Middle Tennessee has been one of the best teams in Conference USA this season, with Kermit Davis’ program once again winning 20 games and currently holding a share of first place in the league standings. Four seniors have led the way for the Blue Raiders, with forwards Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter and guard Kerry Hammonds II all scoring in double figures.
With that group, which includes guard “Tweety” Knight, leading the way Middle Tennessee is well-positioned to earn another postseason appearance. But there’s also the need to build for next season, and Middle Tennessee has added a guard to its rotation for the 2014-15 season.
“I told Jalen he needed to look for a good fit, a school that needed a guard like him, and obviously Middle Tennessee loses (senior Kerry) Hammonds,” Steele’s high school coach, Jody Wright said. “So that’s a winning program that could use an experienced guard like Jalen. And I think he will have a big impact because he’s an SEC-caliber guard that can really shoot it on the perimeter. I think he made a good choice with Middle Tennessee.”
Last season Steele averaged 10.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, but a torn ACL meant that he would miss the 2013-14 season. Mississippi State announced that Steele’s career was over, but according to his high school coach the guard is back to full strength.
Steele joins a 2014 recruiting class that already boasted two incoming freshmen and four junior college transfers, with four of those players being perimeter players.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.