Mudiay).

Do you think that Brown was selling players on SMU’s past or his past? Did he say “Come hoop at a football school in a football state” or did he brag about coaching Allen Iverson and the rings he won with Kansas in 1988 and Detroit in 2004?

The bottom line is this: The tweet missed its mark, highlighting player earnings over professional success, and the responses to it have been pretty hilarious.

But I also find it funny that people are up in arms about Rutgers promoting the players their brand new coaching staff has worked with, because if you don’t think that Jim Fox uses Steph Curry to recruit to Appalachian State or Rick Barnes references Kevin Durant in his pitches to Tennessee targets, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you can buy.

VIDEO: Western Michigan walk-on gets scholarship atop Eiffel Tower

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Yesterday, we brought you a video of South Dakota’s Logan Power, a walk-on heading into his third season in the program, receiving his scholarship while on the team’s trip to Spain.

Today, we have video of Western Michigan walk-on Ryan Wade getting a scholarship … at the top of the Eiffel Tower?

In a really cool moment, Steve Hawkins, WMU’s head coach, asks two players to try and read a piece of paper in French. He then has Wade read the translation of what the players were saying and … well … just watch:

What a cool moment.

If only there was a camera on the French people watching the crazy Americans sing and jump around a thousand feet in the air …