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Uncle alleges former Memphis Tiger was paid to play under John Calipari

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Do you know the name Pierre Henderson-Niles?

Unless you’re a Memphis Tiger fan, I doubt it. Henderson-Niles was a three-star local recruit that played — quite sparingly — for the Tigers under John Calipari for three seasons before Josh Pastner took over the program. Henderson-Niles played for less than a full season with Pastner running the show, leaving the team with eight games left in the regular season.

Henderson-Niles averaged 5.2 points as a senior and 2.4 points in his final season being coached by Cal. If it wasn’t for the fact that he slapped a UAB fan, a memorable image that was caught on camera, when Memphis was still a member of Conference USA, his tenure with Memphis would have been totally forgettable.

So why am I talking about him today?

Because a man name Stephen Saine is claiming that Coach Cal and then-assistant Derek Kellogg had a pay-for-play system in place for Henderson-Niles. Saine, who is Henderson-Niles’ uncle, even sent a letter to the NCAA making the allegations.

Here’s the background: Saine became Henderson-Niles’ guardian when the young boy’s mother, Saine’s sister, was unable to care for him. Saine did time for selling drugs but has since been released from prison and claims to have turned his life around. He’s become a pastor and has written an autobiography that he is claiming to be shopping around to publishers.

I’ll be honest: I’m cynical enough about college sports to fully believe that even a player of Henderson-Niles’ ability got paid to stay and play for his hometown school, and, quite frankly, it has nothing to do with the fact that John Calipari was his coach. That’s just the way that it works at that level. But keep in mind that these accusations are coming from an uncle of the player that is a convicted drug dealer currently trying to sell a book, and that both Josh Pastner and Henderson-Niles himself have denied the claims.

I’ve reached out to both Kentucky and Memphis for comment. I’ll update when I hear back.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: