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Rayjon Tucker excelling after giving up football for hoops

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Rayjon Tucker spent the spring making a name for himself in recruiting circles. The biggest reason why is his athleticism. A 6-foot-5 wing, Tucker has the kind of strength and explosiveness that allows him to finish above the rim, over defenders, through contact and … well, all of the above, which also has made Tucker a favorite of the mixtape cameramen.

Earlier this spring, before his play in the UA Association AAU tournaments, Tucker was listing offers from schools like Abilene Christian and Presbyterian. This week? He had to postpone an unofficial visit to UNC because he was making a trip to the NBPA Top 100 Camp.

So would you believe that Tucker, a member of the Class of 2015, has only been playing basketball seriously for two years?

RELATED: Wednesday’s NBPA Top 100 recap | Patience the plans for Tyler Dorsey

“I didn’t start concentrating on basketball until my sophomore year,” said Tucker, a former wide receiver and free safety whose father played football at Western Carolina. “I played, but I was more focused on football than basketball so if I wasn’t doing something right, I wasn’t worried.”

That changed after his freshman season, however, as Tucker got tired of the physicality on the gridiron.

“I just got tired of all the pounding on my body,” he said. “I just really love basketball in my heart more than I love football. My dad was a football player, so it would have just fit. I just like the hardwood.”

“My dad was fine with it, he always told me he supported me in whatever I do, it’s my life and my decision. He didn’t want to live his dreams through me.”

That meant Rayjon would be chasing his hardwood dreams, and after a successful spring, he’s gone from a relative unknown prospect from Charlotte, N.C., to a guy that is going to have a chance to play in the ACC. Boston College has offered him a scholarship, as has Virginia Tech; Tucker said that Buzz Williams has been recruiting him the hardest of late. He’s visited Clemson but doesn’t yet have an offer on the table from the Tigers, and in addition to trying to set up a visit with UNC he is also talking with N.C. State to get over to Raleigh and see their campus. Tucker also said that VCU has been showing him quite a bit of interest.

RELATED: Rayjon Tucker is a name to remember

“It’s exciting,” he said, and while no one would blame a high school junior for being excited about getting phone calls from coaches at the biggest schools in his home state, Tucker is self-aware enough to understand that he still has strengths and weaknesses on the court. He realizes that his strengths like in his natural athletic ability. He can jump, he can defend, he plays hard, he’s a terror around the rim.

But he’s not satisfied simply being a guy that is featured in highlight videos on youtube.

“I’m always looking improvement in my game, dribbling and shooting. I’m just looking to get better,” he said. “MY parents and my coach just tell me to stay humble. Stay hungry, because I haven’t arrived yet.”

“I just gotta keep working.”

Jim Valvano’s title-winning N.C. State team to finally get White House visit

FILE - In this April 5, 1983, file photo, North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano embraces sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles moments after Charles had dunked a shot to give North Carolina State the win over Houston in the national championship game at the Final Four of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
(AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
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The N.C. State men’s basketball team never got invited to the White House after they won the 1983 National Title.

It wasn’t a tradition in those days. They spoke with President Ronald Reagan, but they did so from the confines of a television studio in Raleigh. It’s commonplace now to see title winners from all sports making their way to the Oval Office to shake hands with our nation’s leader, but back then, the funding and invitation weren’t always available.

And that never say right with the guys on that team. Since Lorenzo Charles, whose memorable dunk was the title-winning bucket, passed away in 2011, that team has had a reunion every spring, and the topic of going to the White House to celebrate the win always came up. That inspired Thurl Bailey, who was the No. 7 pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, and his friend, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, to write letters to President Obama requesting that the ’83 iteration of the Wolfpack get their White House visit.

“As definitive as a National Championship sounds, as an athlete there always seems to be unfinished business,” Bailey told N.C. State’s website. “You’re always looking for the next challenge, the next opportunity. This was it for me.  If I could get this done, it would be yet another story for me and the other members of that team to be able to pass along to our kids, grandkids and generations after that.”

Bailey’s efforts proved successful.

On Thursday, N.C. State announced that President Obama had not only received the letters, but he has issued a May 9th invitation for that 1983 team to visit him in Washington, D.C., meaning that Bailey, Dereck Whittenburg and the rest of that 1983 title-winning team will finally get to meet the Commander-in-Chief.

“The joy and the euphoria of winning a national title against all odds, as well as the pain and devastation of losing members of that family, are important parts of who I am,” Bailey said. “Contacting President Obama was one piece of our incredible journey that had eluded us for far too long.”

Los Angeles to host new college basketball doubleheader

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) A new men’s basketball doubleheader will be played in Los Angeles featuring Arizona, BYU, Gonzaga and Southern California.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the one-day event, to be played at Staples Center on Dec. 3.

The Wildcats will play the Zags and the Cougars will face the Trojans.

Tickets will go on sale May 4. Game times and television broadcast information will be announced later.

Purdue-Arizona State and Florida-Duke in Jimmy V Classic

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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NEW YORK (AP) Purdue will face Arizona State and Florida will meet Duke in the 2016 Jimmy V Classic.

The 22nd annual doubleheader will be played Dec. 6 at Madison Square Garden.

The early season event will be part of the 10th annual Jimmy V Week to help raise funds for cancer research. ESPN’s 2015 Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research raised a record-setting $3.2 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research – one million more than the previous fundraising record of $2.2 million in 2014. In nine years, Jimmy V Week has raised $13.7 million for cancer research.

No. 6 Maryland beat Connecticut 76-66 and No. 10 Virginia beat No. 14 West Virginia 70-54 in last year’s doubleheader.

Video: Bobby Knight endorses Donald Trump

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The General put his weight behind The Donald on Wednesday night.

Bobby Knight, he of three national championships with Indiana and the reputation as one of the brashest coaches of all time, endorsed Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, at a rally in Indianapolis.

You folks are taking a look at the most prepared man in history to step in as President of the United States,” Knight said. “That man right there.”

The Hall of Famer Knight won 902 games in his career at West Point, Indiana and Texas Tech. He was famously ousted by the Hoosiers in 2000 after university president Myles Brand had instituted a “no-tolerance” policy on Knight after a string of controversies that defined the coach as much as his winning.

He retired after seven seasons with Texas Tech in 2008.

 

NCAA board of governors approves anti-discrimination process for event bids

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The NCAA board of governors adopted a new rule that all sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events that will require them to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event,” it was announced Wednesday.

The decision “follows the recent actions of legislatures in several states, which have passed laws allowing residents to refuse or provide services to some people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the NCAA’s release reads.

The new criteria is expected to be fully implemented during the current bidding process, the NCAA said.

North Carolina and Mississippi recently passed laws that have rolled back protections of the LBGT community. NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently threatened to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte if the law does not change in North Carolina.

The NCAA had already barred sites that display the Confederate flag and from members hosting championship events that use “abusive and offensive” Native American imagery or nicknames.

“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” said Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University and chair of the Board of Governors, said in a statement. “So it is important that we assure that community – including our student-athletes and fans – will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”

The NCAA “considers the promotion of inclusiveness in race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity as a vital element to protecting the well-being of student-athletes, promoting diversity in hiring practices and creating a culture of fairness.”