Chris Walker’s academic issues explained?

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Every summer, after the recruitment process has finished and the newest crop of incoming freshman have decided where they want to play their college ball, college hoops plays the waiting game as each of those recruits finds out whether or not they will make it through the NCAA’s Clearinghouse.

Last year, it was Providence commit Ricardo Ledo that made the most headlines when he was declared ineligible for the 2012-2013 season, but he wasn’t the only top 100 recruit that had to take an academic redshirt. Chicken Knowles didn’t play for Houston this past season, and Washington State was without Demarquise Johnson. Terry Rozier ended up enrolling at a prep school instead of Louisville.

The year before, it was Jahii Carson of Arizona State, Ben McLemore from Kansas and three members of St. John’s recruiting class — Norvel Pelle, Amir Garrett and Jakaar Sampson — that were among the names not allowed to take the court as freshmen.

This year, the biggest name currently in eligibility limbo is Florida commit Chris Walker, a top ten player in the Class of 2013.

We’ve discussed Walker’s status before, but never the cause of his eligibility question marks. On Monday, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com got to the bottom of it:

Walker’s father has forever been non-existent.

His mother essentially abandoned him years ago.

He’s spent his high school years living with a guardian named Jeneen Campbell and attending one of the state of Florida’s smallest public schools, mostly because he wanted to be loyal to the woman who was loyal to him. Walker could’ve transferred to any of the fancy basketball academies at any time over the past few years, and he would’ve probably benefited academically from it. But when you’ve been left by the adults whose top responsibility is to never leave you, it must be difficult to then turnaround and leave the one adult who didn’t. So Walker stayed with Campbell and at Holmes County High.

Holmes County High may be a fine high school, but it’s not one that is used to churning out Division I athletes. What that means is that Walker wasn’t enrolled in the classes as a freshman and sophomore that would put him on the right track to get eligible in the eyes of the NCAA. So he’s been forced to play catchup for the last couple of years, and he’s spending his summer working just as hard at getting the grades he needs in online courses as he is at improving his post game and adding some weight to his frame.

Florida is hoping for the best, and it seems that most people around Walker and the Florida program are cautiously optimistic.

The point here isn’t to absolve Walker of responsibility for his academic issues, because at the end of the days it’s his responsibility to get the grades he needs in the classes he needs to get them.

But it does put this situation into context.

Walker isn’t simply a case of a kid being lazy or dumb. He’s a product of his environment, and that goes for a number of the kids that have been ruled ineligible in recent years as well. Remember this story about Ben McLemore? His family was so poor growing up that 10 people lived in a 600 square foot apartment and they had to choose between using food stamps to eat or to sell to get money to keep the heat and the lights on.

You think a kid in that situation is going to be all that worried about his grades when college basketball is still years in the future?

As with any kid, sometimes there’s a reason for those academic problems beyond apathy.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedย 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and Iโ€™m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment โ€“ both by our university and by Chris โ€“ allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.