Thursday Las Vegas Recap: Dennis Smith and Frank Jackson battle; Lonzo Ball quiets critics; Wendell Carter talks visit

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Creator’s Cup ends with thrilling matchup between Dennis Smith and Frank Jackson: The adidas Uprising Summer Championships pulled off an intelligent scheduling maneuver in Las Vegas this week by putting two “Super Pools” in a mini eight-team tournament that constituted their matchups before the main tournament began. It meant a lot of games between five-star prospects in the Class of 2016 that started on Wednesday night and went well into Thursday.

After both advancing past the first round on the opening night, five-star point guards Dennis Smith (Team Loaded North Carolina) and Frank Jackson (Utah Prospects) both had tremendous outings in a fun back-and-forth contest on Thursday afternoon. Smith and his deeper Team Loaded squad ended up pulling out a 75-59 win as Smith had 26 points, four assists and zero turnovers on 10-for-17 shooting and 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range. Jackson countered with 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting, but he didn’t have the kind of help that Smith had from teammates like five-star big man Edrice Adebayo.

While both five-star lead guards were very good, Smith was absolutely brilliant at times. When the Prospects started icing Smith and forcing him to go baseline, he made adjustments in his pick-and-roll setup with Adebayo and flipped the big man some effortless pocket passes for easy elbow jumpers. Smith’s ability to make reads and adjustments and operate in a number of different ways off of high ball screens is a big reason why he’s considered the top guard in the country and he’s been tremendous early this week.

“I love it. I love playing against anybody that they think is the best,” Smith said of the high-profile matchups. “I get to come out here and show what I can do against those guys.” (SP)

Five-star 2017 big man sure of at least one visit: 6-foot-10 power forward Wendell Carter Jr. has plenty of time before he has to make a college decision, as he’s one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. However that doesn’t mean that schools can’t make an impression on he and his family, which is the case for one SEC program in particular.

In speaking with Carter following the Georgia Stars’ comfortable victory in their second game of the day at the Las Vegas Classic, he mentioned that Auburn will be a school that he’ll definitely check out when he’s able to take official visits (January 2016 at the earliest).

“I just know that Auburn’s going to be my very first visit, my first official visit,” Carter told NBC Sports when asked about possible visits in the future, and he had a simple reason as to why.

“My mom. She really likes the school.”

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl was one of the head coaches in the gym for Carter’s game, with Kansas’ Bill Self and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton also in attendance. (RJ)

Lonzo Ball makes a statement against “real” competition: If you follow recruiting Twitter at all, you’ve probably seen some debate erupt over the competition that five-star guard Lonzo Ball and his brothers faced during the spring and summer in independent AAU events. Because the UCLA commit and his Big Ballers VXT program — which is coached by his father — don’t belong to a major shoe company, they haven’t faced the caliber of competition often seen in shoe events.

It’s led to some questioning Ball’s commitment to facing real competition and if he’s a legitimate five-star talent. With some strong games on Thursday against some of the best teams in the adidas Circuit, it’s safe to say that Ball and his teammates put some of those questions to rest.

In wins over the Atlanta Celtics and New York Rens, the eldest Ball filled up the stat sheet, registering 36 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against Kobi Simmons and the Celtics while notching the triple-double with 22 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds against Mustapha Heron and the Rens. Simply put, Lonzo Ball does everything on the floor while he’s out there and he has an exceptional basketball IQ and court vision that helps him make plays that others can’t.

Ball’s stats are a bit inflated because the Big Ballers play a pace similar to Grinnell — tons of quick shots, deep 3-pointers, home-run passes and traps at halfcourt on defense — but there is no questioning how talented he is as a basketball prospect. With younger brothers LiAngelo Ball (also a UCLA commit in the Class of 2017) and LiMelo Ball (a Class of 2019 prospect who is only 13 years old) also putting up good numbers for the Big Ballers, Lonzo Ball is happy to play on his small independent team with his family.

“It’s definitely been the best tournament we’ve played in since the AAU [July] period,” Ball said. “First day we came out a little lax so we got beat pretty bad but ever since then we got focused and picked some wins up.” (SP)

Former Arizona State commit focusing on a Big East program: After verbally committing to Arizona State in late January, 6-foot-10 forward Lucas Siewert wound up reopening his recruitment in mid-May with the head coaching change from Herb Sendek to Bobby Hurley serving as the catalyst.

And with, according to Siewert, the new coaching staff having not reached out to him since the stretch four has begun looking at other possibilities. The most prominent one is Creighton, as the Bluejays have an offensive system that can take advantage of big men who are capable of scoring not just around the basket but on the perimeter as well. And in speaking with Siewert, a system in which he can be used in multiple areas is something he’s looking for.

“I’m looking for a school where I can show my perimeter game,” Siewert told NBC Sports. “I’m still working on my ‘back to the basket’ game, but I want to be able to bring [opposing] big men out on the perimeter.”

In the Compton Magic’s loss to the New England Playaz Thursday afternoon, Siewert displayed the ability to score away from the basket on multiple occasions. And in regards to Creighton, the native of Brazil expects to visit the campus this fall.

“Right now, the school that’s been most active is Creighton,” Siewert noted. “I’ll be visiting in September.” (RJ)

Hot-shooting Brandon Robinson open to expanding list: While Dennis Smith Jr. and Bam Adebayo have been the headliners for Team Loaded North Carolina, another standout for them at the adidas Uprising Summer Championships has been four-star shooting guard Brandon Robinson. Robinson trimmed his list of schools down to ten in early July, but his play has led to even more interest.

Thursday morning it was reported that Louisville has offered the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who’s shooting with a great deal of confidence after going through a slump in the spring. And when it comes to Louisville their style of play is something that intrigues Robinson, who not only has displayed quality perimeter shooting but good athleticism as well.

“Yes, definitely,” Robinson told NBC Sports when asked if Louisville is now under consideration. “That’s a big-time program and they have a great history of basketball, and I like their style of play. So that’s definitely a school I’m looking into.”

Robinson also noted that the hope is to narrow his list even further at some point in August. (RJ)

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.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”