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Additional charges filed against three defendants in FBI probe

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The federal case that’s investigating bribes and corruption in college basketball took another turn Tuesday afternoon, as the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a Superseding Indictment been filed against defendants James Gatto, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins. Gatto, Code and Dawkins now face three additional charges of wire fraud.

This move expands the scope of the investigation into the trio, with it being alleged by the government that payments were made to parents of recruits (now former players) in connection with the prospect committing to one of four Division I programs.

The schools named by the U.S. Attorney’s Office were Louisville, Miami, Kansas and NC State. All four schools had apparel deals with adidas at the time of the alleged wrongdoing by the defendants, and remain so at present time.

While there isn’t anything new regarding Louisville and Miami in this latest update, that is not the case for Kansas and NC State.

Gatto conspired to funnel $40,000 from adidas to the parent of a recruit who at the time was considered to be the top high school prospect in North Carolina, according to the document detailing the new charges. The goal, per the U.S. Attorney’s Office, was to ensure that said recruit would attend NC State. However the recruit was unhappy with his commitment to NC State, with a payment being made to ensure that he would not de-commit.

The recruit in question is believed to be Dennis Smith Jr., who played one season at NC State before entering the 2017 NBA Draft.

NC State released a statement on the matter, which in part read:

“While there are no indictments against former NC State employees, the document includes allegations of a payment in 2015 from an athletics apparel company to an unidentified parent of a student-athlete through a former unidentified NC State coach. As the indictment stated, the payment was designed to be concealed, including from the NCAA and officials at NC State.

“NC State focuses significant effort on educating student-athletes, coaches and employees about NCAA rules, team rules, impermissible behavior and benefits, amateurism, eligibility issues and other possible infractions. This is done in team and individual settings, continually educating both coaches and student-athletes, and emphasizing awareness of impermissible activity so students and employees understand the rules and repercussions of breaking those rules.”

With regards to Kansas, it’s alleged in the documents that a payment of $90,000 was made to the mother of a top high school prospect in order to ensure the player’s commitment to Kansas. According to the document, the commitment in question was made in October 2016. This player appears to be Billy Preston, who was never cleared to play for Kansas.

There are also allegations of an agreement with the guardian of another prospect in order to ensure his commitment to Kansas. It’s been speculated that the recruitment of Silvio De Sousa was impacted. De Sousa, who joined the Kansas program in the middle of the 2017-18 season after graduating from IMG Academy, recently completed his freshman season at the school. The document released by the FBI alleges that a $20,000 payment was made to De Sousa’s guardian in order to reimburse a rival apparel company that had already made a payment to ensure De Sousa’s commitment to one of their programs.

Kansas released the following statement Tuesday night:

“Earlier today, we learned that the University of Kansas is named as a victim in a federal indictment. The indictment does not suggest any wrongdoing by the university, its coaches or its staff. We will cooperate fully with investigators in this matter. Because this is an active investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this time.”

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.