Derrick Walton Jr. (AP Photo)

adidas Nations Friday College Recap: Derrick Walton Jr.’s distribution skills, BeeJay Anya’s weight loss on display

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Although there are nine different teams of high school-aged players at the adidas Nations event in Long Beach, California, there are also 28 college players serving as counselors. In addition to helping the coaches work with the high school players, the college counselors are also getting in some game action in front of NBA scouts and executives. Below are a couple notes on Friday’s play, with their being just one round of game play following a morning session of skill work.

– Derrick Walton Jr. had a good day running the show for his team.

As a freshman at Michigan Derrick Walton Jr. started 36 of the 37 games in which he played, which was a necessity considering the fact that Trey Burke entered the NBA Draft following his sophomore season. Walton improved as the season wore on, posting averages of 7.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists on a team that won the Big Ten regular season title outright and reached the Elite Eight. And with Nik Stauskas now in the NBA, Walton is one of the returnees who will need to step forward for John Beilein in 2014-15.

On Friday Walton was very good with regards to distributing the basketball, making sound decisions in the pick-and-roll game and getting his teammates the ball where they were best positioned to enjoy success. One of the beneficiaries was teammate Zak Irvin, who knocked down multiple jump shots on the tail end of those Walton passes. With an eye towards next season, this weekend will be good for the two Wolverines as they (along with Caris LeVert) are the ones best positioned for a breakout 2014-15.

ALSO: UCLA senior guard Norman Powell on the 2014-15 season

– A slimmer BeeJay Anya displays increased stamina, athleticism.

Anya didn’t play as well as he would have liked Friday, but a positive to take out of his effort was the amount of weight he’s lost after arriving at NC State weighing 337 pounds according to the Fayetteville Observer. Anya stated during a break in the action that he’s dropped some 56 pounds, and the impact the weight loss has had on his stamina and athleticism was noticeable. He ran the floor better than he did at any point last season and was consistent in doing so; one good sprint of the floor wasn’t followed by a period of loafing. And around the rim Anya looked more fluid in his movements, resulting in better opportunities to score.

The loss of T.J. Warren was a big one for the Wolfpack, but they have some solid returnees due back along with the addition of a solid freshman class and Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey. If Anya and his teammates prove capable of stepping forward to account for the production lost with the departures of Warren and leading assist man Tyler Lewis, NC State could surprise some people in the ACC.

“We need to pick up the scoring [as a group],” Anya told NBCSports.com when asked how the Wolfpack will look to account for the loss of Warren’s scoring ability. “We’re a balanced team, and we plan on having multiple players average double figures. So in order for us to do that we’re going to have to play as a team, move the ball around and be able to play physically. It’s going to be hard, but I think we’re very capable of doing it.”

– Perry Ellis’ name has to be mentioned when discussing Big 12 Player of the Year candidates.

After averaging 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman, the Kansas forward emerged as one of the Big 12’s most improved players as he accounted for 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Yet with the presence of freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Ellis’ contributions were only good enough for a spot on the Big 12’s third team all-conference squad as voted on by the coaches. While there will be a lot of competition for not only a spot on the league’s first team all-conference team but also Big 12 Player of the Year, Ellis has shown signs of progressing into being that kind of player at both the LeBron James Skills Academy and now adidas Nations.

Ellis has looked like a polished player offensively, knocking down perimeter shots while also being skilled enough to score in the paint. Kansas won’t lack for talent, as is usually the case, but Ellis will need to be a leader for this group. And if his play in July is any indication, Ellis is ready to face that challenge head-on (and excel).

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

‘Noles add legacy guard to 2017 class

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.

Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.

“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.

Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.

“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”

Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”

Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.