(Scott Phillips/NBCSports.com)

Four-star 2015 wing Cameron Walker really improving this spring

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INDIANAPOLIS — One player who has really improved this spring is California wing Cameron Walker. The 6-foot-7 Walker showed some promise last summer with the Compton Magic in helping the team win the 16U title at the Super 64 and now Walker is handling even more responsibilities this spring on the adidas Gauntlet.

The No. 50 player in the 2015 class according to Rivals.com, Walker has shown off a lot of versatile qualities this spring in playing multiple spots for the Magic. Walker averaged 12.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent shooting from three-point range in 16 games this spring.

“I think I’m playing alright. As a team we’re not doing too well but hopefully we pick it up. I just take a “next game” approach and try to stay focused on the next game we have,” Walker said to NBCSports.com

In the Indianapolis event, Walker even ran point for the Magic, as starting lead guard and SMU commit Sedrick Barefield was out of action for the weekend. Walker looked good running the point and showed an ability to at least be a secondary ball handler in college.

“We didn’t have Sedrick today so they kind of asked me to step in at point guard. That’s fine with me. I play it with my high school team, so I just stepped in and tried to do my job,” Walker said.

Although Walker looked strong handling the ball and distributing to teammates, he acknowledged that he’s probably more of a wing at the college level.

“I see myself as a two or a three. When you get to the college level a lot of guys are stronger and taller so probably a two or a three,” Walker said.

Walker’s improvement this spring is great news for his top eight. Walker narrowed his list recently and gave his top eight to NBCSports.com

“I just narrowed my list down to a top eight,” Walker said. “UCLA, Florida, Harvard, San Diego State, Stanford, Cal, Arizona State and Colorado are my top eight so those are the main schools coming after me right now.”

The process for Walker is still in the early stages when it comes to his top eight.

“I don’t have any visits yet. As July comes, I’ll narrow down my list and start taking visits in August,” Walker said. “I think by the end of July when I take my five official visits that will be my top five. And then hopefully then I’ll know or maybe I’ll commit. I’m going to sign in November so that’s the decision I’m (aiming) to make.”

One of the interesting storylines involving Walker’s recruitment is Cal recruiting him with new head coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin recently made a Sweet Sixteen with Tennessee but hasn’t been known as a major force in recruiting the West Coast.

“I have spoken to him a lot. Coach Martin calls me or texts me every day. When he was at Tennessee he never recruited me at all but since he’s been at Cal he’s been recruiting me,” Walker said. “He’s asked me how I’m doing, how’s school, how’s basketball and just to be aggressive and look to score more.”

Martin is one of many successful coaches recruiting Walker and he said that he has a few factors in mind when looking for a future college program.

“It’s going to come down to my relationship with all of the coaches. I have to have a great relationship with the head coach so it’s going to come down to that. Also a school that has a good academics and my overall fit with the school,” Walker said.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.