AAC Team Previews: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Posted by mlemaire on November 1st, 2013

Our team preview style has been heavily cribbed from the microsite writers over in the Pac-12. We love them and assume they would take our attempt at loose imitation as flattery and not plagiarism.


Strengths: It was a bit surprising to see the conference’s coaches pick the Scarlet Knights to finish dead last this season because the team has one of the better and more experienced backcourts in the conference. No, they won’t enjoy the fruits of Eli Carter’s labors, but Myles Mack is a fearless scorer who can pick up some slack, and Jerome Seagears has plenty of potential if he can become a more efficient offensive player. Coach Eddie Jordan will also be in charge figuring out how to fit junior college transfers D’Von Campbell and Kerwin Okoro into the backcourt rotation, but those are four high-major talents to anchor the team’s guard play, and that doesn’t count Malick Kone, who is an experienced role player and adds depth. The Scarlet Knights were a relatively efficient offensive unit last season despite playing a slowed-down style. The pace won’t be much different this year as Jordan favors a Princeton-style offense, but the coaching staff has the tools and the talent in the backcourt to make it work.

Wally Judge Is Going Have To Come Up Huge In Rutgers' Frontcourt This Season (Tom Ciszek/NJSportsPhoto)

Wally Judge Is Going Have To Come Up Huge In Rutgers’ Frontcourt This Season (Tom Ciszek/NJSportsPhoto)

Weaknesses: The frontcourt has talented pieces like Kadeem Jack and Wally Judge, but they don’t have any true interior presence. Jack and Judge are big bodies whose styles are better-suited on the wings than in the post, and there is no one on the roster to protect the rim and nobody averaged more than Judge’s 5.4 rebounds per game. The good news is that the conference is backcourt-heavy when it comes to talent and Jordan’s starting lineup should be pretty competitive, but depth in the frontcourt and the team’s ability to defend against opponents like Montrezl Harrell and TaShawn Thomas and all of the lightning-quick guards who like to attack the hoop mean that the offense will have to shoulder a heavy burden, which is not likely given the style of play expected.

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Josh Smith’s Clearance a Game-Changer On and Off the Court

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 26th, 2013

When news broke Wednesday of Josh Smith’s accepted waiver and immediate eligibility for Georgetown, the bulk of the media reaction constituted pure shock. After all, without any known medical issues or hardship concerns facilitating the transfer, there was no indication that Smith would recoup two full seasons of eligibility after playing in six games as a junior at UCLA. The decision marks the latest puzzling chapter in the transfer waiver saga that unfolded over the offseason, and has left nearly everyone (outside the NCAA offices – or maybe not?) as confused as ever about the process – including CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish. The folks at Georgetown may or may not be surprised by the news as well, but they are surely excited to have their big man ready for the season opener. As for the rest of us, the state of confusion we currently find ourselves in is understandable, but perhaps it’s time to give the NCAA the benefit of the doubt. They may have finally figured out that more leniency with the transfer policy benefits both the kids and the sport. Increased transparency from the governing body will be necessary at some point, but for now, I’ll take Smith’s immediate eligibility as a sign of changing times.

Thanks To A Generous NCAA Ruling, Josh Smith Will Be On The Court When Georgetown Kicks Off Their Season In Seoul, South Korea On Nov. 8 (Harry How/Getty Images)

Thanks To A Generous NCAA Ruling, Josh Smith Will Be On The Court When Georgetown Kicks Off Their Season In Seoul, South Korea On Nov. 8 (Harry How/Getty Images)

When the NCAA overturned its own decision to deny Kerwin Okoro’s waiver request a month ago, we had to know then that the organization was finally beginning to hear the vitriol of fans and media surrounding the transfer issue. The Smith ruling may be a more subtle version of that phenomenon. Jay Bilas tweeted that the Smith ruling was “not objectionable,” but that what is objectionable is that “the NCAA rejects so many others, with no coherent policy.” Agreed, and while we have no coherent policy in place, the Smith decision certainly feels like the waving of the white flag. If the NCAA is going to set such a clear precedent with a case like Smith’s – after all the discussion on the waiver issue this offseason – we have to assume enough self-awareness on the part of the NCAA to presume that they are going to be taking a far softer approach to the issue. We can hope for a definitive public stance on the issue before next offseason, but the blatant nature of this case should mean we are headed for fewer denied waiver requests, and eventually, perhaps none.

