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Nerlens Noel, the ‘recruiting underbelly,’ and a player strike

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There’s a certain something that rings true in the headline of the New York Times profile of the situation surrounding the nation’s best high school player: “Everybody Wants a Piece of Nerlens Noel.”

The 4,500-word piece details Noel’s recruitment and the networks of former players, coaches, and advisers trying to surround him as he ascends to the college ranks and, most likely, the 2013 NBA draft.

This isn’t an unfamiliar story, the way adults flock to young stars, whether in movies, music, or athletics. As the buzzword “underbelly” of recruiting gets thrown around, the better question is how is this to be fixed, “fixed” in a way that eliminates exploitation?

The NCAA, thus far, has gone the route of prohibition. By cracking down in cases like those of Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli and Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright for impermissible benefit violations, the NCAA is taking the stance that enforcing the regulations will fix the problem, yet it continues.

Is there room for education and empowerment to fight the ills of the system?

A more concerted effort by the NCAA for comprehensive education systems to teach players and parents about the recruiting process would not only be an avenue to solve the problems and reduce the need for enforcement of violations, but would also be a strong public relations move in the face of what feels like a changing tide in the national opinion about the NCAA’s business model.

The restrictions of amateurism make monetary payment for work, legal and obligatory in all other spheres of the business world, illegal under NCAA bylaw, which leads to the biggest question yet, what can players do if they want monetary compensation?

The Atlantic wrote a lengthy piece published Wednesday about the idea of a strike by NCAA athletes, which would hurt the pockets of the NCAA, mostly by way of lost television revenue. Could it work? Would paying players expose the supposed “underbelly” of recruiting and shrink the problem, just as the end of the Prohibition Era in the United States almost eliminated its black market?

With the NCAA business model working its way into the mainstream of the national conversation, the NCAA will have critics to answer in the off-season, so stay tuned.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.