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UNION, N.J. -- Simi Shittu and R.J. Barrett admitted it was a little strange to be playing at Kean University in New Jersey on Friday night considering the NBA All-Star Game is in their native Canada.

"It's a little weird because it feels like we're missing out because some of my friends are playing some Jordan [Brand] event [in Toronto]," the 6-foot-8 Shittu said after putting up 16 points and 8 rebounds as Montverde (FL) Academy fended off a late challenge from Roselle (N.J.) Catholic to win, 59-55, at the Metro Classic.

"But we're here because we just wanted to get this win because this a building point to Dick's Nationals [where the team has won three straight championships] and we just wanted to jell when we get to the end of the season."

"It's a little weird because if we were at home, we would definitely be there," added Barrett, a sweet-shooting 6-6 freshman guard who went for 12 points. "It's weird being down here but we gotta focus because we got another game on Sunday."

Montverde (25-1), now 2-0 in New Jersey after crushing St. Joe's-Metuchen by 34 points on Thursday, will face Pope John XXIII on Sunday in the PrimeTime Shootout at Roselle Catholic.

As Canada becomes the focal point of the basketball world this weekend -- with everything from Carmelo Anthony trade rumors to Kobe Bryant retirement talk to discussions of Kevin Durant's impending free agency -- several of the brightest stars on the Canadian horizon are playing three games in four days with Montverde in New Jersey.

Ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, Montverde features Shittu, Barrett and injured 6-2 junior point guard Marcus Carr -- all Canadians.

"We're excited about having the Canadian kids," said Montverde coach Kevin Boyle, who's coached Ben Simmons, D'Angelo Russell, Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, among other pros or pro prospects.

"We think our team next year could be tremendous. There's another guy Andrew Nembhard who's coming to school next year who's a good guard, so a lot of times we'll have four guys who could possibly be on the Canadian Olympic team one day playing at the same high school, so we're thrilled about it."

Canadian basketball is all the rage this weekend.

Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, went for 29 points and 5 rebounds as the World Team lost to the USA, 159-154, in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Wiggins reportedly received a thunderous ovation upon his introduction in the starting lineup and was serenaded with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" late in the game.

Even LeBron James was asked to named three famous Canadians not named Drake.

"Tristan [Thompson], Cory Joseph and Andrew Wiggins," James told reporters.

Canada is loaded with young talent like Wiggins, Thompson, Joseph, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Ennis and Andrew Nicholson, and is eyeing a medal in the 2020 Olympics.

In the meantime, a younger generation of Canadians like Shittu, Barrett and Carr looks like the next wave.

"Yeah, we already played in the [Canadian] Cadet team together so as we get older, we could eventually get there," said Barrett, a sweet-shooting lefty guard who counts Steve Nash as his Godfather and the man who bought him his first crib.

His father, Rowan Barrett, is Canada Basketball's assistant general manager and a former player at St. John's who competed for Canada in the 2000 Olympics.

Carr, who is out with an ACL tear, credited Vince Carter's stint with the Toronto Raptors for spurring a wave of interest in basketball in the Toronto area within a hockey-dominated nation.

"We were definitely influenced by Vince Carter and then of course hearing about Steve Nash," Carr said. "He was kind of like that first guy who really kind of made it and was like an All-Star, a two-time MVP. So I think both those guys really kind of influenced the game. Just having our own team at home that we could watch, and Vince Carter being an exciting player, but also having Steve Nash, the guy who's actually from where we're from, that was the motivation also."

Carr said the reason this group of Canadians came to Montverde was to prepare themselves for a future at the highest levels of basketball.

In the past, Wiggins (Huntington Prep), Bennett (Findlay Prep) and Ennis (St. Benedict's Prep) chose other powerhouse American basketblal programs.

"That's kind of the goal," Carr said. "I mean we came down here after them. They kind of went the same path as us, playing in Canada for a little while and then came down here to try and prove what they could do against American talent and become scholarship players. So we're trying to be on the same path as them so hopefully we reach the same heights as them."

Carr said they chose Montverde over places likes Huntington, Findlay and St. Benedict's largely because of Boyle, who won five New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles at St. Patrick's before moving to Montverde. He has coached more No. 1-3 NBA Draft picks since 2011 than Kentucky's John Calipari and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

"I think it was the coaching," Carr said. "Me and Simi kind of talked before we came here and it was just like, Montverde was the highest level. They won Dick's three years in a row and we know Kevin Boyle is a great coach, probably the best coach in the country. So we just talked about the experience, like if you want to come down here and be the best you possibly could be, why not go to the best school?"

He added: "He's coached a lot of high-major players and top draft pick players and he says he sees us as the next wave of Montverde players to be pros or high-major players so that was an incentive for us to go there."

Boyle, who runs a wave of 10 players at opponents, has high praise for all three of his Canadian imports.

"Obviously, Simi's been one of the premier sophomores, I think he's without question going to be a high-major recruit," Boyle said of Shittu, who picked up an offer from Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski on Friday night to go with offers form Illinois, Baylor, Kansas State, New Mexico, and Oregon and interest from Kentucky, Washington, LSU, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Clemson.

"He reminds me of Al Harrington as as sophomore. He's raw in some ways but he always puts up numbers every game. He's gotta get his jump shot better, he's gotta get his ball-handling better but I think if he loves the game he's going to end up being a great player in two years.

