Georgia South Carolina Basketball

Damontre Harris the latest player handcuffed by transfer rules

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Damontre Harris, South Carolina’s starting center that averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks (he was 19th in the nation in block percentage), has been given a release to transfer out of the program.

This is not uncommon nor all that unexpected. South Carolina is in the midst of a coaching change — Frank Martin took over for Darrin Horn — and there were already rumors of Harris looking to transfer out of the program before Horn was fired.

But the sad fact is that Harris’ story isn’t uncommon for the wrong reasons.

Martin has granted Harris his release, but he gave it with one exception: Harris is not allowed to transfer to NC State. According to Kevin McCrarey of the SportsTalk Radio Network in South Carolina, the issue is that Martin likely suspects the Wolfpack of tampering:

Former USC assistant Orlando Early is now working on the N.C. State staff. One basketball source told us Early has been working through Harris’ high school coach, Heath Vandevender, for several months trying to facilitate a transfer to Raleigh. According to the source, Early has also reached out to Harris, citing his previous relationship with him as the reason for the contact.

Vandevender denies that claim. He said Harris has not talked to any school about a transfer.

This is just another example of how ridiculously unfair the NCAA’s transfer rules are.

Frank Martin left Kansas State and took over at South Carolina. He didn’t have to sit out a year when he made this change. He didn’t have to request a release from his Kansas State players to leave and take a new job. He found a better job, a job that will earn him more money, and he took it, no questions asked.

But when a player wants to leave a program, he has to jump through hoops. He has to request a release and he has to hope that the coaching staff of the program he is leaving won’t hold any grudges. Nevermind the fact that, in this case, Harris is requesting a release from a coach that has been in charge of the South Carolina program for less than a month.

Tampering with players and trying to persuade a kid to transfer out of a program is not a good thing. That’s why the NCAA has punishments in place for when tampering occurs. The problem is that these issues are difficult to prove. Harris has a previous relationship with Early. How can the NCAA prove what was discussed in their conversations? How can anyone know whether Early was giving advice to Harris on what to do on a second date or checking in with him to see how his grades are doing?

Along those same lines, how can anyone know who brought up the idea of transferring? Isn’t it just as likely that Harris made the decision that he wanted to finish his career at NC State and got in touch with Early to see if that was a possibility? How do we know it wasn’t Harris that was recruiting Early to give him a scholarship and not vice versa? Harris is a native of Fayetteville, NC, which is all of an hour’s drive from NC State’s Raleigh campus. The Wolfpack have a program trending towards the top of the ACC, there is a coach on the staff that Harris has a previous relationship with and there will be plenty of playing time opening up in the front court for the 2013-2014 season, when Harris would be come eligible.

The burden of punishing a player and a program should land on the NCAA, who will have the time and the resources to investigate the accusations. South Carolina shouldn’t have the power to bar Harris from receiving a scholarship during the mandatory redshirt season for transfers, which in-and-of-itself is an unfair rule.

Allowing Martin to deny Harris a release to NC State is akin to allowing a citizen to charge someone with reckless driving because they got cut off on the highway.

I’ve always liked Martin as a coach. I’ve admired the way that he runs his program, but that was because he always seemed to have his player’s best interests at heart.

I guess that is only the case when they want to play for him.

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

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Hartford makes smart decision to allow ‘Pancake’ Thomas transfer

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Hartford coach John Gallagher, AP Photo
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Another talented graduate transfer has hit the market.

Cleveland ‘Pancake’ Thomas — that’s a helluva name, isn’t it? — has been granted a release by Hartford and will be allowed to transfer to another program for his fifth season.

“Our biggest priority for Cleveland was that he graduate from the University of Hartford with a valuable degree,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said in a statement released to ESPN after some speculation that Thomas wasn’t going to be given a release. “That happened. Beyond wishing him the very best, we don’t comment on other program’s players. We are very excited about our group and the upcoming season.”

The term “release” is needed here because Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 18.9 points and shot 42.6 percent from three this past season, spent his first two years of eligibility at New Mexico. A graduate transfer exception is granted to any player making their first transfer after receiving an undergraduate degree. But since Pancake had already transferred once, he was only eligible to apply for a graduate transfer waiver, which the school he is leaving must support.

Remember the saga of Todd O’Brien? He tried to leave St. Joseph’s to spend his fifth-year at UAB but made headlines everywhere when Phil Martelli wouldn’t let it happen? That’s because O’Brien had started his career at Bucknell and needed Martelli to support the waiver.

Gallagher could have done the same to Pancake.

He made the right decision not to — Martelli has enough coaching cache to withstand the onslaught on criticism he received, I’m not sure that is true for Gallagher — even if it will result in Thomas playing elsewhere, hence the cold-hearted nature of that statement.

Anyway, Thomas never averaged more than 3.9 points at New Mexico, so while he’s a tantalizing prospect for programs that are dying for perimeter depth and shooting, this isn’t exactly a kid that’s going to launch himself into the NBA Draft’s first round by jumping up to a higher level.

Shawn Forrest named assistant coach for Jankovich at SMU

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Larry Brown (L) and associate head coach Tim Jankovich of the Southern Methodist Mustangs look on during the team's game against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Southern Methodist won 90-74. The game marks Brown's return from a nine-game suspension.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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DALLAS (AP) Shawn Forrest has been named an assistant basketball coach at SMU, his third school since the end of last season.

Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich announced Forrest’s hiring Tuesday.

Forrest spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky before head coach Ray Harper resigned. Forrest was named a UTSA assistant in May, but two weeks later left for Louisiana Tech before the unexpected opening at SMU.

Jankovich was SMU’s associate head coach before the abrupt resignation last month of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Forrest fills the open assistant spot created on the staff when Jankovich was promoted to head coach.

Before Western Kentucky, Forrest was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Arkansas State and Florida A&M.