Sam Dekker, Deonte Burton, Jamil Wilson

LeBron James Skills Academy Day 1 Recap: College players shine, LeBron joins high school campers

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LAS VEGAS — It goes without saying that the namesake of the LeBron James Skills Academy is the center of attention in the basketball world these days. With James being a free agent, the question of where he’ll play his basketball next season has dominated conversation with some seeing his decision as the first major domino to fall in NBA free agency.

While some would use that status as a reason to remain sequestered away from the public that hasn’t been the case for James, who was present at both sessions of his camp on Wednesday. And for the high school players in attendance, that meant the opportunity to play either with or against James during the evening session. With four games being played concurrently James hopped from one court to the next, taking the opportunity to also help the prospects with some of the finer points of the game.

One of the players who had the opportunity to defend James was 2015 guard Malik Beasley, who sought out the challenge of defending the four-time NBA MVP. And while becoming even better equipped to deal with a player of that level of physicality is something Beasley is looking to do this summer, it isn’t his only focus.

Derryck Thornton stands out at Reebok Breakout Camp

“It is, because I want to get ready for the next level,” Beasley told “Also ball-handling, so I can play some point guard [in addition to] the two.”

When asked which schools have been recruiting him the hardest the 6-foot-4 guard played things close to the vest, noting that while he knows the answers it’s something he’ll talk about more towards the end of July. But with the skill set it’s easy to see while many high major programs, including Georgia, Cincinnati, Maryland and Auburn have offered the versatile guard. Beasley was one of the better performers of the first day when it came to the high school players, as he was able to score in a variety of ways while also defending well.

Ivan Rabb, Henry Ellenson lead front court prospects: Two of the best prospects in the Class of 2015 faced off during the night session, but it didn’t come to fruition until the second half. Rabb controlled the paint on both ends of the floor in the first half, blocking shots around the basket on one end and scoring consistently on the other. And while Ellenson didn’t block as many shots at Rabb in the first half, he proved to be the best big man on the court during his time on the floor.

That ultimately led to the two five-star prospects being pitted against each other in the second half, and they played to a virtual standstill. This all occurred on a court being observed by coaches from Duke, Georgetown, Marquette, North Carolina and UCLA (each head coach was in attendance) among many high-major programs.

Sam Dekker, Kelly Oubre among college standouts: One aspect of the camp that proves beneficial is the presence of college players, with those who have performed well at other Nike skills camps receiving an invite to Las Vegas. Like the high school players there was an adjustment period as the players became better acquainted with each other. But the length of time needed to make that adjustment was understandably shorter for the college players.

Two college players who performed well were Wisconsin rising junior Sam Dekker and Kansas incoming freshman Kelly Oubre. Dekker’s coming off of a very good sophomore campaign for the Badgers, and the interesting thing about him is that he’s grown. Listed at 6-foot-7 by Wisconsin, Dekker is listed as being 6-foot-9 this week. Skill-wise he knocked down perimeter shots at a consistent rate while also getting to the basket off the dribble. As for Oubre, the left-hander was aggressive offensively and he was a proficient jump shooter as well.

Other players who performed well Wednesday were guards Anthony Brown (Stanford), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Terry Rozier (Louisville) and Delon Wright (Utah), with forwards Vincent Hunter (UTEP), Jordan Mickey (LSU) and Aaron White (Iowa) among the front court standouts. And VCU’s Treveon Graham deserves mention as well, as he made the plays required of being a good teammate while also displaying the shooting ability that has made him one of the Atlantic 10’s best players.

25-pound weight loss helps Georges Niang expand his game: Earlier this summer it was reported that Iowa State rising junior forward Georges Niang, whose season ended due to a broken foot suffered in the Cyclones’ NCAA tournament win over North Carolina Central, dropped some 25 pounds since the end of the season. The result: a more versatile player who’s better equipped to play on the perimeter on both ends of the floor. And being at a camp that features more perimeter players than prototypical big men has helped Niang as he works to become an even better player in 2014-15.

“I feel that [now I can] guard smaller guys and keep them in front of me,” Niang said. “I noticed I couldn’t do that last year when I was heavier, so [the weight loss] helps. Also, getting up and down the court is a lot easier. I rarely feel tired now, so I feel like where my stamina is I can keep going and pushing guys to another level.”