"R.J.'s a very skilled guy, keeps growing for his age. He'll end up being a big guard. He's shooting a lot better from the 3 now. And he's gotta a lttle lower handle on the ball and he's gotta get that next level of toughness which comes with age.

"Marcus is one of the premier point guards in Canada and would've been our starting point guard if he didn't have an ACL tear this year."

This summer, Canada will have to go through the World Qualifying Tournament to make the Olympics in Rio.

Yet by 2020, when Wiggins, Bennett and that group is a little older, Shittu, Barrett and Carr will be in their late teens and potentially challenging for spots on the National Team roster.

"Yeah, that's my goal because we all played on the Cadet team this summer and we all jelled very well together and I guess once we just keep jelling as a team in Canada, we'll be a very dominant team in the Olympics," Shittu said.

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Tags: Montverde Academy , R.J. Barrett , Simi Shittu , Adam Zagoria

Adam Zagoria and Josh Newman deliver another episode The 4 Quarters Podcast, covering college hoops, recruiting, and the NBA for SNY.tv. 

First up, 6-foot-7 Bronx native Chuba Ohams announces his college destination exclusively on the podcast, and discusses why he made his choice. 

Then, Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle checks in as he makes a return trip to New Jersey for 3 games in 4 days. Later, Adam and Josh get the low down on all things John Calipari and Kentucky basketball from Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and then wrap the show with a round up of storylines including the Louisville scandal, Villanova reaching #1 in the polls, Seton Hall's NCAA chances, and more.

Rundown:

1st Quarter: Chuba Ohams Announcement (01:15)

2nd Quarter: Kevin Boyle (4:55)

3rd Quarter: Kentucky (10:30)

4th Quarter: College Storylines (23:00)


St. John's has yet to win a Big East contest this season and will take a 15-game losing streak into Saturday night's tilt with No. 1 Villanova at Wells Fargo Center.

Despite the long odds, Chris Mullin's team has an opportunity to pull off what would be a tremendous upset less than a week after the Wildcats (21-3, 11-1 Big East) were installed as the No. 1 team in the nation.

"I always talk about it being an opportunity," Mullin said Thursday on the Big East conference call. "That only comes if you play hard, unselfish, have good energy and are mentally focused on our game plan and know the personnel. Then you give yourself a chance to seize that opportunity. The preparation is so important leading up to the game. You have to put the work in to let yourself play free."

It won't be easy.

In league play, the Wildcats rank first in scoring defense (62.8), scoring margin (+12.8), scoring defense (62.8), free throw percentage (.801), field goal percentage (.465), and field goal percentage defense (.391).

After the Villanova game, the Johnnies play three of their remaining five at home, including two games at Madison Square Garden (Seton Hall, Providence) and one at Carnesecca Arena (DePaul). One of those -- particularly DePaul -- should represent the best chance to get a league win and avoid a possible 0-18 league slate entering the Big East Tournament (March 9-12) at the Garden.

"We have all new guys so that's something they've had to experience themselves," Mullin said of playing at the Garden. "As soon as you play one game there, within the first five minutes you get the feel it's a little different. Coach [Lou] Carnesecca always stressed to us that you're going on stage so you are practicing to get ready to perform at "The World's Most Famous Arena." It's really about the preparation to be ready to perform on the world's biggest stage."

 

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Tags: Adam Zagoria

 (John Rieger)
(John Rieger)

Kansas is back on the top line as a 1 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest Mock NCAA Tournament Bracket.

The Jayhawks replace North Carolina and join Villanova, Oklahoma and Iowa as 1 seeds.

Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon are the 2 seeds.

The 3 seeds feature Miami, Michigan State, West Virginia and Xavier.

The 4s are Kentucky, Iowa State, Dayton and Texas A&M.

Unranked Duke, the defending NCAA champion, is a 6 seed, while Louisville is no longer in the bracket after self-imposing a postseason ban.

As a result, the ACC leads the way with 8 teams in the Big Dance instead of 9 from a week ago. The Pac-12 has 7 teams and the Big 12 and the Big Ten get 6 apiece.

LSU and projected No. 1 pick Ben Simmons remain in the field as a 9 seed.

From the tri-state area, UConn, Seton Hall, Yale, Monmouth, Wagner and Stony Brook are all in the field, with Seton Hall facing a play-in game as an 11 seed against Cincinnati and Wagner facing a play-in game as a 16 seed against Texas Southern.

Syracuse is listed as an 11 seed against No. 6 Providence.

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Tags: Bracketology , Adam Zagoria

 (Kelly Kline / Under Armour)
(Kelly Kline / Under Armour)

Rawle Alkins began his official visit to Arizona on Thursday following a mid-week official visit to UNLV.

The 6-foot-4 Word of God Academy (N.C.) guard saw the Rebels beat San Jose State, 64-61, on Wednesday and took the above picture with interim head coach Todd Simon and assistant Ryan Miller, the lead recruiter on Alkins.

After taking an unofficial to Arizona late last month, Alkins began an official visit to the Pac-12 school in time for the Wildcats to host UCLA on Friday.

It will be the third official visit for the 6-foot-4 Brooklyn guard following trips to St. John's and to UNLV.

Alkins is currently working with a list of nine schools: North Carolina, N.C. State, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas, UNLV, St John's and Indiana.

 

BOLDEN HASN'T CUT LIST

Despite reports to the contrary, Marques Bolden has not cut his list to four schools, his father told SNY.tv.

Several reports indicated the 6-foot-10 big man from DeSoto (TX) had cut his list to Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma and TCU.

