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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.

Illinois lands grad transfer big man Adonis De La Rosa

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Illinois added some much-needed interior size on Monday afternoon as Kent State center Adonis De La Rosa announced his pledge to the Illini.

The 7-foot, 260-pound De La Rosa started his career with a redshirt year at St. John’s before spending his second year of college at Williston State College. De La Rosa has spent the last two seasons at Kent State, as he averaged a solid 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on 56 percent shooting as a junior.

Since Illinois lost its frontcourt of Leron Black and Michael Finke from last season, the Illini were in desperate need of some experience on the interior as De La Rosa should be a nice option to plug into the middle. In a Big Ten conference that features physically-imposing big men like Michigan State’s Nick Ward and Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson, Illinois needed someone to counter those bigger interior players.

One of the key things to watch for with De La Rosa will be his health.

During March, De La Rosa tore his ACL during the MAC Tournament and had surgery on the injury later that month. While most ACL injuries require 6-to-9 months of recovery time, it varies for everyone. De La Rosa will likely still be recovering and working through the injury through the summer in order to get ready for the season.

Michigan coach John Beilein: Offer from Pistons would have been tough decision

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — John Beilein said he was never offered the Detroit Pistons’ coaching job.

“I never really had to make the decision,” the Michigan coach said. “That would have been a tough one.”

Beilein is now looking ahead to another season of college basketball after briefly emerging as a candidate for the Pistons. Not long after the news broke about Beilein’s talks with Detroit, he said he would be back at Michigan. The Pistons eventually hired Dwane Casey earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Beilein held a news conference to talk about the offseason. He led Michigan to the national title game this year before falling to Villanova, so the possibility of losing Beilein to the NBA was a jolt to Wolverines fans.

“I was not offered the job by the Pistons,” Beilein said. “We certainly had some mutual interest. I think they had a great candidate in Dwane Casey.”

Beilein said he was intrigued by the possibility of coaching in the game’s top league.

“I love coaching basketball a lot, and you’re watching the NBA playoffs, and you’re seeing what guys are doing, and you’re looking, like, they’re running stuff that we run,” Beilein said. “I don’t know if they watched us or I watched them. You can see, boy, if you have really highly skilled players — [Boston Celtics coach] Brad Stevens kept telling me, ‘I’m having a blast.’ When you hear those words, and your season’s over — so that was appealing.”

With the Pistons’ search behind him, Beilein can prepare for the 2018-19 season with the Wolverines. Michigan announced Tuesday that the team will go on a tour of Spain from Aug. 17 to Aug. 26 that will include exhibition games.

The Wolverines lost star big man Moe Wagner early to the NBA, but some key players return from what was one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers will be joined by what is expected to be a strong group of new recruits.

So Beilein has plenty to look forward to at the college level, and he indicated there might not be any more flirtations with the NBA.

“I think that I ran that race, and you can’t run that race too many times,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done, but I was really impressed with everybody in that organization, and I’ll be rooting for them like I always have.”

The other intriguing bit of recent news that at least partially involved the Michigan basketball program was Chris Webber’s appearance with Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh on Ann Arbor’s WTKA radio last week. Harbaugh asked Webber to be an honorary captain for the football team next season, and Webber sounded amenable to the idea.

A return to Ann Arbor by Webber — even if it’s for football — would be a big deal. He led the Michigan basketball team to the Final Four in 1992 and 1993, but a federal investigation revealed that a booster gave Webber and three other players more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes, and the NCAA forced the school to dissociate from them until 2013.

“There was five or six years where I was limited what I could say about that era. Since the ban’s been off, I’ve reached out to Chris several times,” Beilein said. “I continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to try and build bridges and just really work at making sure there’s a lot of healing going forward.

“I want every player that ever played here to feel like he’s a part of that building, including Chris and anyone else.”

With limited size on roster Brad Underwood embracing small ball at Illinois

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Illinois doesn’t have any returning size to speak of for next season as head coach Brad Underwood appears to be embracing small ball.

In a radio interview Friday with Lon Tay and Derek Piper on ESPN’s 93.5, Underwood addressed an Illini roster that features no players taller than 6-foot-6 returning to the roster from last season. While Illinois has a six-man recruiting class featuring 6-foot-11 Samba Kane and 6-foot-9 Giorgi Bezhanishvili, both of those big men are considered three-star prospects who are more developmental pieces in the class.

