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Could five-star 2016 power forward Thon Maker reclassify to 2015?

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7-foot-1 power forward Thon Maker is one of the best players in the Class of 2016, with major scouting sites declaring him to be a five-star prospect. Maker, who played his high school basketball in Virginia, was born in the South Sudan and has Australian citizenship.

Thanks to his skill set Maker already holds offers from many of the nation’s top programs, and his recruitment will be something college basketball fans will need to keep an eye on in the next two years.

But will fans have to wait that long to see Maker in a college uniform? According to reports from Evan Daniels of Scout.com and Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com this weekend, Maker’s legal guardian Ed Smith has stated that there’s a chance the big man could reclassify and join the Class of 2015.

In both reports Maker’s ability to add weight to his currently slender frame is said to be a major factor in the decision-making process. And in a conversation with Zagoria, Smith also touched on Maker’s desire to become a part of the Australian national team program.

“I will monitor Thon’s progress academically and physically,” Smith told SNY.tv. “Thon would also like to become more involved with the Australian Junior and Senior National program under coach [Andrej] Lemanis. Playing in the U19 World Championships is something that is important to Thon.

“To begin forming a relationship with and an understanding of the Australian system is important. We will try to structure our progression with this in mind. This is all part of our decision to reclassify or not.”

Whether or not Maker moves into the 2015 class is definitely something to track, because that class has been praised for the number of quality big men at the head of the class. A move into 2015 would place Maker with five-star front court prospects such as Ivan Rabb, Diamond Stone, Stephen Zimmerman and Cheick Diallo (just to name four).

Among the programs that have reportedly offered Maker are Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.