Who Will Claim the Throne?

By Jack Lev ’20

With the season beginning on Nov. 10, the buzz up and down the hallways of Staples High School is centered around the 2018 college basketball season.  

Students have been investigating questions such as: will the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill take home the national championship for the second year in a row or will there be a new team whom claims the throne? Who will receive the award of Naismith Player of the Year? Are freshman phenoms such as Mohamed Bamba of Texas and Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky going to live up to the hype?

When asked which team will take home the National Championship this year, Benny Feuer ’20 was adamant that Duke will win the title. After coming off of a disappointing season where Duke was the first team to ever be ranked number one going into the year and not advance past the “sweet 16”, this program is hungry for a championship. In order to accomplish this goal of winning a national title, the Blue Devils staff dedicated themselves to recruiting top-notch incoming freshman for the 2018 season. Duke acquired seven players, four of which rank amongst the top 20 players in the country according to ESPN, including the number one player in the nation, Marvin Bagley. With the likes of Bagley and returning senior, Grayson Allen, Feuer’s prediction is certainly not unjustifiable.

Jake Thaw ’20 disagrees with Feuer’s stance. Thaw believes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will win their second title in a row.“Coming up big in the recruiting class of 2017, they (the University of North Carolina) got Jalek Felton, a much needed young guard to help support Joel Berry,” he said. Thaw went on to state how there would be “no reason this team wouldn’t be able to contend with the fantastic freshman of Duke, Louisville, etc.” Although North Carolina lost some great players to the NBA draft this year such as Justin Jackson and big-man Kennedy Meeks, as Thaw pointed out, the school acquired Jalek Felton who ranks number 28 in the country via ESPN and number one for his position (point guard), amongst six other exceptional recruits.

Another highly debated question at Staples is who will win the award for Naismith Player of the Year? Last year, Frank Mason III of the University of Kansas received the award, but now that he is in the NBA, there will be a new winner. There is a lot of talk surrounding guys like Marvin Bagely of Duke and DeAndre Ayton of Arizona, but Sam Maged ’20 has a different thought on who will claim the award this season. “Michael Porter Jr. will win the Naismith player of the year because of his versatility; he will lead a struggling Missouri team last year to a successful season where they will finish with a winning record,” he said.

Maged seemed quite sure that the number two recruit according to 247sports, will be taking the Naismith award home this year. The 6’10” small forward is full of potential and represents a case similar to what college basketball fans witnessed in the 2015-2016 season with Ben Simmons who averaged a staggering 19.2 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game at LSU; Simmons wound up being selected number one overall in the NBA draft following his freshman year. Other players who have the potential of winning the award for the 2018 season include: Colin Sexton out of Alabama, Joel Berry II from UNC at Chapel Hill, Trevon Duval of Duke, and Jevon Carter from West Virginia.

Lastly, there’s the question of will freshman phenom such as Mohamed Bamba of Texas and Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky live up to the hype. “I think Bamba will play well but won’t live up to the hype he is getting from media entering the season, but I do think Diallo will be unreal,”  Michael Loucas ’20 said.

Mohamed Bamba, although just a freshman, has already been called a “potential top ten pick in the 2018 NBA draft” and “an elite defensive presence,” by NBC Sports. Only time will tell if Bamba will rise to the occasion and surpass the pedestal he has been put on by the media or crumble under the pressure and fall.

After redshirting his freshman year, Hamidou Diallo has decided to return to Kentucky and not declare for the draft. Although Diallo didn’t play his freshman season, he was projected to be taken in the 20’s of the first round for this year’s NBA draft. Despite not playing a game for Kentucky to this point, Diallo has been called the “holy grail of guards” by SBNation, and has given hope to the fans of Kentucky. According to SBNation, Diallo has a 44.5 inch-vertical and a wingspan of 6’11,” although he is only 6’5”.  

Watching the freshman talents of Marvin Bagely, Michael Porter Jr., Colin Sexton, etc. will make for an exhilarating 2018 college basketball season. And by the time it gets to March, the students at Staples will of course have their computers out doing hard work (not watching March Madness to see who will win the national championship).

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Taking his Ball and going home: Lamelo Ball will be homeschooled

By Shane Rabacs ’18

Lamelo Ball, 16, was taken out of Chino Hills High School by his dad Lavar Ball to be homeschooled.

Lavar Ball cited the coach as the reason for pulling his son from the school where he averaged 26.7ppg and once scored 92 points in a game.

