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The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Karvel Anderson finds a home (ESPN)
Robert Morris senior guard Karvel Anderson’s path to college was anything but smooth. With his mother being incarcerated, life eventually dealt Anderson the hand of being homeless as a teenager. But he refused to give up, working hard to eventually realize his dream of becoming a Division I basketball player. And on Monday he was named Northeast Conference Player of the Year.

Which college basketball programs made a mistake going to Division I? (Land Grant Holy Land)
The number of Division I programs this season is up to 351, with a few provisional programs going through the transition process to the game’s highest level. And with that many teams it’s natural to wonder if any have made the mistake of moving up. This story looks at all aspects of the moves being made to Division I and even picks out a few winners and losers.

Chris Perez: Tenacious player is a fan favorite (Albuquerque Journal)
New Mexico honored its senior class on Wednesday night following the Lobos’ 80-52 win over Air Force, and while Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams receive plenty of attention there’s a third player who was honored. Walk-on Chris Perez has been a part of the program for four years, and he became a fan favorite of many of the UNM faithful during his time in Albuquerque.

DePaul senior Brandon Young has shown leadership in tough times (Chicago Sun-Times)
It’s no secret that the DePaul Blue Demons have struggled mightily in recent years, with the downturn occurring within a couple years of their move into the Big East in the mid-2000s. One player who’s been present for the last four seasons in guard Brandon Young, who has worked to remain positive despite the lack of success.

Zach LaVine shaking off slump just in time for homecoming trip (Los Angeles Times)
UCLA freshman guard Zach LaVine found himself mired in a shooting slump prior to last week’s games against the Oregon schools. At one point an explosive scorer off the bench for the Bruins, LaVine was not producing at that level. Luckily for he and the Bruins the freshman turned things around last week, just in time for the team’s trip to his native Washington for games against Washington and Washington State this week.

Coaching is a path Virginia’s Tony Bennett once resisted and now embraces (Yahoo Sports)
After a professional career spent in the NBA, Australia and New Zealand, Tony Bennett needed to figure out what his next step would be. One profession he had no desire of entering: coaching, as he’d seen the impact of the game on his father. But an experience coaching overseas lit the fire, leading Bennett on a career path that would ultimately wind up in Charlottesville.

Andrew Wiggins experiences mixed emotions in home finale (Lawrence Journal-World)
It was “Senior Night” in Lawrence on Wednesday, with No. 8 Kansas closing the home portion of its season with a win over Texas Tech. But there was also the prospect of it being the final home game for Andrew Wiggins, who had mixed emotions regarding the experience and lamented that the season went by too fast.

Keith Appling, Adreian Payne don’t want to break Final Four streak (Detroit Free-Press)
Michigan State’s hit a rough stretch of late, with health and rust issues being two of the contributing factors. On Thursday night their seniors will be honored when the Spartans host Iowa, and Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are hungry for their first Final Four appearance. On the line is an impressive streak, with every senior class under Tom Izzo having reached at least one Final Four.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.