Nebraska focuses on 6-foot-6 Karrington Davis in search for big guard
LINCOLN — Back in August, Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles said his top recruiting priority for 2018 was to find guards to replace two seniors: 6-foot-5 Evan Taylor and 6-3 Anton Gill.
The Huskers got half that project accomplished in November by signing 6-3, 175-pound Xavier Johnson from Bishop O’Connell High in Arlington, Virginia.
Now Miles, who said at the time “we’re going to need a big guard,’’ apparently has such a prospect in sight.
NU is homing in on 6-6, 175-pound St. Louis product Karrington Davis , who plays for Montverde (Fla.) Academy, the current No. 1 team in USA Today’s national high school rankings.
Davis doesn’t get much publicity because there isn’t much available on a roster with four of ESPN’s top 52 prospects for the Class of 2018.
That includes the overall No. 1 player — 6-6 small forward R.J. Barrett, who has signed with Duke — plus signees with Florida, Gonzaga and Georgia Tech. Four others on the roster, though not ranked in the top 100, have signed with power conference schools.
Before transferring to Montverde (32-0), Davis was part of a large-school Missouri state title team at St. Louis Chaminade in 2016 and a state semifinal squad in 2017, scoring about 20 points a game.
Various recruiting sites indicate Davis has offers from Kansas State, Saint Louis and Middle Tennessee State.
As for Johnson, he has led Bishop O’Connell to a 23-6 record and eight straight victories entering this week’s Washington Catholic Athletic Association tournament. Among teams O’Connell has knocked off are USA Today’s No. 7 Paul VI and No. 15 DeMatha.
Johnson averages 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds. He shoots 77.6 percent from the foul line.
Scouts praise Johnson for his aggressive defense, speed with the basketball, clutch performances — he clinched a Senior Night victory with a steal and fast-break slam in the final seconds — and general toughness. He picked Nebraska over Georgetown and Georgia Tech.
Nebraska, even after beating Indiana to improve to 21-9 overall and 12-5 in Big Ten play, got very little love in three of Thursday’s updated media NCAA brackets.
Only ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi listed NU, and that was as the first team out in his first four out. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com didn’t include the Huskers in his last four in or first four out. SI.com also ignored them in its first five out and next five out.
Entering Thursday night, Nebraska was 59th in NCAA RPI and 57th in kenpom.com.
Key injury for PSU
Penn State sophomore center Mike Watkins will miss Sunday’s game at Pinnacle Bank Arena with a knee injury suffered during Wednesday’s loss to Michigan.
Coach Patrick Chambers confirmed the absence on his radio show Thursday night.
Despite playing just five minutes with no points and no rebounds against Michigan, Watkins is still second in Big Ten games in rebounding (9.1), first in field-goal shooting (70.0 percent) and 28th in scoring (12.8).
Watkins crumpled to the floor early in the first half after jumping to block a shot. He was helped to the locker room without putting any weight on his right knee. The 6-foot-9, 254-pound Philadelphia product returned to the game for about a minute but did no more after that than ride an exercise bike.
Matchup of top scorers
The Big Ten scoring title in league play likely will come down to Sunday when Penn State guard Tony Carr (19.7 points) and Nebraska guard James Palmer (19.3) face off.
In the first matchup won by Penn State 76-74 in overtime, Carr hit the game-winning jumper with 2.7 seconds left. But he only made 5 of 21 shots (2 of 17 in regulation) on his way to 17 points.
Palmer had his worst game of the season against the Nittany Lions, hitting 1 of 9 shots and scoring five points in just 20 minutes of action. Since then, Palmer has scored 24, 19, 34, 18, 28, 28, 19, 15, 26, 13 and 15 points.
Though Indiana held Palmer four points under his average in 12 shots, Hoosiers coach Archie Miller tipped his cap to NU’s 6-6 junior.
“He’s a good player,’’ Miller said. “I thought for the most part we tried to make him earn everything. It’s hard, though. It’s hard to contain him.
“He’s big, he’s strong, he can score and he’s probably a first-team all-conference player.’’