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Peach Jam Saturday Recap: Rabb, Zimmerman go big, Chris Clarke goes hard, Lawson bros advance

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NORTH AUGUSTA, SC — Tournament play is underway at the Nike Peach Jam and that meant for some intense games on Saturday as the quarterfinals began and teams tried to stay alive for Sunday.

Lawson brothers come up big in quarterfinals: Team Penny was facing a major test when they had to face Ben Simmons and E1T1 in the quarterfinals of the 17U bracket on Saturday night.

But the Lawson brothers, K.J. and Dedric, came prepared.

The brothers each scored 23 points as Team Penny pulled away in the second half of a 93-76 win. Dedric, a 6-foot-8 Class of 2016 forward, was particularly impressive. His 23 points seemed rather quiet, but he owned the glass with 16 rebounds and also did all of that damage on 10-for-16 shooting in only 23 minutes of play.

K.J., a Memphis commit and Class of 2015 wing forward, was a less efficient 8-for-20 from the field, but also added 13 rebounds and the entire Team Penny team did a nice job of clogging the middle and slowing down the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, Ben Simmons.

Simmons, an LSU commit, logged 24 points and 10 rebounds, but most of those points came either at the free-throw line or in garbage time.

With the Lawson brothers’ father, Keelon, being hired as an assistant at Memphis just this week, it is very likely both brothers eventually end up at Memphis. K.J. is already committed and Dedric is thought to be choosing between the Tigers and Kentucky, with Memphis having a big family advantage.

Chris Clarke, the warrior: There aren’t many players in the 2015 class that play as hard as Boo Williams 6-foot-6 wing Chris Clarke. The hard-playing wing doesn’t have the prettiest offensive game, but he’ll defend his tail off, make a ton of hustle plays and hit the glass hard.

Clarke was an absolute terror in a morning pool play win over Spiece and he was simply everywhere on the floor. The four-star prospect registered 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting (2-for-2 3PT), nine rebounds and seven assists. It isn’t just filling up the box score that is impressive about Clarke, it is the intensity at which he plays. His level of play elevates teammates and he’s a big reason why Boo Williams is still alive entering Sunday’s final four at Peach Jam.

UConn offered Clarke on Saturday and it will be interesting to see if other blueblood programs inquire about Clarke in the coming weeks.

Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman come up big: The Oakland Soldiers were facing a potential elimination from Peach Jam on Saturday until their two five-star big men, Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman, made big plays and carried them to victory.

While each of them only scored 14 points, the duo’s savvy and toughness on the inside helped will the Soldiers to victory.

With Team Final throwing a small lineup on the floor, Rabb had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks and altered numerous other shots with his length and athleticism. Although he missed some bunnies at the rim, the 6-foot-9 Rabb has such a good secondary jump, that he’s able to tip in his own misses rather frequently and it also doesn’t hurt that he’s comfortable with either hand on the offensive end.

Zimmerman, a 7-footer and fellow five-star Class of 2015 big man, also had 14 points, but made some big scoring plays in the post against the smaller lineup for some key crunch time baskets.

Two plays in particular stand out for Zimmerman. On one, he turned and faced a smaller opponent before realizing his mismatch and backing him down for an easy basket inside. On another, Rabb had picked up his dribble and Zimmerman gave him an out by sealing his man on the block. Rabb found Zimmerman with the entry feed and an easy bucket ensued.

Rabb and Zimmerman didn’t have the gaudiest of stat lines on Saturday in the win, but their high IQ plays down the stretch helped lead the Soldiers to victory and the final eight of the Peach Jam.

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.