"Nothing has changed in the past month or so," Melvin Bolden told SNY.tv. "We have not added or dropped any schools."

Melvin Bolden declined to provide a list of schools for his son, saying they preferred to keep it private for the time being.

The McDonald's All-American big man is thought to be considering Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and TCU, possibly with others as well. He has taken officials to Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Oklahoma.

"I am still unsure and have a lot of doubts in my head," he told Rivals.com in the fall. "Knowing I still had those doubts I didn't want to sign until I'm sure.

"I could really watch teams play more and see where I fit in. Also I could continue to talk to each staff and see what kind of relationship I can develop with them."

 

FREE THROWS

Jax Levitch, a 6-6 shooting guard from Delray Beach (FL) Elev8 Institute, is currently on an official visit to Manhattan College, he told SNY.tv. Levitch is also considering Delaware, Toledo and DePaul, among others...St. John's has offered 6-8 sophomore Boubacar Diakite of Our Savior New American, according to Andrew Slater of 247Sports.com...Florida International is hosting 2016 Elev8 big man Levi Cook and 2017 Elev8 wing AJ Wilson for its game with UTEP, according to Corey Evans....Arizona offered 2017 Oak Hill Academy point guard Lindell Wigginton...Tennessee watched 2017 small forward Jordan Nwora on Thursday at the Park School in Buffalo.

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Tags: Marques Bolden , Rawle Alkins , Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

 (Jennifer Stewart / USA Today)
(Jennifer Stewart / USA Today)

Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker will replace injured U.S. Team selection Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, meaning Kentucky will still have six former players involved in All-Star Weekend.

Noel has right knee tendonitis.

Former Kentucky players DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and John Wall were selected for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game as reserves, while Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles and Booker are in the Rising Stars Challenge.

TNT will televise the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday at 9 p.m.

Booker, the 13th pick of NBA Draft 2015, is averaging 10.6 points and shooting 40.3 percent from three-point range in 48 games. The 19-year-old guard is averaging 15.2 points in his 23 starts, including a career-high 32-point performance against the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 19. Booker will also compete in the Three-Point Contest on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Air Canada Centre.

Also, Denver Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay will replace injured defending champion Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets in the Skills Challenge on Saturday.

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Tags: Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

Chuba Ohams is taking his talents to The Bronx.

"I want to let everybody know in the fall I'll be attending Fordham University," the 6-foot-7 Bronx native said on The 4 Quarters Podcast.

Ohams chose Fordham and head coach Jeff Neubauer over offers from DePaul, Providence, Rutgers, VCU and Long Beach State. He is currently living at home in The Bronx and working out after recently leaving Coastal Academy (N.J.), where he transferred to following a stint at Putnam Science Academy (CT). He began his career at Wadleigh High School in Harlem.

"I'm all about family and it's really close to home," he said. "I have a lot of trust in the coaching stuff. I've known [assistant coach] Tony Chiles for a long time. I'm good friends with Maurice Harkless who's in the NBA right now, so I've known Tony Chiles ever since he was at St. John's and I know the type of guy he is. He's been recruiting me since the summer and he never stopped. Even when he saw me blowing up and being recruited by high-major schools, he always recruited me and told me there's a home for me here."

He added: "I just took a visit [Wednesday] and I listened to what he had to tell me and I said, 'I'm all in. This is the place I want to be. It's the perfect spot for me.'"

Ohams grew seven inches in one year during his time at Wadleigh High School in Harlem, becoming a wing after initially playing guard.

"I'm a guy that I can shoot it, I can shoot it with range," he said. "I'm very athletic so I love playing above the rim. I can be a secondary ball-handler, just get the ball and go and get my teammates involved. I''m just a player that likes to win. I'll do anything to win."

Nate Blue, who also mentored Harkless, believes Ohams has a big upside.

"I think Chuba will be one of better players in this year's class," Blue said. "The things he does on the offensive end -- dunking, shooting over defenders and having confidence initiating the offense -- will make him a very good college player. Chuba has the chance to make a lot of money in this sport."

Tags: Adam Zagoria

 (Derick E. Hingle / USA Today)
(Derick E. Hingle / USA Today)

Buddy Hield may be the favorite for National Player of the Year honors, but don't try telling that to Ben Simmons.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons is picking himself as the top player in the nation.

"Oh myself, I'm not going to pick anybody over me but there's a lot of great players out there," Simmons told ESPN's Andy Katz after he dropped 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in LSU's 94-83 loss to South Carolina.

"I don't think anyone's better than me."

Simmons is the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, while the 6-4 Hield is the favorite for various Player of the Year awards.

Both players were among those named to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 List, with the winner to be announced April 8.

Meantime, LSU (15-9, 8-3 SEC) remains on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Tigers as a 10 seed at the moment.

Asked what it would mean to miss the Big Dance, Simmons said, "It would be annoying, frustrating, upsetting for me and my teammates. ...I'm not happy if we lose so we'll see what happens."

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Tags: Ben Simmons , Buddy Hield , Adam Zagoria

The Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 was announced on Wednesday.

The list is highlighted by LSU freshman Ben Simmons, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Providence junior guard Kris Dunn and Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield the favorite for National Player of the Year honors. Simmons is the only freshmen named to the list.