Talented Kentucky begins another year with high expectations

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 21:  The mascot of the Kentucky Wildcats in action against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 21, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach John Calipari once again must figure out how to use his latest talented freshman class, which this year is big and fills voids at many positions.

All of which means another season of high expectations at a school where a national championship is always the standard.

After finishing 27-9 and losing in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 last spring, Kentucky appears capable of contending for a ninth NCAA title. This despite losing six players including several regulars such as Associated Press All-American guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, who combined to average 37 points per game last season, and 6-foot-11 Skal Labissiere.

Kentucky landed guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, both 6-foot-3 high school All-Americans who join sophomore Isaiah Briscoe (9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) in the backcourt. All can handle the ball and shoot, giving Calipari some options, compared with last year’s squad run by Ulis.

“This team will probably have three guys having the ball, and we’ll play off them,” Calipari said. “One may have it more, but the other two are going to have it a significant amount of time. So that makes it different.”

But this recruiting class is all about the bigs with the additions of Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones – a pair of 6’10” All-Americans – and 6’9″ Wenyen Gabriel.

Adebayo has an NBA body and is fierce around the basket on both ends of the floor. Killeya-Jones and Gabriel are long and guard the rim as well.

The Wildcats also return size with 7-footer Isaac Humphries and 6’10” redshirt freshman Tai Wynyard, giving Kentucky its tallest frontcourt since the 38-1 team that reached the Final Four two years ago. Nobody’s making that grand comparison yet as the team works to form chemistry.

“We all want the same dream, so we just try to accomplish it together,” Monk said. “It’s easy to sacrifice if you have great players around you.”

Other things to watch in Kentucky this season:

MATURE BRISCOE: Isaiah Briscoe worked out with NBA teams last spring to gauge his pro prospects before returning for his sophomore season . He’s more seasoned by the experience, and more muscular. The biggest benefits might be his improved shooting – which Kentucky needs from him after an inconsistent freshman season – and his eagerness to lead. “It forced me to grow up,” Briscoe said of the process. “Being one of the few guys to come back (under Calipari), I’ll be able to lead these guys.”

BLUEGRASS GRAYBEARDS: Kentucky has seniors for the second straight season, both of whom could play bigger roles. Forward Derek Willis is working to add defense to his game after averaging career bests of 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds last season and becoming part of the rotation. Guard Dominique Hawkins just aims to stay healthy after his junior year was limited by injuries. He’s a physical defensive specialist being encouraged to shoot more this season.

COACH’S KID: If things get loud in Rupp near the end of a Kentucky rout, it might be fans clamoring for Calipari to put his son, Brad, on the floor. The 6-foot freshman is a walk-on with an eye toward coaching one day but figures to become a fan favorite for obvious reasons.

RENOVATED RUPP: The Wildcats’ home begins its 40th anniversary season with a new floor and center-hung scoreboard and video screen that has replaced the “Big Bertha” bank of loudspeakers, which resembled an oversized pine cone. The arena has already added high-definition video boards in the corners and other electronic features to enhance the game experience.

KEY GAMES: Kentucky’s always-tough nonconference schedule includes matchups against Michigan State on Nov. 15 in the Champions Classic; a home game against UCLA (Dec. 3); consecutive contests against North Carolina (Dec. 17) and at archrival Louisville (Dec. 21); and a Jan. 28 home game against Kansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.


See what NC State freshman did to Abdul-Malik Abu’s arm

SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 27:  Abdul-Malik Abu #0 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives to the basket as DaJuan Coleman #32 of the Syracuse Orange defends during the first half on February 27, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Rebounding can be a war at times. Even when it involves teammates.

NC State junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu, one of the best rebounders in the nation, showed up to ACC Media Day in Washington, D.C. earlier this week with battle scars from a recent drill with freshman forward Ted Kapita.

“When you’re battling for rebounds, there’s a lot of hand movements,” Abu said, according to Aaron Beard of the Associated Press. “And he has nails, so he’s just kind of like slicing through.”

Abu told reporters he had the first-year forward cut his nails shortly after the incident.

The 6-foot-8 Abu, the ACC’s top returning rebounder, averaged 12.9 points, 8.8 boards and 1.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. Kapita is ranked as four-star recruit by Rivals.

The Wolfpack were picked to finish sixth in the loaded ACC.

