2013 NIT Championship - Semifinals

Baylor center Isaiah Austin to return for sophomore season

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

With one tweet from departing point guard Pierre Jackson, Baylor fans became very excited about their prospects for the 2013-14 season.

In news that has since been reported by multiple outlets, 7-1 center Isaiah Austin will in fact return to Waco for his sophomore season. Baylor sent out a press release late Sunday, following a meeting between Austin and head coach Scott Drew.

With rising redshirt senior Cory Jefferson making the same decision Thursday, Scott Drew’s team will be loaded inside next season.

“We’re extremely excited to have an opportunity to work with Isaiah for another year,” Drew said in the release. “I think it’s a compliment to Baylor Nation, the university and the team that Isaiah wants to return, and I know Baylor Nation is really excited to have him back for another year.”

In 35 games this past season Austin averaged 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game for the Bears, who won the Postseason NIT title. Austin has been projected as a likely first round selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, likely falling just outside of the lottery.

But with his decision to return to school the 2014 NBA Draft (should he declare then) becomes deeper in theory, and Baylor should be considered a Big 12 contender along with Oklahoma State (the early favorite in the eyes of many) and league standard-bearer Kansas.

This is where Jackson’s departure comes into play.

Jackson leaves a big hole for Baylor to fill at the point, with the hope being that rising sophomore L.J. Rose and junior college transfer Kenny Chery are capable of handing the responsibilities.

Gary Franklin Jr. is another option at the position, and with the amount of talent both returning and arriving in Waco at the other spots this is the big question for Coach Drew and his staff to address.

However that question is for another day. Today Baylor fans will celebrate Austin’s decision to return to school for another year, and rightfully so.

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?