Malik Beasley looking to capitalize on a big spring, summer

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MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

LAS VEGAS — While some players can use the month of July as a springboard into the conscience of college coaches and recruiting analysts, playing better than they did during their high school seasons and the spring, others simply keep building on the momentum they’ve had all year long. That’s been the case for 2015 shooting guard Malik Beasley, a 6-foot-4 prospect whose grassroots campaign follows up a high school season in which he and his teammates made history.

At St. Francis High School in Alpharetta, Georgia the rising senior posted averages of 19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game on a team that finished the season with a 24-7 record and won its first-ever Class A state title. As a result of his play throughout the season Beasley was a first-team all-state selection, and throughout the spring and summer he’s displayed the many facets of his game. Beasley’s a talented scorer who, at the LeBron James Skills Academy, displayed the ability to score via the perimeter jumper or the drive to the basket and he took care of his responsibilities on the defensive end as well.

While competing with and against some of the nation’s best players, Beasley was able to take stock of his game and learn even more about the areas in which he’ll need to improve in order to have an impact at the college level. One area that stood out, especially in the moments in which he was matched up against the camp’s namesake, was physical strength. That area can be a challenge when playing against high-level talent, but it was one that Beasley embraced because it’s difficult to improve against inferior opposition.

“Playing with better players,”  Beasley told NBCSports.com in Las Vegas when asked what he could gain from the experience. “I don’t like competing with guys who aren’t better than me. And I get to learn new skills from the coaches, pros and staff [at the camp].”

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Beasley also has a valuable resource in his father, Michael, when it comes to knowing what steps to take in his basketball career. The elder Beasley played nearly ten years professionally overseas, and according to him those experiences have helped when it comes to the impact that getting on a weightlifting program can have on a player’s career. Also impacting the way in which Malik has developed physically was the experience gained at the Nike Elite 100 Camp in 2013.

“The greatest amount of growth I’ve seen in Malik is his body,” Michael Beasley told NBCSports.com. “We went to Nike Elite 100 last year and I was able to see what he needed to work on. Sometimes kids say they’re younger than they really are, and we wanted to even the playing field by getting his body together. So we set up a weight program for him.

“We know [Malik] can shoot, but the main thing was working on his body and that evened the playing field. Before he wasn’t finishing that strongly, and that changed once we got him on the weight program.”

It’s safe to say that college coaches have taken notice of Malik’s development, and in the aftermath of his performances over the last two weeks (he played well at Peach State last week according to multiple reports) UConn, Oregon and UCLA have joined a deep list of high-major programs who have tendered offers. In speaking with Malik in Las Vegas, he stated that while he has a good grasp of which schools are currently recruiting him the hardest it’s something he’ll speak about more at the end of the month. And he also has a good idea of what characteristics the school he picks will possess when the time comes to announce a commitment.

“A great head coach and a winning program,” Beasley noted. “Someone who’s going to help me be successful in the future, and who’s going to [coach] me. Not say that I’m doing well if I had a bad game; let me know what I’m doing wrong, and let me know what I’m doing right so I can keep doing it.”

Interestingly the shared basketball pedigree isn’t the only area in which the elder Beasley has helped his son navigate this process, as he’s also an actor who’s held roles in a number of television shows and motion pictures including the series “Eastbound and Down.” Michael has used the experience he’s gained as both an athlete and an actor to not only push Malik to being the best player he can be, but to also help him understand what it takes to be successful regardless of the profession in question.

“What I experienced [as a pro] is that to play at a high level you have to love the process,” Michael noted. “Getting in the gym and getting better, and making those sacrifices that normally you wouldn’t have to make as a teenager trying to live your dream. A lot of kids are out partying or doing other things, but you have to love being in the gym.

“The main thing I tell him is to love the process,” Michael continued, tying in his love of acting. “And once you love the process then it isn’t ‘work,’ but if you don’t love the process it is.”

The absorption of those lessons combined with hard work have resulted in Malik Beasley developing into one of the nation’s best shooting guards. And if he can keep on that path, Beasley stands to only get better as a high school senior. That’s something Malik has every intention of doing, as throughout the month of July it’s become even more apparent that he possesses a clear understanding of what’s on the line when he steps on the court.

“When it’s time for business, when he’s acting and when I’m playing on the court, it’s serious.”

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.