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Arizona State bucks graduate transfer trend

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The current trend in college basketball centers on graduate transfers, veteran players who are eligible and can contribute immediately.

Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley is taking a more long-term approach as he tries to rebuild the Sun Devils’ program.

With a solid core led by three senior guards and some much-needed frontcourt help on the way, Hurley opted to sign three transfers who will have to sit out a season instead of finding graduate transfers who could play right away.

“We try to evaluate the needs of our team and how we can continue to build and take the next step this year,” Hurley said Wednesday. “We have all these guys who I think can help our frontcourt this season and then we have these three guys who can step in and have proven that they can be impact players.”

Arizona State made a splash three years ago with the high-profile hiring of Hurley, the fiery former Duke and NBA guard who had turned Buffalo into an NCAA Tournament team in two seasons.

Hurley has had a tougher go of turning around the Sun Devils, winning 15 games each of the past two seasons.

Some of it has been playing in the tough Pac-12, a conference filled with bigger, stronger players than the Mid-American Conference and no easy games on the schedule.

A lack of depth, particularly in the frontcourt, has been the bigger culprit.

Hurley pulled in solid recruiting classes each of his first two seasons, but the Sun Devils were long on perimeter players and short on length. They could score, get out in transition, hit 3-pointers, but when it came to playing defense and rebounding, the Sun Devils were often overmatched inside.

The lack of size — and a few injuries — forced Hurley to shift his roster around, forcing players into roles they weren’t accustomed to. With no real inside presence last season, Hurley often had 6-foot-5 guard Kodi Justice playing post defense against players that were often six or more inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

Arizona State will get frontcourt help this season with two eligible transfers and a pair of returning players coming off redshirt seasons.

With no need for immediate help, Hurley decided to build for the future, adding three players who will not be eligible until the 2018-19 season: Carlton Bragg from Kansas, Zylan Cheatham from San Diego State and Rob Edwards from Cleveland State.

The three veteran players will not only set the foundation for Arizona State’s future after seniors Justice, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II graduate, but give the Sun Devils three veteran players who can help shape this year’s team.

“The one thing I can promise is our practices are going to be wars in there this year,” Hurley said. “I couldn’t really say that last season and the three guys we’re going to have sitting out and the other rotation guys added to those three, it’s going to create great competition in practice.”

Arizona State should be better this season than the previous two, thanks to the veteran leadership by the senior guards and the incoming help up front.

In addition to the three transfers, Hurley brought in De’Quon Lake, a 6-10 junior forward from Iowa Western Community College who will give the Sun Devils size inside.

Mickey Mitchell, a 6-7 mid-season transfer from Ohio State, is expected to be eligible sometime in December, perhaps by Arizona State’s game at Kansas on Dec. 10.

Ramon Villa, a 6-8 forward from Spain, returns this season after playing 33 games as a reserve last season. Arizona State also will add 6-8 Romello White, a player who loves to rebound, and 6-9 Vitaliy Shibel after both redshirted as freshmen last season.

Those players should help the Sun Devils shore up their frontcourt this season and the addition of the three transfers in 2018-19 should help solidify the foundation Hurley is setting in the desert.

“Coach Hurley has done a great job of building this program from where it was at to where it’s about to go,” said Evans, who averaged 15 points per game last season after sitting out 2015-16 as a transfer from Buffalo. “I feel like every year it’s getting better and better and better.”

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Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap

Three LSU players accused of shooting paintballs at pedestrian

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Three LSU basketball players were issued a summons earlier this month for allegedly shooting paintballs at a pedestrian, according to a report from the Daily Reveille.

The incident involving the three players, Galen Alexander, Wayde Sims and Mayan Kiir, occurred on June 16.

“I’m aware of the situation and we are dealing with the matter internally,” first-year Tigers coach Will Wade said in a statement, according to The Advocate. “I’m extremely disappointed in these players and the poor judgement they used. This is no way to represent LSU or our basketball program. They have a clear understanding of what our expectations are as a program both on and off the court.”

Alexander and Kiir are both freshmen while Sims is a sophomore who averaged 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19 minutes per game last season.

Grayson Allen is…funny?

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The last year led to a lot of people having opinions on Grayson Allen. The Duke star invited most of them thanks to his tripping and his outbursts, as well as the simple fact he plays for the Blue Devils, who always seem to attract plenty of hate from the masses.

While Allen is one of college basketball’s best players, he’s also one of its most ridiculed. More people than not probably have a poor opinion about the guy due to his bizarre tripping habit and the bench meltdown from last season. He’s an easy target that brought a lot of criticism on himself with his actions.

This summer, though, Allen has started to show another side to his personality through social media. It turns out he might actually be funny.

The world is full of surprises.

Here’s an example from today, with Allen not only some comedy chops, but some self-deprecation and self-awareness – two important traits for someone who might need some reputation rehab – as he pokes fun of the Internet’s suggestion that he’s a dead ringer for Texas senator Ted Cruz, as well as Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, apparently.

That was just the most recent example, though. Earlier this month, he ribbed maybe the Internet’s only more favorite villain, LaVar Ball.

And before that, he had some fun with the fact that he’ll almost assuredly be tabbed to our Perry Ellis All-Stars team for his final collegiate season this fall.

So, yeah, Grayson Allen’s rep took a bunch of hits last year for some bad behavior. Maybe there’s more there, though.

IUPUI to become Horizon League’s 10th member

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The Horizon League officially announced this week that IUPUI will be replacing Valparaiso as the league’s 10th member. Valpo left to replace Wichita State in the Missouri Valley.

“We are excited to welcome IUPUI to the Horizon League family,” Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone said. “The Jaguars bring us tremendous competitive potential, particularly in men’s basketball, along with an engaged and energized city. Their addition solidifies our broad community partnerships in Indianapolis and is the right school at the right time.”

IUPUI — which stands for Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis — has been a member of the Summit League, which will be left with eight teams now that the Jaguars have departed. They’ve made it to one NCAA tournament, back in 2003, and have been a full-fledged member of Division I for 19 years. That was the year before NBA point guard George Hill enrolled. Current head coach Jason Gardner has been there for three years but has yet to record a winning season; IUPUI has not been over .500 since 2011, when Ron Hunter was still the head coach.

“We are excited about engaging with the other Horizon League member institutions to enhance the overall competitiveness of the league,” said IUPUI Director of Athletics Dr. Roderick Perry. “As an institution and athletics department, our mission, vision, and core values align closely with the Horizon League. This is an important step forward in the life of our athletics department.”

Former Louisville standout Chris Jones shot in Memphis

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Former Louisville point guard Chris Jones was shot while playing basketball in his native Memphis on Tuesday night.

According to a report from FOX 13 in Memphis, shortly after 11 p.m. shots rang out on in Halle Park after an altercation on the court. Two people were taken to the hospital, one with a head injury stemming from a fight. The other was Jones, who was shot in the leg twice, according to the Courier-Journal. His injuries are not life-threatening and he has already been released from the hospital, according to Steve Forbes, his former Junior College coach.

Jones played at Melrose High in Memphis before spending two years at Northwest Florida Junior College and two more seasons at Louisville.

This past year, he spent time playing professionally in Greece and in France, although he played just a grand total of three games in the two leagues.

Perhaps the craziest part about this story is that Jones was shot on a court that is next to a police station. This is a screengrab from FOX 13’s live shot from the basketball courts, and you can see the police cars in the station’s parking lot in the back ground:

Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”