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Louisville’s self-imposed ban is despicable, but the NCAA is to blame for letting it happen

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In roughly 48 hours, the final football game of the season will kick off, meaning we are just one weekend away from basketball becoming the focus of every sports fan in the country.

We are just 37 days from Selection Sunday. In less than six weeks, the NCAA tournament will kick off.

And it was today that Louisville decided to tell their players that they will not be allowed to participate in the postseason.

No ACC tournament for you, Damion Lee. No NCAA tournament for you, Trey Lewis.

Lee and Lewis are the two grad transfers that the Cardinals added during the offseason, the two fifth-year seniors that made the decision to enroll at Louisville because they wanted an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament, an opportunity that they were never guaranteed to get at Drexel and Cleveland State, respectively.

And because of allegations and evidence that a former Louisville staffer named Andre McGee solicited prostitutes for recruits, beginning before Lee and Lewis were even college students, that opportunity is being ripped away from them.

After Louisville fans packed the Yum! Center for the last two and a half months to support a fun, likeable and top 20 basketball team. A team that, at 18-4, is currently sitting in second place in the ACC and, until this morning, was eyeing a deep run into March.

It’s despicable, just like it was despicable for SMU to be banned from the postseason three days before the season started and just like it was despicable for Syracuse to implement a self-imposed postseason ban exactly one year ago today.

But I’m not sure the full weight of the blame can be put on Louisville here, either.

Tom Jurich is in charge of the Louisville basketball program. James Ramsey is in charge of the entire university, and the decision that Ramsey made to withdraw from this year’s postseason is unequivocally in the best interest of the Louisville basketball program and, as a result, the school as a whole. Their job isn’t to care about the feelings of a couple of redshirt seniors. Their job is to make sure that he minimizes the financial hit that the program takes. Their job is to limit how sullied the Louisville brand will be.

They are, quite literally, doing their job.

The issue is that the NCAA allows this to happen. Hell, they impose the bans themselves. That postseason ban that SMU got? It came from the NCAA.

That’s what needs to change here.

The NCAA has to put an end to enforcing postseason bans if the ruling comes at a time where the players — the ones who get hit the hardest for, quite often, something they had nothing to do with — are not able to leave without consequence. When UConn was banned from the 2012 postseason, the players on the team were made aware well in advance. Alex Oriakhi was able to transfer to Missouri without sitting out a season. Roscoe Smith took off for UNLV. The guys that stayed behind, the recruits that joined the program, did so knowing that they would not be playing in the postseason.

SMU got their ruling when it was too late for the players on that roster to transfer, for the freshman that joined the program to do so knowing they would not be tourney-bound their first season.

The entire point of the NCAA handing down sanctions is to punish the program for allowing these violations to be committed. But by accepting a self-imposed postseason ban in February, by imposing a postseason ban as late as the end of September, they are unquestionably minimizing the impact that the programs feel.

And I don’t care about the accusations that have been levied against the Cardinals, at least not in the context of this conversation. So please, don’t try and tell me why what Louisville did was wrong.

I agree.

Want me to say it?

Here: What Louisville did was wrong. What McGee did was wrong. Pitino may not have had any direct association with what was happening in Billy Minardi Hall, but by the letter of the NCAA rulebook, ignorance is not an excuse. Pitino was in the wrong.

But the issue isn’t what Louisville was doing. The issue is whether it should be allowed for them to force a group of players that had nothing to do with the violations to bear the brunt of the punishment so that the university can minimize the damage themselves.

Louisville will never have to recruit a player that knows he will be sitting out at least one postseason. When you’re good enough to get a scholarship to Louisville, you’re good enough to get a scholarship at another top 25 program that won’t force you to watch your first March Madness from the couch. That’s an indisputable benefit to imposing the ban this season.

So is the NCAA is letting Louisville protect their brand, next season’s ticket sales and the athletic department’s bottom-line, and doing so at the expense of the unpaid laborers that the 22,090 people that fill the Yum! Center on a nightly basis pay to watch.

Pitino, Jurich and Ramsey reportedly make nearly $10 million combined.

Damion Lee? Trey Lewis?

Their reimbursement for this season is a year of grad school paid in full and one opportunity for glory in March, one chance to play in the NCAA tournament, one shot at seeing themselves on One Shining Moment.

And Louisville just took that away from them.

