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Four-star 2015 center Tyler Davis loses weight to transform game

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Tyler Davis is on the cusp of being among the Class of 2015’s best big men. The native of Plano, Texas had a strong showing this July and in a class that is filled with five-star front-court players, Davis is sitting right in the next tier of players.

But after multiple big games at Peach Jam, Davis might be in the discussion thanks to his soft hands, developing post game and a good feel for the game. It also doesn’t hurt that the 6-foot-10 big man has put in a tremendous amount of work re-shaping his body with trainers from his Texas Titans grassroots program.

“I’ve lost about 70 pounds. We’ve got a great trainer on the Titans. And he just got on me and got my eating habits right and helped me put in a workout plan and get in the gym a lot more and work out every day,” Davis told NBCSports.com. “Spending more time in the gym obviously is going to help your play. So that’s helped me raise my level of play. The Titans, they have great coaches all around so they help me a lot.”

The work that Davis has put into the gym has definitely paid off. Elite schools from across the country are reaching out to Davis and right now he’s honing in on some visits that he would like to take. Davis mentioned, however, that with July being a focus for him that recruiting would come more into focus this month.

“I’ve been really focused on my game. I’ve had the Peach Jam and LeBron James Academy and Big Man Academy, so I haven’t really had time to talk it over with my family with what’s going on, but after July I’ll be sure to take the time to get that done,” Davis said. “My two biggest [offers] are Kansas and Arizona but I have Baylor, SMU; I’m open to everybody right now. I’ll focus on the recruiting stuff in August.”

Davis mentioned to NBCSports.com that Arizona and Kansas would likely receive official visits from him and he likes the way both programs use their big men. With both programs having recent pro-level talents playing in the front court, it’s easy to see why.

“Just the way they use their bigs. The high-low, obviously [at Kansas.] At Arizona, their bigs do everything, they have a complete offense, so that intrigues me,” Davis said. “College this year I watched Joel Embiid a lot. I watched how they worked with him. That was one big thing.”

MORE: Quotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

Besides monitoring how certain programs use their big men, Davis is also focusing on some other factors in his recruitment as he has a couple of other things he’s looking for.

“Development, a great coaching staff and I want to have a good relationship with the coaches that are there,” Davis said. “And also, win. I want to win some games in college and possibly move on to the next level.”

Currently a four-star prospect, Davis said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to rankings, although he’s confident in his game and doesn’t shy away from playing big-name players. Rivals currently has Davis as the No. 35 overall player in the Class of 2015.

“Rankings, to me, don’t really mean anything. Whoever they think is up there, that’s fine. As long as I play my game and work hard. I think I can go somewhere,” Davis said. “I think I’m one of the best bigs in the country. So I just keep playing and if I play one of them, we’re going to go at it.”

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.