Seven Sweet Scoops: A Viewer’s Guide to the McDonald’s All-American Game

Posted by Sean Moran on April 2nd, 2014

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Tonight the top high school players in the country gather to participate in the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American game held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Twenty-four of the top ranked high school seniors will provide the college basketball world with a glimpse of what can be expected from the next touted class of youngsters on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET. The high school class of 2014 might not have the star power similar to last year in a game that featured the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, but there are still several good storylines and match-ups to keep an eye on during tonight’s contest.


1. Chicago Natives At Home

There are three McDonald’s All-Americans from Chicago this year, including two of the top five players in the country. Five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star power forward Cliff Alexander will suit up for the East and West squads, respectively. The two played together on the AAU circuit this past summer and faced off in high school action several times over the last three years. Okafor is considered the No. 1 player in the country and is headed to Duke next year, while Alexander is ranked No. 5 and has committed to Kansas. Alexander put together a monster senior campaign, but it was Okafor who won the Illinois state title. Okafor and Alexander excel with different styles although they are both low post scorers. The 6’11” Okafor has the more refined post game and is almost impossible to stop in a one-on-one situation while Alexander is a DeAndre Jordan clone who looks to dunk and block everything in sight. While these two might not match up in tonight’s game, you can be certain that they will both have the hometown crowd on their feet. To go along with the Windy City twin towers, there is also diminutive 5’9” point guard Tyler Ulis (#29). The four-star prospect is headed to Kentucky and will be the quickest player on the court. The floor general is great at beating his man off the dribble and creating easy shots for his teammates. Ulis will suit up on the East squad along with Okafor, while Alexander will play for the West.

2. Where Will Myles Turner Go?

There is only one prospect in the game that remains uncommitted and he is 7’0” center Myles Turner, who is also the No. 2 ranked recruit in the country. This time last year the Texas native wasn’t even considered a top 100 player, but after a meteoric rise last summer he is now the hottest commodity in high school. Turner just recently took an official visit to Texas after previously visiting Ohio State, Duke, Oklahoma State and Kansas. He has also taken unofficial visits to SMU and Texas A&M, and is also reportedly considering Arizona and Kentucky. It’s been a whirlwind journey for Turner, who plans to sit down with his advisers and family after the Jordan Brand Classic to discuss his choice of suitors.

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Who’s Got Next? Top McDonald’s All-American Match-Ups

Posted by Sean Moran on February 3rd, 2014

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Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

This past week 24 of the top high school seniors in America were selected for the most prestigious prep event in the country, the McDonald’s All-American game. After moving around to different spots for a number of years, this game is now held each year at the United Center in Chicago and gives college basketball fans a chance to catch the soon-to-be top incoming college freshman. NBA general managers and front office staff also descend on the Windy City in order to watch the team practice sessions held the two days prior in order to assess the prospects that will start to enter the NBA Draft in 2015 and beyond. This year’s event features many interesting personnel match-ups that will take place in the practice sessions and in the nationally-televised game. There were also several surprise selections to the rosters and a few noticeable omissions, all of which we’ll cover below.


Top Game Match-Ups

1) Jahlil Okafor, 6’11”, C (#1 overall) vs. Myles Turner, 7’0”, C (#2 overall)

The top two players in the country will face-off at opening tip on April 2. The two big men matched up back in August during the championship of the Adidas Nations tournament in Long Beach, California, but this time around the stage will be much brighter. Jahlil Okafor, the hometown favorite, has been groomed for this day from the time he first stepped on the court for Whitney Young (IL) as a freshman. Myles Turner, on the other hand, was not even a top 100 prospect one year aga, but a scintillating summer and high school season vaulted him up the recruiting rankings and to the top of many NBA Draft boards. Okafor’s game is based on power and a soft touch close to the basket while Turner is a long, lean and versatile center. Okafor has been frustrated this season with the constant double- and triple-teams and will finally face a man-to-man defense when going up against the superb shot-blocker, Turner. Okafor committed to Duke in the fall and Turner is the top uncommitted prospect in the country with the Blue Devils in his final six along with Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Texas.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Malachi Richardson to Syracuse, Diamond Stone’s High Profile Visitors, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on December 13th, 2013

