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UConn’s Mamadou Diarra out four-to-six months

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Dan Hurley’s first season in Storrs may begin with his sophomore forward on the shelf.

Mamadou Diallo, who averaged 10 minutes per game last season, will be out four-to-six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the school announced Monday.

“The surgery went very well and there were no surprises,” UConn athletic trainer James Doran said in a statement released by the school. “Mamadou will begin rehab immediately and we would expect him to make a full recovery.”

The  6-foot-8 forward from Queens suffered the injury during workouts last week and an MRI revealed the extent of the injury. He’s no stranger to knee injuries as he sat out the 2016-17 season due to patellofemoral syndrome, a condition that results in significant knee discomfort from the stress of high-level basketball.

Diarra averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds while appearing in 31 games last season for the Huskies.

UConn went 14-18 last year in a campaign that ended with the firing of Kevin Ollie and the hiring of Hurley, who went to back-to-back NCAA tournaments at Rhode Island the last two seasons.

Kentucky leads country in attendance once again

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Kentucky led the country in average attendance last season while the Big Ten was tops among conferences, according to data released by the NCAA.

The Wildcats had a total of 393,743 fans attend 18 home games for a country-best 21,874 per game. Syracuse actually led the nation in total fans with 407,778 fans in attendance, but with 19 home games, the Orange narrowly trailed Kentucky with 21,462 fans per game.

Kentucky has led the country in attendance in four of the past five seasons and seven of the last nine.

Rounding out the top five was North Carolina (18,378), Wisconsin (17,272) and Creighton (17,000).

The Big Ten averaged 12,197 fans per game across the league with a total of 3,098,134 attending games for all 14 teams. The B1G also led the country in conference tournament attendance with 106,169 – which the league undoubtedly will look at as a huge success for it first foray into New York City and Madison Square Garden.

The SEC averaged 11,628 fans per game while the ACC was at 10,773, the Big 12 at 10,376 and the Big East at 10,371.

The Final Four had a total of 136,088 fans attend its three games while the entire NCAA tournament averaged 19,246 fans per session.

 

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.”

Summer league breakthrough for Harry Giles begs a what-if for 2017 Duke

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Back in the fall of 2016, Duke received 58 of 65 votes for the top spot in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. The Blue Devils, you’ll remember, were loaded. They brought back Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson, which would be enough of a core to compete in the ACC and the NCAA tournament itself.

But that’s not why Mike Krzyzewski’s team was the overwhelming national title favorite to start that season. It was the addition of two top-five phenoms that really had expectations for Duke championship-or-bust. Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles (and we shouldn’t forget 11th-ranked Marques Bolden) were going to be the one-two punch to make Duke not only the best team in the country, but maybe a dominant one, one that we would be comparing teams to for a decade.

It didn’t exactly work out that way.

Duke went 11-7 and finished tied for fifth in the ACC. They were upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by South Carolina. Though Tatum did deliver on his star power, eventually being drafted third in the NBA draft by the Celtics and looking like a potential future MVP candidate during Boston’s playoff run, Giles’ fortunes were more in line with the Blue Devils’.

Once regarded as a potential top pick in the 2017 draft, Giles struggled at Duke to return to the form that made him a top prospect before two ACL tears during his prep years set him back significantly. After undergoing a procedure on the knee in the preseason, he played a total of just 300 minutes for Duke, averaging 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He was drafted 20th overall by the Kings last June simply on the strength of what he used to be before the knee injuries seemingly sapped him of his undeniable upside.

When Giles didn’t play a minute last year as the Kings sidelined him to get his knees right, it only furthered the belief that his best basketball, even at just age 20, could be behind him.

Giles is offering an alternative theory this summer, though.

The 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas summer league games after a strong showing in the Sacramento league previously, but even more importantly is showing an explosiveness that belies his injury history.

That Giles, the version who could make plays like the one above with regularity, was what had everyone so excited about that Duke team just two years ago. If the Blue Devils would have had something approximating this Giles, who looks bouncy and aggressive and fluid, alongside Tatum – plus that veteran core – watch out. That was the thinking then, and it’s hard not to think about it again now with what looks to be a Giles renaissance upon us.

Super teams are all the rage in the NBA, but Duke had the look of a potential one in November 2016.

“I’m starting to put more stuff together,” Giles told the Kings’ website last week. “I’m starting to show more parts of my game. More and more each game that you might not’ve seen in my the few games that I played.

“I’m getting my groove back.”

What could be for Giles suddenly looks to be a high ceiling once again. It’s hard not to look back at what could have been.

Unless you’re partial to Carolina blue, I suppose.

St. Joe’s lands South Florida graduate transfer

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After knee injuries plagued his career at South Florida, Troy Holston, Jr. is looking to get things back on track with a new program.

The 6-foot-4 graduate transfer is headed to Philadelphia to join Phil Martelli at St. Joseph’s, he announced Monday.

”I know my journey is special and I want the world to know my story,” Holston wrote on social media. “New chapter awaits & I’m super excited to get there and get to workin’.”

Holston averaged 9.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game as a sophomore in 2016-17, but sat out last season after undergoing surgery on his left knee. That was the same knee in which he tore his ACL ahead of the 2015-16 season.

As a graduate transfer, he’ll be immediately eligible. In his announcement, Holston referenced having two years of eligibility remaining, which would require a waiver for the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2019-20.

“I am truly blessed to keep pursuing my dreams,” he wrote.

Holston shot 34 percent from the floor and 31.6 percent from 3-point range along with a 46.9 percent mark from the free-throw line in 2016-17.

Since earning an No. 8 seed in the 2016 NCAA tournament, the Hawks have struggled some, going 11-20 in 2016-17 and 16-16 this past year.

Four-star guard commits to Texas Tech

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Chris Beard is bringing another major talent to Lubbock.

Kevin McCullar, a four-star guard from San Antonio, committed to Texas Tech on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“It’s been a long journey but the time has finally come,” MCCullar said in his commitment video. “This has been an amazing process and I thank every coach and university that has recruited me and believed in me.”

McCullar, a 6-foot-6 wing, was originally in the Class of 2019, but announced earlier this spring that he would be reclassifying to join a college program in 2018. He chose the Red Raiders over four other finalists in Houston, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Kansas State.

“I think they just made him feel comfortable and confident in what they will offer him and what they can do to get him ready for college basketball and beyond,” San Antonio Wagner High School coach Rodney Clark told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “They made it feel like home and that he’ll be taken care of.

“He’s put in a lot of work on and off the court to prepare for this moment. He and his family figured it was a the best decision. And he feels he’s ready to go up there, work at it, learn the system and find his place or role. At the same time, Texas Tech is getting a darn good guard.”

McCullar, whose father linebacker at Texas Tech in the 1990s, joins a high-powered recruiting class for Beard. Khavon Moore is another four-star 6-foot-6 wing that has already signed with the Red Raiders and headlines a group that features another trio of three-star prospects.

Texas Tech made the Sweet 16 last season in Beard’s second year at the helm of the program. The Red Raiders have major ground to pick up after the graduation of Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith’s decision to leave school early for the NBA, but Beard is proving he can get enough talent to west Texas to keep things moving in the right direction.