For the first time in 27 years, La Salle has landed a basketball product from La Salle High School as point guard Amar Stukes committed to the program earlier this week.
A 6-1, 165-pound guard, Stukes was also considering Drexel, Fairfield and Binghamton, and his commitment makes it three Division I products in the last three years for La Salle High School.
Stukes’ classmate Steve Smith is headed to Fairfield, and 2011 guard Eddie Mitchell is entering his sophomore season at Rider.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer it was a close call for Stukes between the Explorers and fellow Philadelphia school Drexel, with the Dragons’ recent success sticking out in his mind.
But the allure of the Big 5, a storied city rivalry that La Salle is a part of (Penn, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and Villanova being the others), ultimately won over the La Salle High product.
For Stukes, the chance to play at home in front of family and friends was simply the icing on the cake. Taking part in a tradition as rich as the Big 5 was the only selling point Stukes needed.
“I’m glad that I will be getting a chance to play so close to home in front of my family, but really, I am really excited to play for Coach G [La Salle head coach John Giannini] in the Big 5,” Stukes said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Some of the best basketball players, not just to come out of this city but to play in the NBA, played for a Big 5 school. To me, that was really what got me.”
Ramon Galloway is a senior this season but point guard Tyreek Duren will be a senior when Stukes is a freshman, meaning that he’ll be able to spend that year learning from one of the best point guards in the Atlantic 10.
Stukes also noted the need for him to add some muscle to his slender build this season to better prepare himself for college basketball.
The concept of amateurism has been around for nearly two centuries.
It started back in the 1800s, when organized sport was first beginning in England. The upper class, the one-percenters of that time, lived a lifestyle that allowed them to do things like play rugby, or polo, or soccer, and succeed at it.
When you don’t have to worry about working six or seven days a week in a factory you have the time to practice kicking with your weaker foot. But those blue collar workers, the ones that spent six or seven days a week doing manual labor, they were the better athletes. Bigger, stronger, faster. Those rich guys didn’t stand a chance, which is why amateurism was born.
You cannot be paid to play sports, they said. You have to play sports for the love of the game, which those rich guys were able to do because they didn’t have to spend their days trying to work enough hours to put food on the table for their wives and children.
Amateurism, the core tenet of the NCAA, was quite literally created to keep rich English guys from getting their asses kicked by poor English guys.
Today, that concept, that farce, trumps all else in college athletics.
It’s why, in 2018, the NCAA has contracts that guarantees the association roughly $13.5 BILLION dollars over the next 14 years to broadcast a tournament that Duke’s Wendell Carter may not be able to play in because his mom allegedly had a $106 lunch paid for by a recruiter for an agent two years ago.
On Friday morning, hours after Yahoo Sports published a bombshell report that included documents and spreadsheets detailing the recruitment strategy of former NBA agent Andy Miller, NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement addressing the evidence presented.
“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now,” Emmert, who made at least $1.9 million in 2015, began in the statement, and he is absolutely, 100 percent correct.
If, as Emmert put it, “we want college sports in America,” we need to do away with amateurism rules. We need to do away with the archaic notion that these athletes do not have any value. We need to do away with the idea that these athletes — athletes with the potential to earn, quite literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in their playing career, mind you — having access to professional representation before they turn 19 years old is some sort of problem.
The simple truth is this: If you do not allow players to access their fair market value without breaking NCAA rules, you are perpetuating the underground economy that is already flourishing. There is too much money in the game, and the numbers that you are seeing tossed around today are simply on the agent side, and from just one agent. Yahoo did not gain access to all of the evidence that the FBI has gathered during this investigation, and even if the did, the network built by Miller is a fraction of the black market created by the NCAA’s insistence that amateurism reign supreme.
Think about it like this: If basketball’s underground economy was a movie, then what we saw today was the shortened trailer that airs three weeks after the movie was actually released.
We’re just scratching the surface.
What you are not seeing now is the money that shoe companies spend to funnel players to certain schools that will help build their brand. Brian Bowen taught us that players that don’t reach the top 20 in a recruiting class can be worth $100,000 to a company like Adidas. If Brian Bowen is worth $100,000 to Adidas, what is a talent like Marvin Bagley III or Deandre Ayton worth to them?
What you are also not seeing is the money that flows from boosters to the players. You don’t think that a booster for, say, Big Tech would love to spend a few thousand dollars to land a player that will help keep them above Big State in the standings? Think about how much you love your favorite team. Now think about how much money you’d be willing to part with every year to help that team get the players they need to get to a Final Four if you had $30 million in the bank.
Say it with me now:
It doesn’t matter how many smart people Emmert tries to put on a committee.
Boosters are never going to stop wanting their team to win. Shoe companies are never going to stop spending billions of dollars to help build their brand. Coaches are never going to stop looking the other way because getting those good players is how they win, and winning is how they get better jobs and longer contracts.
The fix is so damn easy, too.
Go to the Olympic model.
Schools don’t have to play the players. There won’t be any Title IX issues, which is the crux of the issue when it comes to the “schools should pay the players” debate; it’s not exactly a secret football and men’s basketball subsidizes the rest of an athletic department.
