Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest Saturday: Tevin Mack outshines Seventh Woods

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Seventh Woods (Kelly Kline, UA)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — When you talk about the Carolina Wolves, the first name that is going to be mentioned is Seventh Woods.

An electrifying athlete, Woods made waves last spring when a scintillating mixtape of his freshman season exploits went viral. He spent last summer playing in the U-16 World Championships with Team USA and shot up the Class of 2016 recruiting rankings, where Rivals currently ranks him No. 5 nationally.

But through three games at Hoop Group’s Pittsburgh Jam Fest, Woods has been an after thought on his own team as Tevin Mack has taken over. Mack is averaging 36.0 points in the three games, including a pair of 38 point performances on Saturday, making him by far the most productive scorer in the tournament.

“Best thing I do is shoot,” and Mack certainly showcased that skill in Pittsburgh. As a 6-foot-6 wing with a lengthy wingspan, Mack has the size to be able to take advantage of that shooting ability over smaller defenders. And while he’s more than just a spot-up shooter on the offensive end of the floor, part of the reason that he’s only ranked No. 97 in the Class of 2015 in Rivals top 150 is that he’s limited as an athlete and a ball-handler.

The good news?

Mack is aware of where his deficiencies lie. When asked what his goal is for this spring and summer, he said he wants to improving his “defense, ball-handling and getting more athletic.”

And if he does? “I’ll get my ranking up and show people I’m actually good.”

Georgia is considered the favorite to land Mack, as his family has a relationship with head coach Mark Fox from when his brother played for Fox at Nevada and Tevin has already made a couple of visits to the campus. But Mack, a native of Columbia, S.C., said that VCU recently extended an offer and that Clemson, Wake Forest, Southern Cal and South Carolina have shown interest in recent week.

“Stability in the program,” Mack said of what he’s looking for in a school. “The coaches that are recruiting me are going to be there the entire time. A winning program, but somewhere that I can make an impact.”

Mack shined, but Seventh Woods struggled: Woods did not have his most impressive performance in a pair of games on Saturday. He struggled with his perimeter stroke and committed a handful of unforced turnovers. His potential is evident to anyone that makes an effort to watch something as simple as layup lines, and Woods certainly has a knack for making some incredible plays on the defensive end of the floor. The problem? He seems to be trying to prove that he’s a point guard, facilitating offense and distributing the ball, which takes him out of what he does best: attacking the rim off the dribble. I’ll chalk this up as a bad day, so it will be interesting to see what kind of performance he has on Sunday.

Moustapha Heron shows out in front of Pitt fans: Heron is a beast, plain and simple. The 6-foot-5, 220 pound wing is an overpowering athlete that is strong enough to bully any wing that he will run into at the Pitt Jam Fest despite playing up an age group. Heron, the No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2016, showed off that physical prowess on Saturday, posting 27 points in a blow out win for his New Heights (NYC) over the very talented Team Thad. Panther fans would have a reason to get excited about Heron, who committed to Pitt last fall, if there wasn’t a concern that he will be reopening his recruitment soon. Barry “Slice” Rohrssen was the coach that recruited Heron, and Rohrssen left Jamie Dixon’s staff and accepted the same position with Kentucky last week.

Doral Moore’s post game is coming along: Like every lanky, athletic big man that comes through the high school ranks, Doral Moore has been an excellent shot blocker and finisher throughout his younger years. But the God-given ability to be seven-feet tall and able to dunk a basketball will only get a player so far if he can’t develop the rest of his game, and on Saturday, Moore showed off some of that development. He’s always had a soft touch on the perimeter, but Moore showed off a nice, right-handed jump hook as the Atlanta XPress advanced to Sunday’s quarterfinals. Given his length and athleticism, if Moore can perfect that shot, it can be unstoppable.

“Mostly my post-up game,” Moore said of what he’s been working the hardest on to develop. “I can shoot, but I have to get down and dirty sometimes. Finish strong.”

Moore is the highest-rated Class of 2015 prospect in Pittsburgh, ranking No. 16 on Rivals. He listed Illinois, Ohio State, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and Louisville.

