Cory Jefferson, Marcus Smart

Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson to return for senior season

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Creighton wasn’t the only basketball program to receive good news on Thursday.

Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson, who emerged as one of the most improved players in the Big 12 this past season, announced his decision to return to school for his senior season in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Jefferson didn’t see much playing time during his first two seasons in Waco, playing just 4.6 minutes per game as a freshman and 10.5 minutes per game as a redshirt sophomore on a team that reached the Elite 8.

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

But the mass exodus of big men following that run opened the door for Jefferson to earn more opportunities and he took advantage, averaging 13.3 points (61.0% FG), 8.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game for a team that won the Postseason NIT.

With Baylor still waiting on an NBA Draft decision from 7-footer Isaiah Austin and having to account for the loss of veteran guards Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton, Jefferson’s decision to return is welcome news to say the least.

With veterans such as Jefferson and Brady Heslip being joined by a freshman class that features wing Ishmail Wainright and center Dominic Woodson, Baylor’s chances of returning to the NCAA tournament may ultimately depend on what happens at point guard.

In addition to returnees Gary Franklin and L.J. Rose, head coach Scott Drew inked junior college transfer Kenny Chery to help account for the departure of one of the Big 12’s best point guards in Jackson. If one of those three can handle the responsibilities, Baylor should move back into the field of 68 in 2014.

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

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?