Texas commit Mo Bamba is Shaka Smart’s narrative-defining recruit


Texas landing a commitment from Mo Bamba — a top three prospect in the Class of 2017, a potential top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and a kid that was chased by both Duke and Kentucky throughout his senior season in high school — is a bigger deal than people are giving it credit for.

And on this surface, this is big, both literally (Bamba is 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan; one top 25 coach referred to him as “a dinosaur”) and figuratively (he’s the highest-rated recruit to pick the Longhorns since that Durant guy).

Bamba is the kind of player that is, in theory, a season-changer. He’s as dominant of a defensive prospect as we’ve seen come through the ranks of American basketball and, given his wingspan and shot-changing prowess, the potential to be a Rudy Gobert-esque presence around the rim.

That’s critical for Texas and head coach Shaka Smart given the way that Smart wants to play. When he was still at VCU, Smart thrived using a style that he dubbed ‘Havoc’, which featured a full-court pressure, aggressive man-to-man defense and traps all over the floor. It’s an aggressive, gambling style of play that becomes just that much more difficult to deal with for opposing offenses when there is a shot-blocker in front of the rim. Bamba’s presence would make it easier to overplay passing lanes, to gamble for steals and to switch all exchanges — which, essentially, is what Smart wants to do on that end — because mistakes will not end up leading to layups, not with Bamba back there.

With Andrew Jones, a former five-star combo-guard, expected to return for his sophomore season, Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis back for another year and the addition of four-star Matt Coleman, a more natural fit at the point guard spot, along with three more top 100 prospects, suddenly a Texas program coming off of a last-place finish in the Big 12 has a reason to be optimistic.

Because let’s call it like it is: This is pivotal season for Smart.

RELATED: Mo Bamba is college basketball’s most unique prospect

He’s been at Texas for two years. In his first season, he took Rick Barnes’ roster to the NCAA tournament playing a way that wasn’t exactly what you would expect from a team that he coaches. Last year, with a roster that was very young but mostly filled with players that Smart had recruited into the program, the Longhorns were dreadful. Their point guard play was lacking, their leading scorer never returned to the floor after a January suspension and their best player during Big 12 play, Jarrett Allen, went the one-and-done route.

This year is the year that defines the narrative of Smart’s tenure.

It’s his program now, through and through, and until Bamba committed, there wasn’t all that much reason to believe that Texas was bound for a major turnaround.

There is now.

It’s not crazy to think that the Longhorns could end up finishing in the top four in the Big 12 next season. I won’t do it, but I’m not sure it’s wrong Texas in a preseason top 25.

And that all happened because Smart was able to outduel Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari on the recruiting trail.

Smart has been the head coach at Texas for more than two full years now, long enough to miss an NCAA tournament and have his name linked to open jobs in lesser leagues that are nowhere near as prestigious as Texas is — it’s widely considered a top five job in the coaching industry, but he finally has Texas heading in the direction of a place many thought it would be after he was hired.

Whether or not it gets there remains to be seen.

But there’s no questioning just how important Bamba’s commitment was, to Texas and to Shaka Smart himself.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.