Mark Armstrong makes verbal commitment to Villanova

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Mark Armstrong

Class of 2022 guard Mark Armstrong has verbally committed to Villanova University he announced tonight on Instagram.

 

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The 6-foot-3 Saint Peter’s Prep guard is one of the smoothest and most polished players out of New Jersey.

Armstrong will join Rutgers Prep alumni Trey Patterson, now with the team since graduating early and heading to campus in January.

Head coach Jay Wright also has New Jersey and Ranney School product Bryan Antoine in the rotation.

The next closest options for Armstrong out of his final choices in terms of proximity were Rutgers and Seton Hall.

According to an Instagram Live with The Front Office after making his announcement, it was the connection he felt with Villanova head coach Jay Wright that set the Wildcats apart from other schools.

Villanova is not a culture known to promote or produce one-and-done products. Mark mentioned wanting to fill in the footsteps of players like Jalen Brunson, Collin Gillespie, and Ryan Arcidiacono.

“I’m here to stay, it’s gonna be a journey with me”, was Mark’s message to Villanova fans on the Instagram Live session.

That comment hints at his willingness to be a four-year product like the aforementioned Villanova standouts.

Villanova finished 18-7 this season and won two NCAA Tournament games before losing to eventual champion Baylor in the Sweet 16.

 

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Penn State lands verbal commitment from Paulina Paris

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Penn State

Paulina Paris recently told us on Protect Our Queens that she was looking for a family program for her college career.

That family will be the Penn State Nittany Lions.

https://twitter.com/PaulinaParis14/status/1378845059609681926

Paulina announced her verbal commitment this week on social media after narrowing down her options to eight schools at the top of the year, which included the likes of UCLA and North Carolina State, which apparently were her other final choices.

Something else Paulina mentioned about her recruitment was that the Zoom conversations weren’t doing it for her. She hinted at the chance to visit some schools physically again before making a decision.

But the Penn State staff ended up sealing the deal for Paulina.

“Even through Zoom I got that feeling that they really wanted me and that they would trust me running their program for four years,” she told me by text.

“Yesterday the coaches got me on a quick Facetime call with some of the girls just to say hi and they all seem so nice.”

The only other Big Ten programs on Paulina’s list were Northwestern and Rutgers, her only in-state choice. In her interview, she stressed wanting to go somewhere she could start right away and play her game.

Penn State seemed to offer that opportunity, and still close enough to her home tri-state area.

Penn State finished with a 9-15 overall record this season and is led by head coach Carolyn Kieger. Their last trip to the NCAA Tournament was in 2014. Their last winning season was in 2016-17 when they finished 22-11.

Paulina has another year of high school basketball left before starting her journey as a Nittany Lion. She averaged over 20 points this season and was named second-team all-state.

Penn State fans will have more time to get familiar and get excited about their dynamic guard coming in 2022.

Diamond Miller predicted her big sophomore season for Maryland

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Diamond Miller sophomore
Maryland guard Diamond Miller warms up against Rutgers (Photo: Martin Soaries / Basketball Society)

When we talked to Maryland guard Diamond Miller before the season, she gave a humble smile to express her confidence about her sophomore year.

Diamond set the tone right away, setting a new career-high with 20 points in the season opener against Davidson. She set a new career-high on December 3 when she dropped 28 against Towson.

Diamond ended up doubling all of her season averages across the board, reaching 17 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field.

She was named Co-MVP of the Big Ten Tournament helping lead Maryland to a conference title and was named All-Big Ten First Team.

Shining on the biggest stage in one of the standout games of a historic NCAA Tournament, Diamond finished with 21 points and seven rebounds in the 64-61 loss to Texas in the Sweet 16.

Basketball Twitter quickly became fond of her during that game.

Diamond told us she expected more for herself this season simply because she knew what to expect.

She felt that Maryland was ready to make a run last year before the season was cut short.

Another super sophomore whose season was cut short this year was South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston. The Gamecocks fell short against Arizona in the Final Four.

Diamond admitted that Boston was one of the toughest players she had to guard during her freshman year, along with Northwestern guard Lindsey Pulliam.

Maryland finished with a 26-3 overall record with an undefeated 10-0 record at home and a 17-1 record in the Big Ten.

They’re projected to be just as dominant next season, many believing them to be a national title favorite.

Miller at the heart of this Terrapins core will keep them elite and formidable for the back half of her college career.

