Why you should be upset about Yahoo’s Myck Kabongo report

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My first reaction to seeing the report from Yahoo! that Texas point guard Myck Kabongo would be suspended for the rest of the season by the NCAA was simple: Duh!

The kid lied to the NCAA. As Pat Forde wrote, Kabongo “provided inaccurate information to NCAA investigators when he was interviewed.” ESPN’s Andy Katz explained it as Kabongo neglecting to “give the NCAA all the information he had when asked.”

And, as anyone will tell you, lying to the NCAA is a cardinal sin. Ask Bruce Pearl. Or Brad Greenberg. Or Dez Bryant. The NCAA doesn’t have any subpoena power. They can’t force anyone outside of their control to talk to them. What they can do, however, is suspend a player or a coach that’s unwilling to speak with them. To ensure that the information they are given is the truth, the NCAA will do whatever they can to bring the hammer down on anyone they catch in a lie.

Ask Shabazz Muhammad. He was forthcoming about what the NCAA grilled him on, and he’s playing right now. (To be fair, the fact that his situation cleared itself up so quickly had a lot to do with a conversation overheard on a plane.)

Those are the rules the NCAA plays by. Kabongo knew them. He still “provided inaccurate information” and was caught doing so. Now he faces the consequences. It may not make sense that you can only park in front of your apartment building for two hours at any time of the day or night, but if you leave your car sitting there until the morning, you’ll be paying that ticket.

In the immortal words of Avon Barksdale, “Some things just stay the same, man. The game is the game.”

And therein lies the problem.

The issue here isn’t simply that Kabongo lied to the NCAA and got caught. He probably shouldn’t have done that, and when he got word that his season was over after Texas beat North Carolina at home last night, I’m sure the full weight of the regret for “providing inaccurate information” hit him. (Frankly, I have a tough time judging a 19 year old for trying to cover his tracks when he knows he messed up. God knows I did my fair share of lying to try and get out of trouble at that age.)

No, the issue here is that Kabongo was in a position where he needed to lie to the NCAA.

There are so many things wrong with the current structure of the NCAA. First and foremost, the fact that Kabongo is going to miss his sophomore season and damage, possibly irreparably, his standing as an NBA prospect over who footed the bill for an offseason workout and his association with an agent is ludicrous. Kabongo wants to get better, and to get better he needs to work out and train with the best. Those training sessions ain’t free. Jerry Powell, the New York-based trainer that worked out Kabongo on that fateful day in Cleveland, needs to make a living somehow.

But how is Kabongo supposed to pay for that? He’s not allowed to profit off of his ability, even though Texas is cashing eight figure checks for the rights to broadcast these “amateur” athletes and the NCAA signed an 11 figure — as in tens of billions of dollars — deal with CBS and Turner to broadcast the championship of the sport Kabongo plays. We can’t allow the players to see a return off their talent and their hard work when the NCAA has suits that need be paid and taxes they need to be exempt from.

The “student”-athletes can’t fight against these rights, either, because they don’t have a union. They don’t have a unified voice. They might be able to build one if they were willing take drastic measures and boycott a bowl game or a Final Four, but what kid is going to give up a chance to play in an event that big when they’ve been working their entire life to reach that goal?

And given how much money is on the line for the stars at the college level, what is wrong with them signing with an agent to ensure that they build their brand the right way and develop their skills to the point that they are a professional commodity? Is there really an issue with making things official with an advisor that they trust?

There are going to be a lot of people a lot smarter than me that put together words on this subject that make a lot more sense than what you just read.

But the bottom-line here is that we simply cannot accept the fact that “the game is the game.”

Because “the game is rigged, man.” Accepting the position that Kabongo was forced into as reality is a problem in an of itself.

So while it’s tough to be up in arms about Kabongo breaking a rule, it’s really quite simple to be up in arms about the fact that the rules are an injustice in the first place.

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.