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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Lineman Harris Chooses Missouri

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxMissouri received a commitment Tuesday from offensive lineman A.J. Harris from Blue Valley High School in Stilwell, Kan.

Harris gave the commitment to Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his staff during a trip to Columbia.

“There are a lot of good things about Mizzou, but some of them are that I have a former teammates that played there, Clay Rhodes,” Harris told PowerMizzou.com.  ”When I talked to him about it he told me it would be the best decision I ever made.

“Also, none of the coaches BS about the recruiting process. Coach Pinkel got the extension to 2020, so that added a lot of stability to the decision, too. Plus, all the faculties and my dorm are all within a square mile.”

Harris’ home is less than three hours away from Missouri’s campus. That proximity and Harris’ familiarity with the program helped the Tigers stand out early in the recruiting process.

“I’ve known it would be Missouri for about a month, but me and my dad wanted to wait to make sure the feeling stuck and to make sure nothing would change my mind on such a big decision,” Harris said. “I also wanted to do it in person, so we waited until I came (Tuesday) and I told the coaches in person.”

Harris, who considered offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, is the third prospect and first offensive lineman to commit to Missouri’s 2015 class. The other two commitments are from running backs Chase Abbington and Ryan Williams.

Missouri’s coaching staff will likely pitch the early offensive commitments to quarterback Drew Lock. The Lee’s Summit (Mo.) High School standout is a high priority for Missouri’s 2015 class.

Lock told 247Sports last month he’s torn between the options of playing for the in-state school or leaving the state to experience something new.

“Missouri is up there for me as far as being the hometown school and my dad went there,” Lock said. “Then again there is a side of me that wants to get away and a side of me that wants to stay home. It is 50/50 and how anyone would feel.”

 

Harris releases top 10

Running back Damien Harris from Madison Southern High School in Berea, Ky., recently released a list of the top 10 schools he’s considering.

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Calipari’s Kentucky Team Didn’t Give Up On Season Despite “Disappointments”

NCAA BASKETBALL: APR 01 New Kentucky Basketball Coach John CalipariWhen the word “undefeated” gets batted around and you then go 24-10, it’s viewed as a disappointing season.

When you’re picked as a preseason #1 and you then go 24-10, it’s viewed as a disappointing season.

When you’re expected to rebound from an NIT finish the previous year and you then go 24-10, it’s viewed as a disappointing season.

Anytime you go 24-10 at Kentucky, it’s viewed as a disappointing season.

You get the drift.  For many/most Kentucky fans, 2013-14 was a disappointment.  High expectations gave way to more “John Calipari can’t coach; he can only recruit” talk within the Big Blue fanbase.  Two NCAA Tournament wins — including a win over a Wichita State squad that actually was undefeated — have pushed the Wildcats’ record to 26-10 and propelled UK back into the Sweet 16.  Tonight, they face defending champ and cross-state rival Louisville in Indianapolis for the right to move on to the Elite Eight.

If Kentucky wins, it will be the school’s fourth Elite Eight in five years under Calipari.  Some disappointment.

In Lexington — as is the case in Durham, Chapel Hill, Bloomington, and Lawrence — the expectations are consistently high.  As in Willie Nelson high.  Very, very high.  In five seasons, Calipari has already reached three Elite Eights, two Final Fours, won one national title — is that all? — and won more than 80% of his games.  Those are some pretty remarkable accomplishments considering the fact that Coach Cal basically starts from scratch with a new batch of freshmen starters every single season.

Still, this year has been viewed as a let-down in the Commonwealth.  Calipari doesn’t see it that way.  ”Every game we lost was like a two-point, three-point game,” he said yesterday.  While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, his point is sound — UK was in most of its losses until late in those contests.  Then came a change prior to the SEC Tournament:

 

“We accepted roles… A lot of this was on me.  We hadn’t really defined roles, because we hadn’t really figured each other out.  And I wasn’t very specific on how we had to play.”

