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John Calipari’s return to Kentucky ‘solely’ due to loyalty to his players

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One of this offseason’s most intriguing story lines was that of Kentucky head coach John Calipari.

After leading a team that was completely written off in early March all the way to the national title game, he got great news when four of the six guys that were expected to head to the NBA made the decision to return to school for at least one more season.

The amount of talent on his roster immediately propelled his team to the top of any preseason top 25 poll worth considering.

And all this was happening while NBA teams were calling him and inquiring about whether or not he would like to coach their team. The most notable offer he received? From Cleveland, where he would have the chance to coach LeBron, Kyrie Irving and either Andrew Wiggins or Kevin Love, depending on who ends up getting traded.

Talk about a win-win situation.

On Monday, Mike DeCourcey of The Sporting News traveled down to Lexington and had a chance to chat up Coach Cal, who opened up about why he made the decision to turn down the NBA and return to school as well:

Current NCAA rules force college players to make their final decision about the draft in April. Calipari’s opportunities arrived subsequent to that date.

“Four kids said they need us and me to help them get more prepared for the rest of their lives,” Calipari said Monday. “If I came back after the date and left … tough move. If it was your son, how would you feel? ‘That rat, we could have left, why didn’t he tell us?’ “

Calipari said that was the reason he declined the NBA jobs. “Solely,” as he put it.

Cal is a master when it comes to spin, so I understand why you would be skeptical, but I think this is something that is rooted in truth. This is a guy that has been reported to be chasing NBA jobs in just about every offseason since he landed at Kentucky that turned down a massive offer from a team that had, at the time, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and a real shot to bring back the best basketball player in the world.

Something kept him there.

“Around Calipari, there is a strong belief that he would’ve landed in Cleveland had those key players decided to turn professional this year,” Yahoo Sports reported back in June when they broke the news that he turned down a 10-year, $80-million offer from Cleveland.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.