The 40th annual presentation of the John R. Wooden Award will be the anchor presentation of the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show presented by Wendy's. The men's and women's Wooden All-American Teams will be honored during the ceremony, as well as the 2016 Legends of Coaching Award, which will be presented to Tubby Smith, Head Men's Basketball Coach at Texas Tech. The event will take place the weekend of April 7-9, 2016.

2016 WOODEN AWARD LATE SEASON TOP 20 LIST

Ben Simmons, LSU
Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Damion Lee, Louisville
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
Gary Payton II, Oregon State
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Grayson Allen, Duke
Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Kay Felder, Oakland
Kris Dunn, Providence
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Nic Moore, SMU
Perry Ellis, Kansas
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

Tags: Ben Simmons , Buddy Hield , Kris Dunn , Adam Zagoria

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The hand fracture which has shelved Arlington Country Day (Fla.) point guard Luguentz Dort has done nothing to slow down the versatile 6-foot-3 guard's high-major recruitment.

Baylor and Missouri have offered the Class of 2018 prospect. Ohio State and Virginia have each been in steady pursuit of the Canadian-bred Dort, with Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals becoming a consistent presence in his recruitment.

"Love him," one D-1 assistant coach said. "Big-time scorer. Grown man already."

"Ohio State liked what they saw in Lu during the game he got injured," said Nelson Osse, Dort's AAU coach.

That game was ACD's dizzying 72-70 victory over blood rival West Oaks (Orlando) on Jan. 21.

One of the game's more compelling subplots was the anticipated matchup between Dort and his cousin, 6-foot-2 West Oaks guard Richardson Maitre. Maitre, a three-year starter at the school which produced flashy Corey Sanders (Rutgers), was recently offered by Boston College.

The two went at each other in that marquee and heated first half. Richardson scored 17 of his team-best 20 points and Dort turned in several big plays, attacking the rim in furious and fearless fashion.

The action came to a screeching halt when Dort landed hard on a drive, eventually leaving the game to a loud applause on a stretcher.

"It feels good when I play against my cousin, a guy who I grew up with and a guy who taught me a little bit of my basketball," Dort said.

"It's a blessed feeling. All of the family is proud of us."

That family includes Kenny Chery, the former Baylor guard. Chery, known for his shiftiness and a lethal 15-footer, played for the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2015 NBA summer league.

Dort said he is extremely close with Chery. Adept at speaking multiple languages, Dort is multi-faceted threat on the court.

"He just makes plays," Osse said. "He could attack the paint. He could shoot it, he's been working on his shot. There's all these little things he does that people don't see. He could guard, he rebounds well. To me he's an elite rebounder, offensively and defensively."

Osse describes Dort's on court demeanor as business-like. He rarely gauges the magnitude of the game, turning in the same level of energy and effort every night.

"He doesn't care who he plays against," said Osse. "He scored 33 points against Josh Jackson's team. I asked him after the game, 'do you know you just played against the no.3 player in the nation in 2016 and he didn't know. He's not a groupie type. Lu just goes out and plays."

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Tags: Recruiting

Back on New Year's Day, DeAndre Ayton made a bold statement when he came to New York for the Grind Session.

"I don't want no doubt," the 7-foot, 235-pound Ayton told SNY.tv at Baruch College. "This season I've got to show everybody there's no doubt that I'm the No. 1 player."

On Wednesday, Ayton was ranked the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 by Scout.com, with fellow bigs Mohamed Bamba of The Westtown (PA) School and Wendell Carter from Atlanta (GA) Pace Academy slotting in at Nos. 2 and 3. Trevon Duval, a point guard from Dallas (TX) Advanced Prep International, and Michael Porter Jr., a small forward from Columbia (MO) Tolton Catholic, round out the top five.

"I'm a lot more confident in my game than last year," said Ayton, who transferred to Phoenix (AA) Hillcrest from San Diego (CA) Balboa Prep. "I know that I am the most dominant player in the country."

Ayton injured his knee last season and has slowly eased back to full conditioning. Less than four months later, Ayton is already showing unparalleled levels of explosiveness and coordination for a player his size - two talents that could eventually make him the perfect big man for the modern NBA. While college teams are lining up for a shot at luring the 17-year-old phenom, Ayton is taking the recruitment process slowly.

"To be honest, I haven't really thought about [the college search]," Ayton said. "I'm waiting until the following semester."

Ayton did clarify that a previous report that listed Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas as his only three candidates was premature

"Those aren't really my top, top three," Ayton said, explaining that he hasn't begun research or even started speaking with coaches over the phone. "I don't get on the phone with anyone. I don't have any of their numbers. I'm going to visit soon. I just like those schools because I like the players that have come out of those programs.

"With Anthony Davis at Kentucky, to be honest, that's the dude of the future of the NBA. I really try to replicate my game after him."

Ayton was also quick to give nods of approval to Duke and Kansas as well.

"I mean Coach K is an all-time great," he said of Mike Krzyzewski. "Just like the other coaches Bill Self and Coach Ca [John Calipari]. I love [Bill Self's] program. I've been watching them for a while and everything runs through his bigs. He's just caught my eye to be honest."

Ayton says he's currently studying Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon and Robinson to add more nuance to his game. Like Olajuwon, Ayton's unique upbringing outside of the United States may have blessed him with athletic skills from other sports.

"I'm not a regular big, they say.," he said. "Soccer was my first sport before basketball so I move quickly. I'm very nimble on my feet."

Beyond the guard-like quick cuts and the swift feet in transition Ayton showed on Thursday, his balance is prodigious - especially considering the 7-foot frame. That balance is vital, as it could help prevent injuries down the road for a player who embraces contact on rebounds.