 

Nice of the coach to say, but you can be sure he’s taking on more than his fair share of the blame in order to protect his players.

Aside from Kentucky fans might have overinflated expectations year in and year out, there’s another lesson to be learned here — Don’t give up on a season before its actually finished.  As appears to have happened with Kentucky, it’s never too late for redemption in basketball.  Reach the NCAAs and all bets are off.

But don’t take our word for it.  Just check out the turnarounds of some of the other squads still dribbling this late in the season:

 

* Virginia lost four non-conference games before smoking through the ACC with a 16-2 mark.

* Wisconsin is already through to the Elite Eight despite a 4-5 start to its Big Ten slate.

* Down the road at Tennessee, the Vols have won eight of nine since finding themselves 15-11 on February 22nd.

* Michigan State went just 5-7 from January 25th through the end of the regular season.

* Iowa State opened Big 12 play 3-4.

* Dayton’s start to the season was 13-8.  They’ve gone 13-2 since and punched their ticket to the Elite Eight last night.

 

Calipari and his team weren’t the greatest team ever assembled as some had hoped/prayed/demanded.  So be it.  But the Wildcats’ season didn’t end in February, either.  There were still chapters to be written which meant all the moaning and groaning in the Bluegrass State was premature.

If Kentucky wins tonight, much more will be forgiven.  If UK loses — to hated Louisville — the grumbles will start anew.  But the reality is this: UK will have reached the Sweet 16 and knocked off an unbeaten top-five team to get there.  Couple that with Calipari’s prior accomplishments in Lexington and its ridiculous for anyone to put the word “disappointment” beside his name or beside his squad’s team photo.

In fact, the only people to be disappointed in are the nitwits who looked at a team expected to start four or five freshman and said, “Yep, they can go undefeated.”

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The SEC Picks Up Where It Left Off In Hoops… And That’s Not A Good Thing

Boy with Clothespin On NoseThere’s a word that’s somehow found its way into my vocabulary in recent months.  I’m not sure when or where it started, but I like it.  The word is “craptastic.”

As in, “My that was a craptastic start to the SEC hoops season.”

For those out there hoping that last season’s “Wait’ll next year” talk might actually mean something, uh, sorry.  Next year is opening up a lot like last year.  To wit:

 

*  Remember folks in the Bluegrass State talking about perfection and an undefeated season?  Well, that lasted all of three games.  Michigan State jumped out to a 10-0 lead and held on for the victory over the #1 (not for long) Cats.

*  Tennessee was picked to finish third in the SEC this season.  Unfortunately, the Vols promptly opened their season by losing to a Xavier team that was all of 17-14 last season.  The mighty Musketeers were without two of their starters last night, to boot.  Impressive.

*  LSU was picked to finish fourth in the league thanks to a strong recruiting class that included one 5-star and two 4-star prospects.  Whatever.  The Tigers dropped their opener 92-90 to UMass.  Nice defense against a Minuteman team that was bounced from the first round of the NIT by Stony Brook last season.  But let’s give credit where credit’s due… at least LSU grabbed a 3-0 lead before falling behind.  Kentucky and Tennessee never even led in their games.

*  The team expected to finish right behind UK in the SEC this season is Florida.  They fell to 1-1 on the season with a loss at Wisconsin last night.  Granted, the Gator hoops team is currently down to eight scholarship players thanks to injuries and suspensions — is it something in the water down there? — but the SEC needs non-conference wins.  Florida couldn’t provide one.

 

So what else happened last night?  South Carolina fell to Baylor (though they did gave the #23 Bears a good fight).  Vanderbilt struggled to put away Georgia State.  And Missouri beat a Southern Illinois squad that had a losing record last season.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s seven games, just two wins, one lackluster and the other over a lackluster foe.  And for good measure the four teams picked to finish on top of the SEC all dropped nationally-televised games.

In a word?  Craptastic.

