Tony Bennett

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.”

Five-star 2017 point guard Trevon Duval down to 10 schools

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
(Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
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Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.

Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.

Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.

Ohio State gaining recruiting momentum with two 2018 commitments

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 24: Head coach Thad Matta of the Ohio State Buckeyes claps on the sideline in the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 24, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.

The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.

Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.

Butler lands commitment from four-star 2017 forward Kyle Young

Atlanta, GA - SUNDAY, MAY 29: Nike EYBL. Kyle Young #34 of King James Session 4. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
(Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.

A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.

Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.

This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.

Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.

VIDEO: Collin Sexton with a trick shot for the ages

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Earlier this summer, we told you the story of Collin Sexton, how the 6-foot-2 Georgia native went from being a mid-major recruit to a five-star prospect being courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina and Villanova.

It’s because he’s a bucket-getter.

     RELATED: Making A Five Star

He averaged 31 points in the Nike EYBL circuit, nine points better than Michael Porter, who finished second in the league in scoring. No one puts points on the board like he does, so it’s only fitting that he was the guy that made a shot from the balcony during ‘The Trip’, Nike’s effort to keep kids associated with their brand from Elite 24:

Lonzo Ball struggled on UCLA’s Australian tour

Lonzo Ball (UCLA Athletics)
UCLA Athletics
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UCLA capped their three-game trip to Australia on Sunday night with a 94-91 win over the Brisbane Bullets, a game in which sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday finished with a team-high 17 points. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton both added 16 points and freshman Ike Anigbogu finished with 13 points and 10 boards.

This win came just two days after the Bruins lost to Melbourne United, 89-84, when Hamilton — 18 points and five assists — and Holiday — 16 points — were both once again impressive. Alford also added 18 points in Friday’s loss.

It’s not surprising that the Bruins had some up and down performances abroad. Everyone does. It’s what happens when a team of college kids, with three freshmen playing key roles, heads to the other side of the world to square off against teams made up of professionals. Don’t go hanging the ‘Fire Steve Alford’ banners on anymore airplanes just yet.

There are, however, two interesting things to consider from this trip:

– Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn’t shoot well. At all. In UCLA’s 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball’s ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.

– And then there’s this, from Bryce Alford:

UCLA needs to travel with more towels.