Rodney Hood

Eight up-transfers who will impact the NCAA tournament

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Transferring has become so common place within Division I college basketball that distinctions have been formulated in recent years to categorize the transfers. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn coined the term ‘up-transfers’ a few years ago, and how a player becomes an up-transfer is simple: either transfer from a low to a mid-major, a mid to a high-major, or a struggling high-major to a perennial contending high-major. If you take one step up the college basketball pecking order, you are now an up-transfer.

The up-transfer trend has distinctly risen in the past seven years. Combing through the NCAA’s official reports on DI transfer rates, which covered a period from 2007 to 2012, Winn discovered there were six up-transfers during that first offseason; during this past fall, though, Winn reported that more than 30 up transfers would be eligible to play in 2014, eight of which have significantly impacted their teams and will provide a boost in the coming NCAA tournament games:

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T.J. McConnell, Arizona-via-Duquesne

Arizona would not have attained the number one ranking this season or likely been a top seed in the tournament without McConnell. The ball-hawking guard has strengthened the Wildcats’ defense, and his ability to find through screens and recover quickly has made the perimeter defense of an already competent pack-line defense even stingier. On offense, McConnell’s presence moved Nick Johnson off the ball and allowed the junior to take advantage of his other-worldly athleticism and scoring ability, and the ex-Duke has been a perfect fit directing UA’s offense — McConnell’s assist rate is a robust 31.8 percent.

Lasan Kromah, Connecticut-via-George Washington

The former George Washington wing had a reputation as a three-point shooter when he arrived in Storrs, and though that recognition might have been a bit overstated — he is making one-third of his threes — Kromah is another perimeter option for a team that needs a Husky other than Ryan Boatright or Shabazz Napier to emerge.

Davon Usher, Delaware-via-Mississippi Valley State

No one knew what to expect from the wing when he arrived in Newark, but his reunion with Devon Saddler, his former AAU teammate, has bulked up Delaware’s already notorious backcourt scoring. Usher is making an impressive 54 percent of his twos and 36 percent of his threes, and when combined with Saddler and Jarvis Threatt, the UDee backcourt is responsible for more than 60 percent of the team’s point production.

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Rodney Hood, Duke-via-Mississippi State

When Hood announced he was transferring from Starkville to Durham, it was unknown how Hood would mesh with the Duke offense. After an efficient but underutilized freshman year, would he have much of an impact upon assuming a focal role in the Blue Devil offense? Hood can score from deep — 42 percent from three — and has the tools to compete in the middle of the defensive interior (50.4 percent), but the most impressive quality of Hood’s game is his knack for always being in the right spot (i.e. the Syracuse game).

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida-via-Virginia Tech

Under Billy Donovan, Florida has always been known for their wing offense, forwards who operate from either wing on the court and can take the ball to the basket via pick and rolls, or extend the defense with their shooting. Finney-Smith is still working on his ability to be effective off the bounce, but his shooting fits seamlessly with the idea of a Florida wing: nearly 50 percent of his field goals are from beyond the arc, and he makes 32 percent (a somewhat low percentage, yes, but one that was dinged by a late season slump).

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State-via-Marshall

The ex-Thundering Herd guard needed a coach who would trust him, and coach Fred Hoiberg needed a guard whose desire to win would inspire and overtake his Cyclones. When Kane arrived in Ames, he reportedly told his teammates all he wanted to do for his final season was win, and Kane has ably directed this efficient offense (1.15 PPP), handing out an assist on 31 percent of his possessions and keeping defenses from sagging with his perimeter shooting (40 percent from three).

Jason Calliste and Joseph Young, Oregon-via-Detroit and Houston

Joseph Young is a scorer, and that was evident from the first moments he took the court for the Ducks, but the ultimate surprise of all these up-transfers is Calliste. The ex-Detroit guard was a good shooter in the Horizon League, but Calliste’s accuracy has completely transformed in Euegene. He is leading the nation in true shooting percentage, and several of his offensive statistics rank within the top percentile for KenPom.com. While occupying a similar percentage of shots attempted as he did in Detroit, Calliste is converting more than 50 percent of his threes.

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)
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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
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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.