No rest, only growth for graduate assistants in July

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Bryan Sherrer is staying busy this July.

Not only is the Murray State graduate assistant keeping tabs on the players currently on campus, but he’s also wrapping up his time with the program.

After two years on staff in Murray, Sherrer, a former Murray State player himself, is interviewing for assistant coaching positions, getting looks from High Point and Wallace State (Ala.) Community College-Selma.

But for now, he’s carrying the graduate assistant tag and everything that comes with it.

“You have to look at it like, everyone that started as a GA [graduate assistant],” Sherrer said by phone last week.”You have to look at the future and think ‘this is where I’m going to get,’ it motivates you to try to get where I want to be [as a coach].”

Sherrer (pictured above) said he hopes to hear something about a coaching position in the next few weeks.

              To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

Until then, Sherrer has done what most GAs do during the July live recruiting period, maintain and organize. He makes sure the players are attending their summer classes and weight room sessions, while also getting shots up and working on their respective games in the CFSB Center.

This is the picture that’s painted across most college basketball programs at this time. Along with the on-campus responsibilities, GAs like Western Kentucky’s Michael Pollio also keep in constant contact with the head and assistant coaches on the road to help them keep a handle on the recruiting scene.

That’s one wrinkle that most graduate assistants also carry with them in July.

Most of that has to do with keeping track of the schedules that the coaches must keep while on the road. Including keeping up with information on where certain targets are playing, whether their respective teams have changed schedules or whether the player coaches want to evaluate will be playing in the game.

“It’s different with all the coaches,” Pollio said. “Some of the coaches, some days I’ll talk to them to see how their trip went, see if they need anything, directions to gym, anything like that. [Others] I’ll talk to them at night when they’ve finished their recruiting days.”

The Little Things

The basis of the summer period remains the same for most GAs. It’s the smaller nuances that both make their time with their respective teams different and also attempt to give them an edge toward becoming a coach, something all three graduate assistants interviewed for this story want to be.

In the case of SMU intern Sean Stout – different programs have different titles for their graduate helpers, such as assistants/managers/interns/etc. – he is in his second summer working with Larry Brown, from whom he’s already learned a vast amount, on and off the court.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I didn’t know a lot before I took the job. It’s been better than I ever could’ve ever imagined. Coach Brown is concerned with what’s going on with you and what’s going on with your family…The biggest thing is, he wants everyone to be a head coach. So he’s helping me or any of the assistants get to that point.”

Stout added that Brown’s presence in recruiting has helped the Mustangs get in the race for recruits that they otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance with — SMU brings in two four star recruits in Keith Frazier and Sterling Brown and a three star recruit in Ben Moore in their 2013 haul. Also, despite heading into the newly-minted American Athletic Conference, the staff hasn’t altered its recruiting pitch or preparation.

“I don’t think the conference is as important to the kids as it was 5-10 years ago,” he said.

Jack Of All Trades

When the coaches come in from the road, Pollio says the team takes on a schedule that includes meetings to go over the details of the next recruiting live period, discussing summer practice routines and getting a progress reports on current players.

“When the coaches are in town, we have two hour practices,” Pollio said. “We work with the guys when the coaches aren’t in town, make sure guys are in their lift sessions. All players are in July classes, so we make sure they’re in their classes….We require a certain amount of study hall hours. A lot of it revolves around the academic side with our players.”

For others, the progression of the players takes an equal amount, if not more time, than keeping up with the coaches while they’re out recruiting.

In his capacity with the team, Stout said he can spend additional time outside of the NCAA-mandated two hours per week with the players. Those two hours are the limit for head and assistant coaches in the summer. In total, players can spend eight hours per week working in the summer periods: two hours on the court and six in the weight room.

Stout said the coaching staff breaks the two on-court hours down to three 40-minute practices per week. And while the summer sounds like a slower time, take Stout’s word for it, it’s no time to get lethargic.

“Not necessarily,” Stout said when asked if he gets a break in the warmer months. “The summer is supposed to be a little slower, but especially during this recruiting period, it doesn’t slow down…..It’s still a lot busier time that people think. It’s not a vacation, that’s for sure.”

Though all of the preparation and planning back on-campus is for one thing: The regular season.