It means that Underwood is embracing three- and four-guard lineup possibilities while also potentially playing a smaller player at the five. With Trent Frazier coming back, along with talented freshman guards like Ayo Dosunmu and Andres Feliz, expect to see a lot of small-ball lineups for Illinois this season.

“I think everybody gets excited about bigs. Draymond Green is Golden State’s center. Draymond is 6’6”, maybe 6’7”. The most important thing to us in our system is guard play. Because it’s about breaking the defense down, it’s about playing with some tempo and pace. All of (our) perimeter players are different,” Underwood said in the interview. “Villanova played a lot of the time in the Final Four with three point guards on the court. So you could see Trent, Ayo and Andres Feliz on the court together. And I love the versatility because it’s creativity, it’s good basketball players and they can all do things that enable you to win. Pass, guard, shoot it, get it into the paint.”

Preach, Brad Underwood, Preach.

Illinois will undoubtedly have a disadvantage against many Big Ten opponents when it comes to interior defense and rebounding. But rather than playing big guys who might not be ready to help at all, Underwood seems content on putting his five best players on the floor — regardless of size or “positional fit.”

That approach has worked well for Golden State. As Underwood noted, it worked pretty well for Villanova last season.

This isn’t to say that Illinois should be viewed as some sort of Big Ten contender because they’re following in the mold of some recent champions. Small-ball isn’t some cure-all magic formula. The Illinois roster is very young and inexperienced and filled with question marks at multiple spots. But it means Illinois should at least be fun to watch next season as they could use some creative lineups to attack the Big Ten’s best.

(H/t: Derek Piper, Illini Inquirer)

Charles Matthews returning to intriguing Michigan team

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Michigan received some big news on Wednesday afternoon as the school announced the return of redshirt junior guard Charles Matthews.

The 6-foot-6 Matthews is opting to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he was a key two-way wing for the Wolverines last season. A strong postseason from Matthews helped lead Michigan to the national championship game. In his first college season as a starter after transferring from Kentucky, Matthews put up 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Matthews also shot 49 percent from the field, 31 percent from the three-point line and 55 percent from the free-throw line.

“I am thankful for the assistance Coach Beilein and the staff have given me in order to gain as much information as possible before making this decision. They showed great confidence and patience with me while I sorted this all out,” Matthews said in the release. “After much prayer and discussions with my family and the staff, I am excited to be returning to Michigan next year. I learned a lot throughout this process, but my main focus will now be completing my education at Michigan and leading my teammates to more success next season.”

The return of Matthews is huge for Michigan, as he’ll be a major contender to make the All-Big Ten team after his strong play in March. With the loss of Moe Wagner to the 2018 NBA Draft, as well as seniors like Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson exhausting eligibility, Matthews should be counted on to be the go-to scorer for the Wolverines next season.

That new role could also help to potentially enhance Matthews’ pro stock if he chooses to leave after next season — especially if he shows added consistency and a better perimeter jumper.

Michigan is also set to return point guard Zavier Simpson, forward Isaiah Livers and some solid role players like Jordan Poole and Jon Teske from last season’s team. With the Wolverines also bringing in a strong freshman class, led by five-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis, and they should once again be among the Big Ten’s best teams.

Maryland big man Bruno Fernando withdraws from 2018 NBA Draft

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Maryland big man Bruno Fernando is returning to school after withdrawing from the 2018 NBA Draft, the school announced on Monday.

The 6-foot-10 Fernando had a strong freshman season for the Terrapins as he averaged 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, earning All-Big Ten Freshman honors. Capable of making highlight-reel dunks, or protecting the rim, Fernando’s return is important for Maryland as he gives them a proven force on the interior.

With the Terps also bringing in transfer big man Schnider Hérard (eligible after first semester next season) and freshman Jalen Smith, Maryland might have one of the best frontcourts in the Big Ten next season.

Now Maryland awaits a decision from sophomore Kevin Huerter, as he’s also testing the 2018 NBA Draft process. If Huerter comes back, then Maryland could be an intriguing team to watch in a pretty open Big Ten race.