The more she learns what to expect, it seems the more damage she’s going to do.

Scoop B: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks Preview

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New York City is the hottest basketball city in the world right now with both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks playing exciting basketball.

Going 7-3 in their last ten games, the Nets are currently 34-16 and in second place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings. With a trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the Nets have championship aspirations. 

The seventh place Knicks currently sit in seventh place in the NBA’s Eastern conference standings with a 25-25 record. All Star Julius Randle is having a career year while averaging 23 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game under head coach Tom Thibodeau. 

Both teams will collide this evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY in a clash of the boroughs matchup.

NBA odds are in Brooklyn’s favor against the Knicks in this matchup despite Brooklyn being without Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin (injury maintenance), Landry Shamet (ankle) and Tyler Johnson (knee) for tonight’s game against the Knicks. 

James Harden is not listed on the injury report, clearing the way for him to return.

“We’re not really concerned about their Big 3. We know what type of basketball we’ll be able to come into the game and play,” Knicks guard Reggie Bullock said last week.

“We’ll focus on our team. The game plan that coach draws up. Other than that, that’s all we’re focused on. The Knicks.”

The last matchup between the Nets and Knicks ended in controversy. After trailing big for most of the game the Knicks stormed back and had a chance to send the game into overtime in the final moments of the fourth quarter. 

Randle tried to shoot a game-tying 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime, but Irving got his hand on the ball to prevent Randle from getting the shot up.

The correct call should have been a jump ball between Randle and Irving, but referee Scott Foster did not see Irving put his hand on the ball and instead called a travel on the Knicks’ star. “I was either going to foul early but I saw him lining up for a jump shot. I felt like I could get a hand on it,” Kyrie Irving said after the game.

“Scott called a travel, I thought Julius made a good play afterward, putting it [the ball] down because I was going to foul him after that just to get him to the free-throw line but that’s how it went.”

LeBron James and Steph Curry teaming up a possibility?

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LeBron James

LeBron James and Stephen Curry were visibly excited to play alongside each other for the NBA All-Star Game.

Fans shared their excitement to see the two stars play together for the first time after having battled one another four straight years in the NBA Finals.

https://twitter.com/TysonGlenn43/status/1367644557958078465

Their chemistry and genuine basketball joy during the game was jumping off the screen.

LeBron James is expected to miss several weeks with his recently suffered right high ankle sprain.

The Los Angeles Lakers star’s running mate, Anthony Davis, has been nursing a calf injury since mid-February. Davis, still not yet 30 years old, has had a more consistent injury history than LeBron who will turn 37 at the end of this year.

LeBron and Davis as a duo were enough to conquer the NBA in the bubble season without having a third star. That notion could be challenged going forward.

Stephen Curry could have signed a max contract extension with the Golden State Warriors last offseason for about $156 million that would have lasted through 2025. He opted not to sign it.

Curry is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

The Warriors have hit hard times since the departure of Kevin Durant and the Klay Thompson injury that left them severely short-handed before the bubble season.

Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers remains totally optimistic about Curry staying in Golden State:

“I think he’s happy. Obviously, fans always are gonna be worried about Steph Curry,” the two-time NBA Executive of the Year said. “But I feel like he’s in a very good place personally [and] professionally.

“I feel pretty good about him wanting to be around. I don’t personally have any — besides the paranoid fears that everybody has that aren’t really rational — besides once in awhile, ‘Well what if this happened?’ But those aren’t based on fact.

“So I feel good about it and I think he feels good about it.”

LeBron has done some masterful recruiting jobs before and if he’s committed enough to win at least one more ring for the Lakers, he might have to consider one last power move. Especially if health is about to become a real factor, and particularly since the super-team trend doesn’t seem to be dissipating any time soon.

James and Curry don’t have much else to prove individually. Neither has to ring-chase at this point.

But if circumstances on both sides made them curious enough, in this NBA, stranger things have happened.

The Boston Celtics need help | The Atlantic Files Ep176

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Boston Celtics

March Madness is in full swing, the second half of the NBA season is here, and the weather is getting warmer for those in the northern hemisphere! Always the best time of the year and we’re here for all of the basketball fun.

This week we need to catch up with some of the big news and the standings in the Atlantic. It has been a while and a lot of moving, so we’re glad we get to catch up with everyone again!

