Five observations from the USA Basketball U17/U18 tryouts

Bart Young/USA Basketball
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COLORADO SPRINGS — USA Basketball held tryouts for its U17 and U18 teams during the week as many of the top high school prospects and incoming college freshmen in the country were competing for spots in prestigious international tournaments.

The U17 group will compete in the FIBA U17 World Championships in Spain that begins on June 23rd while the U18 group will compete in FIBA Americas in Chile in late July. Both camps were a great spotlight on where a lot of players stand entering their freshman year of college or the later years of their high school career.

Here’s a look at some of the standouts and thoughts on the week’s action in Colorado Springs.

1. Markelle Fultz continues to get better 

The meteoric rise of Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz continued during the U18 tryouts this week as Fultz looked like the best player on the floor among a loaded group of players. Over the last six months, Fultz has continued to get better each time out as he’s improved from when he was a standout player at the Nike Hoop Summit in April.

Handling the ball on a string and scoring from all over the floor, Fultz has such a natural ease about him when he plays that the ridiculous combination moves that he pulls off looks easy. With the way Fultz has been playing over the last few months, he’s now put himself firmly in the conversation as potentially the best freshman in college basketball next season. I firmly believe Fultz is a preseason All-American, but my CBT colleagues didn’t believe Washington would be good enough for Fultz to be included on our list.

I don’t think it matters who is around Fultz. With his ability to score at all levels (including deep jumpers) and create for others, Fultz is talented enough that Washington could surprise some people this season. Don’t be surprised if Fultz generates buzz for the No. 1 draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft next season.

2. The Texas big man duo of Jarrett Allen and James Banks should be ready to go

One of the most intriguing parts of the U18 tryouts was future Texas freshmen big men Jarrett Allen and James Banks getting to play under future head coach Shaka Smart. While Allen came in with the bigger reputation thanks to being named in multiple All-American games this spring, the 6-foot-11 Banks impressed with his defense around the basket.

We know that Texas is going to have plenty of perimeter talent with Kerwin Roach, Eric Davis and Tevin Mack all returning while McDonald’s All-American Andrew Jones is also entering the program next season. But the key to this team making a potential run in March is how Allen is able to handle big minutes and if Banks can also be a contributor.

Based on his play this spring, Allen is a safe bet to be at least a solid Big 12 big man this season, if not one of the better big men in the league. With his natural instincts on both ends of the floor, along with an ever-increasing skill level, Allen should be able to score, rebound and defend the rim right away. If Banks can also help protect the rim and rebound, Texas likely doesn’t need him to be a big scorer this season.

Texas fans should be excited to see this duo play this season and Allen might only be around for a season before the NBA comes calling.

3. Kevin Huerter will be a solid rotation piece for Maryland

People keep talking about what Maryland lost from last season — and justifiably so. Losing Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman would be tough for any team to handle.

But the Terps should be pleased that they’re adding a versatile guard in Kevin Huerter in their latest recruiting class.

The 6-foot-5 Huerter has a beautiful-looking jumper to go along with some solid ability to handle the ball as a secondary handler. Also a good passer, Huerter is the type of well-rounded wing guard who should help take pressure off of Melo Trimble next season as he competes for minutes with Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley on the wing. Obviously, Maryland isn’t viewed as a national title contender entering this season with those aforementioned losses, but they’re still in good position that have a competitive season in the Big Ten.

4. Hamidou Diallo keeps rising in the Class of 2017

After seeing five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo play in consecutive weekends, it’s becoming more and more clear that he’s an elite prospect with the kind of ridiculous athleticism that any level of basketball would covet.

The 6-foot-5 native of New York is the type of rare leaper who can outjump athletic bigs and wings for offensive putbacks and you better be on poster watch if you’re a big man who is trying to meet Diallo at the rim.

Defensively, Diallo was scary in the press because he can cover so much ground laterally while his instincts in passing lanes continue to improve. Diallo is just a consistent jump shot away from being a force on the offensive end, but that has also steadily gotten better over the course of the last few months.

5. Auburn got a tremendous centerpiece in Class of 2017 big man Austin Wiley

Over the last two years, five-star Class of 2017 big man Austin Wiley has battled a couple of different injuries that have prevented him from being at many spring and summer events.

After recently returning from an ankle injury in May, Wiley was one of the best players on the floor for the U17 World Championship team as he looked like he was in shape and ready to dominate. The future Tiger scored with hooks around the rim, finished alley-oops and also knocked down some pick-and-pop jumpers.

Wiley competed hard against elite-level big men and wasn’t afraid to mix it up for rebounds or blocks. With head coach Bruce Pearl bringing in some talented pieces the last few seasons — including guard Mustapha Heron in the Class of 2016 — Wiley could very well be the quality big man that puts Auburn into the next level they’ve been looking for.

Hopefully, the injury bug is done biting Wiley and he’s able to continue to develop before he gets to Auburn.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.