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AAC M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on October 25th, 2013


  1. At this point, the Chane Behanan saga has me feeling like Michael Corleone. After reporters in Louisville were able to extract Behanan’s side of things while he was in a downtown Starbucks, I figured that would be the last we would hear of Behanan and his suspension for at least a few weeks, maybe even a month if we were lucky. But no, Rick Pitino can’t stay away from publicity for long, so of course there were going to be media members at his book signing on Thursday and of course Pitino was going to open his mouth and gently walk back the harsh words he had uttered about Behanan at a press conference just one week before. When Pitino had first said it “was not probable” that Behanan would rejoin the team, most people called his bluff, but no one could have expected him to call his own bluff this quickly. Now Pitino is feeling better about Behanan’s chances of returning to the team because he told the truth or something and Pitino said Behanan would be back on the team “in a short period of time”. He tried to clarify that “short” was a relative word, but at this point, no one is even listening.  What a giant unnecessary charade. Behanan will be back on the team, his absence probably won’t affect Louisville much in the long run unless Hartford and Louisiana-Lafayette have some players none of us know about and this whole suspension nonsense will fade from everyone’s collective memory.
  2. In a story that is bound to make you say, “Wait…what?” and since not a day can go by without us talking about multiple stories involving Louisville, back in April some guy tried to extort Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich by claiming he had knowledge of a point-shaving scandal and threatening to go public if he was not paid $3.5 million. Apparently totally unfazed, Jurich basically called the bluff and immediately notified the NCAA and the state’s Attorney General, who then looped in the FBI. This was undoubtedly a smart move as the blackmailer was later found to be a guy who had previously been convicted of trying to extort Best Buy and the guy was promptly arrested again yesterday. I am no expert on extortion, but it’s probably more effective when you try to blackmail a team that didn’t just win the National Championship. It’s not a foolproof defense of point-shaving, but it’s a pretty good one. This story basically materialized out of thin air and is now about to disappear again. If only we could be so lucky with the Behanan suspension.
  3. Between 2003 and 2006, 12 players entered the Connecticut basketball program and only one of those players actually graduated. For the mathematically challenged, that is a graduation rate of roughly eight percent — the national average was 74 percent for this time period — which is confirmed by numbers the NCAA released Thursday. Now, to be fair to the Huskies and its former oach Jim Calhoun, the GSR is a flawed rating system and players that leave early for the professional ranks count against the school’s GSR.  The article doesn’t say who the one player who graduated is, but it is probably safe to assume that players like Marcus WilliamsCharlie VillanuevaRudy Gay, and A.J. Price all counted against the school’s graduation rate despite the fact that all four of them ended up playing in the NBA. This doesn’t absolve the Huskies and Calhoun from blame. According to the article, the program’s graduation rate got worse and worse before bottoming out at eight percent, and the NBA is only partially to blame as UConn is hardly the only program that deals with early departures and those schools didn’t make headlines for their embarrassingly low graduation rates. The good news is that Kevin Ollie seems to have stabilized the program and helped get the team on track academically, so hopefully the rating will start to return to respectability soon enough.
  4. Our first three stories have all been centered around less than savory topics, so let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about the remarkable story of Iowa State transfer and now Rutgers guard Kerwin Okoro. Last November, Okoro’s father died of a stroke in Nigeria and two months later his older brother Idiongo died from colon cancer. Okoro transferred home to be closer to his mother who apparently works 16 hours per day, but because the NCAA is the NCAA, they initially denied his waiver to play immediately. Luckily for everyone involved, the Internet exists and outrage quickly spread across the country as Okoro’s story became well-known and people called out the obvious hypocrisy in the NCAA’s decision. The NCAA finally caved to public pressure last month and now Okoro is eligible to play immediately and should be a key contributor in coach Eddie Jordan‘s backcourt. The more detailed version of the story is on Adam Zagoria’s blog and it is definitely worth the read.
  5. Veteran Cincinnati reporter Bill Koch mulls over some questions about this season’s Bearcats, a team with as much to prove as any in the conference. Mick Cronin has done an excellent job of bringing the program back to constant relevancy, but despite plenty of talent, none of Cronin’s teams have yet to make the leap from good to great. Unfortunately for Cronin and the Bearcats’ fanbase, this season looks more like a rebuilding year than a contending year as the team needs to replace starting point guard Cashmere Wright and needs to find a few live bodies to play in the frontcourt and maybe score a basket or two. They do return star guard Sean Kilpatrick and brought in highly touted freshman Jermaine Lawrence, and there is more talent and athleticism on the roster. But, as Koch pointed out, there are a lot of important questions that need to be answered and those questions may be too much to overcome.
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American Athletic Conference Offseason Capsules

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 15th, 2013

We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows. 