Something very mediocre is brewing in Boston right now. The Boston Celtics are nowhere near as big of a championship threat as they were originally predicted to be. Yes, the season has been crazy with covid and all sorts of schedule changes, but the roster makeup is starting to show holes.

So this begs the question, what does Boston need to really be a true contender this year? Well, we bring THREE main bullet points that the Celtics are going to have to address if they truly want to win a ring during this crazy season.

Then, it’s time to talk about the Toronto Raptors. This season seems more of a lost cause when it comes to winning a championship. They definitely can make the playoffs, but they also could get some valuable assets for some of the pieces they have that won’t necessarily be there long term.

Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, and Chris Boucher are all names that could be heard on the trade block. Maybe they need to be shopped a little more aggressively and maybe they should be thinking for next season instead of trying to salvage a first or second-round exit this season.

All of this and more on the latest episode below!

Timestamps:

4:50 – Three things the Boston Celtics need to be championship contenders

21:10 – What pieces should the Toronto Raptors trade away?

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March Madness: What You Need To Know For NCAA Tournament

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March Madness
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13: Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard on the sidelines during the men's Big Ten tournament college basketball game between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes on March 13, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, March Madness!

The NCAA tournament begins today and 64 Men’s Basketball teams will be tasked with providing that one shining moment for their college.

Most of the NCAA action will take place in Indianapolis, Indiana and it will be the first time since 2019 that the college basketball tournament will happen after the NCAA canceled the tournament after the effects of the novel coronavirus and the pandemic that followed.

The Division I Men’s Basketball Championship will tip-off with their first four games today with 55 of the 67 games taking place in Indianapolis.

Attendance at each game will depend on the size of the venue. That 25 percent capacity is for all rounds and the Final Four, and it includes all participants, essential staff and family members of each participating team’s student-athletes and coaches, and a reduced number of fans.

Gonzaga and Baylor are early favorites in the tournament.

As Sports Illustrated notes, many have been critical of Gonzaga for their relatively easy schedule and that the Bulldogs have made the most of their opportunities.

For those keeping score at home: Gonzaga currently sits at an overall record of 26-0 and is the only undefeated team within the tournament.

But, you can’t sleep on the Michigan Wolverines who won the regular-season Big Ten title. Guided by head coach Juwan Howard, the retired NBA Champion has the star power of Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson and the supporting cast of Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown.

Michigan enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1993. If you’re tardy to the party, Juwan Howard was a member of that Fab 5 team alongside Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Ray Jackson, and Jimmy King.

The cool long shorts, the long black socks, and the Nike Huarache sneakers completed the on-court ensemble.

“We looked different, we sounded different, we were a lot more brash,” Jalen Rose told me on the Scoop B Radio podcast.

“We were giving you guys something that you hadn’t seen before.”

In addition to Michigan and Gonzaga fodder, another coming attraction to the NCAA tournament is the announcers calling the game like Bill Raftery.

Some of the top Bill Raf-isms include: send it in Jerome, lingerie on the deck, the kiss, nylon, nickel-dimer, teardrop, onions and attack the tin.

Raftery talked about them a few years ago. Check out our dialogue below.

People better watch out for Nile Miller

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Nile Miller


Taking over games might not be the mentality of 6’1 forward Nile Miller yet but she clearly has the ability to do so.

Nile headlines the frontcourt for Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, New Jersey. The South Jersey program was ranked in the top 10 overall by NJ.com before the season and finished a limited 2021 pandemic season with a 14-2 record at the top of their conference.

In that span, Nile scored over 100 points and grabbed over 100 rebounds, which she’s done every season of her high school career. She also finished with 42 steals and 16 blocks in those 16 games.

Her length and size make her presence fascinating to the basketball eye. Add her skill and motor and you’ll see dominant spurts from Nile that could include rebounds, blocks, threes, pushing the ball in transition, or anything else she can do to impact the game.

One of Nile’s best games I saw came in a win against Stuart Day in February. Matched up against Georgetown bound forward Ariel Jenkins, Nile finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and four steals. She led the game-changing swing for Paul VI in the third quarter scoring 10 of their 14 points during a 14-2 run.

You can sense that Nile is still developing and even understanding her own ability.

That doesn’t keep her from pulling off high-level offensive moves like this one:

Nile causes disruption at the top of Paul VI’s press when she harasses the inbounder with her length, tracing the ball with wide hands and causing deflections that lead to turnovers.

