Kelly Kline/Under Armour

Malik Beasley looking to capitalize on a big spring, summer

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Kelly Kline/Under Armour

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

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.”

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)
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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
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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.