When your team is fresh off a National Championship and looking like a legitimate candidate to repeat, the last thing you want as a coach is an offseason full of distractions. Luckily for coach Rick Pitino, the distractions and bad news have been very limited this summer. Tragedy struck as Luke Hancock learned he lost his father to cancer while trying out for USA Basketball in Colorado and there was a late-summer scare over a knee injury suffered by Montrezl Harrell which turned out to be much ado about nothing. But the team also got to visit the White House in July, learned that guard Kevin Ware hadn’t been secretly suspended over the summer and has now been cleared for practice.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.


If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuel cleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.


As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.

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Morning Five: 09.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 16th, 2013


  1. The NCAA has taken a lot of criticism, but we have to give them credit for coming to their senses and granting Kerwin Okoro a hardship waiver after transferring from Iowa State to Rutgers. The NCAA has managed to make plenty of highly questionable decisions over the years, but Okoro’s struck a chord due to callousness of it. We have questioned the NCAA’s at times over the top willingness to grant family hardship waivers to players who had some distant relative who was sick or a father who lost or quit a job as a coach. In the case of Okoro, the NCAA denied his request to transfer to be closer to his family after his father and brother died within a span of three months presumably because they were already dead (I know stupid). In the end, the NCAA corrected itself so Okoro will get what he deserved in the first place.
  2. Before we start to sound like NCAA homers, we should point out that we don’t agree with their decision to ban college coaches from attending practices at schools that are not underneath a governing body. The decision appears to target two schools–Findlay Prep and Huntington Prep–that produce an abundance of Division I talent so we suspect that coaches will be after the NCAA to reverse this. We can certainly understand the NCAA’s desire to cut down on diploma mills (not calling either of these programs that), but we are not sure what this accomplishes. The coaches will still be able to watch the recruits in games. This just makes it more difficult for recruits to catch the attention of a coach and slows down the process of recruitment. We also are not sure why they singled out these two schools as the ruling opens up a huge can of worms. Our best guess is that this ruling will get amended very quickly.
  3. Although they missed out on Emmanuel Mudiay, Kentucky got a nice consolation prize in Tyler Ulis, a four-star point guard, who committed to Kentucky on Friday night. With Andrew Harrison a likely one-and-done player it was essential that Kentucky get a point guard to replace him and after missing out on Mudiay it appeared that they were essentially down to Ulis or Tyus Jones, who is believed to be a Duke lean at this point. Kentucky beat out Michigan State and Iowa for Ulis’ services. The one catch with Ulis is his size, or lack thereof, as he measures just 5’9″ and around 150 pounds. We would never doubt John Calipari’s eye for talent (or at least his ability to recruit it), but this will certainly be something to watch for when Ulis presumably comes in as Wildcats starting point guard in 2014.
  4. It turns out that there is one more elite point guard in the class of 2014 who is still up for grabs after Louisville commit JaQuan Lyle backed out of his verbal commitment. Lyle is the second top point guard prospect to decommit from Louisville since July as he is following Quentin Snider, who backed out of his commitment from Louisville to commit to Illinois. It appears that the primary reason for Lyle’s decision was concern over playing time in a crowded Cardinal backcourt. We are a bit surprised that a player who is a top-25 overall recruit would be that worried about getting playing time on a team that admittedly has plenty of talent, but is not loaded with first round talent. Although Lyle has listed several teams, Kansas is the clear leader if they are willing to extend Lyle a scholarship.
  5. On Friday we mentioned the very real possibility that Syracuse and Georgetown would restart their rivalry even after they moved to different conferences. We hoped that they would serve as an example for other schools that had abandoned rivalries due to conference realignment. Based on a recent radio interview with Mike Krzyzewski it appears that it is unlikely that Duke will resume playing Maryland anytime soon. In between criticizing conference realignment, Krzyzewski essentially said he did not think that the two schools would play unless they were paired against each other in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (this is your chance, ESPN). We understand the logistical challenges of  scheduling non-conference opponents with the increasing size of conference schedules, but there are certain match-ups that we think should happen on a not infrequent basis and this is definitely one of them.
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After Puzzling Summer Rulings Is It Time To Wave Goodbye To The Waiver Process?

