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Duke walk-on Besser to bike across the US for charity

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — One Duke men’s basketball walk-on will spend his summer biking across the country.

Brennan Besser plans to bike, walk and run from Seattle to New York to raise awareness and funds for his charitable foundation.

“Basketball, even though it’s a game that we all love, serves, really, as a vessel for the leadership coaching that (coach Mike Krzyzewski) teaches us,” Besser said Thursday. “The bike, I know that this is exciting … but it’s really just a vessel for the broader message.”

Besser’s roughly 70-day journey starts May 16 and will wind more than 3,400 miles across the United States. At most stops along the way, he hopes to hold basketball clinics or other events with the goal of generating $1 million for the Walk On America Foundation, which supports charities that help the intellectual and developmental disability community.

“What we’re hoping to do is shine a light on a part of the American community that doesn’t have that strong of a voice,” he said.

Krzyzewski describes Besser as a “one-of-a-kind walk-on” because “the spirit he brings is infectious on this team.

“Nothing he does surprises me, because almost everything he does is not about him,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s about his talents, his emotion and his effort to help others. This is a terrific thing that he’s doing this summer and he’ll accomplish so much for so many people.”

Besser’s inspiration is his older sister Jacqueline, who at age 23 is nonverbal with impaired motor skills and communicates largely through a tablet computer.

“There are millions of lessons that she’s taught me, but it’s those big things like, how do you deal with adversity?” Besser said.

He plans to travel 60 miles a day — some days for up to six hours — with a team of 3-5 people, including a medical professional, and has been training by biking around Durham. His longest ride has been roughly 2½ hours, but the Chicago native said he used to bike along Lake Shore Drive when he was younger as a “meditative activity.”

“I’ve tried to bike a lot, as much as I can, but time will tell,” Besser said.

He plans to enlist former and future Duke players to help with those clinics. When the route runs through Minnesota, Besser hopes Timberwolves players Amile Jefferson and Tyus Jones and Jones’ younger brother Tre, a rising Duke freshman, will help with a clinic. And he’s asked Grayson Allen to take part in an event in New York at the end of the journey.

Besser, a rising senior, first pitched the idea to another older sister, Rachel — a New York-based creative director — and he said her initial reaction was, “Here’s another of Brennan’s really big ideas” because “I end up tending to think, like, largely.”

“I’ve always wanted to do something that would help this community, only because of the close connection that I have,” he said. “I’m also a political science major, so I’m a bit of an American patriot. (To) merge them into one is something I’ve wanted to do. … The time is now. … We’re going to push strong to try to accomplish this.”

Oklahoma lands commitment from four-star prospect Jalen Hill

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Lon Kruger continues to assemble a monster 2019 recruiting class.

The Sooners received a commitment Thursday from Jalen Hill, a four-star wing from Las Vegas, to bolster a group that already is among the best in the country.

Hill chose the Sooners after visiting earlier this month. He had also visited TCU and had trips scheduled to DePaul and St. John’s. He also sported offers from Oregon, Arizona and Illinois. The 6-foot-7 small forward announced his decision at his school Thursday.

“I thought that it was just the best fit for me,” Hill told Rivals. “The the players over there are great and I just loved the coaching staff, really. They let you rock over there and let you be you.”In terms of everything else, they didn’t have a lot of wings coming back at that position. They compared me to Buddy Hield a little and said they might use me as a shooting guard and as a small forward.”

Hill averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in the EYBL with the Las Vegas Prospects. He’s the latest edition to Oklahoma’s 2019 class that already includes two top-100 prospects. De’Vion Harmon, a top-50 point guard from Texas, committed to Kruger and Co. last November while Victor Iwuaker, a top-100 forward also from Texas, pledged earlier this month. It’s a consensus top-10 class.

It’s hard to call Kruger underrated given the success he’s had in the college ranks and his stint in the NBA, but even with that recent Final Four run and the Trae Young Experience last year, the Oklahoma coach rarely seems to get his due as one of the top coaches in the country. He keeps winning – both on the floor and the recruiting trail.

Gonzaga lands commitment from top Lithuanian prospect

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Gonzaga has landed their third commitment in the Class of 2019, as Martynas Arlauskas, a 6-foot-6 Lithuanian wing, announced that he will be heading to Spokane for college instead of signing a professional contract.