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Malachi Richardson Announces for Syracuse

With 97 of the top 100 prospects in the class of 2014 already committed to colleges, the majority of ongoing recruiting speculation has turned to this year’s junior class. Two five-star prospects from the class of 2015 are currently committed in forwards Ben Simmons (#8 overall, LSU) and Mickey Mitchell (#16 overall, Ohio State). Today Malachi Richardson became the third five-star recruit to make his announcement as he chose to stay on the East Coast and play at Syracuse. The 6’6” Richardson is rated as the No. 17 prospect in the class of 2015 and the No. 3 small forward. He made his college selection this afternoon from Trenton Catholic (NJ) High School and chose the Orange from a list of six schools that also included Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Rutgers, and Villanova. He most recently took an unofficial visit to Syracuse and watched its victory over Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. With that commitment, Richardson joins four-star forward Tyler Lydon (#94 overall – 2015) in Jim Boeheim’s 2015 recruiting class. Richardson is a lethal scorer with a sweet stroke from the outside and will cause a lot of problems in the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense with his 6’10.5” wing span.


2. Top Center in 2015 Receives Hall of Fame Visitors

Two Hall of Fame coaches made their way out to Milwaukee over the past week to check in on 6’10” Diamond Stone, the top center in the class of 2015, and the No. 2 prospect overall. Last Friday, Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel started their Midwestern recruiting trip by watching Stone and his Dominican (WI) High School team defeat St. Thomas More in a game where Stone finished with 23 points. Four days later, Roy Williams and assistant coach Steve Robinson made a quick trip to Wisconsin and watched Stone’s 24-point performance in a blowout win against Prairie (WI) High. Both rivals have made Stone their number one big man target in the class of 2015; however, it might be hard to get the five-star center out of his home state. Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Wisconsin’s ‘Bo Ryan have also recruited Stone hard during his early high school tenure. Marquette sits right in his back yard and had Stone on campus for its version of Midnight Madness this fall. He was also high school teammates with freshman point guard Duane Wilson. UNC currently has Wisconsin native J.P. Tokoto in its starting lineup, but the last time both UNC and Duke went after a Wisconsin kid they both lost out to Bo Ryan in the recruitment of freshman guard Bronson Koenig. Expect Stone to receive a lot more visits from Coach K and Roy while Buzz and Bo Ryan try to keep the talented big man in Wisconsin.

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What to Make of Duke’s Monstrous 2014 Recruiting Class

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on November 22nd, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski is on top of the world. At 66 years old, most people would be retired or nearing the golden age of relaxation and 4:00 PM dinners. But not Krzyzewski; he is gaining a second wind and dominating the recruiting landscape like few senior citizens before him. On Thursday afternoon, Duke landed five-star wing prospect Justise Winslow from the Lone Star State, which by itself would be enough to build around for most programs, but Winslow instead is the third five-star recruit and fourth top-30 recruit Duke has landed in the 2014 class.

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Just last Friday Duke landed the second-best point guard and fifth best prospect in the entire class in Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones. Jones is a pass-first point guard who makes everyone around him better. And it doesn’t hurt that he is best friends with and the first half of a package deal featuring center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, who many have dubbed the best back-to-the-basket big man prospect since the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, is the top-ranked prospect in the 2014 class. Krzyzewski put it best when he said it was ‘three years of hard work’ paying off in the end with the signings of both players. The addition of 6’6” wing Winslow this week rounds out an already extremely potent recruiting class for the gold medal-winning coach. Winslow brings a physicality and athleticism that will have him poised to challenge for a starting position on the wing from day one. He has a college-ready body and is an extremely tenacious perimeter defender who will relish the easy looks provided by Jones’s penetration and double teams on Okafor.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 18th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. starting this year off with what for my money was the best preseason event in recent memory. Combining the history of the Duke/Kansas/Kentucky/Michigan State programs with the incredible talent those squads have this year was a November treat for any college basketball fan who has grown tired of the NFL’s unthinkably terrible Monday/Thursday schedule this fall. Michael Wilbon said it right in his column after the game — this type of night makes college basketball relevant earlier in the year and gets people paying attention before January. I think you saw that same sentiment from those coaches, too, in their postgame interviews – this was not your ordinary non-conference event.

