UAA Finals Recap: Diamond Stone has a solid night, Josh Jackson struggles, Team Breakdown is loaded

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SUWANEE, GEORGIA — The Under Armour Association’s “The Finals” tipped off in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee Wednesday night and over 300 college coaches were in attendance for a loaded opening night of showcase games.

While the Peach Jam focused on a single 17U play-in game and 16U games, The Finals had four time slots of loaded showcase match-ups that coaches and media took full advantage of. Among the top games included Diamond Stone and the Young Legends squaring off with Doral Moore and Atlanta Xpress and a 2016 battle between Pitt commit Mustapha Heron and the 2016’s No. 1 player, Josh Jackson.

Diamond shines in opener: Diamond Stone is a consensus top-10 player in the 2015 class, with some recruiting analysts even believing he’s the top dog in the class. On Wednesday night, Stone had a solid start to the second week of July with a matchup against Doral Moore and Atlanta Xpress. Stone finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in the loss as he scored on a variety of mid-range jumpers and post touches.

If Stone struggled, it was because he was settling for too many jumpers and also dealing with length on the interior. The 6-foot-9 Stone had trouble finishing over the length of 7-footer Doral Moore, who registered five blocks on the night, including blocking Stone twice on one possession. But there’s still a lot to like about Stone. He owns a superior set of hands, he’s skilled on the block and also showed good touch on his jumper. He’s also an underrated passer, both in the half-court setting and as an outlet passer.

Moore had a nice bounce-back game from what many said was an average performance at LeBron. The 7-footer is all upside, displaying an incredibly soft touch and great timing as a shot blocker while using his massive seven-foot frame and wingspan. Moore only finished with eight points and one rebound, but didn’t back down from Stone and his teammates didn’t exactly do a good job of getting him touches sometimes. The big question with Moore is, does he love basketball? He’s in really bad shape, becoming winded almost immediately after checking into the game and he shows minimal desire at times. Moore is still a tremendous talent if he ever puts it all together.

Josh Jackson starts The Finals by jacking shots: The No. 1 player in the 2016 class, Josh Jackson, got off to a slow start on Wednesday night in 1 Nation’s matchup with New Heights, mostly because Jackson made terrible decisions with his shot selection.

Instead of aggressively attacking the basket and trying to get to the rim, the 6-foot-6 Jackson forced a number of contested three-pointers and deep twos that missed the mark as he was clearly frustrated with his lack of shot-making at times. When the No. 1 player in the country is on the bench with four minutes left in a one-point game, it says something.

Jackson played a bit better in the second half, but he has to perform more consistently and take better shots if he wants to hold off Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum for No. 1 in 2016.

After the game, Jackson’s mother, Apples Jones, confirmed that Josh is going to California for high school next season, but would not give NBCSports.com a school. Jones also told NBCSports.com that the rumors of Jackson going to the 2015 class were not true and he was planning on staying in the 2016 class.

For his part, Heron didn’t show a tremendous amount of skill, but he’s a hard-nosed guard that will really get up and defend and he attacks the basket hard. A Pitt commit, Heron has a strong frame already and isn’t afraid to use it to help him get to the rim. If the 6-foot-4 power lefty wing can get a more consistent jumper he’ll be tough to stop in the ACC.

Team Breakdown shows out in front of major head coaches: With the Brandon Ingram/Derrick Jones matchup never materializing because Ingram was with his high school team, I took that session to watch the highly-touted 2016 members of Team Breakdown.

Playing up against 17U competition, despite fielding nearly an entire team of younger kids, this group has a scary collection of talent.

Juwan Durham and Dewan Huell both stand around 6-foot-9 and rank in Rivals top 30 for the 2016 class and the duo can both run the floor incredibly well while also blocking shots and finishing at the rim.

Eric Hester is another talented 2016 member who, at 6-foot-3, can really get out and defend on the perimeter and also score in transition.

And 6-foot-8, Troy Baxter is a freak athlete on the wing and he uses the baseline well to finish at, or well above, the rim.

Head coaches from Alabama, Florida State, Georgetown, Miami, Missouri, South Carolina, South Florida and Wake Forest all watched Team Breakdown play on Wednesday while other SEC programs like Florida and Mississippi State sent assistants. It’ll be fun to track those four top-100 talents for the next year.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.