Derrick Jones is still learning how to play: Derrick Jones will never lose a dunk contest.

Ever.

Period.

He’s the freakiest of freak athletes that you are going to come across. I’d give 5-to-1 odds that he’ll give himself a concussion by hitting his head on the rim at least once in his career, and the fact that he’s 6-foot-8 with long arms only makes him that much more impressive.

The issue is that the rest of his game is still developing. His ball-handling, his ability to shoot the ball, developing his slender frame. His ceiling is limitless, but he’s got a way to go before he reaches that ceiling. Until then, just don’t try to jump with him.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.

LaVar Ball on Trump’s involvement in bringing son home: ‘Who?’

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The war of words none of us wanted is now upon us.

LaVar Ball downplayed the impact that Donald Trump had in ensuring that his son, LiAngelo, along with two other UCLA players were released from custody and returned to the United States following a shoplifting incident on the team’s trip to China.

“Who?” the eldest Ball told ESPN on Friday night when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

When the players arrived back in Los Angeles, and before they had a chance to speak publicly, Trump had already taken to twitter to complain about the fact that the trio had not yet thanked him. Trump happened to be in China at the same time and, in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he reportedly asked for his counterpart’s help in assuring an expedited legal process.

Trump got the thank you that he so desperately needed when UCLA held a press conference announcing that the three players would be suspended indefinitely, but LaVar was not going to let the President have the last word. And you can bet that Trump is not going to let this be the end of it, either, which means that two men that have risen to prominence through their willingness to say the audacious whenever the spotlight is on them will have the floor.

And unless someone has managed to change the passcode on Trump’s cellphone, you can rest assured that this will not be the end of it.

Bridges perfect from 3, No. 5 Villanova blows out Lafayette

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Mikal Bridges set a school record by hitting all six of his 3-point shots and scored a career-high 24 points in No. 5 Villanova’s 104-57 rout of Lafayette on Friday night.

Jalen Brunson added 22 points and hit 4 of 6 3s in another dominant performance by the Wildcats (3-0), who made 16 of 30 from long range.

Three nights after setting a school record with 13 blocked shots in a blowout of Nicholls, the versatile and deep Wildcats showed another strength and overwhelmed the Leopards (0-3).

Led by Bridges’ 4 of 4 long-distance shooting, Villanova hit 11 of its first 14 3s in racing to a 39-16 lead. The Wildcats had a stretch of nine straight baskets being 3s en route to a 56-23 halftime lead.

Matt Klinewski had 16 points and six rebounds for Lafayette, which was 7 of 29 from 3-point range.

Bridges finished 9 of 10 from the field before he sat out the final 10 minutes. The junior bested his previous career-high by one point set Tuesday.

While it was a Villanova home game, it was played about 50 miles from campus at the PPL Center, home of minor league hockey’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a 20-mile drive for Lafayette, but the Wildcats sure seemed at home.

Villanova spent much of the second half going inside to score. Omari Spellman had 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric Paschall had 14 points and eight boards.

BIG PICTURE

Lafayette: Try as a Patriot League school squaring off against one of the best teams in the nation and watching the opponent shoot like that, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s alma mater never had a chance.

Villanova: The Wildcats have perimeter shooting, depth inside and play good defense. They’ve been dominant against inferior competition, and will finally get tested next week.

SO MANY 3-POINTERS

Bridges surpassed Doug West in 1988 and John Celestand in 1999, each of whom went 5 of 5 from long range. Villanova finished one shy of the school record of 17 3s set against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2005.

NO LUCK

Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon fell to 0-6 against his alma mater. O’Hanlon still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game with 16 set against Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970.

Only six Division I coaches have been at their schools longer than O’Hanlon, in his 23rd season.

UP NEXT

Lafayette visits Princeton on Wednesday.

Villanova faces Western Kentucky on Wednesday in the first of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona are possible opponents the following two days.

Mykhailiuk helps No. 4 Kansas rout South Dakota State, 98-64

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Svi Mykhailiuk scored a career-high 27 points, Lagerald Vick finished with 22 and fourth-ranked Kansas routed Summit League favorite South Dakota State 98-64 on Friday night.

