USA Basketball experience motivates five-star big man Chase Jeter

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MOREAll our content from the 2014 July Live Recruiting Period

CHICAGO — Chase Jeter has been playing very good basketball this summer and the Class of 2015 big man had some added motivation back in June.

The 6-foot-10 native of Las Vegas was trying out for the USA U18 team to play in FIBA Americas in Colorado Springs, but he was the last person cut from the team.

Dejected, but determined, Jeter flew from Colorado Springs to Charlottesville, Virginia for the NBPA Top 100 Camp and focused on continuing his strong summer. After playing in only one game at the camp, Jeter received a phone call from USA Basketball. Incoming UNLV freshman wing Dwayne Morgan could no longer play with the team due to a family illness and Jeter was back on board with the team.

A gold medal later, Jeter is just happy the experience worked out with USA Basketball and the No. 8 player in Rivals‘ Class of 2015 rankings is now a marked man during the July evaluation period.

“It was tough [being cut], but I handled it really well and that’s one of the main reasons I got asked back to USA because of how well I handled it,” Jeter told NBCSports.com. “They said I was the first person they called and that was just an honor in itself. I think that’s a testament to my character. I felt really good about that.”

The USA Basketball experience of being cut and re-joining the team to help them earn the gold has made Jeter a mentally tougher player going into July. Jeter could have handled being cut in a number of different ways, but he just tried to focus on his play.

“When I got cut, I mean, there’s different emotions going through my head,” Jeter said. “But me handling it well is what separated me from many other players that got cut. Motivation-wise, I didn’t let it hold me back. I went the next night to Top 100 and got 20 points and got called back and had to go back to Colorado Springs.”

Jeter has made huge strides in his game since last season. Although earlier in his high school career he was a bit overshadowed by Bishop Gorman High School teammate and fellow big man Stephen Zimmerman, Jeter has put in a lot of work not only on his skill set but staying mentally sharp before each game. Now, Jeter and Zimmerman are both ranked in the top 10 nationally and Jeter might have one of the best upsides in the Class of 2015.

Whichever school lands Jeter will also getting one of the youngest players in the class. The big man doesn’t turn 17 until September and he was the youngest member of the USA U18 team by over 10 months.

“I’ve definitely done a great job this spring in terms of applying different things and skill sets in my game,” Jeter said. “Mainly motor and mindset is the main thing I’m going after. The skill set is there, and it’s going to continue to develop, but my mindset and how I play and doing all of the right things when I take the floor is what’s separating me this summer.”

The skill set for Jeter includes a devastating hook shot with his right hand. Jeter has used that hook as his go-to move this spring and summer and he keeps progressing in making the move more-and-more unstoppable.

“It’s definitely efficient; that’s the main thing is efficiency,” Jeter said of the right hook. “It’s an easy go-to move and if I do everything right it’s pretty much unblockable.”

There’s been a great deal of speculation with Jeter when it comes to his recruitment. He formed a final list of six schools, but many around basketball believe Jeter is leaning towards committing to Duke. Coach K took in Jeter’s games at the adidas Unrivaled Camp on Friday with assistants Jeff Capel and Jon Scheyer in tow, but Jeter maintained that he’s still figuring things out in the process.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Oregon head coach Dana Altman have both checked in to see Jeter this week and assistants from Arizona, UNLV and UCLA have been tracking Jeter as well.

“I already formed my final six schools in Oregon, Kansas, UNLV, Duke, Arizona and UCLA. I don’t think I’ll cut down anymore. I’ll probably make my decision at the end of the summer,” Jeter said.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.