The athletes will be able to receive their fair market value because their ability to profit off of their own name and their own likeness will not be artificially capped by an association that wants to keep all of that money for themselves.
And therein lies the problem.
Think about it like this: Adidas currently has a deal with the University of Louisville that will pay the school $160 million over the next decade for all Cardinal athletes to be decked out head-to-toe in nothing but the three stripes. This deal is far from unique. Under Armour has a deal with UCLA worth $280 million. Nike’s new deal with Michigan is valued at roughly $173 million.
The goal there isn’t necessarily to get every player covered head-to-toe in their brand. The goal is to get, say, Lamar Jackson wearing Adidas while he’s at Louisville, or Josh Rosen wearing UA while he’s at UCLA. With basketball, it’s even more specific. Nike wants, say, Michael Porter Jr. wearing the swoosh in high school and college so that they can sign him when he gets to the pros and make billions off of his brand if he happens to turn into the next Kevin Durant, or LeBron James, or Kyrie Irving, or Steph Curry.
If amateurism didn’t exist, if Nike could go straight Porter or Adidas could go straight to Jackson when they were 15 or 16 years old, would the incentive to invest billions of dollars in sponsorship deals with the schools still be as strong? There would still be money there, but there wouldn’t be as much because a good chunk of it would be going to the players those companies actually want.
It works on a micro-level, too.
A car dealership in Lexington or a restaurant in Lawrence is going to advertise with the school — on the local broadcasts, with promotions at the game, on the coach’s radio show, etc. — instead of being able to put, say, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a billboard to help sell Toyota Camrys or, say, Devonte’ Graham in a commercial touting a new Happy Hour special.
Let’s put this another way: If you let the labor get paid, then the profits of the company and the salaries of the decision-makers within that company take a hit.
Emmert ended his statement on Friday like this: “We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts,” blissfully aware that he and his cronies are the unscrupulous parties exploiting the system, without a f*** to give when that direct deposit hits this afternoon.
Kevin Knox’s father: ‘I’ve never met Christian Dawkins’
The father of Kevin Knox spoke with SEC Country on Friday morning and told the outlet that he has never met Christian Dawkins or Andy Miller.
Knox is one of the players that was mentioned in the documents disclosed by Yahoo Sports on Friday morning detailing the way that former NBA agent Andy Miller recruited players to his agency. Knox is mentioned in the report as either him or a family member having a meal with Christian Dawkins. The evidence is an expense report that Dawkins filed with Miller in oder to get reimbursed.
“Obviously the investigation is still going on, but the only comment I can say is I’ve never met Christian Dawkins before or Andy Miller, and if they sat next to me at the grocery store, I wouldn’t know who they were,” Kevin Knox Sr. told SEC Country. “Out of respect for the NCAA investigation and the University of Kentucky investigation into this, I’d just say that I’ve never met Christian Dawkins or Andy Miller before and leave it at that.”
He also added that he expected his son to play against Missouri on Saturday night.
Kentucky has not yet commented on the report. Mark Emmert, however, has.
Report: Miles Bridges, Wendell Carter, Kevin Knox among players receiving benefits in FBI documents
Yahoo Sports released a devastating report on Friday morning detailing some of the exact expenditures and impermissible benefits provided listed on records that were obtained by the FBI from the offices of former agent Andy Miller.
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, just to name a few. Past college stars like Dennis Smith Jr., Bam Adebayo and Markelle Fultz are also listed in the spreadsheets and documents obtained by Yahoo.
The report — and I encourage you to read it — details the elaborate payment, loan and recruitment strategy by Andy Miller’s agency, which includes outright payments to players, cash advances to parents, dinners that were paid for and plane tickets and travel that was provided to players and families.
Here’s the catch: What was provided to the biggest names currently in college is not all that great. Bridges’ mom allegedly received $400, according to an expense report filed by Dawkins, while Bridges’ parents had a meal with Dawkins listed at $70.05. Carter, Knox and Sexton are all tied to this by meals that families members had with Dawkins that the former Miller associate paid for.
Whether or not the players will be deemed ineligible is yet to be determine. The dollar value of the benefits listed in these documents is small enough that paying the money back might be enough to get their eligibility restored now even if it does mean that games they’ve played in previously will end up vacated.
There is also the argument that can be made that Dawkins is lying in these expense reports. In a business with as much cash flying around as this, is it too much of a stretch to assume that Dawkins had dinner with some friends or a girlfriend and passed the receipt off as a work expense?
It’s too early to tell what exactly will result from all of this.
But remember how we tried to tell you in September that this thing goes deep?
On Monday, North Carolina passed Michigan State and Purdue on the Seed List (UNC is No. 7 overall). Wednesday, the Tar Heels backed up their route of Louisville by winning another road game at Syracuse. That’s six straight ACC victories – all but two of which are against teams in today’s bracket. Carolina now has 10 Quadrant 1 wins, which ties the Tar Heels with Kansas for the most in that category (by a two-win margin). Which brings us to this question: How high can Carolina climb?
The answer, of course, depends on these next two weeks. But given their strong schedule and depth of quality wins, a No. 1 seed isn’t out of the question if the Tar Heels beat Duke (again) to close the regular season and/or win the ACC tournament.
