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Five Takeaways from the Nike EYBL Indianapolis

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WESTFIELD, In. — The second session of the April live evaluation period was busy in the Indianapolis area as both the Nike EYBL and Under Armour Association had events near each other. It meant a lot of the nation’s elite players were all in the same vicinity and I’ve now had a chance to watch good chunks of all three shoe company circuits after checking out the adidas Gauntlet last week in the Dallas area.

I’ll have some takeaways from the Under Armour Association on Tuesday but here are five things I learned from the EYBL this weekend.

1. Missouri should try to get Jontay Porter in immediately — I’ll start with this point since it might have the most immediate impact on the college game. Missouri should be working as hard as possible to get Jontay Porter to enter school this year to help his older brother, Michael Porter Jr.

Jontay has been very good in the Nike EYBL so far this spring as he could really help the Tigers for the 2017-18 season with how much he has improved over 2017.

Jumping from the EYBL to the SEC is a whole different ballgame. But as a Class of 2018 forward who is considering the jump to 2017, Jontay has shown an ability to be a versatile threat and potential double-figure scorer as early as next season. Jontay is currently putting up 18.9 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while shooting 43 percent from three-point range.

Over an eight-game stretch, Porter is top fifteen in the EYBL in scoring and top five rebounding and blocked shots while shooting like that from the perimeter. That’s a potentially solid second or third option that Missouri could use when Michael Jr. doesn’t have a lot of help next season. Many seem to believe that Jontay will play at Missouri for next season and he could have more of an impact than what was initially perceived.

2. Marvin Bagley remains the top player in the Class of 2018

As for the Class of 2018 prospects who seem to be staying in that class, big man Marvin Bagley III remains the No. 1 prospect as he continues to look like the clear No. 1 at this point. The top player in the class since he entered high school, Bagley has lived up the hype in the EYBL so far this spring as he’s been a double-double machine while leading the league in points (26.9 points per game) and rebounds (14.7 per game).

The best rebounder in the class by a wide margin, Bagley displays great timing off the floor and his initial and secondary bounces are both elite because of how quickly he gets off the ground. Bagley can also score in a number of ways, although he has a tendency to take too many three-pointers at certain times when he could be dominating on the interior.

Down to a final six schools that includes Arizona, Duke, Kansas Kentucky, UCLA and USC, Bagley is definitely looking like a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and he’ll have a major impact in a class that is weak with star power.

3. But Bol Bol isn’t very far behind Marvin Bagley in 2018

Since moving to California for his junior season, 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, looks like a changed player.

Looking like the most lethal scorer in Indianapolis during the second session of the EYBL, the Class of 2018 five-star prospect had some breaktaking scoring runs over the weekend. In fact, this weekend made it seem like Bol is potentially the second best player in the class behind Bagley.

Third in the EYBL in scoring at 25.4 points per game, Bol elevated his play to a ridiculous level over four games this weekend.

Averaging 29.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.75 blocks per game, Bol was 45-for-60 (75 percent) from the field, 10-for-14 (71 percent) from three and 19-for-22 (86 percent) from the free-throw line. And his numbers from the weekend before weren’t that much different.

Through eight Nike EYBL games, Bol is averaging over 25 points a game on 66 (FG)/53 (3PT)/86 (FT) splits. And he’s also 7-foot-2 and can impact the game on the glass or protecting the rim. Bol’s perimeter jumper looks jaw-droppingly good at times and he’s one of the best perimeter shooters in the country even though he’s one of the tallest players in his class.

There are still times when Bol can slack a bit on defense and chasing after loose balls, but his overall talent and penchant for scoring are undeniable and he currently looks like the second best player in the country behind Bagley.

4. There is solid depth at point guard in the Class of 2018

The Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of star power and there does look like a healthy number of talented lead guards who should stick around college basketball for a couple of seasons. Between the three shoe company leagues, there is a lot of lead guard talent available for top programs in this class.

The Nike EYBL had a number of guys competing for the honor of top floor general in the class as Tre Jones (Tyus Jones’ younger brother), Javonte Smart and Darius Garland all looked like they could be in that conversation at various times over the weekend.

With Tyus watching him from the front row, Tre Jones had a very good weekend as he continues to be one of the top distributors in the country while also playing with more of an edge than his brother did on defense. Tre doesn’t have the same vision and offensive capabilities as his brother at the same age, but he plays with tremendous poise and has a lot of traits college coaches would love to have.

Smart is a bigger guard who plays with more of a scoring edge but his ability to get to the rim is tough to stop. Also good in the passing lanes, Smart needs to work on his perimeter jumper, but he can also score at the basket more effectively than most of the other point guards in his class.

Garland offers an enticing package of perimeter shooting and playmaking for others. Since the Tennessee native can drop in deep jumpers off the dribble, he keeps defenders honest at all times and forces them to play up on him when he crosses half court.

Along with plenty of others from adidas and Under Armour, it looks like the college ranks will get a healthy amount of quality floor generals in this class. It will be one of the fun storylines of this summer to see which of these guards can separate themselves from the pack.

5. North Carolina off to a solid start in the Class of 2018

The defending national champions are already off to a solid start recruiting this Class of 2018 as the Tar Heels own two commitments from guard Coby White and point forward Leaky Black.

Although both are only considered four-star prospects, in a class that doesn’t have a lot of elite players, both White and Black showed flashes of being better than their rankings might indicate. The 6-foot-4 White looked like a possible high-level scorer at the college level with his ability to knife in traffic and change directions. White is putting up over 20 points per game through eight EYBL games while also showing an ability to handle the ball.

The 6-foot-7 Black is more of the enigma, as he is clearly very talented but he hasn’t quite figured out how to play yet. More of a distributor then scorer, Black looks like he could take over a game but sometimes he plays too passively for his own good. Then, Black will make some sort of ridiculous pass or score on a tough finish and you see why the Tar Heels pursued an early commitment.

It’s hard to say if either of these guys will elevate to five-star status, but having two commitments means that head coach Roy Williams and his staff can spend more time evaluating other Class of 2018 and 2019 prospects who can play with these guys over the next several seasons.

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.