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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_

UConn commit tears ACL for second time

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UConn commit Juwan Durham, a four-star big man in the Class of 2016, has torn the ACL in his right knee for the second time in seven months. The Florida native committed to the Huskies and head coach Kevin Ollie back in September. The 6-foot-9 forward is regarded as the No. 31 overall prospect in the national Class of 2016, so he can really be a force when he’s healthy.

In a report from’s Bob Putnam, UConn was notified of the injury immediately and there is no change in plans with the commitment. The Huskies also own commitments from four-star point guard Alterique Gilbert and three-star power forward Mamadou Diarra in the Class of 2016. Having Diarra, an active, rim-protecting presence, helps with Durham’s recovery, since he can provide some more front court depth.

If Durham rehabs back to full speed, UConn has a very talented power forward who was just hitting his stride in the Florida state playoffs last February. UConn has a nice class so far with this group, especially if Durham can recover, With a year to recover until next season, Durham can hopefully play during his freshman season in 2016.

VIDEO: Arizona State’s Torian Graham dunks over teammate

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Arizona State fans won’t get a chance to see Torian Graham take the floor this season, but he did sky over fellow teammates (and transfer) Shannon Evans on Friday night at the team’s Maroon and Gold Madness. The 6-foot-4 Graham is a former Buffalo commit — Evans also came from Buffalo — and both players will have to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer regulations.

Graham hasn’t had a chance to get into a Division I game, but he’ll be able to play for the Sun Devils next season. For now, fans can look forward to Graham’s athleticism on the wing in pregame dunk routines.

A former top-100 prospect, Graham also pulled off this ridiculous move in the dunk contest.