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).

UT-Arlington dominates, upsets No. 12 St. Mary’s

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on  in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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UT-Arlington made a statement on Thursday night, completely dominating No. 12 Saint Mary’s in a 65-51 upset win in a true road game in Moraga.

Back in October, I ranked both the Gaels and the Mavericks in the top-5 of my Mid-Major Power Rankings. Saint Mary’s was the obvious top choice, one of the nation’s most efficient offenses that returned Emmett Naar and Jock Landale. UT-Arlington, ranked fifth, served as a dangerous opponent. The Mavs had defeated Ohio State and Memphis in 2015, but their season was derailed once Kevin Hervey, a player with serious pro potential, tore his ACL.

With five starters back, including Hervey, who is just now getting back to 100 percent, UT-Arlington looks every bit the part of a March Cinderella.

The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead and forced the Gaels to play out of character. Saint Mary’s had only committed a season-high 14 turnovers before the midway point of the second half. The Gaels, who entered shooting 40 percent from three as a team, was held to 8-of-27 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

UT-Arlington did an incredible job of closing out on shooters. And it didn’t matter the matchup, at times we saw Hervey, a 6-foot-9 junior, come out and run a guard off the 3-point line. While those statistics mentioned above show up in the box score, the amount of deflections don’t. The Mavericks used its length and athleticism to get their hands everywhere on the defensive end of the floor, making it difficult to find good looks.

In the first half, UT-Arlington controlled the glass. Saint Mary’s found more success in that department after halftime, as Kevin Clark’s offensive putback capped an 11-2 run, which cut the deficit to 52-41. However, the Mavs were able to counter each time the Gaels threatened, never letting the lead get to single digits.

Aside from the struggles the typically-efficient Saint Mary’s offense had, the Gaels struggled to keep UT-Arlington guards Erick Neal and Kaelon Wilson out of the lane, whether it be on a high ball screen or a handoff. Saint Mary’s never seemed to have a help-side defender there to protect the rim. Neal had 13 points and eight assists (five turnovers), while Wilson had 10 points off the bench. Hervey had a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

UT-Arlington is winners of eight straight after losing three straight. One of those wins includes a double-digit win over Texas in Austin. The Mavericks are the clear-cut favorite to win the Sun Belt. Come Selection Sunday, I’d say plenty of at-large teams would not like to be paired up with Scott Cross’ team.

Iowa cruises past No. 25 Iowa State

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20:  Head coach Fran McCaffery of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Iowa picked up a major win on Thursday night, defeating in-state rival No. 25 Iowa State, 78-64, in a contest the Hawkeyes thoroughly dominated.

Let’s put it this way: the Hawkeyes have played four top-100 teams, according to kenpom. In those games, all losses by the way, their defense has surrendered 91 points to Seton Hall, 74 points to a Virginia team that plays at the slowest tempo in the country, 100 points to Memphis and 92 points to Notre Dame.

On Saturday, on the same floor Iowa demolished the Cyclones, its defense allowed 98 points in a loss to Nebraska Omaha.

This is exactly the sort of win Fran McCaffery and Co. needed to right the ship as we inch closer and closer to conference play.

When the Cyclones went to their bench in the first half, Nick Baer sparked a 10-0 run which helped set the tone for the remainder of the half. Iowa State went without a field goal for more than six minutes during that span.

Iowa kept Iowa State from getting out and running, holding the Cyclones to zero fast break points through the first 20 minutes and limiting them to only 36 percent from the floor as a team. Iowa, on the other hand, shot 47 percent, including 59 percent in the first half, which led to a 15-point halftime lead.

Peter Jok torched Iowa State to the tune of 23 points (4-of-7 from distance).

Monte Morris was held in check with 10 points, while Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas shot a combined 4-of-13 from three (they each hit a three with less than three minutes to play and the outcome all but decided).

Iowa State’s offense is becoming a bigger concern. Just like against Gonzaga, the Cyclones dug a first-half hole they could shoot out their way of. And like last week’s overtime loss to Cincinnati, they struggled from beyond the arc.

Iowa landed a marquee win it needed, while its rival headed home with questions to answer after losing three of four.

 

Alabama wing sidelined due to weight loss

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Avery Johnson of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at HP Field House on November 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Alabama junior wing Nick King will not be with the team for Sunday evening’s matchup against No. 24 Oregon in Eugene.

According to Rainer Sabin of the AL.com, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said King undergoing a series of tests after losing more than 10 pounds in less than a week and a half.

Johnson told reporters that he is “very concerned” and estimates that as of now King will be sidelined for “a week or two.”

King, who played his first two seasons at Memphis, has appeared in all seven games for the Crimson Tide, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game.

Damonte Dodd out with MCL sprain

COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 13: Melo Trimble #2 and Damonte Dodd #35 of the Maryland Terrapins react to a call as Alex Illikainen #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on in the second half at Xfinity Center on February 13, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. Wisconsin won 70-57.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Maryland could be without the services of starting center Damonte Dodd for the remainder of the non-conference slate, the team announced on Wednesday.

Dodd suffered a MCL sprain in his left knee during practice earlier this week. The injury caused him to miss Wednesday’s 76-56 win over Howard. He will not be available for matchups with St. Peter’s and Jacksonville State. The Terrapins then close out the non-conference slate at Charlotte on Dec. 20 before opening up Big Ten play a week later.

Dodd has started in six of seven games he’s appeared in this season. He’s averaging 5.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Michael Cekovsky started in place of Dodd on Wednesday night. Ivan Bender, who returned to the lineup against Howard after missing the previous contest, should also see an increase in minutes with Dodd sidelined.

Federico Mussini goes coast-to-coast, beats buzzer with and-1

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Chris Mullin the head coach of the St. John's Red Storm gives instructions to Federico Mussini #4 during the game against the  Xavier Musketeersat Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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St. John’s capped the first half with a 6-0 run.

Sophomore guard Federico Mussini went coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer, and draw the foul, as the Johnnies went into the break up 42-33 on city rival Fordham.

The 6-foot-4 guard had gone cold during a five-game stretch, but since Thanksgiving he’s scored in double figures in four consecutive games, including on Thursday night.