“I’m not dealing with the coach over there,” Lavar Ball told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Jeff Borzello. “I’m not dealing with the administration over there. I don’t want no distractions on Melo. So therefore I’m going to homeschool him and make him the best basketball player ever.”

“I started off liking the move, but after hearing some of the statements, I think it is a bad decision for his future,” Mark Didio ’20 said.

This puts into question Ball’s future in basketball. He also has a signature shoe, the Melo Ball 1, that made his NCAA eligibility questionable as he is verbally committed to UCLA.

Lamelo stars in “Ball in the Family,” a reality show broadcasted on Facebook that follows the Ball family, who have been gaining popularity in the past year.  

“I am excited to see how the schooling process works on the show. There are certain standards that have to be met and I want to see if they can follow it,” Didio said.

Lavar is reportedly hiring English and math tutors for Ball, which are his two most important subjects according to a source inside the Ball camp.

“Math and English are his stronger subjects so he can count his money and communicate when it’s not right,” a source told TMZ Sports.

Ball will continue to play AAU ball and try to continue his path to the NBA.

College Basketball 2016-2017 Season Preview

By Jack Shapiro ’19

College basketball has officially tipped off with many teams looking for a strong and winning season. Many new players will add lots of talent to the veteran teams that look to compete in this year’s tournament.

Last year, Villanova ended the season as the NCAA National Champions with North Carolina as the runner up while Syracuse and Oklahoma made it to the final four.

The Duke Blue Devils are favorites in the ACC conference. Duke has many young athletes that are stepping onto the court this season including Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, who are in the top three of ESPN’s 100 rating. The Blue Devils also have junior guard Grayson Allen who is the projected conference and player of the year according to Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is leading the team with five NCAA Championships and 13 ACC Championships. The Blue Devils appear to be the team to beat in the ACC.

Along with Duke, the Kansas Jayhawks are also expected to have big success this year. As the projected Big 12 Champions, the Jayhawks have a strong backcourt with newcomer Josh Jackson, who is the number two ranked, recruit looking to have a breakout season. Senior guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham along with sophomore forward Carlton Bragg will be accounting for most of the Jayhawks scoring this year. Head coach Bill Self is looking to lead the Jayhawks to his thirteenth straight Big 12 regular season championships, as well as another number one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Kentucky Wildcats and Coach Calipari are looking forward to an impressive season. According to ESPN’s 100 rating, the Wildcats signed  five of the nation’s top 25 high school players. Along with Kentucky’s commits, they will have four freshman and two sophomores on their roster. On Kentucky’s roster, the Wildcats have four freshman and two sophomore on this year’s roster. As stated by, Sports Illustrated, Kentucky’s guard Malik Monk is projected to be both the SEC’s player of the year and Newcomer of the Year. Last season, Kentucky defeated Texas A&M in the SEC Championship but lost to Indiana in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

In the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats look to be top of their conference this year. The Ducks are coming off an amazing and surprising season as the former Pac-12 Champions and runner ups of the west division in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Last year Arizona fell in the Pac-12 Championship semifinals to Utah. Arizona lost to Wichita State in the first round of last year’s March Madness.

This year the Ducks look to stay on top. With a veteran group of players and a new freshman point guard, Oregon looks as if they have a bright future. Dillon Brooks, the Ducks top players is coming off a summer of rest due to a foot injury.

Arizona is looking to bounce back after an off-season. Although the Wildcats lost three of their starters, coach Sean Miller made up for that by signing two top 25 high school players Kobi Simmons a guard and Rawle Alkins at forward. Arizona’s future looks bright but they face tough competition with in-conference games against the UCLA Bruins and the aforementioned Ducks.

The Big Ten will have a battle for first place as the Wisconsin Badgers are highly ranked this year with the trio of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ who are all veterans from last year’s team. Although the Badgers were upset early in the Big Ten Tournament, they still advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s March Madness. This season Wisconsin will have lots of competition between Purdue and Indiana.

The Purdue Boilermakers may give Wisconsin a run for their money. Although coach Matt Painter was unable to sign a top 50 recruit, the team has a large veteran class including juniors P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards who will be recording most of Purdue’s minutes. Last season the Boilermakers were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Little Rock.

Indiana is also making a strong case to win this year’s Big Ten conference. After losing star point guard Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers will have to find a new point guard. Coach Tom Crean will be in good hands with a strong offensive squad including James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson at the guard position and Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby in the post. Indiana finished last year’s NCAA Tournament strong after upsetting Kentucky and going on to the Sweet Sixteen.

