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Stephon Marbury proclaims Dukes Zion Williamson’way better than LeBron’

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People are really excited about Zion Williamson. The high-flying, rim-rattling and highlight machine who doubles as a Duke freshman is a top-five player in the 2018 recruiting class and a likely top pick in the 2019 NBA draft. He’s fantastically good. He’s got college basketball fans champing at the bit to finally see him in action.

No one, though, might be as bullish (or delusional) regarding the 6-foot-7 phenom than former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury, apparently.

He’s got Williamson as better than LeBron James.

That’s 14-time All-Star, four-time MVP and three-time NBA champ LeBron James. The guy generally regarded to be the best player in the world’s best league for about the last decade or so. And maybe the best ever to play the game.

“Zion is way better than LeBron. It’s not even close,” Marbury proclaimed on Instagram Live over the weekend. “He hasn’t played one pro game. He don’t have to touch a ball, that’s how nice he is. He doesn’t’ have to touch a basketball, and he’s better than LeBron James.”

It would appear that a 13-year NBA career and a wildly successful run in China hasn’t made Marbury much of a talent evaluator. Sure, Williamson is really, really good, but to even talk about him being better than maybe the best player of all time before he’s played a college game, well, I feel like I don’t need to point out what the high-degree of dumb that is. 

“Only Zion has the opportunity to be better than Michael Jordan,” Marbury said. “Zion is going to destroy the whole planet. Remember that I told you that.”

It’ll be hard to forget.

Five-star guard Cole Anthony announces 12 finalists

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For a kid that’s the son of an NBA player (who also is prominently on TV as an analyst) and a top-five recruit, Cole Anthony has kept his recruitment remarkably quiet. Our own Rob Dauster wrote 2,500 words on him earlier this summer, and still had to “read the tea leaves” as to who, exactly, was recruiting the talented guard.

Anthony finally provided some clarity on the situation ahead of his senior year.

Twelve schools made the cut for Anthony, who will now consider Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville, Oregon, Villanova, Wake Forest, Pitt, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Miami as his college destination.

Anthony essentially had his pick of any school in the country, so this list is a trim, but considering the size of it, Anthony is still keeping his options open. Those options basically being all the top programs in the country. And Pitt.

(Sorry, that was mean to the Panthers. Clearly the hiring of Jeff Capel, who spearheaded Duke’s recruiting of recent seasons, is putting them in contention for top-level players.)

Anthony has said previously he’s looking to make a spring decision on where he’ll attend school.

 

Duke’s Alex O’Connell has surgery on broken facial bone

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DURHAM, N.C. — Duke says guard Alex O’Connell has had surgery to repair a broken bone in his face.

Team spokesman Mike DeGeorge said Friday that O’Connell had surgery Thursday on his fractured orbital bone and is expected back for the start of practice in September.

The sophomore broke the bone below his eye socket three minutes into the first game of Duke’s Canadian tour last week and did not play after that.

R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson combine for 59 in Duke win

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Two days removed from a win over Ryerson in the first of three exhibition games the team will play in Canada, Duke took on the University of Toronto Friday afternoon in Mississauga, Ontario. And as was the case Wednesday, prized freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson led the way in the Blue Devils’ 96-60 victory.

Barrett, who scored 34 points against McGill, tallied 35 on Friday while Williamson added another 24. Duke finished the game with three double-digit scorers as Joey Baker, who’s also a freshman, added 11 off the bench.

Duke hasn’t been able to use its full roster in Canada, as freshmen Cam Reddish and Tre Jones are both being held out due to health concerns. Reddish is nursing a groin strain, while Jones is recovering from a hip injury suffered before he arrived at Duke. The Blue Devils were down another rotation player Friday, as guard Alex O’Connell suffered a broken orbital bone during Wednesday’s game.

While those absences have given Barrett and Williamson even more opportunities to shine with the basketball in their hands, it also opens the door for other players to make a positive impression on Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff. On Friday it was Baker who took advantage, with Antonio Vrankovic (eight points, eight rebounds) and Jack White (six points, five assists) being two other players who performed well off the bench.

Duke wraps up its trip with a game against McGill Sunday afternoon in Montreal.

Video credit: FrankieVision

Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett highlights in Duke debut

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Duke is making its foreign exhibition debut on Wednesday night, as they battle respected Canadian program Ryerson in front of a packed crowd in Mississauga, Ontario.

It’s also the debut of the highly-touted freshman class that the Blue Devils are bringing in — including forward Zion Williamson and wing (and Canada native) R.J. Barrett.

Barrett and Williamson haven’t disappointed in their Duke debuts as each of the top-five prospects have dominated during stretches of the game. Both freshmen made some stunning highlight-reel plays as well.

Williamson had a monster putback dunk and a goaltend near the top of the square in the first half. Barrett already made an opposing defender look silly as a Ryerson defender made the mistake of jumping with him on a breakaway dunk.

Barrett finished with a game-high 34 points to pace Duke while Williamson had some electric plays in finishing with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Duke continues its Canadian exhibition tour through the end of the weekend as they’ll play a few more exhibitions against Canadian college opponents.

Bracket revealed for loaded Maui Invitational

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The Maui Invitational is a monster.

While the field for the 2018 edition of the event has been known for months, it’s strength and depth was on full display Tuesday when the brackets were revealed, pitting NBC Sports Way Too Early top-five teams Duke and Gonzaga on a championship collision course,

Duke will square off against San Diego State in its opening game while Gonzaga takes on Illinois in its opener on the opposite side of the bracket.

Other first round matchups include Auburn (12th in our preseason poll) vs. Xavier (26th) and a game of unknown-but-talented teams in Arizona and Iowa State.

“Each of the eight teams that step on the hardwood at the Lahaina Civic Center is capable of winning the 2018 Maui Jim Maui Invitational,” tournament chairman David Odom said in a statement. “All 12 games in Maui will help shape the course of the 2018-19 college basketball season, and the team that leaves the island with the Wayne Duke Championship Trophy will have incredible momentum to begin the year. The atmosphere is going to be electric, and we’re looking forward to hosting the teams and their fans in November.”

Simply, this tournament is stacked.

Gonzaga and Duke are going to draw the big headlines, but the rest of the tournament is going to be just as intriguing.

Can Auburn back up its SEC title? What does Xavier look like under Travis Steele? Can Brian Dutcher keep momentum with the Aztecs? What kind of team is Sean Miller going to have? Can Iowa State return to relevance after a last-place Big 12 season? Can Brad Underwood rally the Illini?

So while Chaminade isn’t in the field for the first time since the event’s inception in 1984 (the Silver Swords return on a rotating basis in 2019) and there won’t be any chance of a blockbuster upset, Maui is making up for it with an all-time field.

2018 Mauit Invitational