Keith Dambrot

Addition of Akron completes 2013 Diamond Head Classic field

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The Diamond Head Classic announced on Friday afternoon that the Akron Zips would be the eighth and final team in the 2013 field. Akron joins Boise State, George Mason, Iowa State, Oregon State, Saint Mary’s and South Carolina in the field.

Keith Dambrot’s Zips won 26 games and reached the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last three seasons in 2012-13, managing to do so despite the late-season loss of point guard Alex Abreu.

Heading into the 2013-14 season Akron will need to account for the graduation of center Zeke Marshall, but with key contributors such as Nick Harney and Demetrius Treadwell returning the Zips should not be ruled out in the MAC.

“We are very excited to be invited by ESPN to play in one of its tournaments for a second-consecutive season,” Dambrot said in a release from the school. “The Diamond Head Classic is a great tournament and once again consists of a very strong field.

“Like the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last season, playing in the Diamond Head Classic will allow our fans to travel to a beautiful location and see the Zips play against high-quality competition.”

Akron, Boise State, Iowa State and Saint Mary’s all reached the 2013 NCAA tournament, and with the exception of the Broncos each team has key departures to account for entering the 2013-14 season.

As for the teams in the event who did not reach the Big Dance last season South Carolina will have a much different look due to the arrival of eight newcomers including highly-touted wing Sindarius Thornwell. George Mason reached the championship series of the CBI, losing to Santa Clara, while Oregon State failed to qualify for postseason play.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.