Posted by nvr1983 on September 10th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

Selection Sunday rarely leaves us unsatisfied. Sure, there will be questionable inclusions in the field and a handful of notables left out of the bracket, but give me a shout when you find a college basketball fan who counts themselves as a Selection Sunday detractor. The same cannot be said when it comes to the fad that is quickly becoming college basketball’s second most important selection process – the immediate eligibility transfer waiver. Maybe we are all a bit starved for relevant college hoops information, but in these dog days of summer the NCAA’s administration of the transfer waiver has become a definite hot-button topic. Two cases in particular have stirred the pot: the rejection of Rutgers transfer Kerwin Okoro, who lost two family members within a year and sought to be closer to the rest of his family, and the denial of wannabe Minnesota Golden Gopher Raheem Buckles due to FIU’s APR issues, but only after a former FIU teammate was granted the same waiver that Buckles sought. Many different outlets have weighed in on the issue, but only one thing is clear – there is no perfect solution.

Kerwin Okoro’s Failed Immediate Eligibility Hardship Waiver Has Left Many Asking For Answers From The NCAA (Credit: WNCN.com)

Kerwin Okoro’s Failed Immediate Eligibility Hardship Waiver Has Left Many Asking For Answers From The NCAA (Credit: WNCN.com)

One of the more supportive analyses of the NCAA and their waiver selection process comes from John Infante, who believes that in the big picture, “the waiver system is one of the NCAA’s success stories.” He does admit to the many individual failings when it comes to the enactment of the system and clamors for increased transparency, but the above point is one that many seem to miss. There may have been a number of cases, especially of late, that don’t seem fair, but we forget how many lives have been aided due to the existence of the waiver. Critics of the mere existence of the hardship waiver will argue that a player is free to transfer closer to home even without a waiver, but sitting that year out on the court is a sacrifice that should not be overlooked. Most of these kids have spent their entire lives building for these four years of basketball. Even severely ill (and selfless) parents may seek to avoid them missing that year on the floor, and potentially at all costs. The hardship waiver removes that gut-wrenching decision for student-athletes and their families. As Infante argues, it would be great to know a little more about the process behind the decision-making, but there are student-athletes out there whose lives have been unequivocally improved as a result of the waiver.

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Morning Five: 08.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2013