When asked who his top competitors were for the top spot in the individual high school rankings, Ayton was defiant.

"Nobody," he said. "Nobody to be honest. I mean, they can all come up to me as a team but there's no individual."

 

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Tags: DeAndre Ayton , Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

 (William Hauser)
(William Hauser)

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard made a very telling statement about sophomore power forward Angel Delgado following his team's victory over Georgetown late Saturday night.

"If he starts making that 15-footer he's going to be a dangerous, dangerous guy," Willard said after Delgado went for 19 points and 13 rebounds in a 69-61 victory.

Willard's comment sums up what several NBA scouts and college coaches say about the 6-foot-9 power forward from the Dominican Republic.

He has always been known as an otherworldly force on the boards -- Delgado is averaging 10.5 points and a Big East-best 10.1 rebounds -- but if he can master the mid-range jumper he will almost certainly be an NBA prospect in a year or two.

Delgado is currently ranked the No. 42 best sophomore nationally by DraftExpress.com.

"Angel is big and strong and improving," one NBA scout told SNY.tv. "He's a good rebounder, he needs to to learn how to shoot a free throw, a lefty jump hook and a medium jumper. The kid has a chance."

Added one NBA executive: "We talked about him. He's an undersized 4 who can rebound. He definitely needs a face-up game. He's not an NBA player right now, he needs to stay in school."

Of course it would be good news for Willard and the Pirates (17-6, 7-4 Big East) -- who have won four straight entering Wednesday's tilt with Butler -- if Delgado sticks around as long as possible.

The same could be said of fellow sophomores Isaiah Whitehead, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo.

Heading into Wednesday's game, Butler coach Chris Holtmann knew he had to game-plan for Delgado, who ranks 19th in Division 1 in rebounding.

"To begin with, he's an unbelievable competitor, he's got great hands, he's really talented and obviously he's an elite, elite rebounder," Holtmann said by phone. "I think he's one of the best rebounders in the country. He does a lot for their team. They've got a really talented group, but he does a lot for their group."

Asked if he believed Delgado could be a pro down the road, Holtmann said: "Yeah, I do, I do. I definitely think he's got that in him because rebounding translates and a nose for the ball translates and he's got the size to do it. At some point I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see him in the NBA."

For the time being, though, Delgado and his teammates are focused on trying to get Seton Hall into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has the Pirates as an 11 seed meeting Syracuse in a play-in game. But if the Pirates keep winning they should move off the bubble. Their schedule seems forgiving, too. Three of their next five games are at home, and two of their remaining road games are against DePaul and St. John's, the leagues two worst teams.

"That's what we want, we want to play in the NCAA Tournament," Delgado said Saturday. "We've been wanting this for a long time and I'm telling you, we going to be there."

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Tags: Angel Delgado , Seton Hall , Adam Zagoria

 (MUSTAFA HOOTEN )
(MUSTAFA HOOTEN )

Roselle Catholic junior Nate Pierre-Louis is one of the top point guards in the Class of 2017. He holds offers from UConn, Providence, Cincinnati, Florida State, Seton Hall, Creighton, Rutgers, Penn State, Miami, St. John's and SMU, among others. He will be contributing periodically to ZAGSBLOG going forward. Here is his first Player Blog.

Hey guys! It's Nate Pierre-Louis and I'm writing my first blog ever with ZAGSBLOG today!

This year has been an adjustment for me. Why, you ask? Coming from two prep schools, St. Peter's Prep of Jersey City and the prestigious St. Benedict's Prep in Newark to the two-time New Jersey state champions Roselle Catholic in Roselle, N.J.

The change has been really easy for me. This school makes me feel like my second home. I'm always at RC. The students are so friendly and warm and so are the teachers at RC. They make you want to succeed in the classroom because they're the ones screaming the loudest at the home games.

Coach Dave Boff and his coaching staff have made me feel very comfortable and supported. Coming from St. Ben's playing 45 some odd games to RC and playing in 25 regular-season games is a really easy adjustment. I'm proud I made this decision. At first I was resistant, but now I'm happy my family and I made this decision.

The season so far has had it's ups and downs, but we are truly just learning each other. We have six transfers in our eight-man rotation. Rome wasn't built in one day.

For me personally, I think our team can do anything we put our minds to. We are going through our growing pains but that's with every team. We are like brothers. Off the court we're together and on the court we're together. Brothers agree to disagree all the time. But truly we love each other.

Our main goal is to win the big three I call it. And it has never been done in RC history. The Union County tournament, the Parochial B state championship, and win a TOC which is the Tournament of champions. This is our team goal and my goal especially. As one of the leaders of this team it's my job to put big thoughts and accomplishments the minds of my teammates. "Always dream big." We can do anything we set our mind to, trust me.

So we talked about my team let's talk about me a little. I'm going to take you through the day of Nate Pierre-Louis on game day.

1. I have to take a nap for 1.5 - 2 hours
2. Then I take a shower to wake me up
3. I start blasting my playlist
4. I get into game mode

My playlist consists of Lil Bibby, Lil Herb, young thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Moose, Meek Mill, Shy Glizzy, Gilbere forte and a New Jersey rapper named Tsu surf.

