Jaylen Brown spent his spring traveling the world while impressing scouts

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — You can’t blame Jaylen Brown for being tired, not after the schedule that he’s had the last couple of months.

After traversing the country with his Adidas-affiliated Game Elite AAU program during the spring, Brown hopped on a plane to Treviso, Italy, where he took part in the Adidas Eurocamp in early June. The 6-foot-7, five-star wing stood out despite being quite a bit younger than a number of the players in attendance, but he caught a flight from the camp straight to Team USA’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, where he barely had a chance to unpack his bags before settling in for what turned into a two-week stay.

Brown not only made the U18 national team, he was one of the top performers during the American run to a gold medal, a tournament ended on June 24th. By June 27th, Brown was in DC for the three-day Kevin Durant Skills Academy.

I’m tired just thinking about it.

But, according to Brown, the fact that this wild couple of months drained him is evidence that … there’s a flaw in his game?

“I’ve got to get to an extreme level of conditioning so that I can play at a high level for a long period of time,” Brown told NBCSports.com at the Durant camp last week. “I need to play harder. I need to be able to play at a ten the whole time. There can’t be a dropoff, which is why I need that extreme level of conditioning. The elevation in Colorado messed with a lot of us, but you’ve got to get to that point to be the player that you want to be.”

It’s not the first time that Brown learned the hard way that he’s got to make an improvement to his body to get better. He’s a top three recruit in the Class of 2015, but during the summer after his sophomore year Brown played up a level, in U17 AAU tournaments. It didn’t take him long to realize that getting stronger was going to be a priority for him moving forward.

And, according to Brown, that’s the biggest reason that he’s become one of the hottest names in the Class of 2015.

“I feel like the big difference was me getting into the weight room,” Brown said. “I feel like I got stronger, and [now I’m] able to get all of my moves off, to dominate the game at my age group.”

“People last year were just as big and just as strong as I was, which made it difficult to try and score and made me find different ways to score, be more creative and stuff like that.”

That process isn’t over yet, however.

The player that Brown is most-commonly compared to is incoming Arizona-freshman Stanley Johnson. Both are 6-foot-7 power wings that can play anywhere on the court, from the point to the post. The difference, according to an NBA scout that was in attendance at the Durant camp, is lower body strength.

One of the coolest parts of events like the Durant Skills Academy is that the NBA stars attend, work out with and compete against the best high schoolers and college players at their position in the country. Johnson was at the camp as well, and both players made a point of going at Durant every chance they got. And if you know anything about Durant, you know that he’s not the type to back down from a challenge.

Durant’s post game was exposed during the 2014 NBA Playoffs, and it was clear that he’s put in time in the gym trying to improve it as the majority of his touches at the camp came in the post against some guys that have NBA length and athleticism. Durant was able to score with his back to the basket against Brown, overpowering the youngster as he backed his way into the lane. Johnson, however, was immovable, forcing Durant into turnaround and fadeaway jumpers.

“It was a good grading scale,” Brown said of the camp, “to know how I am compared to the rest of the wings across the country.”

And as of now, Brown’s the best there is at the high school level. He can handle the ball, he can score with his back to the basket, he can beat defenders off the dribble and his perimeter stroke is much better than it was at this point last season. He’s got the size to be a good rebounder at the next level and the anticipation and physical tools to be a playmaker defensively.

“I feel like I could play 1-through-4, whatever a coach needs me to play,” Brown said. “I want to be versatile, I don’t want a coach to put any limitations on me. So I want to tighten up on everything by college, that’s my goal, to be able to play 1-through-4.”

As of now, Brown says that UCLA, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas are the six schools that are coming at him the hardest, but he’s also been vocal about the fact that he’s not a big fan of the recruiting process, telling NBCSports.com in May that he may end up committing to a school before the end of the summer.

“Sometimes you get tired of hearing the same stuff over and over again,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal last month. “Some of them are 40, 50 years old. I’m 17, so what do we really have to talk about for 20 minutes?”

And that’s not the only evidence that Brown’s recruitment might end up going differently than a lot of coaches are used to.

“I just have to know,” Brown said when asked how his decision-making process. “I have to wake up one morning and be like this is the school for me. I have to be OK with a school if the coach leaves for anything, I want to feel comfortable with the school. Some people choose a school for the wrong reasons, just about basketball. There’s a lot of things incorporated when it comes to that decision.”

Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

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A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

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Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday:

UNC academic case finally reaches NCAA infractions hearing

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It has taken more than two years for North Carolina to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel since initially being charged with five top-level violations amid its long-running academic scandal.

The two-day hearing begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel will ultimately determine whether the school faces penalties that could include fines, probation or vacated wins and championships, making this a major step toward resolution in an oft-delayed case filled with starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges.

“The hearing stage, no matter what size of a case, it’s a big deal to any university,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “I’ve been a part of what you’d consider small cases, I’ve been a part of one of the largest cases. And trust me: The client feels the same anxiousness and apprehension no matter what size of a case it is.

“But I can definitely imagine with North Carolina, this is definitely a momentous occasion.”

The charges include lack of institutional control in a case tied to irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The case is an offshoot of a 2010 football probe, with the NCAA reopening an investigation in summer 2014, filing charges in May 2015, revising them in April 2016 and then again in December.

The panel, which would typically issue a ruling weeks to months later, is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

UNC’s representatives were seen arriving for the closed-door hearing at a Nashville hotel Wednesday morning. The contingent included athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Jan Boxill and Deborah Crowder, two former UNC employees charged individually in the case, were also seen with their attorneys.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in a broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor providing improper assistance on assignments.

Fedora wasn’t working at UNC during the time in question.

“There’s nothing that I can add to what happened before I ever got here,” Fedora said last week. “But I’m there for support. I think me being there is important — not only for the NCAA but the university — that it shows compliance is important to me and our program.”

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades. In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Keorneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority. In a May filing , the school stated it “fundamentally believes that the matters at issue here were of an academic nature” and don’t involve NCAA bylaws.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

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