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Nike Peach Jam Wednesday Recap: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum stand out

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North Augusta, S.C. — The first day of Nike’s Peach Jam is usually pretty tame. Typically, the way it works is that Wednesday is dedicated to the 16-year olds, but with The Family and Team CP3 finding themselves tied in the standings after four EYBL events, it set up a play-in game for the right to continue in the event.

Win or go home, and for Harry Giles, that meant 32 minutes to put on a performance that would allow him team to continue on in the event. And Giles, the No. 2 player in the Class of 2016, per Rivals, turned in a performance worthy of advancing.

Giles finished with 21 points, 15 boards — at least half of which came on the offensive end of the floor — and a pair of blocks.

Those numbers become all the more impressive when you consider that Giles is just 13 months removed from a devastating knee injury where he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.

“I’m playing in a brace, but it feels like I’mmnot,” Giles told NBCSports after the win. “I know it’s going to take time, but at the same time it’s starting to feel like it used to feel.”

“It’s the month of July, so I’m pushing [myself]. I have to play hard. This game meant a lot. Win or go home.”

The majority of Giles’ damage was done around the rim, as he has the size, length and massive hands to be a dominant player around the rim. He’s also a better passer than he gets credit for, but he struggled a bit early on with finishing around the rim. But the fact that he was as dominant as he was against The Family is a testament to the work that Giles has put in to rehab his knee.

“I put in a lot of hard work to get where I am,” Giles said. He was able to return to the court in May, playing in two of the EYBL events before taking a month off from games to work on getting the strength and explosiveness back in his lower body. Perhaps more importantly, Giles has gotten past the mental block that often comes for an athlete after suffering a serious injury.

“I’ve got confidence in [my knee],” he added, saying that he estimates he is currently playing between 85-90%.

As far as his recruitment is concerned, the schools that were after him before the injury are still on his trail. The Winston-Salem native listed Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas, UNLV, North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest when asked who was recruiting him the hardest of late.

If Giles has taken anything out of the injury, it’s that he appreciates what the sport he loves more than ever.

“I don’t really take anything for granted anymore,” he said. “I just love to play basketball.”

Alterique Gilbert was the game-changer: Giles was the guy that everyone came to see play, but the real difference-maker for CP3in their win over The Family was Alterique Gilbert, a 6-foot point guard that is ranked 92nd in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. Gilbert changed the game early in the second half, sparking a massive run by CP3, as they turned a 16-point first half deficit into a 10-point second half lead and, eventually, a 70-59 win. He’s a waterbug with the ball in his hands, making the large crowd that showed for the game ooh-and-add a number of times with his ability to cross people over. His perimeter jumper leaves something to be desired, but it’s clear watching Gilbert play why he currently lists offers from Auburn, Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Miami, Texas A&M and Wake Forest.

Jayson Tatum goes crazy: The way the EYBL works is that they hold four events during the spring in which each team that participates in the league has a chance to earn their way into Peach Jam. Tatum plays for the St. Louis Eagles, who failed to qualify. But the No. 4 player in the Class of 2016 was allowed to participate in the event with the U16 team, and he put on a show on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t fair.

Tatum finished with 29 points in a win over Team Final, absolutely dominating overmatched opponents in his age group. With Roy Williams and, among many others, a pair of Duke assistants — Jon Scheyer and Nate James — watching, it’s quite obvious why Tatum is ranked as high as he is.

Brian Bowen is a name to watch: The player that turned the most heads outside of Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles on Wednesday night in North Augusta was Bowen, a 6-foot-6 forward from Saginaw, Mich., that plays for The Family 16s. Bowen, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2017, is a lithe, silky forward that made a number of gorgeous moves slithering through the lane and finishing around the rim. A first cousin of former Michigan State star Jason Richardson, Bowen already boasts offers from the likes of Michigan State and Missouri, among others.

Southern Conference to keep championships in North Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The Southern Conference will keep four league championships in North Carolina despite the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference withdrawing championships because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people.

The league said it will honor commitments for these tournaments: men’s soccer in Greensboro, men’s and women’s basketball in Asheville and men’s golf in Pinehurst.

“We don’t want to punish the local host communities by pulling the championships out of the state this year,” Commissioner John Iamarino said Friday. “That point did resonate with presidents and chancellors.”

The league said in a statement its presidents and chancellors “reaffirmed their resolute opposition to legislation that discriminates against any individual.”

Iamarino said his conference was prepared for criticism in light of the NCAA and ACC decisions over the North Carolina’s law, which excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections. It also requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

HB2 was signed into law this year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has defended it as a commonsense safety and security measure.

The Southern Conference is headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Its 10 schools – Citadel, Chattanooga, East Tennessee, Furman, Mercer, UNC Greensboro, Samford, VMI, Western Carolina and Wofford – are in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The decision on the championships came after two conference calls among league leaders.

“While not unanimous, we found enough common ground to get to this point,” Iamarino said.

He said the league was influenced by the North Carolina host communities, all urging the conference to hold its events as planned. In Asheville, Iamarino said he met with about 30 people, including some from the LGBT community, who promised to fight the HB2 law but wanted the basketball tournaments to remain.

