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Las Vegas Wednesday Recap: Corey Sanders working to become a better leader

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LAS VEGAS — The final open period of the month is now underway, with many prospects having one last opportunity to display their skills in front of college coaches this summer. One team on the receiving end of attention from multiple assistants at high-major programs was the Showtime Ballers, thanks in large part to the guard tandem of Corey Sanders and Dwayne Bacon. While the first half of their showcase game against the Upward Stars was relatively quiet, both Bacon  and Sanders were the catalysts in the second half.

They worked well together, with Bacon being at his best when in “attack mode.” As for Sanders he displayed the ability to penetrate the defense, using his handle to get to the basket on multiple occasions while also having the willingness to move the basketball to teammates in better positions to score. And in speaking with Sanders following the game, the area where he’s looking to make the greatest strides this summer is one that is of great importance to successful point guards.

“The number one thing [I’ve been working on] is leadership,” Sanders told NBCSports.com. “Being able to run the team and get my teammates open; just making sure my teammates are involved so they play with me. [Leadership has] been the most important thing I’ve been working on this summer.”

Sanders is in a slightly different position than Bacon this summer, due to the fact that he’s gone through the experience of verbally committing to a school and then changing his mind. Sanders verbally committed to attend UCF back in September, only to reopen things a month later. And while the time Sanders spent as a committed recruit wasn’t particularly long, it served as a learning experience for a player who now finds himself juggling multiple options entering the final open period of the summer.

“Make sure you take your time [with the process],” Sanders said when asked what he took away from that experience. “Look through everything and all the schools that want you, and let them do their job and recruit you.”

Sanders also noted consistency as an important factor when it comes to the recruiting process, and that can be an issue for many recruits. While there certainly are programs that exercise great caution in handing out offers, there are others who aren’t as judicious in doing so. As a result there can be confusion for some prospects, as they look to figure out which schools are truly interested and which ones are merely offering multiple options at the drop of a hat.

In regards to Sanders’ ongoing recruitment, he mentioned DePaul, Texas A&M, UNLV, Rutgers, USF and Wichita State when asked which schools have been recruiting him the hardest. As for what he’s looking for, a strong coaching staff that will help him improve his game and solid academics are two keys according to Sanders. The point guard is hoping to narrow things down at the end of the month, which will allow him to focus even more of the schools that make his list heading into his senior year of high school.

Dorsey solid but Brunson displays better lead guard skills in win: One of the most intriguing individual matchups in the Fab 48 showcase games was that between Mac Irvin Fire floor general Jalen Brunson and Belmont Shore’s Tyler Dorsey. While both players were productive, with Brunson’s sparking a second-half comeback for the Fire, it was evident which player is further along when it comes to being able to run a team at the college level. That would be Brunson, who displayed a solid balance of attacking the defense in search of his own looks with the need to make sure his teammates wound up with the ball in advantageous positions himself.

Dorsey’s more of a scorer at this point, but there were cases in which he made a concerted effort to get his teammates quality looks. However it’s still a work in progress for Dorsey, who will make the move from St. John Bosco to Marantha High (Pasadena, California) this coming season where he’ll play alongside 6-foot-10 forward Trevor Stanback. With Dorsey playing with two talented options in Jordan Dallas and Vance Jackson this week, he’ll have opportunities to set up his teammates. While he’s definitely a talented scorer, it’s premature to assume that Dorsey improving as a distributor is out of the question.

Among the programs represented at this game: Texas, Kansas, Minnesota, Illinois, Wichita State, Arizona State, UNLV, St. John’s, Oklahoma State, Creighton and Nebraska.

DeAndre Ayton shows glimpses of skills that have many excited: While Ayton and fellow 2017 prospect Troy Brown don’t play the same position, with the 6-foot-11 Ayton plying his trade in the front court and the 6-foot-6 Brown doing so on the perimeter, the fact that they were on the same court attracted many interested observers. And when it came to which player had the greater impact on the matchup between the Las Vegas Prospects and Supreme Court Force, Ayton was clearly the more impactful player of the two.

While there were times in the open floor when Ayton seemed to be going a bit too fast for his handle, skills such as his ability to catch just about anything thrown to him (including a couple impressive one-handed alley-oops) and rebound outside of his area were on full display. As mentioned above both are 2017 prospects, so we’ll be hearing a bit about these two as they work to become even better players in the years to come. Among the schools watching this game were UCLA*, Arizona*, San Diego State*, USC, Wyoming*, Oregon State*, UNLV and Florida (* – head coach was present).

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.