By Jon Rothstein
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– DeAndre Kane’s decision to commit to Iowa State on Thursday night immediately makes the Cyclones a top-four team in the Big 12 next season along with Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Kane isn’t a true point guard, but he instantly gives Iowa State a player that can have an impact at the position.The 6-4 guard will be eligible to play immediately next season since he will graduate from Marshall this summer. Kane averaged 15.1 points, 7.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game last year for the Thundering Herd. This commitment is another notch on the belt of Cyclones assistant Matt Abdelmassih, who is also the point man for Iowa State with shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, one of the top players in the Class of 2014. Abdelmassih’s presence was critical two years ago in the Cyclones’ recruitment of Royce White, and Kane represents the second major commitment he’s been responsible for this off season. Abdelmassih was also key in Iowa State landing Northern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader earlier in the spring.
– Illinois coach John Groce has done a tremendous job of using transfers to build his program. Since being named the Illini’s coach in the spring of 2012, Groce has gotten commitments from six transfers — Rayvonte Rice (Drake), Sam McLaurin (Coastal Carolina), Aaron Cosby (Seton Hall), Jon Ekey (Illinois State), Darius Paul (Western Michigan), and Ahmad Starks (Oregon State). Groce did a stellar coaching job in his first year in the Big Ten, going 23-13 and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament. In order to deal with the losses of seniors like Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tyler Griffey, Groce went after two types of transfers — quality mid-major players along with productive statistical players at under the radar BCS schools. The 6-4 Rice was a big time scorer at Drake, averaging 16.8 PPG as a sophomore, and should step in for Paul after sitting out this past season. Ekey, a fifth-year transfer, is very similar to Griffey in the sense that he’s a pick-and-pop “four-man” that can extend defenses. The 6-7 Ekey shot 34.8% from three-point range last year in the MVC, and could potentially start for the Illini next season. Starks, who committed to Illinois this past week, will have to file a waiver with the NCAA to have a chance to play during the upcoming year. Last season at Oregon State, Starks averaged 10.4 PPG and shot 39.5% from three-point range. Illinois isn’t mentioned among the elite teams in the Big Ten heading into next season, but Groce will have this team in contention for an NCAA bid.
– There’s been a lot of different things circulating in regards to Temple and former UMass guard Jesse Morgan. Here are the facts: Morgan is enrolled in summer school classes at the Philadelphia school but would need several things to be approved for him to suit up for the Owls next season. The 6-5 guard was the Minutemen’s second leading scorer last year through the team’s first 12 games (13.4 PPG) — then tore his ACL in early January, and was forced to withdraw from school in April for an off the court incident. A Philadelphia native, Morgan would be an instant impact guy for Temple next season, but knowing whether or not that is possible is still a long ways away. Nothing is imminent with this situation.
– Newly minted USC coach Andy Enfield is positioning the Trojans to make a jump in his second season. USC now has two quality transfers — Katin Reinhardt (UNLV) and Darion Clark (Charlotte) that will sit out during the upcoming year and be eligible to play during the 2014-15 campaign. Byron Wesley — a 6-5 wing who averaged 10.2 points per game last season as a sophomore, will be a senior when Reinhardt and Clark become eligible — and USC is also among the leaders for Stanley Johnson, a Los Angeles native whose among the top 15 players in the Class of 2014. The Trojans will endure some bumps next year in the PAC-12, but Enfield’s second season could have some promise if USC can continue to add a few more quality pieces.
– Antonio Barton’s decision to transfer from Memphis to Tennessee gives Cuonzo Martin a veteran point guard to replace Trae Golden, who transferred at the end of the season. Barton wasn’t happy with his role behind Joe Jackson with the Tigers, and since he’s already graduated, he’ll be immediately eligible to play for Tennessee. With Barton, Jordan McRae, Josh Richardson, Jeronne Maymon, and Jarnell Stokes, the Volunteers could have one of the more complete starting fives in college basketball. Also keep an eye on incoming freshman shooting guard Robert Hubbs. The 6-5 Hubbs is a big time offensive talent, and could emerge as a starter as the season progresses. Tennessee will challenge Kentucky and Florida in the SEC.
– Eddie Jordan’s roster is slowly coming together at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights got commitments this week from Pitt transfer J.J. Moore and former Miami guard Bishop Daniels, who is currently at ASA College. Daniels will have two years of eligibility remaining, and will join Rutgers for the 2014-15 season. Moore meanwhile, could play next season if the NCAA grants him a waiver. The 6-6 wing averaged 8.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last year for the Panthers, and will have one year of eligibility remaining.
– Rhode Island could potentially have two of the top ten players in the Atlantic 10 next season in Xavier Munford and Gilvydas Biruta. Munford, who averaged 17.4 PPG last season will be the conference’s top returning scorer, and Biruta, a rugged power forward who transferred from Rutgers should immediately have an impact. The 6-8 Biruta — who averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during the 2011-12 season while playing for the Scarlet Knights — has worked relentlessly on his outside shot during the past year, and could make up to 30 three-point field goals next season. Danny Hurley’s team will win 20 games next year and be one of the better squads in the Atlantic 10. You heard it here first.
– Providence and UMass will begin a home and home series on December 28th in Amherst. The two teams played last November in the Puerto Rico Shootout in a game that the Minutemen won at the buzzer 77-75. There is a growing sentiment among coaches in the Atlantic 10 that UMass could make a run at the top of the league standings next season. Derek Kellogg returns a fifth-year point guard in Chaz Williams, who could potentially be the Atlantic 10’s Preseason Player of the Year. The lightning quick Williams — who averaged 15.5 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game last season — will be joined in the back court by Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon. The 6-3 Gordon sat out last season, but led the Hilltoppers in scoring (11.8) and rebounding (6.7) when they reached the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
– Alabama will begin a home and home series with Wichita State starting next season in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will then visit the Shockers during the non-conference portion of the 2014-15 season.
– The annual Mary Kline Classic will take place this Sunday, June 2nd at Philadelphia University. The event showcases some of the top sophomore, junior, and senior prospects in the country and is a must for any fan of college basketball. All proceeds go to the National Brain Tumor Society and Brain Tumor Research at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. For more information, go to www.maryklineclassic.com.
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