Overall, several ACC teams benefitted today by the confusing state of the SEC. The middle of the bracket is littered with SEC teams who ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean. These next two weeks will be important for them, too.
With another full weekend ahead, here’s where we stand …
UPDATED: February 23, 2018
FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)
Baylor vs. Washington | Midwest Region
Texas vs. LSU | West Region
SOUTHERN vs. SAVANNAH ST | South Region
FL GULF COAST vs. NICHOLLS | East Region
SOUTH – Atlanta
EAST – Boston
16) SOUTHERN / SAVANNAH ST
16) FL GULF CST / NICHOLLS
5) Ohio State
12) St. Bonaventure
4) West Virginia
13) E. TENNESSEE ST
6) Florida State
6) Virginia Tech
11) Saint Mary’s
11) MIDDLE TENNESSEE
3) Texas Tech
7) Arizona State
10) Kansas State
2) MICHIGAN STATE
2) North Carolina
15) WRIGHT STATE
WEST – Los Angeles
MIDWEST – Omaha
8) Seton Hall
9) Texas AM
12) NEW MEXICO ST
12) LOYOLA (CHI)
4) Wichita State
13) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
13) MURRAY STATE
6) RHODE ISLAND
11) LSU / Texas
11) Baylor / Washington
7) NC State
NOTES on the BRACKET: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed – followed by Villanova, Xavier, and Kansas
Last Four Byes (at large): Kansas State, Providence, Saint Mary’s, St. Bonaventure
Last Four IN (at large): Baylor, Texas, LSU, Washington
First Four OUT (at large): Marquette, Syracuse, USC, Utah
Next four teams OUT (at large): UCLA, Mississippi State, Louisville, Georgia
Michael Porter, Jr. came to an antiquated situation in a very modern way.
The 6-foot-11 phenom signed up to play for his father at his hometown university.
And Missouri really is more than just the hometown university for Porter — it’s home. His aunt has coached two of his sisters on the Tigers’ women’s team. His younger brother, one of his seven siblings, is also on the roster. After hitting rock-bottom in the Kim Anderson era, Missouri was getting its prodigal son and savior all in the same package.
Nevermind it came after his family moved to Seattle as his father was hired as an assistant by Lorenzo Romar in Washington, no doubt in part because of the long-standing relationship between the two men but also because Porter, Jr. is possibly a generational talent. And forget that his father’s next job came from Cuonzo Martin at Missouri.
In the end, Porter, Jr. began the season playing for his father and with his brother, a five-star center who reclassified in order to join the Tigers, undoubtedly envisioning a magical season alongside his family in his hometown in the pursuit of a national championship.
It’s not Hoosiers, but it ain’t far off.
The season hasn’t exactly worked out that way, and after Porter, Jr. found himself in a nostalgic role by following a contemporary path, in order to live out that he’ll have to turn his back on current-day — somewhat cynical — common sense logic to get one last chance at it.
After sitting out the whole season due to a back injury and with a week left in the regular season, Porter, Jr. has been cleared to return to basketball activities, seemingly setting up the decision on whether to give college basketball one last chance or simply sit out to preserve his best chance to make the most money in the NBA.
Essentially, it boils down to this: Is the added risk to the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars Porter, Jr. could make in the NBA worth the reward of an NCAA tournament run playing alongside his brother with his father on the bench at the university that in some ways has defined his family?
How much is that one chance of collegiate glory worth?
The simple answer for most in 2018 is not enough to justify playing.
Porter, Jr. probably can’t move the needle on his draft stock by playing. Could he possibly be good enough in just a couple weeks after months on the shelf to move ahead of Deandre Ayton? Luka Doncic? Mo Bamba or Marvin Bagley III? Maybe, but is going first or second that much of a difference than going fifth or sixth when the real money comes on his second and third contracts? Or his shoe deal?
Were he to injure himself — especially if it was an aggravation of the back injury or a foot issue — teams might have memories of Greg Oden flash before their eyes. Is there a team willing to risk a Joel Embiid-like injury profile in the first seven slots of a draft this strong?
On the other hand, Porter, Jr. is going to be drafted no matter what potentially happens after his potential return. I can’t imagine even in the most catastrophic of scenarios where he slips outside the top-half of the first round. He’ll make millions of dollars, and that’s the worst-case scenario. Playing, if he’s fully healthy, only adds some risk.
Is that added percent — or two or five or 15 — acceptable when weighed against the unique opportunity that generations of basketball players have dreamed of and never even been given chance to fulfill?
Charging headlong into a chance to win a title — and Missouri very well could be a title contender in a year like this year with a healthy Porter, Jr. — for your school, community and family has to be a tantalizingly tempting choice. Even if it doesn’t come with a paycheck.
It’s chasing a storybook ending over limiting future financial risk.
How to adjudicate those two choices is up to Porter, Jr.
It’s a choice he gets to make. Does he try to have it all or play it safe? Is the lure of shared family success stronger than that of financial security and better long-term viability?
Playing for free has a cost. Is Porter, Jr. willing to pay it?