National Letter of Intent committee denies Isaac Hamilton’s waiver request

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Last fall Isaac Hamilton, one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the 2013 class, announced his decision to attend UTEP. A five-star prospect, Hamilton had the talent needed to make the Miners a dominant program in the new era of Conference USA.

But in July, Hamilton announced his desire to be released from the National Letter of Intent he signed that locked him in to attending UTEP. Head coach Tim Floyd refused the request, ultimately resulting in Hamilton and his family having to appeal the decision in front of the NLI committee. On Friday it was reported by Andy Katz of that the request for a waiver has been denied, meaning that Hamilton cannot play college basketball at another school this season.

Greg Hamilton said his son will now pursue finding a school, preferably a Pac-12 school in the Los Angeles area. He would attend academically but won’t be able to play this season.

“We will get him in school and enroll him,” said Greg Hamilton, who added Isaac has been at home during this process. “We know he’ll have several opportunities. We want it to be in the Pac-12 so his mother can see him play, since she is the primary caretaker for his grandmother.”

With Hamilton’s request to be release being denied, it’s once again time to ask why an elite prospect would sign the NLI to begin with. The majority of student-athletes need to do so in order to “lock in” their spot, because if they refused to do so the school would simply go about recruiting another prospect (and that can happen even if they do sign the NLI).

But for a player of Hamilton’s caliber, why not just sign the grant-in-aid (which is the document that has to be signed, with or without the NLI, in order to lock in the scholarship)? Do that, and if there were to be an issue (coaching change, family illness, etc.) it’s a lot easier to make a move. That isn’t the case when it comes to the NLI, as Hamilton and his family have come to find out.

So where will Isaac land? His father’s quotes in Katz’s story focus on the Pac-12 due to Isaac’s grandmother’s illness, and that may be the easiest move to make given the fact that many schools have already begun classes (schools on the quarter system likely won’t begin classes until later this month). And while Floyd left the door open for Isaac to change course and attend UTEP, that isn’t an option for the family according to Katz.

Wherever Hamilton lands, that school will have a player capable of being one of the nation’s best guards. But the fact of the matter is that this situation could have been avoided had he not signed the NLI.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.