Dana Altman: “No idea” if Dillon Brooks will be ready for season opener

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks dunks the ball in the first half while taking on the Duke Blue Devils in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at the Honda Center on March 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Oregon enters the 2016-17 season as a projected top-5 team. A lot of those lofty expectations are dependent on the health of Dillon Brooks, an All-American caliber forward heading his junior year.

Brooks had surgery on his foot this offseason and is still not back at practice yet for the Ducks. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports spoke to Oregon head coach Dana Altman on Thursday. Altman is uncertain if he’ll have his star forward on the floor when the season tips in a few weeks.

“I have no idea,” Altman told FanRag Sports on Thursday when he was asked if Brooks would be ready for the season opener. “He’s out of the boot and he’s doing some non-contact stuff, but we still don’t know. He has another meeting scheduled with the doctor next week and we’ll go from there.”

The Ducks graduated Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin, but retained four starters, including rim protectors Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell, as well as Tyler Dorsey, who was third on the team in scoring as a freshman. They also add another ball handler in Dylan Ennis, who missed all but two games last season with a foot injury of his own.

But with a healthy Brooks, a nightmare matchup at a physical 6-foot-7, Oregon is a legitimate national championship contender.

Oregon begins the season on Nov. 11 against Army. Then after that, a meeting with arguably the best mid-major, Valparaiso, is sandwiched in between a pair of games with two potentially dangerous high-major teams in Baylor and Georgetown. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Pac-12 favorite, minus its star forward, could be slow out of the gates in 2016-17.

Mark Turgeon receives an extension from Maryland

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18: Head coach Mark Turgeon of the Maryland Terrapins looks on against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The University of Maryland announced on Thursday that Mark Turgeon’s contract would be extended through the 2022-23 season.

This adds four years to his previous deal. Turgeon is entering his sixth season at Maryland.

“I want to thank President [Wallace] Loh and [Director of Athletics] Kevin Anderson for their continued commitment and support of our program,” Turgeon said in a statement. “I am in this position because of the talented coaches and student-athletes that I have had the opportunity to work with over the past five years. Their commitment to our program is why Maryland Basketball continues to have an exciting and bright future.”

Once on the hot seat, Turgeon has gotten the Terrapins to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, the latter resulting in a spot in the Sweet 16. It was the first time in a decade he had reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, previously leading Wichita State to the Sweet 16 in 2006.

Maryland, a preseason top-25 team, lost four starters — Robert Carter Jr., Jake Layman, Diamond Stone and Rasheed Suliamon — from a season ago. But the Terps do retain Melo Trimble, one of the top lead guards in the nation, for his junior year.  Trimble will be surrounded by Damonte Dodd, Dion Wiley, Jaren Nickens, Duquesne grad transfer L.G. Gill and a quartet of four-star freshmen.

NBC Sports projected Maryland to finish sixth in the Big 10 this season.

RIP Vine: The best college basketball vines
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Today, Twitter announced that they are sending Vine – the six-second, looping videos that made so many people famous and so many things viral – into hospice care.

The social media service that helped usher in an era of Instagram videos, SnapChat and FaceBook live will not be a thing for much longer.

And that’s a shame.

Because there really was nothing better than a well-executed vine.

In remembrance, we are offering up the most memorable college basketball vines for your viewing pleasure (if we’ve missed any, leave a link in the comments or share it with us @CBTonNBC):

Kris Jenkins winning a title

Tony Parker kicking game at Allie LaForce

A quadruple ball-screen

Marshall Henderson is confused

That time Derrick Marks’ legs didn’t work like they used to before


The Wall of Distraction getting it done

Bill Self breaking his own watch

Dyshawn Pierre getting pantsed

How is this possible?

You may never see a better dunk than this

Tom Crean doing Tom Crean things

Thad Matta being thrilled to see Tom Crean

Speaking of Coach Matta, what’s he been on, Amir?

Sterling Brown knew this shot was good

I still have no idea what Stephen Zimmerman is doing here

He mad

That time Jamal Murray murdered his teammate

That time Willie Cauley-Stein murdered a defender

That other time Willie Cauley-Stein murdered a defender

Georges Niang blowing a kiss to the Iowa student section

And not everyone likes him for it

That time Jarmal Reid tripped a ref

A world class flop from Armani Moore


Motor-Boatright Me

Florida walk-on Jacob Kurtz tipping in a buzzer-beater for … Florida State?