Jerami Grant

It’s beyond time for college basketball to return to NBA’s early entry calendar

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In 2011 the NCAA made changes to its early entry deadline, moving away from the NBA calendar. With some coaches citing the fact that their roster was in a state of flux during the spring thanks to the NBA’s system, the NCAA moved its early entry withdrawal date to the day before the start of the spring signing period. With that being the case, the general line from supporters was that coaches would know who they’d have back before collecting those final signatures heading into the summer.

However what was seen as a victory for coaches does little to help those who need the assistance the most: the players and their families looking to collect the information needed to make a wise decision.

With this move the option of “testing the waters” was essentially eliminated, with the amount of time a player, his coach and family have to evaluate their options depending largely upon when the season comes to an end. For a player on one of this year’s Final Four teams, accounting for the weekend the earliest they’d be able to truly get going was April 7, a mere eight days ahead of the withdrawal deadline. And with the amount of information that’s out there, some of it inaccurate, going with the NBA’s calendar would be more beneficial to the players and their families.

Consider the example of Washington freshman Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had a solid season for the Huskies, averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. And according to a report from Christian Caple of the News-Tribune on April 9 the freshman and his family were considering the option of entering this year’s NBA Draft. Ultimately Williams-Goss decided to return to Washington for his sophomore season, but a quote from his father in the story was particularly eye-catching.

“I didn’t anticipate it,” Virgil said. “And my thing is, you’re only as good as your last game, so I never really put a ton of thought into it. But as the season progressed and it was over and everyone else’s season ended, compare him to the other top point guards in the country, he’s right there.”

While that certainly sounds good, wouldn’t Creighton’s Doug McDermott be the clear top choice if NBA executives were using numbers to determine who they’d draft? It should be noted that Williams-Goss and his family were awaiting more information from the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee at the time of that story, and it’s likely that what they were told impacted the final decision.

Or what about Syracuse’s Jerami Grant? Grant’s decided to leave Syracuse after two seasons to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, and in a story written by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated his father Harvey (who played more than a decade in the NBA) was quoted as saying the family “had no idea” where Jerami would be picked. These are just two examples where using the NBA deadline would help, and in the case of a player who’s set on at least “testing the waters” there would also be the opportunity to go through a couple workouts and truly understand what their prospects are.

And some programs are advising their players to go by the NBA calendar when making these decisions, something Arizona head coach Sean Miller pointed out during the press conference in which Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson announced their intentions to go pro.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matters.”

Of course there will be counter arguments, one of which surrounds recruiting which was the impetus for the rule change back in 2011. But how often are there true surprises when it comes to a player making the decision to turn pro? While many like to hang onto what happens during the NCAA tournament as the be-all and end-all to NBA draft “stock” and whether or not a player should leave school, the fact of the matter is that NBA franchises have been watching prospects all season long. There aren’t many secrets by the time March rolls around.

When it comes to accounting for possible early departures on the recruiting trail, this is something programs have to account for well before the spring. There are evaluations days during the season (130 for the coaching staff as a whole) for programs to send someone out to look at a recruit, meaning that moves can be made as a current player’s chances of going pro strengthen.

And for the folks who’d argue about what “testing the waters” would do to the academic side of things, how does the amount of missed class time in March help “student-athletes” academically?

The move away from the NBA’s calendar was one that didn’t do much to help the prospects of players who need as much information as possible in order to make the “right” decision. Sure it helps coaches to know what they’ll be working with, but when the deadline is just one day ahead of the start of the spring signing period how much of an aid is it? It’s time to move back to the NBA calendar, because that’s what some programs are already going by.

And in a system that claims to be about helping the players, wouldn’t it be most helpful to make sure they have as much information as possible before making a life-altering decision such as this? Yes.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.

VIDEO: Rupp Arena’s new video board arrives

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Rupp Arena is getting a makeover. Take a peak as the new video board arrives and is put together:

Five-star freshman ruled ineligible to play for Villanova this season

Jay Wright
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Omari Spellman will not be eligible to play for Villanova this season, the school announced on Friday morning.

“We are extremely disappointed for Omari,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “While we don’t agree with the NCAA’s decision, we are members of the association and respect it. We understand why the NCAA felt it had to rule this way.”

“We will make a positive out of this for Omari. He will concentrate on his academics and individual development this season. In the long run Omari will be a better student and player for this experience.”

Spellman is a top 20 recruit that played for St. Thomas More this past season. At 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, Spellman was going to be counted on to play a major role in replacing Daniel Ochefu, the 6-foot-11 center that graduated this past spring. Without Spellman, Villanova will have to rely on inconsistent senior Darryl Reynolds to man their front line.

It is worth noting, however, that Reynolds did average 9.0 points and 10.6 boards in three games Ochefu missed last year. That was the first time in his career that he was given consistent minutes.

Spellman will be allowed to continue to practice with Villanova as he takes an academic redshirt.