Joe Harris

The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Former Virginia teammates miles apart, but still close (USA Today)
No. 5 Virginia wrapped up first place in the ACC last week, and one of their leaders for the last four seasons has been guard Joe Harris. He was part of a large recruiting class that dwindled down to three players thanks to transfers, one of whom was guard Billy Baron. And although the two players are performing at different schools, they remain close friends.

DePaul star freshman Billy Garrett Jr. thrives in defiance of his disease (Sports Illustrated)
DePaul’s had another tough season but one of the bright spots has been freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. And Garrett Jr. has been one of the Big East’s best freshmen despite having sickle cell disease, which has led to medical issues in the past. Doctors questioned whether or not he should continue to play at a high level, but Garrett Jr. continues to persevere.

Higher Education: How basketball coach Tommy Amaker has transformed Harvard (SB Nation)
When Tommy Amaker arrived to take over the basketball program at Harvard, the program had experienced little success in the Ivy League. That’s obviously changed, with the Crimson one win away from their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. There have been bumps in the road, but Amaker’s built a program that will be an Ivy contender for years to come.

UCF guard Isaiah Sykes’ rise to NBA prospect fueled by family (Orlando Sentinel)
UCF senior guard Isaiah Sykes hasn’t had the experience he envisioned prior to the start of this season, with the Knights struggling in their first season in the American. But he’s worked throughout his career to become an NBA prospect, and his family has served as motivation.

Seniors have given Jays three years of Kodak moments (Omaha World-Herald)
Saturday is Senior Day at Creighton, and it’s bound to be an emotional one as four players will be honored. Doug McDermott, Grant Gibbs, Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge have all provided fans with great memories during their time in Omaha, helping lead the program from contender status in the Missouri Valley to the Big East.

Butler, DePaul are close in standings but not in promise (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)
The two teams at the bottom of the Big East standings met Thursday night at Allstate Arena and the outcome was not good for the home team, as Butler throttled DePaul 79-46. And while Blue Demon fans are lamenting the lack of progress under Oliver Purnell, Brandon Miller’s team continues to compete and this may bode well for the Bulldogs in the future.

Wildcats must get on board with rebounding after posting surprising stats against Oregon State (Arizona Daily Star)
No. 3 Arizona was able to hold off Oregon State on Wednesday night, but one reason why the game was so close was the Wildcats’ performance on the boards. Oregon State grabbed 16 offensive rebounds on the night, and rebounding tends to tell the story of how well Arizona’s playing. With this being the case the Wildcats need to get back to basics ahead of their game at Oregon.

Trusting instincts, Monte Ross steers Blue Hens’ turnaround (Wilmington News Journal)
Thursday night Delaware head coach Monte Ross was named CAA Coach of the Year, with his Blue Hens winning the league’s regular season title. And in making the key decisions that determine winning and losing, Ross has trusted his instincts with a team that has improved on its 19 wins over a season ago.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.