Oregon receives word from the NCAA that Arsalan Kazemi is eligible to play

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Given the fact that former Rice teammate Omar Oraby was declared eligible to play for USC a week ago, many felt it was only a matter of time before Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi was cleared to play as well.

According to multiple outlets the school was notified this afternoon that Kazemi, who was a second team All-Conference USA selection last season, is eligible to play immediately beginning with the Ducks’ game against Vanderbilt tomorrow night.

Oregon announced the new itself via the basketball program’s Twitter account.

Kazemi averaged a double-double in each of his last two seasons at Rice, and the 6-7 Iranian accounted for 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest in 2011-12.

Kazemi was one of six players to leave the Rice program in the months following the 2011-12 campaign. And while he and Oraby will play immediately three others are sitting this season per NCAA transfer rules (Jarelle Reischel/Rhode Island, Dylan Ennis/Villanova and David Chadwick/Valparaiso) and Ahmad Ibrahim turned pro.

Kazemi gives Oregon a productive front court option to slide into a rotation that’s leaned upon centers Tony Woods and Waverly Austin in the paint with freshman Ben Carter averaging just over 13 minutes per game off the bench.

Kazemi immediately becomes Oregon’s best rebounder, and it will be interesting to see how much of a boost this turns out to be for a team picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.

With this news Oregon should be a factor in the crowded midsection of the Pac-12 and a possibility for postseason play.

UPDATE 15 November 2012, 8:22 p.m.

Rice has released a statement in response to Kazemi’s transfer, explaining the school’s position on the move. It was first reported by Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com:

“As a matter of policy, Rice University avoids commenting on personnel matters or matters before the NCAA. However, allegations involving two former men’s basketball players require a brief response.

In September 2012, two student-athletes received permission from Rice to transfer to the University of Southern California and the University of Oregon. Both schools have sought a waiver of the NCAA’s one-year residency rule so that the students can compete in the upcoming basketball season. Unfortunately, USC and Oregon have included in those waiver applications meritless allegations of discrimination, including some previously asserted by a former assistant basketball coach whose contract was not renewed last spring.

Rice head basketball Coach Ben Braun and Athletics Director Rick Greenspan strongly deny those allegations. Rice University has a strong institutional commitment to tolerance and diversity, and both Braun and Greenspan share those values and provide services and programs that accommodate the needs of a diverse student-athlete population.

Rice does not stand in the way of student-athletes who may wish to compete elsewhere, consistent with NCAA rules. When these two student-athletes requested Rice’s permission to explore transfers to other universities, Rice readily agreed, as it has in the past for other student-athletes. However, the efforts by USC and Oregon to set aside NCAA rules have included unfounded claims of discrimination and, as a result, Rice opposed the granting of the waivers and will address the allegations of discrimination in appropriate forums.

Rice University has a long history of successful, rule-compliant athletics programs that support its student-athletes in the field of play, as well as in the classroom and community, and it fully intends to defend that honorable record.”

Photo credit: University of Oregon

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?