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SMU’s Emmanuel Mudiay on turning pro: ‘I was tired of seeing my mom struggle’

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Emmanuel Mudiay will be skipping college and making the jump to the professional ranks overseas for a season, according to a report from Scout.com.

Mudiay, a 6-foot-5 lead guard from Dallas, is the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014. He’s expected to be a lottery pick whenever he becomes eligible for the NBA Draft. He committed to his hometown SMU Mustangs over Kentucky last summer and was a pivotal piece in the expected breakthrough for Larry Brown’s team; he’s the biggest reason that NBCSports has SMU as a preseason top ten team.

Jean-Michael Mudiay provided NBCSports with a statement from Emmanuel: “I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach Larry Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA, but I was tired of seeing my mom struggle. After sitting down with my coach, coach Brown, and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom is to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities. I am grateful for coach Brown’s guidance and support. I am grateful for Prime Prep and Coach Forsett for making me into the player that I am today. This is in no shape or form because of the NCAA or any eligibility issues.”

His statement differs from a myriad of reports that this decision stemmed from amateurism concerns and the potential that he’d end up ineligible to play in college.

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That there were potential eligibility issues aren’t all that surprising for Mudiay. He’s spent the past two seasons at Prime Prep, a charter school founded by Deion Sanders that has been in the news quite a bit for the issues that they have had running and funding the program. It’s not a secret that every athlete at Prime Prep would have to wrangle with the NCAA over their eligibility. Almost a year ago to the day, LSU freshman Jordan Mickey and TCU freshman Karviar Shepard were initially ruled ineligible by the NCAA, but they won an appeal a few weeks and were allowed to play immediately.

But according to multiple reports, the reason that Mudiay made the decision to turn pro are concerns over his status as an amateur, not issues with Prime Prep’s academics. There are people that are worried about a looming NCAA investigation.

Brown released a statement Monday afternoon as well: “Emmanuel has decided to pursue professional basketball opportunities. This is not an academic issue, since he has been admitted to SMU, but rather a hardship issue. After talking to Emmanuel, I know he really wants to alleviate some of the challenges his family faces and recognizes that he has an opportunity to help them now.”

Losing Mudiay is just a devastating blow for Larry Brown’s club, as he had a chance to be the AAC Player of the Year on a team that was likely the favorite to win the league. He’s a powerful and athletic lead guard that can take over, an elite, game-changing talent. Put him on the floor with some of SMU’s other players — Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Yannick Moreira, Keith Frazier, Ben Moore — and allow Brown to work his magic moving those chess pieces, and you’re looking at a Final Four caliber club.

Without him, the Mustangs should still making the NCAA tournament and compete with the likes of Memphis and UConn for the league title, but that special season they were on the brink of having? That’s likely out the window.

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)
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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)
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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
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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.