On game day I'm so focused. I don't talk to anyone. I just get in complete Kill mode. In my mind I just know I have a lot of doubters. That's what gets me focused and keeps me motivated. I stretch and then I read what I have to do every game like a scouting report. Coach Boff usually comes in around the 5-minute mark of the JV game and starts talking about the game plan. I'm tuned in always.

I'm never nervous before games because I'm prepared. Why get nervous for a test you studied for? That's what explains my cool and calm demeanor on the court. But don't let my calm demeanor fool you. I'm looking to kill my opponent every chance I get.

This has been a fun experience writing for a blog for ZAGSBLOG. I'm really blessed and thank you for the opportunity. #Pending...
 

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Tags: Nate Pierre-Louis , Player Blogs , Recruiting , Roselle Catholic

 (Kelly Kline / Under Armour)
(Kelly Kline / Under Armour)

After taking an unofficial to Arizona late last month, Rawle Alkins will begin an official visit to the Pac-12 school this weekend.

The Wildcats host UCLA on Friday.

It will be the third official visit for the 6-foot-4 Brooklyn guard following trips to St. John's and to UNLV. The UNLV trip beganTuesday (today).

After recently speaking with head coach Sean Miller and assistant Book Richardson, Alkins added Arizona onto his list -- which now stands at nine schools. Arizona sees Alkins as being similar in body type to Stanley Johnson, a former lottery pick out of Arizona, and are pitching that comparison to Alkins.

Alkins told me on his recent trip to the Big Apple that Kobi Simmons texted him the day Simmons committed to Arizona and wanted to bring Alkins along.

"So before he committed, he texted me, he was like, 'Are you ready?' So I mean he's pretty cool. I played a lot with him over the summer, USA Basketball, adidas Nations, all of that stuff."

Alkins added: "I won MVP of those tournaments so it's not like he's going to steal my shine."

Arizona is two under the scholarship limit and will lose Gabe York to graduation and possibly freshman Allonzo Trier to the NBA Draft.

"I think [Simmons] is going to probably be the primary ball-handler, though, if I end up going there," Alkins added. "They're talking about getting Josh Jackson, too, so if they get [Simmons], Josh Jackson, me and imagine if Allonzo Trier stays another year, so who knows?"

The 6-foot-8 Jackson is considering Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas, among others. He is projected as the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and is ranked as the No. 1 player in 2016 by 247Sports.com.

"Imagine that lineup," Alkins added of a recruiting class that included himself, Simmons and Jackson.

Alkins is currently working with a list of nine schools: North Carolina, N.C. State, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas, UNLV, St John's and Indiana.

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Tags: Arizona , Rawle Alkins , Adam Zagoria

 (Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports)
(Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports)

NEW YORK -- In the span of four years, Todd Simon went from being the head coach at Findlay Prep to serving as the head coach at UNLV.

Also in a four-year span, Danny Hurley went from coaching St. Benedict's Prep to Wagner to Rhode Island, where he has an emerging Atlantic 10 power that lost its best player to injury in the first game of the season.

Now here comes Kevin Boyle as the next high-level high school coach who should make the jump to college.

All he needs is the right situation, the right administration and the right athletic director to make it happen.

"Kevin's a winner," Simon, whose team is 4-4 since he replaced Dave Rice, recently said on The 4 Quarters Podcast. "Having gone against him, I think we played him three times, had some great battles with him. Kevin's a winner and I tend to believe he'll be a winner wherever he goes....He holds the kids accountable. I certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for him and think he'd be great."

I wrote a similar column a year ago, suggesting that colleges should think outside the box and hire Boyle to run their program.

I bring it up again now as Boyle is about to bring his loaded Montverde (FL) Academy team back to his home state of New Jersey for three games in a four-day span, including contests Thursday and Friday in the Metro Classic at Kean University and on Sunday in the PrimeTime Shootout at Roselle Catholic.

Boyle has proven more than capable of running a high-level high school program -- two, including St. Patrick's -- and he is an able candidate for college head-coaching jobs, particularly in his home region.

Consider this: Assuming Ben Simmons becomes the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in June, Boyle will have coached more No. 1 draft picks since 2011 than any coach in America not named John Calipari.

If you include players drafted at Nos. 2 and 3, Boyle will have actually coached more top-3 picks since 2011 than any coach anywhere, including Calipari and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

During that span, Boyle will have coached two No. 1s (Simmons and Kyrie Irving), two No. 2s (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and D'Angelo Russell) and a No. 3 pick (Joel Embiid).

During that same span, Calipari has produced two No. 1s (Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns), one No. 2 (Kidd-Gilchrist) and one No. 3 (Enes Kanter).

Coach K over that span has coached players chosen No. 1 (Irving), 2 (Jabari Parker) and 3 (Jahlil Okafor). Duke freshman forward Brandon Ingram is currently projected at No. 2 by DraftExpress.com.

And in many cases, Boyle actually coached these guys longer than their college coaches and had more time to develop them. Irving was at St. Patrick's for two years, and at Duke for one. Kidd-Gilchrist spent four years at St. Pat's and only one at Kentucky. Simmons played for Boyle for three years at Montverde, leading the program to three straight Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament championships. He will almost certainly only be at LSU for one season.

In terms of recruiting and developing talent, there's no question that Boyle can get it done.

He knows how to win, too. Just witness his three straight national championships at Montverde and his five Tournament of Champions titles at St. Pat's. His current team (22-1) is loaded with young talent and ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today and No. 1 by MaxPreps.

And at St. Pat's and, especially, Montverde, Boyle has essentially run an outfit similar to a small college program.