Less than six weeks before the tournament is scheduled to start.

Because they’ve got to make sure that they sell enough tickets to turn a profit next November when they pay six figures to beat down a bunch of low-major programs trading blowouts for a way to fund their athletic department.

It’s time for a change.

Clemson basketball returns home after Barcelona van attack

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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson’s basketball team arrived back on campus, a day after a deadly van attack in Barcelona that occurred just outside their hotel.

The Tigers were preparing to play their fourth and final game of a summer tour of Spain when a van drove up on a sidewalk and crashed into scores of people in Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13. Clemson canceled the final game and flew back home as scheduled Friday.

Teams from Arizona and Oregon State were also staying at the hotel. A fourth team, Tulane, was in Barcelona at a different hotel. All of the schools said their parties were unharmed.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell tweeted Friday the team had landed in Atlanta and was “excited to be back in this great country.”

Tulane’s new court design brings back ‘Angry Wave’

(Photo courtesy of Tulane Athletics' Twitter account)
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Tulane’s court design is a throwback.

On Friday night, the school revealed the new look inside Devlin Fieldhouse, with the old “Angry Wave’ logo taking its place at center court.

A little over a year ago, Tulane University announced that the old ‘Angry Wave’ logo would be reincorporated into the athletics department as a secondary logo.

Over half a century ago, the “Angry Wave” was born and became one of the most visible marks of Tulane Athletics.  Together for the first time with the “T-Wave” the Green Wave now boasts one of the most unique sets of logos in collegiate athletics.

The Green Wave finished the 2016-17 season with a 6-25 (3-15 AAC) record. The program is currently on a foreign tour in Barcelona.

Five-star big man names final two schools

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There are only two schools in contention for the services of five-star big man Nazreon Reid.

On Friday night, the 6-foot-10 New Jersey native named Arizona and LSU as the two finalists. Before the start of the July live evaluation period, Reid had trimmed his list to seven programs. Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Seton Hall, and UCLA did not make the latest cut.

The Roselle Catholic High School center has ties to commits from both programs. Jahvon Quinerly, who picked Arizona over Villanova earlier this month, played with Reid, winning championships in 2015 and 2016 with Sports U in the Under Armour Association. According to Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com, Reid has developed a friendship with LSU pledge Javonte Smart through USA basketball and the grassroots circuit.

Reid’s commitment will bolster an already star-studded recruiting class for Sean Miller, as Quinerly is accompanied by five-star recruit Shareef O’Neal and four-star guard Brandon Williams. With Dusan Ristic exhausting his eligibility and DeAndre Ayton destined to be a top-10 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, Reid would play a key role down low for the Wildcats during the 2018-19 season.

For LSU, this would add additional momentum for new head coach Will Wade. Since taking over the program in March, Wade has landed commitments from Smart and Tremont Waters.

Reid is listed as No. 13 overall player in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals.

Duke recruit Bagley hoping to play in the 2017-18 season

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Marvin Bagley III, widely considered the top recruit in the class of 2018, reclassified this week and could be eligible to play for Duke in the upcoming season.

His decision immediately thrusts the Blue Devils toward the front of the national-title conversation for the 2017-18 season.

But what exactly does it mean to reclassify and how does the process work?

According to the NCAA, all incoming student-athletes must complete 16 core courses from a list that includes English, math, natural or physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy. Classes such as physical education, health and music do not count as core courses, nor do remedial classes or classes completed through credit-by-exam.

The student-athlete must also show proof of graduation from high school and have an ACT/SAT test score that corresponds to his or her core course GPA on a sliding scale; the higher the GPA, the lower the standardized test score needs to be.

The NCAA eligibility center’s amateurism team then determines whether to certify a student-athlete. The process and requirements are the same for every sport.

Bagley is scheduled to graduate from Southern California’s Sierra Canyon High School later this month, completing his course work a year ahead of schedule. His transcripts may be a little more complicated because he attended three different high schools and the NCAA will review his final transcript following his graduation to determine if he is eligible to play Division I basketball.

Bagley’s move is not unprecedented.

Through the years, five-star prospects who want to get a jump on their college careers — and potentially professional careers — have gone through the same process, though usually not right before the fall semester begins as Bagley did.

Mike Gminski is considered the leave-high-school-early originator, graduating a year early so he could play at Duke in 1976. He went on to become an All-American and played 17 NBA seasons.

