Melvin Ejim, Hudson Price

College Hoops Week in Review: Melvin Ejim and SMU burst onto national radar

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Melvin Ejim, Iowa State

Melvin Ejim put on one of the single most impressive individual performances that you’ll see on Saturday afternoon. He scored 48 points on 20-for-24 shooting from the floor and added 18 rebounds in Iowa State’s 84-69 win over TCU. That just doesn’t happen. People just don’t put up numbers like that. You want proof? The last time that anyone had 48 points and 18 boards in a basketball game at the NBA or Division I level was in 2003 when Shaq did it. That same year, David West had 47 points and 18 boards in a game for Xavier, which is the closest that any college player has come to those numbers since 1996.

Here’s the other thing about Ejim: this isn’t necessarily a fluke. What you may not realize is that Ejim led the Big 12 in rebounding last season and that he’s leading the Big 12 in scoring this season. There’s a chance that he ends up being the Conference Player of the Year by the time that it is all said and done. He’s been awesome this season, but it took 48 points and 18 boards for us to realize it.

They were good, too:

  • Davon Usher, Delaware: Usher averaged 33.5 points in two wins this week, which included arguably the best individual performance of the season. He scored 27 of his 42 points on Wednesday against Charleston in the last nine minutes, helping the Blue Hens erase a 20 point deficit.
  • Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State: The Sun Devils swept Oregon this past week, and Bachynski was the biggest reason why, averaging 21.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks while shooting 75% from the floor.
  • Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech: Lost in the Marcus Smart debacle was the performance from Texas Tech and Crockett, who had 21 points and 12 boards, following up 15 points, six boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals he had against TCU.
  • Xavier Thames, San Diego State: Thames averaged 20.0 points in two wins this week, which included taking over down the stretch in a come-from-behind win against Boise State.
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas: Portis had 35 points, nine boards and six blocks in a win against Alabama, and followed that up by helping Arkansas pick up their first SEC road win against someone other than Auburn in Mike Anderson’s tenure.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: SMU Mustangs

The Mustangs moved into the AP top 25 for the first time in nearly three decades on Monday morning after Larry Brown’s squad rolled knocked off No. 7 Cincinnati by 21 points on Saturday evening. It’s the latest example of just how far ahead of schedule SMU is in their development as a program. They were expected to be a potential bubble team this season. Instead, they have looked just as good, if not better, than they other four AAC contenders this season.

The key now for SMU is to prove that they can win a game on the road. Blasting Cincinnati, Memphis and UConn in a suddenly-raucous Moody Coliseum is one thing. Going into Storrs or Louisville and coming away with a win is an entirely different story.

They were good, too:

  • Wisconsin: The Badgers ended their skid of five losses in six games by winning at Illinois and then knocking off Michigan State at home this week.
  • St. John’s: The Johnnies have now won six of their last seven games after winning at Providence and knocking off Creighton in the Garden on Sunday night. All of a sudden, this looks like a bubble team.
  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes are back. After winning at Wisconsin two weeks ago, Ohio State won at Iowa and knocked off Purdue over the weekend.
  • Yale: The Elis are now swept the weekend, winning at Dartmouth and Harvard to put themselves into a tie for first place in the conference.
  • North Carolina: The Tar Heels are back. They’ve won five straight games after knocking off Maryland and Notre Dame this week.

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.

Four-star 2018 guard Coby White commits to North Carolina

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, center, reacts with his team behind him after a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. North Carolina won 88-71. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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With guards Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek having committed in their 2017 recruiting class, North Carolina received a commitment from one of the better guards in the Class of 2018 Thursday night. Four-star guard Coby White, who’s ranked 61st in his class by Rivals.com, made his pledge to Roy Williams’ program. News of White’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

The 6-foot-4 White is a native of Wilson, North Carolina, where he attends Greenfield HS, and he played his grassroots basketball for the CP3 16U basketball program this summer. His commitment to UNC comes just a couple days after the ACC school offered him a scholarship.

White took an unofficial visit to UNC in June, and his play in July ultimately led to the program making the aforementioned scholarship offer. By the time White enrolls in Chapel Hill, current veterans such as Joel Berry II and Nate Britt will be out of eligibility. Among the perimeter would could potentially be on campus in 2018 are freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and sophomore Kenny Williams.

White is the second commit in the 2018 class for the Tar Heels, with 6-foot-7 guard Rechon Black being the first.

Point guard Small to transfer from Oregon

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18:  Kendall Small #21 of the Oregon Ducks shoots over Derek Mountain #40 of the Holy Cross Crusaders in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After navigating a lack of depth at the point to win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and earn the program’s first-ever one seed in the NCAA tournament, Oregon will have no such issues in 2016-17. Dylan Ennis, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is back for another season as is returning starter Casey Benson. Add in freshman Payton Pritchard, whose shooting ability can help a team that struggled from three a season ago, and Dana Altman has multiple players to call upon at that spot.

That left Kendall Small, who played just under eight minutes per game as a freshman, in a spot where it would have been tough to earn more playing time as a sophomore. As a result he’s decided to transfer, with the news first being reported by Scout.com.

In addition to the three guards mentioned above, sophomore Tyler Dorsey also has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Small will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at whichever school he chooses to transfer to, and he’ll have to sit out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules.

A 6-foot guard from Anaheim, Small’s best outing came in Oregon’s 77-59 win over Savannah State on November 23. In that game Small accounted for nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. But he played double-digit minutes in just four games after the Ducks began Pac-12 play in early January, the last of which being Oregon’s win over Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA tournament.