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adidas Nations Sunday Recap

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LONG BEACH, California — College counselor games finished up on Sunday at adidas Nations as the college players had two more sessions of games and a chance to ball with former NBA all-star Tracy McGrady and Denver Nuggets wing Arron Afflalo. CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips were there to take in the action and give six takeaways from the day’s action, including a high-profile matchup of freshmen and a thoughts on two All-Big Ten candidates.

Frank Kaminsky looking to balance inside, outside play

Wisconsin senior forward/center Frank Kaminsky struggled with his outside shot this weekend, and while the ability to be a “pick and pop” guy who extends defenses is one of his best attributes there’s also the need for Kaminsky to balance his time on the perimeter with carving out some space inside. And in speaking with Kaminsky following his game Sunday evening, he touched on the amount of work it takes to manage that balance and make sure he as effective as possible.

“It’s tough sometimes,” Kaminsky told NBCSports.com Sunday evening. “There are a lot of things that go into it. Working hard in the weight room, conditioning and things like that. It’s not easy but it’s the way I know how to play. It was difficult for a couple of years but it’s getting easier and easier as I [gain experience].”

Another key for Kaminsky and his teammates is the need to account for the graduation of guard Ben Brust. Brust shot the ball well for the Badgers last season, and he was also an important leader for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four. According to Kaminsky it will be the responsibility of everyone to step forward in 2014-15, and the fact that so much of Wisconsin’s rotation from last season returns to Madison will help in this regard. (RJ)

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations

A.J. English enjoys a productive weekend

After winning 22 games and the MAAC regular season title in 2013-14, Tim Cluess’ Iona Gaels are hoping to get back to the NCAA tournament after falling short of their goal in the MAAC title game. The Gaels will have to account for the loss of guards Sean Armand and Tre Bowman, but they return three key cogs in the attack led by junior guard A.J. English. English, who averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season, performed well in the adidas Nations counselor games throughout the weekend while playing two different roles depending on the circumstances.

English saw time at both guard spots Sunday, with his time at the point coming when camp teammate and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. sat out the evening session game. English knocked down shots when open, made some solid decisions off the dribble and also defended well. As for what English was looking to gain from the camp experience, he hoped to make strides in all aspects of his game.

“I feel like I have to get stronger [in all aspects],” English said Friday. “Nobody’s perfect; I’m definitely not perfect. So I try to learn stuff from these great coaches and take in everything they say.” (RJ)

Camp gives LSU’s Josh Gray, Jordan Mickey valuable time on the court together

With Anthony Hickey transferring to Oklahoma state, former Odessa College point guard Josh Gray is an incredibly important piece for Johnny Jones’ LSU Tigers this season. And while Gray has been able to establish some on-court chemistry with his new teammates while taking summer classes in Baton Rouge, sophomore forward Jordan Mickey wasn’t among them. With that being the case, the adidas Nations camp gave those two some valuable time on the court together as they work to understand where the other is most effective.

“It means a lot since he wasn’t [on campus] for summer school,” Gray said when asked how the camp helped him establish greater chemistry with his new teammate. “So coming out here and playing on the same team, that’s helped a lot. Now I know what he likes, what he doesn’t like and what positions he’s [at his best].”

Mickey and Jarell Martin will be the leaders for LSU in the front court, where the Tigers have to account for the early departure of Johnny O’Bryant III. Now a Milwaukee Buck, O’Bryant led the Tigers in scoring and was one of their best rebounders in 2013-14 and how good the Tigers can be this season depends upon what strides Mickey and his fellow big men can make in their individual (and collective games).

“We just have to make up for it as a team,” Mickey said. “We have to trust our offense, trust our coaches and not be selfish players.” (RJ)

Kelly Oubre makes his camp debut; faces Stanley Johnson

One of the biggest names at adidas Nations this week has been highly-touted Kansas freshman wing Kelly Oubre. The 6-foot-7 lefty didn’t play the first two days in camp games, but suited up for a high-profile battle with fellow McDonald’s All-American and incoming freshman Stanley Johnson on Sunday morning.

It was a fun matchup of two of the best freshman college basketball will see this season. Johnson used his power game and skill level to go off of the bounce to attack Oubre while Kelly unleashed some feathery perimeter jumpers to the tune of a 6-for-7 outing from three-point range. Oubre also showed off some passing ability while attacking the basket or if he was trapped on high ball screens and he generally looked the part of potential impact player this season. Oubre still has some work to do on the defensive end against bigger and stronger players, but he has the natural talent and athletic traits to be a difference maker at Kansas this season. Oubre finished the game with 20 points and three rebounds while Johnson had 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. (SP)

Terran Petteway closes out a strong week

One of the camp’s most steady performers this week was Nebraska junior wing Terran Petteway. The reigning All-Big Ten selection consistently hit shots from the perimeter, attacked using shot fakes and also played very hard on both ends of the floor.

As one of the more experienced guys in the event, the 6-foot-6 Petteway looked like an even more complete scoring threat than last season with the variety of ways he scored the ball this week in Long Beach. Petteway had minimal difficulty getting his own shot, and besides UCLA guard Norman Powell, might have helped his NBA stock more than any other player in attendance this week. (SP)

Jabari Bird steadily improves as week goes on

One of the players I wanted to see the most this week was Cal sophomore wing Jabari Bird. The 6-foot-6 Bird started the week slowly but came on strong during the final day of games on Sunday. Bird finally seemed more comfortable hunting his own offense and his jumper seemed to be more consistent, as well.

Bird also rebounded the ball well from the wing and was engaged on the defensive end while battling some higher-profile wings. The sophomore will be an interesting player to watch this season under Bears’ first-year coach Cuonzo Martin and this week seemed like a step in the right direction for him going into year two in the Pac-12. (SP)

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson

 

Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior season

Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 67-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Wisconsin has cemented itself as one of the teams to beat in the Big Ten for the 2016-17 season.

Forward Nigel Hayes, the Badgers’ leading scorer and assist man, is withdrawing his name from NBA Draft consideration to return to Madison for his senior season, he told the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday evening.

Hayes declared for the draft last month, but did not hire an agent, taking advantage of new NCAA legislation that allowed him to attend the NBA Draft combine and workout for pro franchises. He was largely regarded as a fringe first-round prospect by draft observers.

His decision is a major boon for Greg Gard, who may have the Big Ten’s best team in his first full season at the helm after taking over for Bo Ryan in the middle of last season. Wisconsin had a major turnaround under Gard, which ultimately resulted in him moving from interim to full time. The Badgers were 7-5 when Ryan stepped down, but recovered by going 13-4 to end the season and make the Sweet 16. 

Now, the entirety of that team, headlined by Hayes, is returning for another year and almost assuredly will be a top-15 (or better) preseason pick. Michigan State will welcome in a dynamite recruiting class that features five-stars Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, and Indiana should remain strong, but the Badgers, with some players having the experience of  playing in two Final Fours, could very well have the best roster on paper with its blend of talent and experience. Whichever team is pegged as the favorite, the top of the Big Ten is shaping up to be a fantastic race.