Freshman Jack Salt adds some physicality to Virginia’s summer pickup games

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The 2013-14 season was a special one for Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers, as they won the ACC title and received a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers’ season may have come to an end in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Michigan State, but their 30 wins (16-2 ACC) represent the most compiled by a UVA squad since Terry Holland’s 1981-82 team finished its season with a 30-4 record.

The question heading into the summer for Virginia: who will step forward to help Bennett account for the graduation of guard Joe Harris and forward Akil Mitchell? While the Cavaliers return every other key contributor from last year’s team, including guards Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes, this is an important question to address.

With regards to Mitchell, who posted averages of 6.8 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game in 2013-14, Virginia doesn’t lack for front court options heading into 2014-15. Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey and Darion Atkins were all members of the rotation last season, and three of Virginia’s four incoming freshmen are 6-foot-8 or taller.

One of those four newcomers is 6-foot-10 power forward Jack Salt, who arrives in Charlottesville by way of New Zealand. And according to Whitelaw Reid of the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Salt’s experience playing basketball against players with rugby backgrounds helped him make an impact physically in the team’s pickup games before heading back to New Zealand to try out for the national team.

Salt’s approach to the game is just fine with U.Va. coach Tony Bennett. He believes upperclassmen Mike Tobey and Darion Atkins could use a little pushing around from the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Kiwi.

“I think he’ll really challenge, physically in practice, the Tobeys, the Atkins and those guys — just because he’s very continuous,” Bennett said. “He may foul out in one possession, but I love it. That’s part of learning — in a good way, I think. I like guys that are aggressive.”

Also noted in the story was the possibility of Salt redshirting due to the experienced players ahead of him in the rotation. But that doesn’t mean he can’t help the Cavaliers in practice as they look to make a run at a second consecutive ACC title. Atkins, Gill and Tobey will need to step forward if that’s to occur, and having that physical competition will not only help them but also help Salt as he gets acclimated to the Virginia program and college basketball in general.

“He’s got to become a little more smoother,” Bennett said in Reid’s story, “but you can you can see in the limited time we’ve worked with him that he’s real physical and just wants to do whatever he can to help. And you need that — guys who embrace roles. I think I see him figuring stuff out over time.”

Report: North Carolina not attending the White House after winning national title

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

VIDEO: John Wall gets emotional talking to his mom during Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.