I LOVED…. Jabari Parker. When I look at freshmen now, I put them through what I call the Kevin Durant Eye Test. When you saw Durant during his unbelievable freshman year at Texas, you stopped doing whatever it was you were previously doing. You thought, no way is this kid this big with these type of perimeter skills and that feathery stroke. No way is he only 18, and no way would he not be making an impact on an NBA team right now. Parker passed that test, and this year is going to be fun.

Parker and Friends are Worth Stopping What You’re Doing to Watch Them

I LOVED…. that I still had to think about if the night’s star was Parker, because UK’s Julius Randle (Zach Randolph should sue for post-game style patent infringement) and KU’s Andrew Wiggins (who woke up for the second half against Duke to remind us what all the hype was about) delivered similarly eye-opening performances. I also loved that for how great Parker and Randle were, it was the more-balanced Jayhawks and Spartans that came out on top.

I LOVED…. Kevin Ware back on the floor. It’s hard to remember the last time that everyone wanted to see a kid back on his feet more than Ware, whose gruesome injury last March caused America to collectively turn their heads away from the TV set. Making his first three-pointer was pretty great, but I loved this past week even more when Ware cut into the lane and bounced off of a two-foot jump stop for a high-flying finger roll at the cup. What a great story.

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Who’s Got Next? The Impact of Friday’s Big Announcements

Posted by Sean Moran on November 18th, 2013

whos-got-next

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Friday marked a landmark day for college basketball recruiting. In a span of one hour, four consensus top 10 prospects in the 2014 recruiting class announced their college decisions. If there is anything fans learned this week it’s how important top freshmen are to some of the premier programs in the country. Jabari Parker (Duke), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Julius Randle (Kentucky), and Aaron Gordon (Arizona) all captured the nation’s attention during last week’s game action, but on Friday it was time to learn where the next batch of sensational freshmen were going to play their college ball. Normally Kentucky is the school associated with showcasing talented incoming freshmen, but with Friday’s announcements it was Duke, Kansas, and Arizona all coming out as this year’s big winners. Not only will these three schools stay in the national title picture in 2014-15 as a result, but each has served notice that it has adapted its philosophy and will not back down to Kentucky for top recruits in the future.

Okafor and Jones will make Duke one of the teams to beat in 2014-15

Duke received the first good news of the day when five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star point guard Tyus Jones simultaneously revealed Duke hats from their high school gymnasiums. It was widely known that the 6’11” Okafor and the 6’1” Jones planned to play at least one season of college basketball together and Duke capitalized on their friendship that had formed through USA Basketball training camps. Okafor hails from Chicago and is considered the No.1 player in the country while Jones comes from Apple Valley, Minnesota, and is ranked No.4 in the country as a point guard. The commitments give Duke two players who will fill key positions of need for the Blue Devils.