Udoka Azubuike added 17 points and Malik Newman had 13 for the Jayhawks (3-0), who shot 60 percent from the field and didn’t commit a turnover until midway through the second half.

By that point, the Jackrabbits (3-1) were staring at a 30-point deficit.

Mike Daum led South Dakota State with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin King contributed 12 points and David Jenkins Jr. scored 10 off the bench.

Once again without heralded freshman Billy Preston, the Jayhawks were forced to use the same reduced rotation that managed to top seventh-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night. But their perilous lack of depth became crippling in the first half when Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot picked up two fouls each.

That forced coach Bill Self to use walk-on Clay Young in the post.

The 6-foot-5 senior turned out to be a bright spot, too, keeping the ball moving on offense and handling the 6-9 Daum inside. The Jackrabbits’ leading scorer at more than 21 points per game had eight on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, when Young spent a good chunk of time covering him.

Nobody could cover Mykhailiuk, though.

The senior from the Ukraine hit his first three shots — the Jayhawks made eight of their first nine — while getting into an easy rhythm. Even on the seemingly rare occasion that his jumper didn’t splash the net, it often rattled around the rim and dropped through to a thunderous ovation.

Several of his baskets came on feeds from Devonte Graham, who didn’t hit a field goal until deep in the second half. He finished with eight points but also had 11 assists and five boards.

PRESTON SITS

Preston went through early warmups but remained on the bench as Kansas investigates an on-campus incident that raised questions about the “financial picture” of the car he was driving. Self declined to discuss the situation other than to say “we’re definitely going to hold him out until we get to the bottom of this.” Self did say he expects a resolution soon.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota State can recover from its thumping in paradise with a trip to the Cayman Islands Classic up next. But their next trip to the Sunflower State figures to be just as tough: They visit No. 6 Wichita State on Dec. 5.

Kansas cruised despite a shortened lineup again, and help is only a month away. Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible for a trip to Nebraska on Dec. 16, and there is a chance five-star prospect Silvio De Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy enrolls at the semester break.

UP NEXT

South Dakota State plays Wyoming on Monday in George Town, Cayman Islands.

Kansas continues a four-game home stand against Texas Southern on Tuesday night.

No. 18 Louisville hangs on over Omaha 87-78

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ray Spalding had a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, Deng Adel had a game-high 21 points and Anas Mahmoud had eight of his team’s 15 blocked shots as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Omaha 87-78 on Friday night.

Spalding scored 14 points after halftime, and Adel made 7 of 8 shots from both the field and the free-throw line to pace the offense for the Cardinals (2-0), who led by 20 early in the second half but didn’t make a field for the last 4:36 of the game.

Omaha (0-4) was competitive in facing its highest-ranked opponent since becoming an NCAA Division I program in the 2011-12 season. The Mavericks hung around with a 12-0 second-half run and got within 71-64 on KJ Robinson’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left, but Louisville answered with seven straight points to keep the lead large enough to stay unbeaten under interim coach David Padgett.

Louisville’s three primary big men — Spalding (6-foot-10), Mahmoud (7-0) and Malik Williams (6-11) — bothered Omaha with their length around the rim. Mahmoud flirted with a triple-double, posting 10 points and eight rebounds to go with his blocks. Williams, a former five-star recruit who made his first career start in place of Mahmoud, had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Spalding blocked three shots, too.

Daniel Norl led five Omaha scorers in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Omaha: The Mavericks averaged 83.9 points in their first three games but dug a hole in the first half when they shot only 24.4 percent to go down 40-25 at halftime. Louisville finished the first half on an 18-7 run, and Omaha made only one of its final nine shots before the break.

Louisville: Adel, who scored 20 points in the season-opening win over George Mason, continues to impress with his slicing drives and up-tempo play and shapes up as one of the top wings in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made his first seven shots and added eight rebounds.

UP NEXT

Omaha plays at TCU on Monday as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, the fourth of seven straight games away from home to start the season while the Mavericks’ home arena hosts the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Louisville has home games against Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Saint Francis next Friday before traveling to Purdue on Nov. 28 for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.