In recent years, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Duke’s Derryck Thornton and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns were among the student-athletes who graduated early to play college basketball sooner. Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo graduated a semester early and joined the Wildcats in January last season, but did not play. He declared for the NBA draft before deciding to return to Lexington.

Jontay Porter reclassified this year so he could play a year early with his brother, top recruit Michael, at Missouri. Canadian guard R.J. Barrett, considered the top recruit in 2019, has reclassified so he can graduate in 2018.

“With AAU and year-round competition basically, a lot of the players are ready for college-level play at an earlier age,” Gminski told WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2015. “And most of these guys have been around a lot. They do a lot of traveling. They tend to mature pretty fast.”

Early graduation in football became popular in the early 2000s, though they typically only do it a semester early to enroll in college for the spring semester and participate in spring practices.

Baseball player Bryce Harper left his Las Vegas high school after his sophomore season and earned his GED so he could start playing professional baseball sooner. He played one season for the College of Southern Nevada and was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals.

An opposite trend has started playing out in recent years, with parents holding their kids back a year so they can become bigger, stronger and more polished — some as early as middle school. Many top-tier recruits hold off going to college for a year, instead playing for elite prep schools after graduation for more seasoning and exposure.

Bagley opted for the get-to-college-early route, changing the landscape in college basketball in the process

Did Nike plagiarize JellyFam, Minnesota freshman Isaiah Washington to sell kid shoes?

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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The JellyFam movement started as nothing more than a way for a little New York City point guard to add some flair to his game, a way to stunt on an opponent when you can’t dunk on that opponent, and has grown into something no one, not even Isaiah Washington, could have imagined.

Washington is that little point guard, and a few years ago, he and a couple of his hooping buddies coined the jelly, which, at its root, is essentially nothing more than a finger roll. Where the magic happens is when that finger comes after weaving around an opponent or finishing the layup despite the presence of a shot-blocker at the rim, with a sprinkle of NYC Point God showmanship. Think Kyrie Irving’s layup package if they happened at Rucker Park with an And1 Mixtape crew filming the game:

What JellyFam has turned into is a full-blown, grassroots movement powered by social media.

And while Washington is the face of the movement, it’s not just him. A half-dozen other talented New York hoopers are members of JellyFam, but Washington is the star. He’s a celebrity on the city’s hoops scene, drawing massive crowds wherever he goes and garnering more than 335,000 followers on Instagram despite having just 27 posts on the site. It’s not as if Washington is a sure-fire NBA All-Star, either. He’s a 6-foot-1, 160 pound point guard that doesn’t crack the top 50 on any of the major recruiting services and is headed to Minnesota to play his college ball.

His popularity is tied directly to the movement that he created.

It’s a shame, however, that he cannot profit off of it, not if he wants to remain an amateur that is eligible to play college basketball.

That doesn’t stop corporations from profiting off of what he has created.

Today, Nike released a new colorway for the kid size PG1s, Paul George’s signature shoe, that has been dubbed the ‘JellyFam PG1’. It’s being sold for $90 on their website right now. This is what it looks like:

What you’ll notice, in addition to purple and turquoise colors that are a staple in the JellyFam gear that Washington wears, is the straps. On the right foot, it says “score in bunches”. On the left foot, you’ll see a design that looks like basketballs on a grapevine … or the grape emoji, with basketballs instead of grapes.

Washington and the rest of the members of JellyFam have adopted the grape emoji as their own when posting on social media.

According to a Nike spokesperson, these shoes were “inspired by Paul George’s love for fresh grapes.”

What Nike is doing here is wrong.

They are trying to capitalize on a movement created by athletes that are not allowed to monetize something they built simply because of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. They are stealing the work created by these young men simply because they can. At worst, this is plagiarism.

Washington did not respond to messages from NBC Sports, but on Friday morning he tweeted, “It’s crazy bro they know I can’t so they just take advantage.” That tweet has since been deleted.

If you read this space, you know my feelings on the NCAA and amateurism. It’s wrong and it needs to be changed, but that’s another column for another day that’s been written thousands of times.

This column is much simpler: An international, multibillion-dollar company like Nike is already profiting off of the unpaid labor of amateur athletes.

Stealing their art, their work, their movement to try and sell sneakers to kids for $90 is despicable.

And I’m not sure there’s anything else to add.