Louisville commit Raymond Spalding doesn’t feel pressure as the hometown kid

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LOUISVILLE — One of the most intriguing stories during the July live evaluation period was the rise of 2015 forward Raymond Spalding and his commitment to Louisville.

The 6-foot-9 Spalding doesn’t play on a shoe company team, so he didn’t get as much attention as the average top 100 high school player did in July, but make no mistake about it, the Louisville native is a good grab with some upside for head coach Rick Pitino. Spalding currently checks in as the No. 69 player in Rivals’ 2015 class, but he will probably rise in the rankings after a strong month of July.

“I’m very excited. I feel like I’ve proved a lot and I also feel like I’ve improved a lot in July,” Spalding said to NBCSports.com last week in Louisville.

One longtime high school basketball scout compared Spalding favorably to former Florida wing and NBA veteran Corey Brewer, and with Raymond’s size, ability to pass and good overall floor game, it’s easy to see why. Although Spalding said he prefers to model his game after Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant — “I just like how smooth they play and I try to play like them,” he said — his upside is certainly intriguing as he enters his senior season of high school.

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

But some interesting pressure faces Spalding at the next level. Not only does Spalding have to deal with a rabid Louisville fan base when he enters college, but he also has to handle the pressure of being the hometown kid that committed to play for the Cardinals.

Each of Spalding’s games with his grassroots team, The Ville, was crowded with red gear at AAU Nationals and most of his games during his senior season at Trinity High will probably feel the same way this winter. Spalding takes the local attention — and pressure — in stride and it doesn’t seem to be a major concern for him at this point.

“There’s no pressure for me. I’m just focused on getting better and making my family proud,” Spalding said. “[My family] was pumped. They were really excited for me. They love that I’m able to stay home and spend more time with them.

“Being a local kid, I mean, that’s huge. Hometown star, that means being able to see your family and your friends each and every day while still being able to stay on campus. It’s just great, it’s a blessing to be able to do that.”

It’s hard to say how Spalding’s senior season will play out in front of Louisville fans during the high school season, but he’s just focused on improving before he gets to the ACC.

“The only thing that motivates me is to get better as a basketball player each and every day,” Spalding said. “[I’m trying] to get better in practice and individual workouts and just keep improving.”

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.