LeBron James Skills Academy Day 2 Recap: Huntington Prep tandem enjoys productive Thursday

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LAS VEGAS — While the first day of the LeBron James Skills Academy featured just one round of games for the high school players, Thursday’s schedule called for two rounds to be played during the afternoon. And while there were a couple players who had to miss out on the action due to injury issues, including Malik Newman and Isaiah Briscoe, there wasn’t a lack for enticing individual matchups on the second day.

It can be argued that the biggest matchup was the one between elite 2015 front court prospects Ben Simmons and Ivan Rabb. Both put forth quality performances on the first day of the camp and that would remain the case Thursday night, with it being argued by some that the LSU commit (Simmons) held the upper hand in the first half of their game with Rabb coming back in strong fashion in the second.

While Rabb remains the focus of many of the nation’s top programs, it’s been clear through two days that LSU has itself an outstanding future Tiger in Simmons due to his ability to attack defenses in transition as well as in the paint with a solid variety of moves. However Rabb and Simmons weren’t the only two big men to put forth impressive displays Thursday night, with the Huntington Prep tandem of Thomas Bryant and Ted Kapita working well together in their team’s victory.

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Bryant, a five-star 2015 prospect, and Kapita (also 2015) ran the floor well and played aggressively on both ends of the floor in their matchup with 2015 seven-footers Doral Moore and Stephen Zimmerman. The energy Bryant and Kapita played with boosted their entire team, which bounced back from a sluggish start (trailing 9-2) to win a game they led by as many as 24 points.

While Kapita, who wants to study sports management in college, didn’t divulge much when asked which schools are currently the most active in his recruitment, Bryant mentioned three programs.

“The schools that have been most active are Syracuse, Ohio State and Kansas,” Bryant told NBCSports.com.

When asked what he’s looking for in the school that he’ll ultimately choose, Bryant noted his desire to be in a program that will help him expand his game. To that point, Bryant’s working this summer to become an even more effective player in the post.

“I’m just trying to improve my post game,” Bryant noted. “Also, staying in control and not going too fast when I get the ball in the post. Those are the big things I’ve been working on, as well as becoming more consistent with my shot.”

Jayson Taytum, Troy Brown among non-2015 standouts: While the crop of rising seniors tends to receive more attention during the spring/summer months, this is also an important time for the players who won’t be seniors next year. And two who have performed well in Las Vegas are 2016 forward Jayson Tatum and 2017 guard Troy Brown.

Tatum’s considered to be one of the best (if not the best) players in his class, and with his smooth game it’s easy to see why that’s the case. Tatum has displayed the ability to score from just about anywhere on the floor, and among the head coaches watching the game in which he played Thursday night were Jim Crews (Saint Louis), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Bill Self (Kansas).

As for Brown, he’s a 2017 prospect from Las Vegas who has already received an offer from Arizona. There’s clearly still plenty of time for Brown to hone his skills, but many have already walked away impressed by what he’s shown himself capable of doing. Brown’s knocked down perimeter shots while also getting to the basket in an efficient manner, not wasting dribbles in the process.

Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker continue to impress: One day after the high school players had their opportunity to play on the same floor as LeBron James, it was the college players who scrimmaged with the two-time NBA champion. And two of the players who stood out were Arizona’s Stanley Johnson and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, with both taking on the challenge of defending James on one end and attacking him on the other.

Johnson has the ability to not only get to the basket but also finish through contact once there, a trait that will fit in well with his college team this winter. As for Dekker he’s been even more aggressive offensively, and one of his goals this summer has been to work towards become a more consistent perimeter shooter.

“I see myself as a good shooter but I didn’t shoot as well as I wanted to,” Dekker said. “I was streaky. I’d go five or six games shooting really well, and then three or four when I couldn’t hit an outside shot consistently. So I want to [improve my] shooting and get stronger so I can bang inside on offense and defense, get boards and finish around the rim.

“The more complete player I can become, the more it will help us out.”

Perry Ellis, Michael Qualls perform well on Thursday: Two other players who played well during the college workouts are Kansas forward Perry Ellis and Arkansas guard Michael Qualls, and both will be key figures for their respective teams in 2014-15. Ellis, who posted averages of 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, has shown the ability to score around the basket while also knocking down mid-range jumpers during the first two days of the camp.

With the Jayhawks having to account for the loss of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid (there were other personnel losses as well), there’s room for Ellis to take another step forward as a junior. And he’s shown the skills needed to make sure that happens in Las Vegas.

As for Qualls, the athleticism he’s shown this week comes as no surprise. He’s attacked the basket during the camp scrimmages, at times doing so with bad intentions. The question for Qualls is whether or not he can take another step forward as a perimeter shooter.

After making just six of his 27 three-point attempts as a freshman, Qualls shot 35 percent (42-for-120) from three last season. However according to hoop-math.com Qualls shot just 29.6% on two-point jumpers, so that’s an area where strides can be made ahead of the 2014-15 season.

Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”

 

Miller Time: Indiana coach cashes in with $24 million deal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New Indiana coach Archie Miller will make $24 million under his seven-year deal — and potentially even more in bonuses.

Miller accepted the job in March, but the athletic department didn’t announce details of the contract until Tuesday.

He will receive a base salary of $550,000 per year and $1 million in deferred income each season. Miller also will receive an additional $1.85 million in outside marketing and promotional income — and will get a $50,000 per year raise each year through March 2024.

Miller can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a national championship. He can earn an additional $125,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, reaching the Final Four and producing multiyear Academic Progress Rate scores over 950.

Utah, BYU rivalry back on after one-year hiatus

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The BYU-Utah annual rivalry series will be back on this season after taking a one-year hiatus last year.

For just the second time since 1909, the Utes and the Cougars did not play in 2016-17 after Utah head coach Larry Kyrstkowiak asked for a one-year cooling off period stemming from an intense and emotional game against BYU in 2015-16. In that game, then-freshman Nick Emery was ejected as a result of this punch that he threw:

The last time those two teams did not play was due to World War II.

The game will be played at BYU on Dec. 16th.

Utah will also play Utah State this season, the first time that they have played the Aggies since 2011.

 

California bans state-funded travel to eight states; does it affect college hoops?

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A new California law could end up causing a headache for the sports teams for public universities in the state.

Because of recently-added laws that are perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community, California has now banned travel to eight states: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota join a list that already includes Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The law states that contracts that were signed before Jan. 1st, 2017, are exempted and can be fulfilled, but there’s not guarantee that will be the case in the future.

“Moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law,” a UCLA spokesman told the Sacramento Bee. That said, the university does not use state funding for travel sports teams as it currently stands, and the goal of the law to avoid “spending taxpayer dollars in states that discriminate,” according to California’s Attorney General.

On the college basketball side of things, the biggest question mark here is whether or not this law will prevent teams from playing in the NCAA tournament if they are sent to a site in one of those eight states. Next season alone, there are first weekend sites in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, not to mention the Final Four taking place in San Antonio. The location for many of those events were determined prior to January 1st.

“We are generally not going to deny student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” a UCLA spokesman told NBC Sports.

The next question then becomes whether or not regular season travel will be allowed. Earlier this year, Cal dropped out of talks with Kansas about a potential home-and-home series due to this law, and if regular season travel is not allowed, it would mean that Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville and Wichita State, along with Kansas, are not allowed to be visited by California public schools that need state funding to travel. A request for a clarification on the legality of college sports teams traveling to those states has been filed with the Attorney General by Fresno State, whose football team is headed to Alabama for a game this year.

Travel for recruiting is also a question that needs to be answered, but at the highest level of the sport, that is typically funded by boosters.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.