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ACC M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 18th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Pitt News: Great article from a couple of weeks ago from Pittsburgh student Jasper Wilson, who spent some time with Panther alumnus Ricardo Greer. Greer was a star (though he took a backseat role to All-American Brandin Knight his senior season), who graduated in 2001. Now Greer plays basketball in France, where he’s played the majority of his professional career. Wilson does a great job illuminating Greer’s life with the boons and challenges that come with playing basketball in Europe. Really great work.
  2. Run the Floor: Suffice to say Boston College‘s season hasn’t opened the way Steve Donahue planned. The Eagles are 1-4. Their one win came by three, at home against a bad Florida Atlantic team (the same team Duke beat by more than thirty points). Their losses are all to decent teams (Providence, Massachusetts, and Toledo), but decent losses don’t help your RPI–especially home losses against Toledo. Donahue’s team may just be taking some time to come together, but their performances are starting to look eerily consistent.
  3. CBSSports.com: Gary Parrish thinks that Lebron’s Decision influenced consensus top-five recruits Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor in their decision to pick a school together. It’s an interesting idea, and I think it also applies to the super-classes that John Calipari has strung together. Jones and Okafor chose Duke, giving the Blue Devils the top class in the country for next season. Consensus top-ranked prospect Okafor, a back to the basket center, will give Mike Krzyzewski his most skilled big since at least Carlos Boozer (and possibly Elton Brand). 
  4. Tar Heel Blog and One Foot Down: A couple of ranked teams got embarrassed this weekend. Lathan’s article from Friday looks especially prescient after North Carolina lost to Belmont at home. The Tar Heels went a shocking 22-48 from the free throw line, which certainly contributed to their loss. But they also choked up a six-point lead in the final minutes thanks to some hot shooting from Belmont. Notre Dame also lost at home to Indiana State (the first November loss of Mike Brey’s tenure) thanks to putrid offense and absolutely nothing from its backcourt. [side note: Syracuse also produced an abhorrent free throw line this weekend, putting up the old 12-28 from the charity stripe]
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Virginia‘s loss to VCU raised a lot of questions about the team’s ability to close games. Yes, Tony Bennett is playing an inexperienced point guard, but that’s no excuse for letting any game close on a 10-1 run. After the game, Bennett noted that his team needed to be mentally stronger (quoting Bob Knight in the process). Unfortunately, mental strength won’t cause a shot-creator to appear. Joe Harris is one of the best players in the ACC, but he’s not a guy that will break you down at the end of the shot clock. He has to find a way to be more effective (probably drawing a foul on a drive into the lane) because Virginia won’t come close to it’s potential if it continues playing like it did against the Rams.
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Morning Five: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Friday’s major commitments turned out to be a case of the rich get richer. The big announcement was the simultaneous commitment of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones to play for Duke next year. As we said on Friday morning just the addition of those two should give Duke the #1 recruiting class in the country this year and quite possibly make them the preseason favorite for the 2015 national title. In perhaps the most controversial move of the day Cliff Alexander selected Kansas, but not before picking up an Illinois hat, putting it down, and then finally putting on a Kansas hat. The move generated a fair amount of criticism with many Illini fans and possibly the coaching staff thinking that they had the inside track on Alexander, an Illinois native. We doubt that the two teams will play next season, but we imagine the reception that Alexander would receive would not be unlike what Eric Gordon received on his only trip to Illinois. In the wake of the other news, Stanley Johnson‘s commitment to Arizona got lost in the shuffle, but the addition of another Mater Dei star (Aaron Gordon is also from there should help the Wildcats reload and help ensure that they will still be a force when Gordon presumably leaves Tucson after this season.
  2. In a reminder that fans should not be too hard on a recruit when he spurns your school, Quentin Snider announced that he was backing out of his commitment to Illinois (Friday was not John Groce’s finest day) and recommitting to Louisville. Snider originally committed to Louisville in August 2011 before backing out of that commitment at the end of July 2013 and chose Illinois in September 2013, but when Jaquan Lyle backed out of his own commitment to Louisville the Cardinals needed a point guard for the class of 2014 and Snider decided to return to his original commitment. Although Snider never officially announced it, Lyle’s committment and backing out of his committment at Louisville likely played a large role in Snider’s vascillation.
  3. The case involving Duke Mondy and Dante Williams that led the two Oakland players to temporarily be arrested on rape charges before being dropped. Without getting into too many details (you can go to TMZ for that, seriously) it appears to be a case of the players getting involved with a woman after their curfew while on a road trip and the woman becoming upset at the end and accusing the players of rape. While the players were able to avoid any serious legal repercussions it appears that they may be facing a rather stiff punishment from the school.
  4. At this point in the season we do not know what to think of Florida with their ever-changing roster. While Billy Donovan did reinstate Dorian Finney-Smith, who responded with 17 points and nine rebounds in his first game back, they are still without Damontre Harris, who remains off the team. With all of the uncertainty around the Gator lineup they remain one of the harder teams to get a handle on early in the season. Having said that if Donovan can get some semblance of a rotation by Christmas time they could be a tough out in March once again.
  5. Last year, Jack Taylor made international headlines with his 138-point performance. This year, he barely gets a mention in the Morning Five with his 109-point outburst yesterday. Taylor’s performance yesterday is third all-time trailing just his effort last year and a 113-point game in 1954. His stat line (and his output) would be a solid five game stretch for most players: 35-of-70 from the field, 24-of-48 3, and 15-of-17 from the  free throw line. Perhaps our favorite part of the game summary is the school mentioning the “big games from others” who scored between 10 and 15 points. For perspective, Taylor scored 53 in the first nine minutes of the second half.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Okafor, Jones, Alexander and Johnson Commit in Decision Day 2013…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 15th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. The Decision Is In: Okafor and Jones Are Off to Duke

The Package Deal is Done: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are headed to Duke next fall.

