Malik Beasley looking to capitalize on a big spring, summer

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LAS VEGAS — While some players can use the month of July as a springboard into the conscience of college coaches and recruiting analysts, playing better than they did during their high school seasons and the spring, others simply keep building on the momentum they’ve had all year long. That’s been the case for 2015 shooting guard Malik Beasley, a 6-foot-4 prospect whose grassroots campaign follows up a high school season in which he and his teammates made history.

At St. Francis High School in Alpharetta, Georgia the rising senior posted averages of 19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game on a team that finished the season with a 24-7 record and won its first-ever Class A state title. As a result of his play throughout the season Beasley was a first-team all-state selection, and throughout the spring and summer he’s displayed the many facets of his game. Beasley’s a talented scorer who, at the LeBron James Skills Academy, displayed the ability to score via the perimeter jumper or the drive to the basket and he took care of his responsibilities on the defensive end as well.

While competing with and against some of the nation’s best players, Beasley was able to take stock of his game and learn even more about the areas in which he’ll need to improve in order to have an impact at the college level. One area that stood out, especially in the moments in which he was matched up against the camp’s namesake, was physical strength. That area can be a challenge when playing against high-level talent, but it was one that Beasley embraced because it’s difficult to improve against inferior opposition.

“Playing with better players,”  Beasley told NBCSports.com in Las Vegas when asked what he could gain from the experience. “I don’t like competing with guys who aren’t better than me. And I get to learn new skills from the coaches, pros and staff [at the camp].”

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Beasley also has a valuable resource in his father, Michael, when it comes to knowing what steps to take in his basketball career. The elder Beasley played nearly ten years professionally overseas, and according to him those experiences have helped when it comes to the impact that getting on a weightlifting program can have on a player’s career. Also impacting the way in which Malik has developed physically was the experience gained at the Nike Elite 100 Camp in 2013.

“The greatest amount of growth I’ve seen in Malik is his body,” Michael Beasley told NBCSports.com. “We went to Nike Elite 100 last year and I was able to see what he needed to work on. Sometimes kids say they’re younger than they really are, and we wanted to even the playing field by getting his body together. So we set up a weight program for him.

“We know [Malik] can shoot, but the main thing was working on his body and that evened the playing field. Before he wasn’t finishing that strongly, and that changed once we got him on the weight program.”

It’s safe to say that college coaches have taken notice of Malik’s development, and in the aftermath of his performances over the last two weeks (he played well at Peach State last week according to multiple reports) UConn, Oregon and UCLA have joined a deep list of high-major programs who have tendered offers. In speaking with Malik in Las Vegas, he stated that while he has a good grasp of which schools are currently recruiting him the hardest it’s something he’ll speak about more at the end of the month. And he also has a good idea of what characteristics the school he picks will possess when the time comes to announce a commitment.

“A great head coach and a winning program,” Beasley noted. “Someone who’s going to help me be successful in the future, and who’s going to [coach] me. Not say that I’m doing well if I had a bad game; let me know what I’m doing wrong, and let me know what I’m doing right so I can keep doing it.”

Interestingly the shared basketball pedigree isn’t the only area in which the elder Beasley has helped his son navigate this process, as he’s also an actor who’s held roles in a number of television shows and motion pictures including the series “Eastbound and Down.” Michael has used the experience he’s gained as both an athlete and an actor to not only push Malik to being the best player he can be, but to also help him understand what it takes to be successful regardless of the profession in question.

“What I experienced [as a pro] is that to play at a high level you have to love the process,” Michael noted. “Getting in the gym and getting better, and making those sacrifices that normally you wouldn’t have to make as a teenager trying to live your dream. A lot of kids are out partying or doing other things, but you have to love being in the gym.

“The main thing I tell him is to love the process,” Michael continued, tying in his love of acting. “And once you love the process then it isn’t ‘work,’ but if you don’t love the process it is.”

The absorption of those lessons combined with hard work have resulted in Malik Beasley developing into one of the nation’s best shooting guards. And if he can keep on that path, Beasley stands to only get better as a high school senior. That’s something Malik has every intention of doing, as throughout the month of July it’s become even more apparent that he possesses a clear understanding of what’s on the line when he steps on the court.

“When it’s time for business, when he’s acting and when I’m playing on the court, it’s serious.”

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.