UNLV head coach Dave Rice hopes roster turmoil a thing of the past

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In this current era of college basketball roster turnover has become more commonplace, with the number of transfers rising on an annual basis. One program that has made use of the transfer market is UNLV, with head coach Dave Rice and his staff on multiple occasions looking to add players capable of helping immediately.

That approach has resulted in mixed results, because while the program has won at least 20 games in each of Rice’s three seasons at the helm the postseason success hasn’t been there with the Runnin’ Rebels yet to win an NCAA tournament game. 2013-14 was especially disappointing, with a group filled with newcomers struggling with chemistry for much of the year and failing to reach the postseason.

Five players have left the program since the end of the season, and according to Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal the head coach aims to avoid such roster turnover in the future. The key: recruiting well at the high school level, which is a good place to start given the fact that UNLV welcomes one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

Expect to see a slowdown in the revolving door of transfers. Rice signed five freshmen — Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan, Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Cornish — to round out a UNLV recruiting class that is ranked No. 4 in the nation, according to Rivals.com.

“I want high school recruiting to be the foundation of our program,” he said. “It’s always going to be a priority to sign high school guys, as many as we can, and supplement our roster with transfers. We’ll be selective in terms of transfers.”

This doesn’t mean UNLV hasn’t added some important transfers heading into the 2014-15 season, with guards Cody Doolin and Jerome Seagears on board provided their waiver requests are approved. Doolin’s the most important addition, as he left San Francisco after four games last season as one of the most productive point guards in program history. And while UNLV was fourth in the Mountain West in assists per game, the offense didn’t always run smoothly with point guard play being a key reason as to why.

The Runnin’ Rebels were seventh in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (all games), which is an area they’ll need to improve in if they’re to not only return to the NCAA tournament but enjoy success once there. After a spring that was anything but smooth given the departures and Rice’s conversations with South Florida, the goal in Las Vegas is to strengthen the foundation moving forward for a program that’s expected by its fan base to succeed.

The hope is that this incoming class and a shift in recruiting tactics will do the trick.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.