 

UMass 92, LSU 90  (The Tigers’ Johnny O’Bryant had a big night — 23 points, 11 boards — despite missing much of the second half with foul troubles.)

Baylor 66, South Carolina 64  (Kudos to Frank Martin for praising the refs after a controversial call went against his team at the final buzzer.) Video highlights

Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74  (It shouldn’t surprise anyone if these two teams meet again right around April Fools’ Day.)

Vanderbilt 86, Georgia State 80  (A hat tip to Kevin Stallings who had to sweat a bit before moving into a tie with Roy Skinner for the most hoops wins ever at VU.) Video highlights

Wisconsin 59, Florida 53  (The Gators made a late run thanks to their full-court press, but it just wasn’t enough.)

Xavier 67, Tennessee 63  (The Vols shot 42% and once again played the gritty, gutty, ugly style of ball that will have Cuonzo Martin-detractors praying for a Bruce Pearl return all year.) Video highlights

Missouri 72, Southern Illinois 59  (Take that, Salukis!  The Tigers won their 20th consecutive home game.) Video highlights

 

 

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SEC Hoops Today – 11/12/13

basketballsMan, how I hate November.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of cool, crisp weather, leaves on the ground, Thanksgiving, the whole bit.

It’s just a huge bloody pain to cover 14 SEC football teams and 14 SEC basketball teams all at once.  The football fans wonder why we waste space on “preseason” basketball.  The hoops fanatics are ready to jump into their sport with both feet so they want more coverage of their sport than football.  It’s brutal.

And some folks wonder why we don’t cover women’s basketball, baseball and softball.  Yikes.

But with basketball season underway, here’s a quickie look at what’s on tap today… including one SEC game already in the books:

 

UMass 92, LSU 90 in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The Tigers — picked to finish fourth in the league at SEC Media Days last month — led only once in losing their season-opener.  Looks like the SEC is pickup where it left off last spring.

 

South Carolina at Baylor — 3:00pm ET on ESPN

Kentucky at Michigan State — 7:30pm ET on ESPN

Georgia State at Vanderbilt — 8:00pm ET

Florida at Wisconsin — 9:00pm ET on ESPN2

Tennessee at Xavier — 9:00pm ET on FS1

Southern Illinois at Missouri — 9:00pm ET on FSN

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WOW Headlines – 5/20/13

Top 2014 Georgia RB commitment Sony Michel says he will focus on football before trying to enter the music business as a rap artist…
This after a Michigan State commitment had his scholarship offer yanked after he posted a controversial rap video online
Auburn coaches say they were pleased with the emergence of WR Jaylon Denson this spring
Georgia coaches won’t say that sophomore OT John Theus has locked down a starting spot, suggesting they want to see more from him in fall practice
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva says an expansion project at Tiger Stadium will not change the character of the stadium but “restore it”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott made more salary in 2011 than SEC commissioner Mike Slive or Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
Plans for an ACC television network appear to have hit a snag over media rights which could re-open conference expansion and realignment issues
Follow the SEC all year long on MrSEC.com

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Top 2014 Commit Says He’ll Be A Dawg, Then A Rapper

close-up-microphoneLast week, it was announced that incoming freshman Jay Harris would not be joining Michigan State’s football program as planned.  It was first said that he intended to instead pursue a career in rap music.  And then it was reported that Michigan State  yanked his scholarship after seeing his new rap video — which features explicit lyrics and opened with video of Harris lighting up a joint.

Now the attention is being turned to top prospect Sony Michel from Plantation, Florida.  Ranked as the #2 running back in the nation by Rivals, Michel has already committed to Georgia but he, too, is an aspiring rapper.  So any chance he’ll put rap above football?  Not if what he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is true:

 

“Football is my first love, and then music is right after it.  I will finish out football before I think about that (a music career)…

Actually, I have a good friend who is a producer.  (My friend) makes beats.  I let him listen to my stuff.  He makes beats for professional artists.  He is actually trying to help me understand the business more before I jump into it.  I’m just learning right now before I get into it.”

