CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Boston College, Illinois, LSU have big visitors

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Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Boston College looks to add big man as 2015 recruiting class centerpiece, LSU has a big in-state visitor and Illinois looks to bounce back from a disappointing start to September.

Boston College looks to finish recruiting momentum with a big visit

New Boston College head coach Jim Christian made a few people skeptical of his ability to recruit in the ACC when he took the job this spring.

With the previous Eagles staff owning a 2015 commitment from Jeremy Miller, Boston College already had someone in the fold who was at least interested enough in the program to offer up an early pledge.

But when Christian took over the job, he neglected to recruit Miller until after he decommitted from the program. It was a puzzling move for Christian to not even call a player previously committed to Boston College, considering the forward played for powerful local Nike EYBL program BABC and the 6-foot-9 Miller had some potential. Miller decommitted from Boston College and remains uncommitted in the recruiting process.

Soon though, Christian had Boston College fans believing in his recruiting ability as he’s landed three three-star guards in the last few weeks. Now, the Eagles will look to add the centerpiece of the class as four-star big man Josh Sharma officially visits this weekend.

Point guard Jerome Robinson and wing shooters Matt Milon and A.J. Turner are all nice additions, but Sharma is a 7-foot shot blocker with some upside to put around those perimeter threats.

If Boston College can land the No. 82 overall player in the 2015 class, it will be a really nice foundation for Christian to work with and a solid opening class, considering it was going to be an uphill battle with a new coach in a current ACC bottom feeder.

The Eagles need talent to compete in the ACC and Christian is putting together some pieces.

LSU needs to put talent around Ben Simmons in the 2015 class

Ben Simmons is the No. 1 player in the 2015 class and this week Simmons, once again, confirmed that he’s going to LSU despite persistent rumors of him playing professionally overseas after high school.

But even though the Australian is a likely one-and-done player, the Tigers still need to capitalize on having a player like Simmons already committed by putting talented players around him.

Not only does LSU need to use Simmons to help land future three- and four-year players but they need to take advantage of Simmons’ tremendous passing ability and put shooters and scorers around him that can make plays.

The Tigers are taking the first step in adding talent in 2015 this weekend as in-state shooting guard Brandon Sampson will take an official visit to Baton Rouge, according to Ben Love of Tiger Sports Digest.

At 6-foot-4, Sampson is talented with the ball in his hands and would be a great compliment to Simmons. LSU is recruiting four talented in-state prospects in 2015 between Sampson, Jacob Evans, Chad Lott and Melvin Frazier, but Sampson is the best long-term prospect of the quartet.

Sampson has claimed that he’s looking to make a spring decision, but it doesn’t hurt that local LSU is getting the first official visit among his final six schools. It’s unlikely the Tigers coerce Sampson into a pledge this weekend, but the official visit could make for a very positive first impression as LSU tries to stockpile talent around Simmons.

Illinois has two good visitors this weekend

It hasn’t been a great start to the month of September for Illinois but head coach John Groce and the coaching staff has done a nice job of getting elite talent still interested in Illinois.

Visiting Champaign this weekend on official visits includes five-star Texas 6-foot-9 center Elijah Thomas, the No. 20 player in the country and the No. 34 player on Saturday, four-star Indiana guard Jalen Coleman.

A source confirmed Thomas and Coleman’s visits and pairing them together is a sign that John Groce is committed to recruiting hard.

Losing the state’s top senior player in five-star guard Jalen Brunson to Villanova and later losing senior point guard Tracy Abrams for the season with a torn ACL was a tough start to the month but Illinois has bounced back with good talent still interested in the program.

Illinois also holds 2015 commitments to Simeon 2015 four-star wing D.J. Williams and Plainfield East 2015 four-star Shooting guard Aaron Jordan.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.