Just over four months after being indicted on charges of bribery and conspiracy in connection with a point-shaving scandal, it looks as if there’s a chance that former Auburn guard Varez Ward could avoid being tried. According to the Associated Press, Ward’s attorneys have requested that Ward be entered into a pre-trial diversion program and the U.S. attorney’s office in Montgomery is recommending that this route be taken.
Whether or not Ward actually avoids trial will be determined by the United States Probation Office and a federal judge, but this should be seen as a positive development for Ward.
[Federal prosecutor Clark] Morris said the program usually involves a fine and community service under the supervision of a probation officer. The charges are dismissed, but the defendant can be charged again if he doesn’t complete the program, she said.
The game in question was a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on January 19, 2012, in which Ward came off the bench but fell to the ground 19 seconds later due to an apparent leg injury. Just over a month later Ward, who began his collegiate career at Texas, was suspended for the remainder of the season and ultimately did not play another game for the Tigers.
This is the second point-shaving case in college basketball that has gone to court this offseason, with former San Diego guard Brandon Johnson being sentenced to six months in prison back in March. Johnson, who is USD’s all-time leader in points and assists, participated in a point-shaving operation during the 2009-10 season. In total five men, including a former assistant coach at San Diego, were convicted in that case.
Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.
With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.
While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.
LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.
While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.
Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?
Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.
Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.