West Virginia will need to follow Juwan Staten’s lead

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After missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, the West Virginia program endured a tumultuous spring where Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, the Mountaineers’ second and third leading scorers, both decided to transfer.

Despite the losses of two talented guards, especially Eron Harris, who was fourth in the Big 12 in scoring, the Mountaineers return their top player from a season ago: Juwan Staten. His return is crucial for Mountaineers, who enter the 2014-2015 season with a new cast of characters.

From the Mike Casazza Charleston Daily Mail:

For now, Staten can lead by example, and Huggins bragged that Staten “certainly sets an example with his work ethic.” Staten’s timeline on Twitter features regular reminders that he’s been running in the woods or working out in the gym, messages that are important because the work does happen and because his peers can see that he’s out there doing his part.

“He lives in the gym,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t just go in the gym and shoot balls. He’s in there working at it. That, I think, has kind of permeated to a degree throughout our team.”

Staten was second in the Big 12 in scoring and was tied for the lead in assists with 18.1 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was also second on the team in rebounding. The 6-foot-1 guard will be surrounded by a mostly new-look back court made up of returnee Gary Browne, JuCo commits Billydee Williams, Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige, as well as incoming freshmen Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, both three-star recruits.

The West Virginia frontline, headlined by Devin Williams, will be bolstered by the additions of Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon, a top-60 recruit in 2013. Both forwards will be eligible this season.

Last season, the Mountaineers finished seventh in the Big 12 standings, ahead of Oklahoma State, which received one of the conference’s seven tournament berths. For a time, West Virginia was sitting on the bubble, making up for a weak non-conference schedule with wins over Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State. But six losses in nine games down the stretch dashed the Mountaineers’ hopes of dancing in March.

Harris and Henderson transferring hurts West Virginia, but a first-team Big 12 selection surrounded by talent, albeit young and/or inexperienced, gives Huggins something to work with.

“I think they’ll get better and better as the thing goes on,” Huggins told Casazza. “I think we have to have the same kind of selfless attitude that I think the really good teams have. I don’t have any indication at this point in time that that’s not going to happen.”

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.