After finishing the 2013-14 season with an 18-16 record and a spot in the CBI, Texas A&M is looking to take a step forward in 2014-14. Head coach Billy Kennedy is looking to lead the program to its first NCAA tournament since 2011, and he’ll look to do so with guard Alex Caruso and forward Kourtney Roberson being his most productive returnees.
Friday afternoon the program released its non-conference schedule, which will include an appearance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and at least four games against programs that appeared in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Aggies will host Arizona State on December 6, with games against Baylor (December 9 in Waco), Kansas State (December 20 in Kansas City) and Mercer (December 30 in College Station) also on the schedule.
“This is one of the most difficult non-conference schedules Texas A&M basketball has faced in some time.” Kennedy said in the release. “I’ve really been impressed by the leadership, talent and maturity of this year’s team during the spring and summer workouts. It will be the best group since I’ve been here and we’re looking forward to the challenge of facing tough competition on the court.”
Three of the other seven teams in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which will be played November 20, 21 and 23 in San Juan, reached the NCAA tournament last season. UConn won the national title and Dayton reached the Elite Eight, with New Mexico also part of the 68-team field. The matchups for that event will be announced later this summer.
Unfortunately for the Aggies they’ll have to play without Houston transfer Danuel House, who averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The scoring average would have made House the leading scorer for a Texas A&M team that boasted just one double-digit scorer, forward Jamal Jones and he’s no longer a member of the program.
With the offensive issue the Aggies struggled with last season, ranking 13th in the SEC in points per game and 12th in field goal percentage, the opportunities for their four incoming freshmen (led by guard Alex Robinson) to earn quality playing time will be there.
John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.
The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.
“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”
Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.
“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”
The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.
Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.
Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.
“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.
Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.
“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”
Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”
Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.
Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.
Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.
Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.
The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.
Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.