Five-star 2016 recruit M.J. Cage is emerging from his dad’s shadow

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Michael Cage is one of the most recognizable players in NBA history, and it’s not because he was a superstar. That’s not to say that Cage was bad — he was a second-team all-american for San Diego State in 1984, he led the NBA in rebounding in 1988, played in the league until he was 38 and averaged a double-double three times in his 15 pro seasons — but he’s a long way from the kind of generational talent whose name will still reverberate even though he was in the NBA just one season this century.

No, it wasn’t Cage’s play that made him memorable.

It was his hair, the illustrious jheri curl that he sported when he first entered the NBA, just 11 picks after Michael Jordan.

But it may not be all that long before Cage is known for something else: simply being M.J.’s dad.

M.J. Cage has emerged as one of the best front court prospects on the west coast. A top 25 recruit in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals.com, Cage is the latest in a long line of stars that have come out of Mater Dei HS (CA), a program that routinely churns out high-major prospects, most recently incoming Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson.

source:  At 6-foot-10, Cage has a terrific build — broad shoulders, long arms — and great hands, snagging anything and everything within his reach. He’s got a good feel for the game, he can pass out of the post and he’s got a soft touch around the rim. At this point in his development, he’s a bit more of a finesse player despite his size, which is ironic given that his dad had a reputation for being one of the NBA’s premiere tough guys.

“Training with my dad has gotten me a lot better,” the younger Cage said at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last week, emphasizing a point that his dad has been trying to drive home. “Keep working hard, because you can always outwork someone even if they’re better than you.”

And while his dad is — rightfully — trying to bring out the mean streak is his soft-spoken, mild-mannered son, M.J.’s goal this summer is to expand his offensive repertoire.

“Work on my jump shot and my dribbling, so I can be able to bring the ball up and take people off the dribble instead of just posting up all the time,” he said. “I’m trying to be a stretch four, maybe even a three.”

Cage lists offers from a number of the most high-profile programs across the country, but as of right now, he’s focusing on just three schools: Kentucky, Arizona and San Diego State, as Cage boasts strong ties to all three.

Cage’s father played his college ball at SDSU. “I go up there because my dad went there,” Cage said. “I like their crowd.” He’s also quick to point out that his father hasn’t started pushing him in the direction of the Aztecs … yet. “He probably secretly wants me to go there,” he said with a smirk, “but he just doesn’t tell me.”

As far as Kentucky is concerned, Cage said he loves the history of the program and how they are able to send players off to the NBA, and it doesn’t hurt that head coach John Calipari coached the elder Cage for a year when they were both with the New Jersey Nets, and the younger Cage called him a “family friend”. Cage was actually one of the first players in the Class of 2016 that Calipari offered, as he extended a scholarship prior to the start of this past high school season while at a Mater Dei practice. Kentucky was a finalist for the services of Johnson.

Cage was born in Arizona, as if the connection of having a former high school teammate on the roster wasn’t enough.

But while those three schools are currently front runners, Cage says what’s most important to him is a program that will allow post players to shine.

“A school that will pass the ball to the bigs,” he said, “and isn’t just run by the guards where all the guards are shooting every shot.”

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.