In the Champions Classic, Kansas got the better of Duke; today the Blue Devils are back on top. The package deal announcement came in this afternoon as five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star point guard Tyus Jones committed to Duke over Kansas and Baylor this afternoon on ESPNU. The decision bumps Duke up to the No.1 spot in the recruiting rankings and automatically turns the Blue Devils into a title contender next season. The two have long discussed playing together and formed a strong bond through their time as Team USA friends as well as through AAU and camp travel. Okafor is the No. 1 player in the class of 2014 and laid claim to the top spot this past winter when he took over the title from Jones, who is now ranked as the No.4 player overall. Okafor stands at 6’10” and will provide a strong post presence for the Blue Devils, which they are currently lacking. With his size and touch he is almost unguardable in the post and will create a need for constant double teams. Jones stands 6’1” and has been touted as the best true point guard in the land for a few years now. He is a wizard with the ball and has range from the NBA three point line. Every team wants a strong point guard and post presence and Duke just landed both, so in turn they will once again be in contention for a national title in 2014-15. This marks the second year in a row that Coach K has signed the top player from Chicago, with last year’s recruit current freshman sensation Jabari Parker.

2. Big Cliff Off to Kansas

While Kansas lost out on Okafor and Jones, it did land five-star center Cliff Alexander, who played his cards close to the vest throughout the recruitment process and chose the Jayhawks over in-state school, Illinois. The Chicago native is currently ranked as the No. 3 center in the class of 2014 and No. 5 player overall. Other schools in the mix were DePaul and Memphis but the decision ultimately came down to Kansas and Illinois. John Groce was pitching Alexander on being the hometown hero that stayed in the Land of Lincoln, but the lure of playing for the Jayhawks was just too much. Alexander has ties to Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who had recruited Alexander as part of Bruce Weber’s staff for a while. His girlfriend is also a freshman at Kansas and on the women’s basketball team. At Kansas, Alexander will be able to operate in the high-low offense that Self runs and with his ever-expanding offensive game he will be able to score down low on power moves and also show off his improved outside shot. Alexander will join five-star small forward Kelly Oubre (#6 overall, #1 SF) in the class of 2014 in Lawrence. Over the past few years, Alexander has lived in Okafor’s shadow despite playing the Duke recruit to a draw the past two years. While Okafor decided to head to the east coast, Alexander will make a name for himself in Lawrence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kansas Lands Alexander, Misses On Jones & Okafor

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 15th, 2013

It’s official. Cliff Alexander, a 6’9″ power forward from Curie (Chicago) High School, is headed to Kansas next season.

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

Alexander Is Headed to Kansas Next Season

In a ceremony at his high school on Friday afternoon, Alexander announced his commitment to Bill Self and the Jayhawks for the 2014-15 season, joining fellow top prospect and Kansas commit Kelly Oubre, a 6’7″ swingman from Sugar Land, Texas, via Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Alexander is a physical athlete that plays above the rim and will be expected to make an instant impact in Lawrence next season. The Chicago big man was believed to be solid on Kansas just a few short weeks ago, but gained momentum to Illinois as of late when many believe Kansas backed off on Alexander in an attempt to focus their efforts on Jahlil Okafor, Rivals’ number one ranked recruit in this year’s class. It was believed that Alexander’s long-standing relationship with former Illini assistant and current Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, coupled with the fact that his girlfriend plays basketball for the Jayhawks, would be enough to lure the talented big man to Kansas. If current Kansas center Joel Embiid bolts for the NBA after this season, as many anticipate, Alexander will easily help fill the void and solidify the Kansas frontcourt along side sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor next year. Landing Alexander continues Self’s recent success on the recruiting trail after hauling in the second ranked class in 2013 with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Embiid, among others. The combination of Alexander and Oubre, along with the Jayhawks’ returning talent next season should have Bill Self’s squad poised once again as a legitimate title contender in March 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