Iamarino said the venues involved are privately controlled and the league is confident of there will be an inclusive atmosphere at the events. The men’s golf event will be held at Pinehurst Country Club and the basketball at a neutral site in Asheville.

The soccer will be played on the Greensboro campus.

Earlier this month, the NCAA removed seven championships from North Carolina, including first- and second-round games of the men’s basketball tournament scheduled for Greensboro. The ACC soon followed suit, pulling 10 of its championships from the state, including the football title game that was scheduled for Charlotte.

The ACC on Thursday relocated the football game to Orlando, Florida.

Iamarino said Southern Conference presidents and chancellors will meet in May to see if more action is necessary. He said there’s concern similar laws could extend beyond North Carolina.

“This could be a long-term issue,” he said.

Iamarino said he’s also concerned the schools against keeping the championships in North Carolina might take their own actions, perhaps boycotting the league events played there.

“It’s a real concern,” he said. “We’ll continue to communicate and prepare for everything.”

Report: Virginia Tech forward Blackshear still recovering from offseason foot surgery

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Kerry Blackshear Jr. #24 of the Virginia Tech Hokies and Kamari Murphy #21 of the Miami Hurricanes go for a rebound in the second half during the quarterfinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament Verizon Center on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Virginia Tech sophomore forward Kerry Blackshear will miss the start of training camp as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery, according to a report from Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The 6-foot-10 Blackshear played in all 35 games for the Hokies last season as he battled through the foot injury to average 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. According to Barber’s report, Blackshear had surgery on his right foot five days after the 2015-16 season ended, but he’s still wearing a walking boot to help recover. There has been no timetable given for Blackshear’s return.

Blackshear will be a key piece for a Virginia Tech team that is a bit thin up front this season. Freshman Khadim Sy can provide some minutes up front, but he’s inexperienced and center Nick Fullard has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Getting a healthy Blackshear will be a key storyline for a Virginia Tech team that many will have in the preseason top 25.

Indiana roster dealing with handful of injuries as practice begins

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 20:  A general view of  the SMU Mustangs game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on November 20, 2014 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Indiana has been hit with the injury buy a bit during the start of practice and it doesn’t only involved the recent announcement of knee surgery for senior Collin Hartman.

According to a report from the Indiana Daily Student the Hoosiers are also dealing with a knee injury for junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore Juwan Morgan hasn’t been cleared for practice yet after offseason shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-6 McSwain had a knee injury flare up when he came to Indiana and had surgery to clean it up. Crean told the Indiana Daily Student that McSwain was still a few weeks from returning.

That means Indiana has to find early practice minutes to replace Hartman, Morgan and McSwain up front which gives more reps to players like O.G. Anunoby and freshman big man De’Ron Davis.

Since Anunoby and Davis both dealt with some offseason injuries and guard Robert Johnson was recently cleared to return, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is remaining cautious during the early part of practice this season. Crean also has to monitor the return of starting guard James Blackmon Jr. after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

“We would have already practiced this morning and they would be ready to go tonight, if this were a year ago,” Crean said in the report. “We have to tailor make this thing. We can’t be in too much of a rush with these guys.”

Obviously, the frontcourt injuries are something to keep an eye on for Indiana during the early part of the season. None of the three injuries seem severe, but Hartman’s timetable to return hasn’t been listed and McSwain and Morgan are missing valuable early time in practice.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps younger players like Anunoby and Davis get more acquainted with the first team early on since both could have an impact this season.

Texas lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Jase Febres

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Texas and head coach Shaka Smart continue to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of Texas, as the Longhorns landed a commitment from Class of 2017 four-star guard Jase Febres on Friday night.

The 6-foot-5 Febres is considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings as he burst on the national radar this summer with some strong shooting performances. Febres shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the month of July after battling through injury during the spring. Besides owning good size for a wing shooter, Febres also takes pride in defending and he can rebound a bit from the wing as well.

Febres is going to have to improve his overall offensive package if a defense plays him off the three-point line, but he has upside as a three-and-D guy with the Longhorns.

The Class of 2017 is starting to round into shape for Texas as Febres joins four-star power forward Jericho Sims and four-star forward Royce Hamm. Since taking over the Texas job, Smart has done a great job of keeping local talent home as he now has five four- and five-star prospects from the state in the last two classes.

 

VIDEO: Kentucky fans get married in the ticket line for Big Blue Madness

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Kentucky fans have unique ways of making their annual Big Blue Madness event the most chaotic tip-off event of the season. While Big Blue Nation is waiting in line for tickets to this year’s festivities in Tent City, one couple decided to go the extra mile.

After securing the first spot in line for tickets, Ray Branham and Vicki Harvey opted to get married. According to a post from Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio, the couple had already been talking about tying the knot, but decided to make the move once they had the top spot in line. As you can see by the wedding video, it was a very Kentucky-themed ceremony as the duo got married in front of friends and other Kentucky fans.

I can’t say I’m surprised two Kentucky fans decided to get married in line for something like Big Blue Madness and this (unplanned) wedding gives this year’s event something unique that we will always remember.