ellenson

Five-star 2015 forward Henry Ellenson working to become a more versatile player

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LAS VEGAS — One of the best individual matchups of the first day of action at the LeBron James Skills Academy was the one consisting of five-star 2015 prospects Henry Ellenson and Ivan Rabb. While both performed very well in the first half of the contest, the fact of the matter is that neither was on the court at the same time. That changed in the second half, as they were faced with the challenge of defending each other.

With the resistance having increased, both had to work harder for their offensive opportunities. But that’s what the point of camps such as these should be, with the saying of “iron sharpens iron” being the one that applies. For Ellenson, the opportunity to compete with and against his peers is something he can use to his benefit as he works to improve his skill set.

“I’m just trying to take in everything that these coaches are teaching us,” Ellenson told NBCSports.com. “I worked with the bigs yesterday and tried to take some lessons from that, and I worked with the wings today. Just trying to soak it all in.”

The 6-foot-10 forward has been the object of attention for many high-major programs, and he’s part of a family that doesn’t lack for athleticism. Henry’s the third of four children, with two (Wally, who recently transferred to Marquette, and Ellwood) having already landed college scholarships. The tallest of the bunch, Henry’s next in line due to his wide array of skills.

While there’s been the need to go into the post to battle with some of the bigger prospects at the LeBron camp, Henry’s also shown off the ability to step out onto the perimeter and get things done offensively. And on the defensive end he’s performed well, both in the paint and defending in the pick and roll games that tend to dominate such camps. The goal for Ellenson is to be able to help a college program in a variety of ways, as opposed to being pigeonholed into a particular position.

“Being a ‘mismatch’ guy who can take a big man out on the wing and go by him, or take a smaller guy into the post. A guy who just really picks his spots on offense,” Ellenson said.

As a junior at Rice Lake (Wisconsin) High School, Ellenson posted averages of 27.5 points and 13.1 rebounds per game and was a unanimous first team Division 2 all-state selection as a result. And with that ability on full display, programs such as Duke, Marquette, UCLA and Michigan State were among those mentioned by Ellenson as being the most active in his recruitment at present time.

“I’ve taken visits to Marquette, Northwestern, Duke, Michigan State, UCLA, Iowa State and Michigan are some of the other schools that have contacted me,” noted Ellenson.

Of course, with the presence of Marquette the question of how much his older brother’s decision to join Steve Wojciechowski’s program will impact Henry’s decision comes up. And while it is something Henry has considered, according to him that won’t be the biggest factor when he decides on which school to attend.

“It’s a bonus, but overall I’m going to make the decision that’s best for me,” Ellenson said. “[Wally’s transferring to Marquette] is just another positive for that school.”

Among the factors Ellenson mentioned when asked what he’s looking for in a school were his relationship with the coaching staff, the style of play and the program’s ability to develop its players into pro prospects.

Taking the style of play into consideration, the goal of avoiding being placed into one particular “box” is something that’s important to Ellenson. But it’s clear that he also understands the need to work hard enough at his skill set to make sure the positional options remain available. Because without the skill needed to handle multiple responsibilities on the court, it becomes tougher for the coach to place the player in a position where versatility is required.

“I’m looking to improve everything,” said Ellenson. “A lot of ball-handling, because I do want to be able to play all over the court and ball-handling is a huge part of that. Also, I’m working on developing strength and quickness.”

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony

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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.

It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.