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Duke Trying to Strike a Balance With Its Perimeter Defense

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 15th, 2013

Everyone knew Duke would be a very different team this season compared to 2012-13. Last year’s team was built around three seniors — Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry. Plumlee was an athletic big man, but the other two relied on a high skill level to make up for a lack of elite athleticism. That team was clearly better offensively than defensively and had a very good year with a run to the Elite Eight and a loss to eventual national champion, Louisville. With the addition of some quicker and more athletic players, the expectation for this season was that Duke would get back to the effective pressure defense that Blue Devil championship teams of the past had shown. That was clearly not the case in Tuesday’s Champions Classic loss to Kansas. The offense was good, scoring 83 points in a 75-possession game, but the defense was not, allowing Kansas 1.25 points per possession and matching the worst performance Duke’s defense had in any game last year.

Duke could not stop Kansas down the stretch. (Photo: Getty images)

Duke could not stop Kansas down the stretch. (Photo: Getty images)

So what went wrong? There could be multiple reasons. but they may not all be fixable this season. The first explanation is that this is still a young and developing Duke team and it was only the second game of the year. Perhaps the ease with which the red-hot shooting Blue Devils dispatched Davidson in their opener gave the Blue Devils a false sense of where they really were as a team. That mentality seemed to be at issue down the stretch against Kansas. In his postgame interview, Mike Krzyzewski lamented the fact that his team just couldn’t get stops when they needed to, as if they were in a mindset that they could just outscore Kansas.

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Okafor, Jones, Alexander & Johnson: Next Year’s Title Contenders Start Today

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 15th, 2013

For any college basketball purists awaking from a decade-long slumber, I have bad news. The senior superstar is an extremely endangered species. I know, I know – the game cannot be the same without them, surely. But the good news? There’s a new breed of players taking over the sport, and if you happened to catch wind of the goings-on in Chicago on Tuesday night, you could be convinced that the raw excitement they bring to the game is every bit as compelling as the nostalgic narratives of their predecessors. We of course are talking about the freshman stars in today’s college basketball world, and it’s a discussion that, quite frankly, has never been hotter. Tuesday night’s Champions Classic gave college basketball and its starring freshmen a rare November national stage, and the kids did not let us down. After that display, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to simply enjoy this season before dealing with the next one, but the reality of the one-and-done era is that this will be our lone ride alongside Wiggins, Parker, Randle and the rest of the gang. So peering ahead, who’s in line to fill their shoes, and where will they be doing it? Today will go a long ways towards answering the second question, as four of the consensus top five players in the class of 2014 (according to RSCI hoops) will announce their college decisions this afternoon.

Jahlil Okafor And Tyus Jones Are The Class Of 2014's Prettiest Package; Today We Find Out Where They Will Be Playing Their College Basketball Next Season

Jahlil Okafor And Tyus Jones Are The Class Of 2014′s Prettiest Package; Today We Find Out Where They Will Be Playing Their College Basketball Next Season

Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have nabbed the majority of headlines heading into this recruiting bonanza day. Okafor’s status as the top player in the class has fairly added to his surrounding buzz, but the duo has found more notoriety from their package deal pledge. Jones and Okafor said they were going to play their college ball together from day one, and there has been little wavering from that stance here in the final days, which all but assures either Duke or Kansas (according to sources) of landing two top-five talents in one fell swoop. Bill Self and the Jayhawks are also a possibility for another talented Friday decision-maker, as Chicago-bred big man Cliff Alexander will choose between Kansas, Memphis, and Illinois. The last top recruit set to announce his decision Friday is California wing Stanley Johnson. The timing of Johnson’s announcement is surprising, as he previously declared he would wait and make his choice next spring. It appears that folks in both Arizona and Kentucky are bullish on the local team’s odds to land the top wing in the class of 2014, while USC also remains a possibility.

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