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After embarrassing season, Texas looks to Bamba to help

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Last season was an embarrassment for Texas, for coach Shaka Smart, the players and the entire program.

There are few other ways to describe a season in which the Longhorns finished last in the Big 12 for the first time in league history and won just 11 games after starting the season in the Top 25.

“I used to say on selection Sunday, ‘Don’t take this for granted,'” Smart said. “Last year, we obviously were far from a tournament team. It gives you a real sense of urgency. Coming off last year, we certainly don’t want to dwell on it, but we want to learn from it.”

The terrible season didn’t stop the Longhorns from getting some really good news a few weeks late when top recruit Mohamed Bamba signed with the Longhorns. Most expect the power forward to make only a short stay at Texas on his way to the NBA. He’s already been named the Big 12 preseason freshman of the year .

“Mo is a unique player. He has the ability to impact a team in some very powerful ways,” Smart said.

Smart came to Texas two seasons ago as one of the hottest coaching names in college basketball and with the expectation of elevating a program back into a Big 12 title contender. His first season ended with a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, the same sort of March fade that made the program lose patience with Rick Barnes. Then came the losing.

There’s been no suggestion from the school’s administration that Smart’s job is in jeopardy. But with Bamba on board and point-guard recruit Matt Coleman feeding him the ball, Texas should be, and must be, much better.

“We can be a team that can play with anyone,” Smart said. “We’ve got a lot of maturing to do.”

Some things to watch for from Texas this season:

BIG MAN BAMBA

Bamba carries the expectation that he can dominate in college right away. Last season, Texas had forward Jarrett Allen, who was a first-round pick after his freshman season. Allen was good all year but seldom took over games like Bamba will be counted on to do.

POINT GUARD PRECISION

A huge problem for Texas last season was the lack of a true point guard and Smart never really coached one up. Coleman is a four-star recruit who will have targets like Bamba and Andrew Jones to get the offense moving. Coleman’s impact likely won’t make many highlight reels but it could be key in winning close games throughout the season.

TRANSFER’S TIME

Forward Dylan Osetkowski sat out last season after transferring from Tulane and gives the Longhorns much-needed versatility and athleticism up front next to Bamba. He had 11 double-doubles as a sophomore at Tulane and led the Green Wave in rebounding that season.

“Dylan and Mo, those guys are as good as anybody on our team as offensive engines. It starts with those guys. I’d doubt he’ll lead us in scoring, but he’ll make a lot of plays,” Smart said.

BIG SHOT DAVIS

Texas lacked the outside shooting that could deliver the daggers in big moments or help rally from big deficits. Guard Eric Davis was the top outside threat two seasons ago and needs to find that role again.

“We missed a lot of open 3-pointers last year. This is a make or miss game. The bottom line is we need to make more shots this year,” Smart said.

TEAM CHEMISTRY

It was a problem all last season as losses mounted and Smart suspended Tevin Mack, the team’s top scorer and best defender at the time. Mack never returned and eventually transferred to Alabama. A happy team likely plays as a better team.

High school basketball player collapses, dies at AAU event

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James Hampton, a member of Team United and a senior at Liberty Heights, a private high school in Charlotte, collapsed and died during a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game on Saturday night.

Hampton was 17 years old.

In the second half of a game against Nike Phamily, a Phoenix-based program that is run by the father of Marvin Bagley III, Hampton collapsed to the floor unresponsive. Trainers at the event began CPR on and administered chest compressions. Parademics arrived within 10 minutes, but Hampton could not be revived.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is not the first time that Hampton had an issue. Last spring, at an event in the Washington D.C. area, Hampton collapsed on the court and had to be given CPR.

“He just fell down on the floor,” Team United director Jacoby Davis told the Charlotte Observer. “He had seizures a year ago and I remember (one of the Team United coaches) telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that.”

RIP James Hampton.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.