“We are always working towards next year,” Pollio said. “So the motivation comes from [that] we’ve already started working towards next season. So the motivation is pretty easy on that side of things.”

For guys like Sherrer, who know all too well that their job as a GA is temporary, it’s also about getting things ready for the next person that takes their job after they’ve moved on.

“I’m really getting stuff for the next guy that comes in,” Sherrer added. “Make sure they have everything mapped out for when they come in.”

(Photo courtesy of Tab Brockman)

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Grand Canyon earns two more high-major transfers

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Grand Canyon has done a great job of attracting high-major transfers as the program landed two more former Big Ten players this week.

Forward Michael Finke, a former Illinois big man, will join the program as a graduate transfer while former Northwestern guard Isiah Brown also committed to the Antelopes.

Michael Finke made 50 career starts for the Illini, as he joins younger brother Tim Finke on the Grand Canyon roster. The floor-spacing big man could help Grand Canyon on offense if he shoots like he did a few seasons back as he could be a valuable addition to the rotation. Finke put up 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game at Illinois last season.

Brown, who just finished his sophomore season as Northwestern, will have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. The duo of Brown and Finke join Washington transfer Carlos Johnson (also sitting out next season) as high-major transfers that head coach Dan Majerle and his staff have pulled in this offseason.

Last season at Northwestern, Brown averaged 3.9 points per game after his minutes dipped a bit.

With Grand Canyon making a major push towards an NCAA tournament, these are the types of moves that could pay off the next few seasons for an emerging mid-major program.

Nebraska lands Robert Morris transfer Dachon Burke

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Nebraska landed a coveted transfer on Thursday as former Robert Morris guard Dachon Burke pledged to the Cornhuskers during an official visit, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-4 Burke will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more seasons of eligibility. Burke averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season for the Colonials in a breakout sophomore campaign. Also putting up 2.1 steals per game, Burke should be a major contributor for Nebraska when he becomes eligible.

Nebraska was able to pull in Burke even though he was coveted by other high-major programs as he’s a solid addition for the program. If Burke can improve his perimeter shooting (33 percent last season from three-point range) then he could be a major weapon for the Huskers.

 

Report: Arizona State adds 7-foot-1 center

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Height has been something of an issue in recent years for Bobby Hurley and Arizona State. The Sun Devils took a step to remedy that Thursday.

Uros Plavsic, a 7-foot-1 center from Serbia has signed with Arizona State to become the fourth member of the program’s 2018 recruiting class, according to a report from 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels.

Plavsic, who is attending high school in Tennessee, originally committed to Cleveland State, but backed off that commitment last month before visiting Tempe this week.

“It was a great experience,” Plavsic told Scout. “They really took good care of me these past few days. Their campus is so, so big. The people here are nice. I met two guys I really liked and were important for a basketball team. Their facilities are crazy. Everything is in the same area.”

The Sun Devils ranked in the bottom half of the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage last year while ranking 265th in average height, according to KenPom.

“They were short the past two seasons,” he said about Arizona State. “They really needed a big guy and they can use me inside or can pass outside. They really need a big guy and I think I can help them out a lot next season.”

 

NCAA begins work of implementing complex basketball reforms

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The most difficult part of the NCAA’s attempt to clean up college basketball begins now.

Hours after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the Commission on College Basketball’s sweeping recommendations for reforming a sport weighed down by corruption, NCAA leaders set in motion the process for turning those ideas into reality.

The NCAA Board of Governors, a group of 16 university presidents and the association’s highest ranking body, unanimously endorsed all the commission’s recommendations Wednesday. Now it’s up to various subcommittees, working groups and college administrators to dig into a mountain of work over the next three months as the NCAA attempts to change NBA draft rules, create a new enforcement body, toughen penalties for rules violations, revamp summer recruiting and certify agents. All while trying to get buy-in from organizations that might not be motivated to help.

“It’s going to be a challenge to say the least,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “This is a pace of decision making that the association’s really never done on this kind of scale before.”

The Division I Council, comprised mostly of athletic directors and headed by Miami AD Blake James, has the job of turning the recommendations into rules. That requires feedback from schools, then council votes with some conference votes counting more heavily than others. Each proposal then goes to the Board of Directors, where a majority vote is needed to send it to the Board of Governors for final approval.