This year there are many strong teams that will competing against one another. Both Kentucky and Duke look as the leading teams in basketball with many others trailing behind them. Teams including Indiana and UCLA are sure to cause some emotion down the road.

Why It’s Time to Believe, Not Give Up, on the UConn Huskies

By Jackson Daignault ’18

University of Connecticut men’s basketball fans expect nothing but greatness.

From a team coming off an improbable 2014 March Madness run, and then an improbable American Athletic Conference championship, this team and their fans have nothing but high expectations.

Coming into this season, Huskie fans had championship hopes for their team, being ranked 18th in the country, but devastating injuries to VCU transfer Terry Larrier and four star recruits Alterique Gilbert and Mamadou Diarra have dampened these expectations.

Their opening record of 2-4 was the worst 6 game record for the Huskies since 1971, according to ESPN. The Huskies opened up with rough losses to unranked Wagner and Northeastern, as well as a scare against Division II Chaminade.

Since these close games, the Huskies have also escaped a close one against Boston University, putting their record at 3-4.

The Huskies had one of their better recruiting classes ever, with four players being ranked in ESPN’s top 100, and afterwards naming themselves “Top 5.”

Although the team was young, the Huskies still believed they had a shot to win with senior leaders Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis.

Despite this Huskies poor initial start to the season, it is far too early to give up on them.

Kevin Ollie is only in his fourth year of coaching at UConn, with one national championship under his belt. Ollie has yet to finish out a recruiting class, which is very important to the success of UConn. Although the Huskies have struggled out the gates this year, it is important for UConn fans to realize the brilliance of their current head coach. Ollie has coached UConn legends Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, among others. Ollie has consistently gotten the most out of his players, which is evident in his use of Deandre Daniels during the Huskies 2014 Tournament run, where Daniels averaged only 13.2 points per game during the regular season, but excelled in the NCAA tournament where he averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

If Ollie is able to replicate his success with Daniels with the rest of the 2016 Huskies squad, it will be a strong point of optimism for their season hopes.

On top of Kevin Ollie’s brilliance, this current Huskie team has plenty of other reasons for optimism. One of these is the strong recruiting class, which has been deemed as one of the best in UConn history.

Although the injury of Gilbert hurts the potential success of “Top 5” there are plenty of other strong candidates in this 2016 recruiting class. One of those players is Vance Jackson, who has played great to open his college basketball career.

Jackson has averaged 7.7 points per game in only 19.5 minutes a game. Although these numbers seem unimpressive for the four star recruit, he has thrived in games against Loyola Marymount, where he led the team with 14 points on 50% shooting, and against Chaminade, with 16 points on 55% shooting.

Jackson was not originally expected to contribute this year, but injuries to Gilbert and Larrier opened up time for him to succeed.

This window for Jackson is crucial to the Huskies success. Jackson is only a freshman and has had success in his limited playtime. It is very important for Kevin Ollie and the Huskies coaching staff to continue to develop him into an elite scorer and perimeter defender. If they can continue to coach him to his full potential, the Huskies could seriously turn around their season.

The most important factor in the Huskies season is the potential stardom of Jalen Adams. Many fans may know Adams from his full court shot against Cincinnati in the AAC tournament to send it to a fourth overtime in 2015.

Adams, only a sophomore, has absolutely torn it up this season, averaging 19.8 points per game, including a 34 point performance in a loss to Oklahoma State in the Maui Invitational. Adams was named to the All-Tournament team at the Maui Invitational, leading all players in points and assists.

It is very important for Adams to keep up his dominant play for the Huskies to turn their season around. Captain Rodney Purvis has shot 38% from the field, a disappointment for a UConn team who is relying heavily on its senior leader.

Adams has taken over that leadership role from Purvis, and will continue to do so in order to turn the Huskies season around.

If Adams can continue to shoot 54% from the field and keep his turnovers down, there is no reason the Huskies cannot  be competitive this season, and ultimately turn their otherwise woeful season around.

Although there are definitely causes for concern with this young Huskie team, all hope is not lost. This season was supposed to be a building year for Kevin Ollie’s program, developing his young players and integrating them into his system. Although so far this season has been a disappointment, there is also plenty of reason for optimism, and ultimately the Huskies should be able to turn it around.

No matter the circumstances, never count the Huskies out. If they haven’t taught you so already.