 

Even better news for Bulldog fans?  No controversies over the raps he’s already posted on YouTube.com under the name 2Stackz.

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Bielema On Saban: “Can’t Compare.” On Previous Staff: “Emphasis On Pretty Boys”

gfx - they said itWhen Bret Bielema was at Wisconsin, he didn’t hesitate to talk about the SEC.  Now that he’s at Arkansas, he’s not shy about bragging about his days in the Big Ten.

Speaking to a booster club in Benton, Arkansas this week, Bielema aimed a portion of his comments at Nick Saban and Alabama.

 

The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn’t come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama.

 You can take Saban’s record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and he can’t compare.”

 

While Alabama has won three titles in recent years, Florida (two), LSU and Auburn are also responsible for the SEC’s seven straight national titles.  And as this graphic on winning percentages shows, a lot of coaches have had better winning percentages than Saban did at Michigan State.  Saban compiled  a 34-24-1 record while coaching the Spartans.  It’s what he’s done since then – a national title at LSU and three championships in four years at Alabama -that have made him the stuff of legend.

Bieleman, a former defensive lineman, also had this to say about the type of players recruiting at Arkansas under former coach Bobby Petrino.

 

“The previous staff had many guys at wideout and running back. They really had an emphasis on the pretty boys.”

 

To fit his offense, Bielema told the crowd he wants to recruit heavily in Texas and Florida.

In case you’re wondering, Bielema’s Razorbacks will travel to Tuscaloosa to face Saban’s Alabama team on October 19th. (Hat Tip to CBSSports and ArkansasExpats)

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Jabari Parker To Announce Decision

Highly-touted basketball prospect Jabari Parker will announce his college decision this afternoon at 4 eastern time.

Florida is on Parker’s list along with BYU, Duke, Michigan State and Stanford.

“He’s still weighing things,” Parker’s father, Sonny Parker told ESPN this week. “I’m his dad. I don’t know where he’s going to. I could ask him what school he’s going to, and he’ll say I’m not 100 percent sure. Hopefully, he’ll know something by Wednesday night or Thursday morning.”

Sonny Parker told USA Today last week that he believes the decision would come down to Duke and Michigan State. But he believes all the teams on his son’s list are still in contention.

“That was how I felt at that particular time,” Sonny Parker told ESPN. “They’ve been in there since his freshman year. That’s why I looked at those schools with coach (Tom) Izzo and Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), but that’s because they were recruiting him the longest. He’s still looking at all the schools. It could be anyone still.”

UPDATE: Parker picks Duke.  The Sporting News Mike DeCourcy calls Parker “the most esteemed prospect coach Mike Krzyzewski has landed in more than 30 years on the Duke bench.”

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Laquon Treadwell Has ‘No Doubt’ Ole Miss Is No. 1

Ole Miss is the new leader for wide receiver Laquon Treadwell from Crete, Ill.

This news follows Treadwell’s official visit to Ole Miss last weekend. And it comes at a time while the Rebels are making a strong run at No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end from Loganville, Ga.

Treadwell’s recruitment still has a ways to go. He will likely take all five official visits, with Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame remaining in the mix.

Other schools will continue to pursue Treadwell and try to convince him to visit before he signs with a school.

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Kentucky Lands Hoops Commitment

Center Karl Towns has committed to Kentucky and announced he plans to reclassify to the 2014 class and graduate from high a school a year earlier than planned.

Florida, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and North Carolina State were all in the mix for Towns. But Kentucky has long been considered the team to beat for Towns.

“Kentucky is such a great school,” Towns said. “I felt like Kentucky was just the right school at the end of the day.”

Towns should have an idea of what kind of coaching he’ll see from Calipari. Towns played for Calipari this past summer on the Dominican Republic’s National Olympic Team.

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