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Kyle Wiltjer: ‘Gonzaga is the best fanbase in the country’

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Kyle Wiltjer, a former Kentucky and Gonzaga forward that is currently a member of the Houston Rockets, went on a podcast called The Press with Darnay Tripp earlier this week and may have managed to find a way to piss off a former fanbase that, until today, still loved him as one of their own.

To recap: Wiltjer was a top 25 prospect coming out of high school and spent two seasons in Lexington, winning a national title in 2012 and getting bounced from the NIT in the first round in 2013, before transferring to Gonzaga. He redshirted one year and then made an Elite 8 and a Sweet 16 with the Zags in 2015 and 2016.

In Gonzaga’s first post-Wiltjer season, the Zags made it to the national title game, and Wiltjer made it to Phoenix for the games.

Back to the podcast, Wiltjer was asked to compare the two fanbases, and he said Gonzaga, not Kentucky, has the best fanbase in college hoops.

“That was probably the biggest surprise going to Gonzaga,” Wiltjer said, as transcribed CBS Sports’ Nordy Norlander. “I knew how crazy the Kentucky fan base was, and going to Gonzaga, I knew how great the system was. I knew how great it was going to be for my redshirt year. But I didn’t really know — I knew they were crazy out in the Northwest — I just didn’t know how crazy. This last year when I went to the Final Four, really showed me that, man, Gonzaga is like, in my opinion, the best fan base in the country, and I’m not exaggerating at all. The amount of love that they showed me, Domas (Sabonis) and seeing the support down there at the Final Four, it was pretty unbelievable. And to see that, it really shows a lot to the city, and the city should be proud of that because it was crazy.”

Wiltjer isn’t wrong.

Gonzaga fans are passionate, and for a school with an enrollment of less than 8,000 in a town with a population of roughly 200,000, there were an unbelievable number of Zag fans at the Final Four.

“It was just as crazy or maybe even crazier,” Wiltjer said when asked about the fanbase compared to Kentucky winning a title. “Winning the championship was like the craziest thing ever — that I thought. And then going to Gonzaga and seeing their fan base, and like, everywhere we go in Spokane, everyone going crazy for us. It’s obviously a little bit of smaller level, amount of people, but the support is just as crazy.”

To be clear, I think Wiltjer is wrong here. Big Blue Nation has always been massive, and the passion has only been intensified with their recent success and magnified by social media and the internet. Have Gonzaga fans ever trolled a referee’s business because they didn’t like a few calls he made?

That said, Wiltjer does have one thing right: Gonzaga’s fan base is bigger and more passionate than you probably realize, and they revere the players that have come through their program and helped build it up to what it is today.

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

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Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

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Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

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Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

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Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

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Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”