"Having come from that level, I have a tremendous respect for the level of coaching at the high school level and the prep level," said UNLV's Simon. "I truly believe in prepping for games at this level and prepping for games at that level, your margin for error at this level is actually bigger. At that level, if you lose one or two games you're out of the national hunt.

"The games are [also] shorter. A lot of the states [like New Jersey] don't even have shot clocks. You know you're going to have X amount of possessions in a college basketball game. In a high school game, you might get eight possessions for the entire game, so your margin for error is less. You really better be good...and so it grew my appreciation for how good those coaches are as basketball purists at that level. I don't think it's any surprise the success that [Danny] Hurley and Kevin Keatts have had, the trend is going that way because they can really coach the game at that level."

Boyle has always maintained that if the right opportunity came along he would consider it.

Make no mistake: He's got a pretty good gig right now. He makes a low six-figure salary coaching at an elite academic skill on a plush campus outside Orlando. Year in and year out, he's coaching some of the best young players in American high school basketball. His current team includes potential future pros R.J. Barrett, a freshman guard, and Simi Shittu, a sophomore forward -- both of whom are Canadian.

"I'm extremely happy and there's no question I have the best high school job," Boyle said a year ago on The Four Quarters Podcast. "If you ever came on our campus, it's an incredible Southern-style campus. It's an incredible school...

"Obviously, if somebody walks in with an opportunity for you, you would definitely look at them....Obviously in life you have to look at situations, is it a better situation for you and your family or are you better where you're currently at? I'm happy where I'm at and we'll go from there."

The time is now for some smart, enterprising college AD to think outside the box and hire Kevin Boyle.

***

Here are the complete schedules for this weekend's events:

METRO CLASSIC, Feb. 11-12, Kean University, Union, N.J.

PRIMETIME SHOOTOUTFeb. 13-14, Roselle Catholic, N.J.

 

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Tags: Montverde Academy , Adam Zagoria

Hamidou Diallo will visit Syracuse and Maryland this month. (Ned Dishman / Under Armour)
Hamidou Diallo will visit Syracuse and Maryland this month. (Ned Dishman / Under Armour)

Louis King, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, has enrolled at Hudson Catholic but won't play this season, as first reported by SNY.tv.

"He is enrolled at Hudson Catholic but he will not be participating in basketball this season," a school administrator who requested anonymity told SNY.tv.

King is on his third school after starting at Roselle Catholic and then transferring to Pope John XXIII, a school with which he recently parted ways.

King holds offers from Kansas, Syracuse, St. John's, Seton Hall, VCU and Manhattan, among others.

His AAU teammates Jahvon Quinerly and Luther Muhammad are also sophomores at Hudson Catholic. Together, the three of them along with guard Atiba Taylor of Pope John and forward Naz Reid of Roselle Catholic were part of a "Fab Five" offer made by Seton Hall.

 

DIALLO PLANNING VISITS

Hamidou Diallo, the 6-5 Class of 2017 guard from Putnam Science Academy (CT), will visit Maryland on Feb. 21 for the Michigan game and Syracuse on Feb. 27 for the N.C. State game.

"They both do a really good job with guards," Diallo told SNY.tv.

Diallo holds offers from UConn, St. John's, Indiana, Louisville, Maryland, Villanova, Florida, Kansas and Syracuse, among others.

Jordan Tucker, the 6-7 wing from Archbishop Stepinac, will also visit Maryland for the Michigan game.

Diallo's visits were previously reported by Mike Waters of The Post-Standard.

 

MARQUETTE LATEST TO OFFER YOUNG

Marquette is the latest school to offer 6-9, 240-pound senior big man Kalif Young of Orangeville Prep, head coach Larry Blunt told SNY.tv.

Young also holds offers from Providence, Pittsburgh, Alabama, Minnesota, St. Bonaventure and Illinois State.

"Kalif is a very skilled lefty with college strength already," Blunt said. "He has incredible feel for the game and can shoot the ball consistently from 17 feet in, and the pick-and-pop 3. You can throw the ball to Kalif on the block and not only can he score, but he is an exceptional passer. He can hedge on ball screens and even switch out on guards in late-shot clock situations. He's a great kid with a great family.

"Kalif will be a household name before the year is out."

Blunt said Young is in "no rush" to make a decision.

"Their family is taking their time," he said.

FREE THROWS

Delaware watched uncommitted senior guards Aaron Walker and Tareq Coburn of Cardozo on Tuesday...Among those on hand for St. Benedict's Prep's 54-40 win over New Jersey Prep rival Blair Academy were Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, Rutgers' Eddie Jordan, Seton Hall's Kevin Willard and assistants from Manhattan and NJIT. Georgetown offered 2017 St. Ben's guard David Beatty last summer, and also watched 2017 Blair wing Kodye Pugh, who turned his ankle in the third quarter. Seton Hall and Rutgers have both offered 2017 Blair point guard Matt Turner.

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Tags: Recruiting , Adam Zagoria

 (Jamie Rhodes)
(Jamie Rhodes)

Rick Pitino reiterated during an interview Tuesday morning on ESPN's "Mike & Mike" that he knew nothing about the allegations at Louisville and said he will be "totally vindicated."

"In the end I think I'll be totally vindicated and people will understand how it happened," Pitino said.

Pitino also said that if Louisville AD Tom Jurich "thought for one second" that Pitino knew anything about the allegations, "I would've been gone a long time ago."

