Hawaii calls it quits in Valdes eligibility drama

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Plenty of schools are waiting on eligibility rulings for important players, with UCLA and Shabazz Muhammad at the top of the list. In general, the plan is just to hunker down and wait for the phone to ring, hoping the caller ID shows an Indianapolis area code, and that the voice on the other end of the line has good news.

In Hawaii, that call would likely come at 6 am local time, so Gib Arnold has made certain his sleep won’t be interrupted by Mark Emmert’s investigators this season. He’s been waiting for final word on the eligibility of water polo-stud-turned-basketball-recruit Aaron Valdes. Weary of waiting, Arnold and the school have taken matters into their own hands. They’ll redshirt Valdes this season in hopes that the former La Jolla Waves star athlete will have four full years of eligibility left for the future.

Brian McInnis of the Hawaii hoops-centric blog Court Sense gives the skinny:

Well, the harrowing eligibility tale of Aaron Valdes seems to have met some resolution. UH coachGib Arnold said after practice on Thursday that the freshman wing will redshirt this season, regardless of any possible last-second 180 by the NCAA on his eligibility for the 2012-13 season.

The hope for UH is, after staying in the academic system for a full year, he will be eligible next season without having expended a year of eligibility.

This all might sound disappointing for UH fans, but keep in mind Valdes was a strong redshirt candidate regardless of the NCAA’s call; this just means he still likely will be unable to practice with the team in the meantime.

The fact that he put on a pretty entertaining show in the Ohana Hoopfest dunk contest (a runner-up finish to Garrett Jefferson) probably makes it a little tougher to swallow.

In the comments section to the article, a reader asked a valid question: “Brian, Am I reading your post correctly? Valdez to red-shirt but can not practice with the team?? I’m confused as to why that is.” McInnis replied: “Yes, the plan is to redshirt him academically so his freshman year isn’t burned. At the same time, the NCAA hasn’t cleared him as a member of the team so he’ll have to continue to sit out practices as well as games.  It’s a confusing and strange situation, I’ll admit.”

An amazing natural athlete, Valdes could have been a big help to the Warriors this season, but he needs some time to get his house in order academically. If he can get cleared by the NCAA to start practicing with the team again, he’ll have a chance to get his land-legs under him on the court as well. That’s the best-case scenario, and it was wise of the UH administration to cut bait in the short run.

(photo: La Jolla Prep Athletics)

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.