  1. When you have the facts, pound the facts. When you have the law, pound the law. When you have neither, pound the table. The NCAA would do well to remember this old legal axiom as it enters a dangerous stage of its lawsuit over image and likeness rights collectively known as the Ed O’Bannon case. On Monday of this week, the organization requested a 15-month continuance of the opening date of the trial — currently scheduled for June 9, 2014 — in a shamelessly transparent attempt to solidify its position by distancing itself from one of its most embarrassing gaffes in the past few years. Jay Bilas, anyone? EA sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., co-defendants in the case along with the NCAA, interestingly enough only requested a five-month continuance for the start of the trial. The federal judge overseeing this lawsuit, Claudia Wilken, had requested that the defendants come to a mutual agreement on trial date by Monday, but their inability to come to simple terms on that question may only serve to anger her as she weighs a number of important motions on class certification and other items that will seriously impact the case.
  2. And the hits just keep on coming. Mere days after a social media-fueled firestorm over the NCAA’s initial decision (subsequently reversed) to deny former US Marine Steven Rhodes from walking on to play football this year for Middle Tennessee, another controversy has enveloped the organization over an eligibility question that strains the limits of common sense. As The Star-Ledger‘s Tom Liucci writes, Iowa State transfer Kerwin Okoro was recently denied a waiver to play for Rutgers in 2013-14 because his medical hardships — Okoro’s father and brother each passed away last winter — are not current. The rule on receiving a medical hardship waiver states that the player must show “medical documentation of a debilitating injury or illness to a student-athlete’s immediate family member that is debilitating and requires ongoing medical care,” technically precluding Okoro from the benefit. But how about some big picture common sense here? While it’s true that Okoro will not be required to care for his now-deceased relatives, there are other compelling reasons involving his family’s overall healing process that should also be considered in such a decision.
  3. We’ve long known that Division I college basketball players are some of the best all-around athletes in the world, what with the core components of elite “athleticism” — speed, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina — all very well-represented in our sport. Several athletes who perhaps weren’t skilled enough for professional basketball found their way into other athletic sports — we’re thinking about NFL tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates here — but, as The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg writes, a lesser-known version of football played in Australia is looking at college basketball as a nice pipeline to find its next generation of ruckmen. A what, you say? Well, a ruckman is someone in Australian Rules Football who is tasked with securing possession for his team after dead balls and scores through a modified jump ball situation. Who better than to fit that need for our friends Down Under than undersized big men with explosive hops and a knack for getting their hands on the ball. As the world becomes flatter in economics and sport, we imagine that we’ll start to hear more stories like these as the rest of the planet discovers just how athletic our basketball players — even those outside the NBA — actually are.
  4. One of the most discouraging stories of last offseason has resurfaced in a big way with the news on Wednesday that former Xavier-turned-Maryland guard Dez Wells, he of the rape allegations so absurd that the local prosecutor publicly stated they were “fundamentally unfair,” has decided to sue his old school for damage to his reputation and a good old-fashioned apology. In an environment where seemingly every semi-public figure claims that he will sue to protect his good name after getting blatantly caught telling bold-faced lies, it’s encouraging to see a situation where the justice system will be used to mete out some actual justice. Xavier expelled Wells from its school last summer, citing a decision made by its Conduct Board (and upheld on appeal) that predated the related criminal grand jury investigation; as a result, Wells has since suffered mightily from the school’s rush to judgment. That he’s bringing this case while he’s still playing NCAA basketball is rich with storyline possibilities — could he somehow face his legal adversary in a postseason match-up for the ages between the Terps and Musketeers? We can only hope…
  5. A lot of schedules have been releasing over the past couple of weeks, and the most notable in the last 24 hours were from a couple of conferences. First, the SEC released its conference-only schedule, featuring a bunch of mediocre teams that nobody pays attention to until February a solid balance of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night games with the standard Saturday smorgasbord but lacking the Kentucky-Tennessee battle in Knoxville that has produced so many great contests over the years. A special thank you goes out to Texas A&M and Missouri for that omission. On the other side of the continent, the WCC also released its conference schedule, which means that the only two games of true importance in this league — Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s, Acts I and II — should already be inked into your calendar (January 2 and March 1). Many more of these releases to come in the next few weeks.
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Big 12 Summer Update: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by dnspewak on July 10th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. We begin with Danny’s update on Iowa State: 

Iowa State Cyclones

2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 (3rd place)

Fred Hoiberg is having a better summer than you. After every basketball writer in America questioned his risky strategy to recruit four Division I transfers to his Iowa State program last year, the Fab Four silenced the naysayers and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Hoiberg may lose the bulk of his starting lineup to graduation and the pros, but The Mayor has successfully changed the basketball culture in Ames in the span of just one season. So yes — he’s probably having a terrific summer by basking in his team’s 23-win season. And, more importantly, Hoiberg’s bosses rewarded him with a contract extension to give him some extra stability and millions of dollars in cash. That doesn’t mean there’s not work to do while the weather’s still warm, though. Hoiberg’s job now requires him to mix a large class of newcomers with a few returning veterans to keep Iowa State from becoming a one-year wonder.

The Mayor Is Smiling This Summer After an NCAA Tournament Appearance

Summer Orientation: It’s important to stay realistic about summer league basketball, but these statistics for Will Clyburn are too gaudy to ignore. The 6’7’’ wing, eligible next season after transferring from Utah, put up 111 points in two games in the YMCA/Capital City League this summer. He scored 63 in the first game and 48 in the next. For all you math majors, that’s a 55.5 point-per-game average over two contests. Small sample size? Certainly. And summer league? It’s not the NBA. But it’s encouraging for the Cyclones to see Clyburn excel, especially since that league features several of his Iowa State teammates. Former Cyclone Royce White even says Clyburn, a former All-Mountain West honoree at Utah, will make the team better this year than last.

Clyburn has already set a league record for points, but he’s not the only Cyclone making headlines in this league. Freshman Georges Niang actually held Clyburn to 28 points (measly, right?) when the two faced each other in the Y, and there are high hopes for this four-star stud forward from New Hampshire. Fellow froshs Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Naz Long are also earning some experience in this league before their first college seasons, and three-star forward Kerwin Okoro just joined the league in late June.

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