Recruiting rundown: Pitt-bound Kiwi star makes US debut


It’s not an overstatement to say that the weekend debut of Steven Adams, a Pitt-bound 6-11 center, was among the most highly-anticipated events of the season for recruiting junkies. Adams previously played twice in the United States at the adidas Nations events, most recently in August, and in his brief opportunity to showcase his skills, drew attention as a potential future NBA prospect.

After finishing school in New Zealand, Adams joined the squad at Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.) to finish out the season. If that school and scenario sounds familiar to Pittsburgh fans, it should as the last international prospect the Panthers stashed at Notre Dame Prep was Khem Birch, a recent transfer to UNLV after playing only 10 games at Pitt.

Adams played in three weekend games, against top notch prep school competition, including a matchup against New Hampton Prep (N.H.), which was televised on ESPN from the loaded Spalding Hoophall Classic. To be clear, Adams didn’t exactly cement his status as a 2013 NBA lottery pick. He collected 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in the game, and provided remarkably candid quotes to the assembled media regarding his nervousness and adaptation to the United States to date.

On Saturday, Adams matched against top 2013 prospect Nerlens Noel of Tilton School (N.H.) in at least part of the game, and boasted an impressive stat line of 23 points and 14 rebounds. It remains to be seen if he will fulfill his hyped promise, but he remains a true center with remarkable fluidity and potential, making it easy to see why draftniks are so excited about his future.

In Adams, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has cashed in on his way back history as a basketball player in Australia. The trajectory of big men in the Pitt program certainly indicates that Adams will be brought along slowly, and given the chance to adapt to the physicality of high-major basketball. Then again, Adams will likely be a 7-footer when he hits campus, and a building piece in making fans forget about this so far disappointing performance this season.

2013 star Derek Willis will declare on Friday
When 6-9 power forward Derek Willis of Bullitt East (Ky.) announces his college decision, and he won’t stray far from home. Willis has Kentucky, Louisville, Purdue and Indiana on his list of schools, and wherever he chooses had better hope that the second time is a charm for his decision.

Willis committed last year to Purdue, prior to re-opening his recruitment. While all of the above-listed schools have been in hot pursuit of the talented big man, it’s hard to see him leaving his home state, and in fact, the smart money is on Willis becoming Kentucky’s first recruit in the 2013 class.

Now, Willis’ recruitment hasn’t been standard, but it is quite difficult to see him leaving his home state based on a variety of factors. It’s also hard to imagine that a high school junior in the heart of the Bluegrass State would make an in-season announcement to a college that isn’t located in his home state. Willis is likely the best junior prospect in Kentucky, and he will be a nice score for whichever program lands his pledge, provided they can hold on to it until next November, when he can sign and make things official.

If Willis does end up at Kentucky as some believe, it’s fair to say that he can have an impact similar to Kyle Wiltjer’s. Kentucky isn’t near done with their 2012 recruiting class just yet, with their fingers firmly planted in the recruitments of many of the top current uncommitted players still remaining in the class, but Willis would be a good look for the future.

Connecticut, Kentucky jump in race for center Tony Parker
Usually, when high school basketball prospects have already taken four official visits, they have acquired the information necessary to make their college decision. 6-9 center Tony Parker of Miller Grove (Ga.) is arguably the best center still on the board, but he’s an exception to that axiom. Parker is a beefy center that has the size and skill to make an impact as a freshman next season at whichever school he decides to attend.

Parker already taken trips to Ohio State, UCLA, Memphis and Duke, but has yet to verbally commit to any of them. Over the weekend at the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Parker told reporters that Kentucky and Connecticut were among the schools in the mix for his last official visit. Prior to that, Kansas has also tried to get involved with the talented big man. Parker seemingly has a constantly updating school list.

For a time, UCLA seemed to be in good position for Parker, but like the nation’s no. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad, Parker’s status with UCLA seems to be in a holding pattern as the Bruins continue their mixed results on the court. Recent buzz has indicated that Ohio State could have a good shot at getting Parker as a replacement for Jared Sullinger, if their current sophomore star jumps to the NBA after the season. Still, Parker’s AAU teammate Alex Poythress has already signed with Kentucky, and they have been pushing hard to land a center for next year.

It doesn’t look like Parker is anywhere near a final decision for the future, but if either UConn or Kentucky can obtain Parker’s final official visit, they could have an inside track in wresting Parker away from his previous suitors.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.