Seven takeaways from Las Vegas for the final AAU weekend of 2014

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The final week of the July evaluation period is one that, for many teams, means a trip to Las Vegas for one of three large tournaments (adidas Super 64, Las Vegas Fab 48 and the Las Vegas Classic), with Chris Paul’s The 8 being held there as well. And for coaches who may be looking for a more seasoned prospect, there’s also JucoRecruiting.com’s All-American JUCO Showcase Elite 80 West to attend. Below are a few thoughts on last week’s action, and one suggestion that could help lesser-known players who are looking to make a name for themselves in these events.

Las Vegas Recaps: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday

1. Regardless of what Skal Labissiere decides to do, his work to get stronger will be of great importance. 

Labissiere enjoyed a very good week in Las Vegas, playing well on both ends of the floor. And he’s also been the focus of conversation with regards to what he’ll do next summer: enroll at the college he chooses, or take a shot at going overseas and playing professionally. Yet regardless of which path he chooses, Labissiere will need to continue to get stronger (especially if he goes pro). In speaking with Labissiere he stated that he’d dropped down to 206 this summer, and his goal is to get to 225. Of course adding weight isn’t solely about increasing the number, but also being sure that through good workout and dietary habits the weight gained is “positive.” That’s something else Labissiere noted, so it’s good to see he has a clear understanding of that.

2. Vance Jackson has the look of a player poised to put together a standout junior season.

The 6-foot-8 forward can score both off the dribble and from beyond the arc, and he was very productive this past weekend for Belmont Shore. Jackson, who’s in the Class of 2016, scored 33 points in an overtime loss to the NJ Playaz Friday night and continued to be a solid scoring option alongside Tyler Dorsey throughout the weekend. The key for Jackson is remaining confident in his skill set, because when he is Jackson is an assertive player who can be tough to slow down. Regardless of what ranking service you prefer, don’t be surprised to see Jackson’s name rise up the list when those updates occur.

3. Pound for pound, there may not be a tougher player in 2015 than Isaiah Briscoe. 

Whether it was at the Fab 48 or The 8, Briscoe’s refusal to be denied was evident during his time on the floor. With the ball in his hands Briscoe is a very good creator, whether it’s to get himself to the rim or to set up one of his teammates. And when defenders sag off Briscoe can knock down perimeter shots at a solid clip as well. But what stood out watching him play was the toughness, and the belief of “I’m the best player out here” that was impossible to ignore. Arizona, Rutgers, St. John’s and UConn are among the seven schools on the list Briscoe released in late June, and the battle for his commitment will be fierce.

MORE: Quotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

4. Jaylen Brown’s ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him one of the toughest matchups regardless of class. 

Already considered to be one of the best players in 2015, there are some who believe that Brown is the closest competitor to Ben Simmons when it comes to who the top player in the class is. Why? His ability to score both inside and out, combined with a physical build that allows Brown to not only absorb contact but finish through it with authority. And while Brown led the way for Game Elite offensively, that expectation didn’t result in Brown playing in a selfish manner. While in-state programs Georgia and Georgia Tech are among the programs looking to land Brown so are Kentucky and UCLA (just to name two), with Brown stating that he’ll take an unofficial visit to UCLA following adidas Nations (which begins Friday in southern California).

5. It will be fun to watch the Class of 2017 develop.

This happens every summer in all honesty. You’ve been watching the current crop of rising seniors for a couple years, so naturally the question of “who’s next?” gets asked. And in Las Vegas there were some very talented 2017 prospects on display. Two of the best front court players in the class are on the west coast in DeAndre Ayton and Billy Preston, with both putting together solid performances in their respective events, and guards Troy Brown and Trevon Duval also merit attention for their play. One point on Duval: with Isaiah Briscoe moving on to college next year, he should have a bigger role for the NJ Playaz next summer alongside 2016 guard Temple Gibbs. It’ll be fun to see how Duval adjusts, with the upcoming high school season setting the stage for that, and the same can be said for the other three rising sophomores mentioned above.

6. Intangibles are just as valuable as the stats when it comes to showcase events. 

Saturday provided the opportunity to make a stop at the JucoRecruiting.com event for a couple hours, and in these settings participants may feel that putting up numbers is the only way to catch the attention of the Division I coaches in attendance. That can lead to ragged play, something that does a lot more harm than good for all involved. So in these events the intangibles, such as a willingness to share the basketball and being a good communicator, can set a player apart from the rest of the crowd. This can also be said for the high school players, even though in most cases they have familiarity with their grassroots teammates. Numbers are great, but that alone doesn’t win championships and that’s the goal of every college coach looking to add players to his program.

7. There should be some kind of in-game penalty for teams whose coaches submit incomplete/inaccurate rosters.

For all the criticism some heap upon grassroots basketball, the fact of the matter is that it can be a great avenue for young players to gain exposure. Not all players get to play in highly regarded leagues during the high school season, so these events are of high value to prospects whose schools aren’t the focus of national (or even regional) attention. While it can be said that rosters are a “fluid situation” during the summer, those unheralded prospects are why teams should do their best to provide the event organizers with a complete (and accurate) roster. Why not make it as easy as possible for the players to get their names out there?

An incomplete roster may not seem like a big deal (coaches/media can go to the scorer’s table to check numbers at the half or at the end of games), but why not avoid this situation to begin with? So in order to do this, event organizers should come up with an in-game penalty for teams whose coaches can’t submit proper rosters. Ultimately these events should be about helping the kids reach their goals, whether it’s to move one step closer to the pros or to earn a college education their family would struggle to finance without help in the form of an athletic scholarship. Not making sure their information is both readily available and accurate doesn’t help the kids (or their families) at all.

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

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North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were 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 Kenneth 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.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

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.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the 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 Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

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Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

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August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”