It’s a winding path — crossing 351 Division I schools with varied priorities and concerns — and requiring consensus building and compromise for measures to pass. NCAA rule changes can sometimes take a full calendar year to sort out.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t let the good fall victim to the perfect here,” Emmert said. “Nobody believes we’re going to get everything perfect the first time through.”

The independent commission Rice led released a much-anticipated and detailed 60-page report , seven months after the group was formed in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme , and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations.

“They believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving,” Rice told the AP of commission members in an interview before addressing NCAA leaders. “We believe there’s a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong. We had to be bold in our recommendations.”

The proposals were wide-ranging, falling mostly into five categories: NBA draft rules, specifically the league’s 19-year-old age limit that has led to so-called one-and-done college players; non-scholastic basketball such as AAU leagues and summer recruiting events; the relationship between players and agents; relationships with apparel companies; and NCAA enforcement.

“Some people like some of (the recommendations) more than others, which is human nature, but as a board we’re unanimous in the endorsement and the acceptance of these recommendations for the NCAA,” said Minnesota President Eric Kaler, chairman of the Division I Board of Directors.

It’s not yet clear how the governing body would pay for some of the proposals, though the NCAA reported revenues of more than $1 billion dollars for fiscal year 2017 in its most recent financial disclosures.

The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that brings together agents, apparel companies and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding hoops “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents.

It also defended the NCAA’s amateurism model, saying paying players a salary isn’t the answer.

“The goal should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league,” the commission wrote in its report.

The commission did leave open the possibility that college athletes could earn money off their names, images and likenesses , but decided not to commit on the subject while the courts are still weighing in.

Rice called the crisis in college basketball “first and foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility.”

ONE-AND-DONE

The commission emphasized the need for elite players to have more options when choosing between college and professional basketball, and to separate the two tracks.

The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The one-and-done rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

“I’m confident they are going to be very supportive,” Emmert said of the NBA and NBAPA.

The NBA and players union praised the recommendations on enforcement and expressed concerns about youth basketball. On draft eligibility rules, however, there was no commitment.

“The NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game,” they said.

The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year.

“One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told the AP.

ENFORCEMENT

The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and that the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools. By comparison, recent Level I infractions cases involving Louisville and Syracuse basketball resulted in postseason bans of one year.

Instead of show cause orders, which are meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules, the report called for lifetime bans.

“The rewards of success, athletic success, have become very great. The deterrents sometimes aren’t as effective as they need to be. What we want are deterrents that really impact an institution,” said Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who was a member of the Rice commission.

AGENTS

The commission proposed the NCAA create a program for certifying agents , and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers.

AAU AND SUMMER LEAGUES

The NCAA, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer , the commission said, and take a more serious approach to certifying events it does not control.

APPAREL COMPANIES

The commission also called for greater financial transparency from shoe and apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. These companies have extensive financial relationships with colleges and coaches worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adidas had two former executives charged by federal prosecutors in New York in the corruption case.

 

ODU graduate transfer Trey Porter headed to Nevada

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Nevada is adding an immediate impact big to its roster.

The Wolf Pack received the commitment of Old Dominion graduate transfer Trey Porter, they announced Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10 Porter averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks for ODU last season. He announced his decision to finish his career elsewhere last month.

“We are so excited about Trey Porter joining our Nevada Family,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. “Trey is an incredible athlete, has tremendous length, and has huge upside. He is a great rebounder who can score the ball in the post and face up. He has phenomenal speed for his size and will really fit in our uptempo style on both ends of the floor.”

Porter, who began his career at George Mason, shot 58.8 percent from the field last season and registered four double-doubles.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to play at a program like Nevada,” Porter said in a statement. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I could tell how invested the coaching staff, program, and university were to my success and how I would fit in with the team. I am ready to get back to Reno and get to work on next season.”

Nevada upset Cincinnati and Texas in the NCAA tournament last season to reach the Sweet 16. They finished 29-8 overall. The Wolf Pack have uncertainty with their roster with Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin all testing the NBA draft waters.