Paul VI head coach Lisa Steele believes that Nile is still realizing her potential, but what she’s doing now is enough to “win at the high level and garner interest from college coaches.”

She moves really well without the ball. I don’t even know if she knows she’s doing it, but she tracks rebounds really well, Steele said by phone.

It’s just a natural gift for her.. she kind of knows where to move to get the ball.

Coach Steele says Nile “has fun with it; just performs out there.” Intangible praise from a coach who played at the Division-1 level herself at George Washington.

And she does things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet too. She’ll score a flurry of points but she’ll have games where she might have four to eight points and still just majorly impact games.

Watching the film it’s clear at the heart of Nile’s game is a gift and feel for passing the basketball. She makes the pitch-ahead pass in transition, finds cutters in the half-court, and threads legitimate needles on occasion, and her versatility turns her into a mismatch weapon for Paul VI.

Coach Steele tells me Nile had interest from the ACC to MEAC and Ivy League. After a breakout sophomore season last year, Steele knows that Nile would have turned heads with a summer of AAU were it not for the pandemic shutdown last year.

Losing out on that exposure and development wasn’t exactly ideal timing for the young “baby deer” as Coach Steele described her.

She’s still on the radar as coaches are navigating new recruiting environments.

Whether you’re a coach or a player or a casual fan, just make sure you watch out for Nile Miller.

Paulina Paris joins Protect Our Queens to talk about her game and inspiration

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Paulina Paris
Photo Cred: Tim Lang

When we last caught up with Paulina Paris it was right in the heart of the pandemic.

She had just come off a special sophomore season, averaging 25 points and seven rebounds per game and winning the Rockland Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second straight year.

Paulina hadn’t yet announced her decision to transfer from Albertus Magnus in New York to Saddle River Day High School in New Jersey. Once she did she arguably became the top guard in New Jersey.

In her debut game for Saddle River, she had 29 points and six assists in a 20-point win against Life Center.

The next game she dropped 33 points, had eight rebounds and six assists in an 89-29 win against Montclair Immaculate.

This is a high-level scorer who sees things ahead of time as a playmaker. She described her ability to do that in our conversation.

I know how to like, tell by the plays before what I should do the next play. And I think that that’s probably the best part of my game.

Paulina recently narrowed her potential college choices down to eight schools, including the likes of Rutgers, UConn, UCLA, and North Carolina State.

We talked with Paulina about her feelings on New York vs. New Jersey, and also her basketball influences which include her dad and Kobe Bryant, her all-time favorite player.

Paulina also took us through her pre-game rituals which can sometimes include some Leona Lewis, and writing on her shoes.

The tri-state area is well aware of Paulina and the whole country will become familiar with the name soon enough.

Xavier Silas’ coaching journey | The Atlantic Files Ep175

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Xavier Silas

Anyone who’s been watching basketball for the last decade has heard the name Xavier Silas. Whether it’s college basketball, NBA, professionally overseas, the Big 3, or even The Basketball Tournament, Xavier Silas’ name has come up. If you haven’t heard the name, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Silas had a long playing career that took him to many places all over the world. Even played in the G League where he got the chance to play for Team USA too.

Now that he’s only making playing appearances in The Basketball Tournament over the summer, he’s shifted his attention to coaching and running AAU or high school programs.

An AAU program is where it all started. After developing the program based out of Colorado, he then went through a coaching program with the NBA and landed a job as an assistant coach for the Delaware Blue Coats of the G League.

Last season, the Blue Coats had one of the best defenses in the league while still showcasing a high-powered offense. Silas had a big hand in this as he was helping with both sides of the ball at different parts of the season. Fast forward to this season that just started in the Disney bubble, and the Blue Coats are playing at one of the fastest paces in the G League while also placing in the top five in assist percentage, assists, points scored, and turnovers on both sides of the ball.

They’re now the only undefeated team left after the G League Ignite team fell on Wednesday night.

Xavier Silas credits a lot of people for the inspiration to coach and the guidance to get him where he is. Everyone from people he’s played with, against, for, and coached with.

Now, he continues to make his own stepping stones towards a head coaching gig. The G League coaching job helps with the X’s and O’s, but the creation of the Colorado Prep school gives him all the surrounding experience that a college coach would experience.

Hear about all of this and more in the latest episode below!

Timestamps:

0:00 – Intro and Atlantic Division standings update

3:25 – Interview with Xavier Silas

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