Pitino didn't really break any new ground in the interview but asserted once again that former Louisville staffer Andre McGee acted alone and that he urged McGee to come forward and tell the truth about the alleged sex parties for players and recruits orchestrated by Katina Powell in Billy Minardi Hall from 2010-14.

Pitino reiterated he had one phone exchange with McGee after the news broke, and also sent McGee a text.

"I'll always love you but I want you to do one thing, just tell the truth," Pitino told McGee. "Because there's a criminal investigation going on right now, he can't tell the truth right now."

Pitino said he had several nephews who lived in Billy Minardi Hall and they were unaware of the alleged sex parties.

"At the time I had three nephews that lived in that dormitory," he said. "...Right away I went to them and I said, 'Did you ever see anything that went on in that dormitory?' and they said, 'Uncle Rick, if we saw anything we could come to you right away.'"

Pitino said he saw the dorm, built in honor of his late brother-in-law Minardi, who was killed in the 9/11 attacks, as a "sanctuary."

"I didn't say it didn't take place," he said. "What I did say was I have absolutely no knowledge. If someone broke a chair in that dormitory I would immediately go over there and get that chair fixed. That's how much this dormitory meant to me. It was a sanctuary and it meant the world to me."

Pitino also said he believes the allegations didn't help Louisville in recruiting.

"It didn't get us any recruit, a matter of fact it just damaged us," he said.

Pitino reiterated how heartbroken he is for his team that it will miss the postseason because of the self-imposed postseason ban the school imposed.

"I'd work for free if we could have this NCAA Tournament for these guys," he said.

Pitino repeated that the NCAA "system is broken" and that schools like Louisville and Syracuse should pay a financial penalty instead of forfeiting postseason games, which only impact current players and not those who were on campus when the allegations took place.

"If you have a team totally innocent of anything like this situation because of things that have gone on in the past I believe a heavy financial fine just like insider trading in the SEC should have been presented," he said. "....I think that's the way to do it."

As for his own future, he said he has no plans to retire anytime soon, and certainly not because of these allegations and investigations.

"I hope that time doesn't come for a long time for me," he said. "..But it's not gonna be because of this instance."

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Tags: University of Louisville , Adam Zagoria

On the same day it ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the AP and Coaches' Polls, Villanova also remained a 1 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest Mock NCAA Tournament Bracket.

Along with the Wildcats, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Iowa remain the 1 seeds.

Xavier, Maryland, Virginia and Kansas are the 2 seeds.

The 3 seeds feature Michigan State, West Virginia, Texas A&M and Oregon.

The 4s are Kentucky, Miami, Iowa State and Dayton.

Unranked Duke, the defending NCAA champion, is a 6 seed, while Louisville is no longer in the bracket after self-imposing a postseason ban.

As a result, the ACC leads the way with 8 teams in the Big Dance instead of 9 from a week ago. The Pac-12 has 7 teams and the Big 12 and the Big Ten get 6 apiece.

LSU and projected No. 1 pick Ben Simmons remain in the field as a 10 seed.

From the tri-state area, UConn, Seton Hall, Yale, Monmouth, Wagner and Stony Brook are all in the field, with Seton Hall facing a play-in game as a 12 seed against Syracuse and Wagner facing a play-in game as a 16 seed against Texas Southern.

Syracuse would also be in a play-in game as a 12 seed.

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Tags: Bracketology , Adam Zagoria

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The final day of the National Prep School Invitational was highlighted by Vermont Academy's 77-75 double-overtime win over Cheshire Academy. Miami recruit Bruce Brown had a chance to win it in regulation for Vermont but clinched the game with late free throws in the second overtime. Brown scored a game-high 21 points and was named as Player of the Game for the second time at the event.

In the other games, Omari Spellman (Villanova) scored 24 points to lead St. Thomas More to a 77-59 win over GB Academy (Czech Republic). GB Academy finished a respectable 2-2 this week. Northfield Mt. Hermon defeated a tired Helsinki Basketball Academy 97-56. AJ Brodeur (Penn) led the winners with 18 points. The Helsinki team impressed he college coaches this week and will be returning to the tournament next year. They serve as the unofficial academy of the Finland basketball federation and feature quite a few future high major recruits.

The Tilton School had their hottest shooting night of the year in a 106-84 win over Spire Academy. Robert Martin hit six three-pointers on the way to a team leading 31 points. Jordan Blount was very impressive for Spire scoring 39 points, the second highest total at the event. In the final contest Bill Carothers of Canada topped Scotland Performance (PA) 72-69 as point guard Stefan Smith scored 17 points.

The All-Tournament Team consisted of: Most Outstanding Player -Miye Oni (Suffield Academy) Yale and Omari Spellman (St. Thomas More) Villanova, Christian Vital,(St. Thomas More) UNLV, Kouat Noi (Montverde Prep), Fard Muhammad ((Montverde Prep), Hamidou Diallo (Putnam Science), Mamadou Diarra (Putnam Science) UConn, Marcus Otley (Spire), Jonathan Isaac (IMG) Florida State, Travis Atson (Notre Dame Prep) Tulsa, Lauri Markannen (Helsinki Basketball Academy) Arizona, Makari Ashton-Langford (Cushing Academy), Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson) Kentucky, Bruce Brown (Vermont Academy) Miami (FL), Jordan Blount (Spire Academy) and Dechun Burke (Coastal Academy).

Tags: Recruiting
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