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The Showdown Saturday Recap: Horace Spencer’s big summer continues

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PHILADELPHIA — Horace Spencer’s game lacks a lot at this point in his development, but one thing the 6-foot-8 power forward, ranked No. 73 in the Class of 2015 by Rivals, has in abundance is energy.

In short: there may not be a front court prospect in the class that plays harder each and every time he steps on the court than Spencer does.

A Philly native that spent this past season playing for Findlay Prep out in Las Vegas, Spencer is cut from the same cloth as a guy like Ben Wallace. His broad shoulders and quick leaping ability help him make up for the fact that he is a bit undersized, and he takes pride in his ability to rebound the ball on both ends of the floor and protect the rim defensively.

On Saturday, at Elevate Hoops’ tournament in Philly called The Showdown, Spencer put on a show. Playing on a team that only had six players and didn’t have much in the way of Division I talent, he lit up the Showtime Ballers — who count Dwayne Bacon, Corey Sanders, Jeantal Cylla and Jean Marc Koumadje as members — to the tune of 28 points, controlling the paint on both ends of the floor. While the majority of those buckets came off of effort plays — offensive rebounds, cuts to the rim, picking up loose balls, beating defenders down the floor in transition — he also knocked down three jumpers in the 17-19 foot range and had a handful of nice moves on the block, some he finished and some he didn’t.

In other words, the guy known as a player that brings athleticism and effort to the table showed off a little of skill, proof he is continuing to develop as a player. “Improving my offensive game, like my jump shot and my ballhandling,” Spencer said when asked about what he’s been working on.

MOREAll our content from the 2014 July Live Recruiting Period

That performance came on the heels of a good showing at the NBPA Top 100 camp and an excellent three days at Reebok’s Breakout Classic, which has made Spencer one of the hotter prospects in the class.

Spencer listed offers from Seton Hall, West Virginia, USC, Cincinnati, La Salle, Georgia, Maryland and Oregon State at the beginning of the week, but has reportedly received offers from South Florida and Oklahoma State since then. Expect to see that list grow as well, as Spencer’s best performances of the summer came with faces like Leonard Hamilton and John Thompson III, as well as a large number of high major assistants, in the crowd.

Skal Labissiere finally looks dominant: Skal Labissiere is a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2015, but the slender, 6-foot-11 center missed this high school season with a stress fracture in his back. On Saturday, Skal finally looked like an elite-level big man with a dominating first half performance against the Richmond Squires. He had a huge dunk in traffic, knocked down a couple of jumpers, made quick moves in the post and made a handful of nice passes, include a touch-pass from the high-post for a layup.

Here’s the issue: the Squires didn’t have a single front court player over 6-foot-7. Labissiere’s potential is through the roof. He’s got a massive wingspan and huge hands, he’s got ball skills that many bigs at this level don’t and he’s got a go-to move on the block — a righty jump-hook — that is really effective. I’d feel more confident in his future if he dominated a similar caliber of competition as well.

It’s time to get a look at Grant Riller: The most eye-opening performance on Saturday came from a kid that’s a bit of an afterthought on his own AAU team, the Q6 all-stars. Coaches were lined up to see Kerry Blackshear and Matt Milon, but what they got was Riller showing out during the second half of an upset win over Sports U. In a five minute stretch during the second half, Riller scored on two tough drives through a set defense, split the defenders on a high-ball screen before setting up a teammate for an open three, drilled a deep three from the top of the key and threw down the dunk of the day on hyper-athletic, 6-foot-8 Chris Silva.

Should I mention that Riller is listed at 6-foot-3, a height that apparently takes his (large) half-fro into consideration?

Riller, who calls himself a combo-guard, plays his high school ball at Ocoee HS in Orlando. The only offers that he listed were from Abilene Christian and Kennesaw State, but he said that Virginia Tech, Mercer, Florida-Gulf Coast, College of Charleston, North Florida and FIU have been checking up on him.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

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.