Kyisean Reed latest second chance story at Utah State

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LOGAN, Utah – Stew Morrill has built Utah State into a power in the WAC. They’ve won seven regular season titles since 2000 and made eight NCAA Tournaments in that time. To get an idea of the level that this program has reached, think about this: they packed the 10,270 seat Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at more than 80% capacity — over 90% capacity in the 4,000 seat student section — in a down year and it was still considered a mediocre crowd.

Granted, he did take over a team coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998, but before Larry Eustachy built that team into a winner, the Aggies hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in a decade. Recruiting players to spend the winter in Logan, UT, a small town in the northeast corner of Utah that sits squarely in one of the most religious areas of our country, is not an easy sell.

Which is why Morrill has to take some risks.

And those risks don’t always pan out.

Remember Anthony DiLoreto? A 7’1″ center from Wisconsin, DiLoreto was supposed to be headed to Cal Poly before he was arrested for taking part in a bank robbery while he was in high school; he was the getaway driver. Morrill gave him a shot, and DiLoreto blew it. He enrolled at Utah State during the 2009-2010 season, but couldn’t make it a full year without getting in trouble. He was kicked off of the team after getting caught with weed that May.

“I’m willing to roll the dice,” Morrill said. “I’ll give a guy a second chance. I won’t give him a third.”

And there have been times where those second chances have paid off.

Gary Wilkinson dropped out of high school after getting cut from the basketball team, spending his time, as he told ESPN.com, sitting around and partying with his friends. But Wilkinson turned his life around, finding religion — he became a member of the LDS church, like the overwhelming majority of USU students — while earning his GED before spending two years on a mission in Canada and heading to Salt Lake Community College. Wilkinson eventually ended up at Utah State, where he became the WAC Player of the Year in 2009 as a 26 year old power forward.

Willkinson was “as solid as they come”, Morrill said. He had turned his life around by the time that he reached Logan.

That wasn’t necessarily true with David Pak.

In 1993, when Pak was 16 years old, he raped a 23 year old woman at knife point. After pleading guilty to one count of forcible rape and another count of forcible rape with a weapon, Pak was sentenced to eight years in prison. Pak cleaned up while he did his time, eventually enrolling at Saddleback Community College, winning the Orange Empire Conference’s MVP as a sophomore.

It took some cajoling, but Morrill eventually convinced Utah State to accept Pak. “A lot of people wouldn’t take that gamble,” he told the San Diego Tribune back in 2006, “I’ll be honest with you. Our president said, ‘It’s on you.’ I swallowed hard and said, ‘OK.'”

Pak was a two year starter for the Aggies, leading the team in assists in 2005-2006 and eventually carrying them to the NCAA Tournament. That’s quite a difference from asking his cellmate’s permission to dribble a basketball late into the night.

The latest risk Morrill has taken is Kyisean Reed, a bouncy, left-handed 6’6″ combo-forward that can crack the Sportscenter Top Ten just as easily as he can step out and hit a 17 footer. Reed enrolled at Antelope Valley, a Junior College in Lancaster, CA, that is more well-known for producing USC transfer Dewayne Dedmon, but he didn’t last the full two years there.

“I guess me and coach didn’t really see eye to eye,” Reed said of getting kicked off the team as a sophomore. “I made a mistake.”

Reed was concerned about his reputation, especially when it came to the schools that were recruiting him. He’s not a bad kid, he’s actually quite friendly. Shy, even. And while he got himself kicked off of the basketball team, he wasn’t kicked out of school. Reed finished up his classes and got himself eligible for Division I basketball, but that didn’t change the fact that he was concerned about his image.

“No one absolutely knows what happened except me and the coach,” he said. “I understand that, even coming here, people had questions like, ‘What did he do? Was it really that egregious to get kicked off the team?’ Well, I’m here.”

And his arrival was something that Morrill was not concerned about.

As he did with Pak, Morrill got a tip from AVJC about Reed. Its a program that he has a long and established relationship with, so when he was told he can trust in Reed, he believed it.

“I’ve known the program — the AD and the former basketball coach is a longtime friend of mine,” Morrill said. “I was up to speed on everything that went on. Kyisean had a tough background growing up at times. It was a different type of issue, it wasn’t criminal or anything like that. They allowed him to finish his year [academically] and we felt like we could take a chance on him.”

And its paid off. Reed has started 15 games while averaging 10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and leading the team in blocked shots. That said, Morrill isn’t yet satisfied with Reed, but that dissatisfaction stems completely from Reed’s performance on the court.

“We need him to rebound a little better and play a little harder at times, but he gives us an athletic presence that we desperately need,” Morrill said.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.