Wednesday Las Vegas Recap: Dennis Smith vs Lonzo Ball; Frank Jackson faces Kobi Simmons

Frank Jackson and Kobi Simmons went head-to-head on Wednesday (Kelly Kline/adidas)

LAS VEGAS — The opening night of the third and final July live evaluation period kicked off with some fireworks, and we’re not just talking Thon Maker’s crossovers.

Dennis Smith Jr., Lonzo Ball face off on opening night: The debate as to who is the best lead guard in the Class of 2016 has been a spirited one, with multiple options being discussed. Two of those players are Dennis Smith Jr. and UCLA commit Lonzo Ball, and their respective teams played each other in the adidas Uprising Summer Championships opener for both.

With head coaches John Calipari (Kentucky), Mark Gottfried (NC State) and Danny Manning (Wake Forest) in attendance, Smith played well in relatively limited action since his team had a game at another event later in the evening. Per the adidas box score, Smith Jr. finished the game with 14 points, eight assists and one turnover. Ball (whose team’s stats weren’t posted for some reason) didn’t shoot as well as he’s capable of, but he did put together some solid passes in both the half and full-court.

With these two also having the opportunity to play Frank Jackson and Kobi Simmons later in the adidas Uprising Summer Championships, we’ll learn a lot about the point guard debate this week. (RJ)

Frank Jackson and Kobi Simmons do battle: While adidas opened the night with a heavyweight point guard battle with the aforementioned Smith and Ball game, it wasn’t the only enticing matchup on Wednesday night. Another battle of elite point guards went down as five-star Utah native Frank Jackson and five-star Atlanta native Kobi Simmons battled in a head-to-head matchup that saw Jackson — and his Utah Prospects team — get the best of it.

The 6-foot-2 Jackson was sensational at times in the first half, but slowed down in the second a bit as he finished with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting. The 6-foot-5 Simmons erased a brutal first half by helping lead a second-half charge that got his Atlanta Celtics back into the game. Simmons tallied 22 points but was 6-for-17 from the floor and had eight turnovers. Also with a high turnover count of six, Jackson was more efficient with the ball in his hands and had a more complete game on Wednesday.

adidas set up the bracket in its “Creator’s Cup” so that Ball and Simmons play each other and Smith and Jackson play each other during the first game of Thursday’s action. It’s a fun tool to see how some of these elite guards matchup with each other. (SP)

Payton Pritchard taking his time with college decision: 2016 point guard Payton Pritchard’s recruitment took quite the turn earlier this month, as he de-committed from Oklahoma just before the start of the first evaluation period. Since then he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of attention from high-major coaches, with the Sooners being joined by the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona State, California and Oregon.

In discussing his recruitment with NBC Sports Wednesday night after a 30-point win over Eric Gordon All-Stars, Pritchard (22 points on 9-for-13 shooting, six assists, one turnover) noted that he and his family simply want to be sure before making a decision as important as deciding where he’ll attend college.

“I just want to look at [the entire situation] again and take all of my officials. I think I owe it to myself,” Pritchard said when asked about the state of his recruitment. “Oklahoma’s a great school, but as a family we just want to be 100 percent sure.”

While the Oregon native has taken a number of unofficial visits, Oklahoma was the only school to host him for an official. With four such trips still at his disposal, Pritchard will have opportunities to thoroughly evaluate schools before making a choice this time around and he plans on taking advantage. (RJ)

Jarrett Allen dominates with some big names watching: Class of 2016 center Jarrett Allen is firmly planted as a five-star prospect at No. 17 in the Rivals 150, but he doesn’t seem to get as much buzz as some of his classmates. The 6-foot-10 center did his best to make an impact on Wednesday night with a truly dominating performance in a win over the New York Rens.

Allen finished with 29 points, while going 13-for-14 from the field while adding seven rebounds. In helping Texas Pro defeat a very good New York Rens team by 20 points, there was simply no answer for slowing down Allen. He scored on hooks, advanced post moves and dunks in traffic. If he received a touch on Wednesday night, Allen was probably scoring or getting fouled.

It was an incredible opening night for Allen and he was watched by head coaches like John Calipari (Kentucky), Roy Williams (North Carolina) and Shaka Smart (Texas). After the contest, Allen told that Baylor, Indiana, Kansas State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and San Diego State are some schools involved in his recruitment, which is still very early in the process. (SP)

Multiple high-major head coaches watch 2016 PF De’Ron Davis: Davis was the headliner for a Colorado Hawks team that coasted to a win in its opener, and there were multiple high-major coaches in attendance to see him. Among the head coaches courtside were Sean Miller (Arizona), Bobby Hurley (Arizona State), Tom Crean (Indiana), Travis Ford (Oklahoma State) and Shaka Smart (Texas). Also in attendance were two Colorado assistants, with head coach Tad Boyle currently assisting Mark Few with the United States Pan-Am Games team.

Also playing well for the Hawks was Alpha Diallo, who finished the game with 16 points, ten rebounds and six assists. The 6-foot-5 small forward was able to make plays off the dribble throughout the contest, with Nevada and VCU among the schools that have offered him who were represented in the coaches’ section. (RJ)

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.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.