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Curry, Lillard, George bring mid-major flavor to All-Star Game

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NEW ORLEANS – Fresno State. Davidson. Weber State.

Paul George. Stephen Curry. Damian Lillard.

This year’s NBA All-Star Game has a distinct mid-major feel.

While most of the top players in high school head to the big-name basketball factory colleges, that is not the only route to NBA stardom. With more games televised and the rise of video scouting services, scouts and NBA front office people today are more familiar with guys from smaller colleges than ever before.

“I just feel like talent is found everywhere,” George said at an event All-Star weekend. “It’s not about what school you’ve gone to, it’s what you did in your time at that school. So I do think going forward teams will look at guys from smaller schools who got big game and I think they can get a feel for who got it and who don’t.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s a new route (to NBA stardom), I think we’re putting a light on mid-major players,” Lillard said in New Orleans. “For a while it was all high major players in the draft, top 100 high school prospects then top college players and straight to the league. Mid-majors, low majors weren’t getting a lot of opportunity because of the schools. But I think there are guys playing at that level and they dominate that level and they have the confidence to play in this league.

“I’m just happy that guys like Steph and Paul and myself might be helping a guy five years from now goes to a smaller school and five years back he probably wouldn’t have had a chance but now we’re probably giving him a chance.”

The big colleges are still the big draws and guys like Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse) and Kyrie Irving (Duke) and John Wall (Kentucky) can go there and play their way into a high draft pick and improve their game as they face tough competition.

But for some players not getting caught up in the major college numbers game is a good thing. Some guys need the space. George says it was that way for him.

“Personally I think it was,” Paul George said. “I was able to come right in and play right away, just learn on the fly. I think that’s what I needed personally.”

Things are not shifting radically, the guys at the top of the next draft are at college powerhouses (Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, etc.)

But for a guy like Doug McDermott at Creighton, there are footsteps in the snow now in front of him to follow. There is a path. If you can play, there is not just one way to reach the NBA All-Star Game.

James Harden organizing Rockets pre-camp workout this week

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 13:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a three point shot during the second half of a game against the Sacramento Kings at the Toyota Center on April 13, 2016 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Last year, James Harden organized a pre-camp workout where Rockets players could get in shape and develop some chemistry. Then the Rockets started the season slowly with Harden not being in good enough shape and the team having chemistry issues.

Hopefully, for Rockets’ fan this year is different — once again Harden is organizing a camp, reports, Fox 26 in Houston. And Harden is working to show what a great teammate he is.

For the second consecutive year Houston Rockets guard James Harden has organized a players-only minicamp scheduled for next week.

“James is doing everything,” said Corey Brewer, Rockets guard/forward. “He is showing he wants to be a leader. He’s the franchise player. He signed the extension. So it’s his team, and he’s doing all the right things to do what we need to do to have a chance to win championships.”

Harden’s plan is to hold the minicamp in Miami. However, the potential of bad weather hitting South Florida may cause the Rockets players to work in a different city.

Nearly every team does one of these, and how much good they do depends on who you ask. Teams that go deep in the playoffs have these camps, teams that disappoint and never make the playoffs have these camps. It certainly never hurts to get some voluntary team workouts in before the coaches take over at the end of September, and good on Harden for organizing it.

Just don’t read too much into any team doing this.

Top 10 NBA plays of last season by position (video)

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Which position – point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward or center – produced the best highlights last season?

Watch this video to find out and be glad the positional revolution didn’t reduce it fewer highlights.

Ohio farm commemorates Cavaliers championship with corn mazes (photo)

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23, Kevin Love #0, and J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Could you find your way out of LeBron James‘ head?

Now, you can find out.

An Ohio farm has created three corn mazes – one featuring LeBron’s head, one that says Believeland and one with a Larry O’Brien Trophy – to commemorate the Cavaliers 2016 NBA title:

This is a championship-level corn maze. 🏆🌽 Thanks for the love, @maplesidefarms! #OneForTheLand #Believeland

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

College coaches vote UConn’s Kevin Ollie best-suited/most likely to make NBA jump

DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17:  head coach Kevin Ollie of the Connecticut Huskies reacts on the sideline in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 17, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Kevin Ollie made himself one of the NBA’s hottest coaching prospects by leading UConn to the 2014 NCAA title.

He has since resisted NBA overtures, including from the Lakers in 2014 and Thunder last year.

But his peers don’t expect Ollie’s hesitance to last.

Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander of CBSSPorts.com asked more than 110 college coaches, “Which active college coach is best suited and most likely to next jump to the NBA?” The results:

Coach, college Percentage

Kevin Ollie, UConn 20 percent

Bill Self, Kansas 17 percent

John Calipari, Kentucky 16 percent

Jay Wright, Villanova 16 percent

Shaka Smart, Texas 9 percent

Tony Bennett, Virginia 8 percent

Note: Other coaches who received at least three or more votes: Sean Miller (Arizona), Larry Krystkowiak (Utah) and Avery Johnson (Alabama).

Keep in mind 80% of responds didn’t answer Ollie. But he’s still makes sense atop the leaderboard.

Ollie isn’t the typical college-to-NBA coach, and Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan – and maybe eventually Fred Hoiberg – are changing that perception, anyway. Not is Ollie showing his basketball acumen at Connecticut, his 13-year NBA career suggests he can translate his style to the next level.

Of course, Calipari always comes up on these lists. He coaches more future NBA stars than anyone, and he loves the attention that comes with the perception NBA teams are chasing him. But he has the best job in college basketball at Kentucky, so luring him will be difficult.

Self and Wright, the other coaches who got at least 10% of the vote, come up from time to time in NBA rumors. But it never seems to be anything that goes anywhere.