Arlauskas ranks 42nd in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports, although he does not show up in their composite rankings; not even recruiting outlet ranks foreign prospects in their top 100. He spent last season played with the second division team from BC Zalgiris, one of the biggest clubs in Lithuania. He averaged 5.2 points as an 18-year old.

The last player Gonzaga recruited from Lithuania was Domantas Sabonis.

A skilled perimeter that is at his best playing on the wing, Arlauskas is the third member of Gonzaga’s 2019 recruiting class, joining Anton Watson, a top 50 prospect from Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, and three-star guard Brock Ravet.

Oklahoma lands four-star 2019 forward Victor Iwuakor

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Oklahoma landed its second four-star prospect in the Class of 2019 on Wednesday as forward Victor Iwuakor pledged to the Sooners.

The 6-foot-7 Iwuakor is a long-armed, undersized forward who has the strength and motor to still compete against other players on the interior. Rivals rates Iwuakor as the No. 116 overall prospect in the Class of 2019, as he joins top-40 point guard De’Vion Harmon in Oklahoma’s group.

Iwuakor is a great start to rebuilding Oklahoma’s frontcourt as they have a lot of scholarships to work with in this class. Now with two four-star prospects in the fold, head coach Lon Kruger is continuing to recruit at a high level — which is also a good sign that they’re capitalizing on Trae Young’s successful season becoming a top-five pick. Oklahoma was in a recruiting battle with Baylor and Texas Tech for Iwuakor, as all three schools received official visits, but the Sooners were able to pull the promising forward out of Texas.

Report: Oklahoma State’s Michael Weathers, arrested and suspended

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Oklahoma State has suspended potential go-to player Michael Weathers indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with felony grand larceny and knowingly concealing stolen property.

According to a police report obtained by CBSSports.com, Weathers is accused of stealing a wallet with a debit card and credit card, among other things, from a local bar called J.R. Murphy’s on Sept. 9. The estimated stolen value is $85, according to the incident report. Weathers was released on recognizance bond on Sept. 10 and arraigned Sept. 11 as a preliminary hearing for the case set for Oct. 1.

A transfer guard from Miami of Ohio, the 6-foot-2 Weathers was the MAC Freshman of the Year following his season with the RedHawks in 2016-17. He put up 16.7 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per game as the stat-sheet stuffing guard was expected to be a major contributor for the Cowboys this season. Weathers often had his practice performances praised by Oklahoma State coaches last season while he sat out a transfer year.

If Weathers misses any sort of significant time from this, then it will undoubtedly hurt the Cowboys’ perimeter rotation as he could be facing a suspension. We’ll have to see how everything with this plays out in court, but Weathers being suspended indefinitely so close to the start of the season doesn’t help Oklahoma State.

Tennessee beats Duke to commitment for five-star prospect

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Tennessee’s Rick Barnes is up to his old recruiting tricks.

The man that brought the likes of Kevin Durant and T.J. Ford to Texas, the coach that is currently the reigning SEC regular season championship, has gotten things going in the Class of 2019 as five-star guard Josiah James committed to Tennessee on Wednesday.

James picked the Vols over Clemson and Duke. He visited Tennessee the first weekend of September and took a trip to Clemson last weekend before cancelling his visit to Duke and announcing his commitment.

A top 15 prospect in the Class of 2019, James is a 6-foot-6 left-handed combo-guard. He’s more of a smooth athlete than he is super-explosive, but he has a strong frame that can absorb contact, the vision to create for teammates and the tools to be a switchable and versatile defensive piece. He needs to get more skilled — he’s not a great shooter, and while he is a good passer and creator, his handle could stand to get better if he truly wants to be a lead guard — but the potential is there for James to blossom into a first round pick one day.

James is the third commitment for Tennessee in the Class of 2019, joining a pair of three-star forwards in Drew Pember and Davonte Gaines.

This has been an incredible 12-month stretch for Barnes.

In his third season as the head coach of Tennessee, he took the Vols to a share of the SEC regular season title with a team that didn’t have a single player on the roster that was a top 100 prospect in high school. Everyone of significance from that team returned to the program, meaning that Barnes now has a preseason top 10 team heading into the 2018-19 season.

And now he’s beating out the likes of Duke and Michigan State for a five-star, potential one-and-done player?

Impressive.