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How Steve Enoch went from unknown CT kid to a top 50 recruit in three months

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PHILADELPHIA — Three months ago, Steve Enoch was just another guy from Connecticut, a kid that played JV as a freshman and that didn’t start on the varsity team at Norwalk HS until his junior season. He was a dude that was spotted by Sydney Johnson and Martin Bahar of Fairfield who were staring down the barrel of a recruiting battle with crosstown rival Sacred Heart.

That all changed when April’s live period hit.

The 6-foot-9 Enoch went with his team to the Pitt Jam Fest and had himself an impressive enough weekend to earn an invite to Pangos All-American camp in Long Beach, Cali. And it was in Long Beach where Enoch blew up, playing some of the best basketball of his career against some of the best competition in the country, enough so that he shot up to No. 54 in the class of 2015, according to Rivals.

His play at Pangos earned Enoch a trip to Charlottesville, Va., for the NBPA Top 100 Camp, but thanks to a thigh bruise, he was unable to participate in the event.

What that means is that entering his final July live period, by far the most important month of his basketball career to date, Enoch was one of the nation’s great unknowns. Prior to the start of the Reebok Breakout Classic a week ago, many of the schools that have reached out to Enoch and offered him a scholarship have yet to see him play first hand. Quite a few of the evaluators on hand were going to be getting their first or second extended look as well.

It was also the first time that Enoch could look into the stands and see the likes of John Calipari, Rick Pitino and John Beilein.

“Before the game, in layup lines while I was warming up, I took a look and I was amazed,” Enoch told NBCSports in Philly last week. “It wasn’t butterflies, it just made me that much more amped up to play.”

“I have to go out there and ball out. I know there are going to be guys that are more experienced than me, and some better than me. I understand that. I just have to play to my advantage.”

And his advantage at this point is that he’s a strong 6-foot-9 forward that can step out and knock down a three, which is impressive given where he was in his development only a year ago. “I’ve been working really hard,” Enoch said. “I’ve become more versatile on the court. I can do a lot of things I couldn’t do before.”

“Sixteen months ago he couldn’t run up and down the court,” Enoch’s AAU coach George Matthews told SNY.tv. “Right now he’s put way more weight on. He’s in that growth stage where everything’s starting to kick in.” Enoch, however, is quick to point out that his progress is far from finished, as he’s still developing his perimeter game and still looking to add some more back to the basket moves. He also knows he has to get into better shape if he wants to be an elite player in this class.

“I have to definitely improve my stamina,” he said. “I get too tired. I have to play that much more aggressive against these guys, it’s the highest level of competition you get.”

Enoch recently visited some of the biggest schools in the Northeast — Providence, Rhode Island, Boston College and UConn — and has a number of high major programs offering him scholarships — Memphis, Oregon, Arizona State, Kansas State and VCU in addition to the four schools he visited. But it’s the reigning national champs that have the inside track on Enoch at this point for no reason other than the fact that he grew up like every other basketball player in Connecticut.

“My whole family and I grew up UConn fans,” he said. “We’ve just always been surrounded by UConn fans. It’s a blessing for me that they showed me interest. I’ve taken a couple of visits there. They’ve reached out to my coach and told him how interested they are in me.”

Enoch said that he hasn’t really thought about what it would mean to play for the school that he grew up rooting for, but staying local does have it’s appeal, whether he winds up at UConn or not.

“I think it’s good if all my hometown friends and family can come and see me play,” he said.

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.

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.