Sandburg High (Illinois) forward Malek Harris, a four-star recruit regarded as No. 80 overall in the Class of 2014 by Rivals, will sign with Kansas State. He announced his decision through his Twitter account on Sunday afternoon.
The commitment wasn’t a well-kept secret. Several weeks ago, a report surfaced that Harris had verbally committed to Bruce Weber. A conflicting report stated Harris had scheduled to make his decision known on Mother’s Day.
The 6-foot-7 Harris had originally picked Marquette, though, when Buzz Williams left for Virginia Tech in March, he decommitted.
Harris becomes the third commit in Weber’s class, joining shooting guard Tre Harris and junior college power forward Stephen Hurt. Also suiting up next season for the Wildcats are transfers Justin Edwards (Maine) and Brandon Bolden (Georgetown). Both of whom sat out last year due to NCAA rules.
Kansas State returns Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, Wesley Iwundu and Nino Williams from last year’s team that finished fifth in the Big 12. While K-State graduates Will Spradling and Shane Southwell, second on the team in boards per game, it adds one of the nation’s best rebounders. Harris gives the front court some versatility with his ability to play the three and the four, and defensively, he can matchup with several positions.
Kansas State reached the NCAA tournament this past season, being bounced in the Round of 64 by national finalist Kentucky.
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
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.