Rob Dauster

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29-year old Canadian basketball star claims he didn’t know his age

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Last week, Jonathan Nicola, a star high school basketball player in Canada, was exposed as a 29-year old man posing as an 11th grader.

Nicola is a refugee from South Sudan. The student visa application that he filed with Canada claimed that he was born in 1998, but it was not until he tried to enter the United States with a U.S. visitor’s visa that it was discovered that his fingerprints matched that of a refugee that had applied for asylum in the States.

The application filed with the United States had the same name, but his date of birth was listed as 1986.

According to the Windsor Star, Nicola tried to explain his way out of it by saying that he didn’t know when he was actually born.

“I aways keep asking what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember,” he said in a detention review on April 19th that was obtained by the paper. “Over (in South Sudan) . . . not every year we study . . . we always keep moving to different schools, and over there, they do not ask your age. They do not ask you nothing.”

Nicola also added that he didn’t file any of the paperwork, that a man named “Coach Steyn” did.

“I told [Coach Steyn], no, I was not born in 1998. I told him that I am too young for 1998,” Nicola said in the hearing. “I’m not in 1998. Then he told me, ‘No, you go back ask my mother, ask my mother how old am I.’ And my mother she do not even remember. She told me 1993, 1990,” Nicola said at the earlier hearing. So I went back and this guy he just do me the paper . . . he did the whole papers. He did everything.”

On the surface, I can see why people find this situation funny. There are times where I wish I could go back and re-do my high school days. I think we all understand that.

But this isn’t a situation where Nicola is trying to relive anything. It’s just incredibly sad.

Let’s assume, for a second, that he’s telling the truth, that he legitimately believed that he was 17 years old. He’s 29! Can you imagine living in a country where it’s possible for a 29 year old man to believe that he’s of high school age? Like most people, however, I don’t think Nicola is telling the truth here, which may actually be more depressing.

Read this passage from a Yahoo Sports story on this situation last week:

The scene D’Awol found at Nicola’s house was tragic yet typical for South Sudan.

D’Awol estimated that Nicola and as many as 30 relatives lived in one house with just four or five bedrooms. One of the few members of the family with a full-time job was Nicola’s father, a petroleum engineer who works primarily in the Middle East and sends home as much money as he can.

“He comes from a poor family,” D’Awol told Yahoo Sports. “They all stay in one house including uncles, aunts, their children and their children’s children. And the whole household is supported by an individual or two. That’s basically the reality for about 85 percent of people in South Sudan.”

Nicola’s living situation in South Sudan was bad enough that he thought the best way for him to try and provide for his family was to lie about his age to get into Canada, where he could receive a free high school education and, if all went according to plan, a college education as well.

South Sudan is a war-torn country facing what a United Nations report last month called “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”. (You can find the details here. They’re awful.)

Can you imagine a life where living a lie is the only way you can save your family from that?

Former Wichita State stars featured in new commercial

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It’s been a month since Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Evan Wessel finished their careers at Wichita State, but the trio of Shocker legends are already finding a way to profit off of their popularity.

This week, a commercial featuring those three promoting Carlos O’Kelly’s — a chain of Mexican restaurants in the midwest — popped up online. It’s about what you would expect from a commercial like this: It’s kind of corny and it’s pretty clear these guys aren’t actors (although this is as animated as I’ve ever seen Baker), but overall it’s harmless publicity for a restaurant chain that counts four of their 20 establishments in the city of Wichita:

Where does this tie-in to current college basketball players?

Earlier this month, Big East commissioner Val Ackerman made a comment about the NCAA considering the idea of allowing student-athletes to endorse products or companies without endangering their eligibility. The fear of those that are dumb enough to think amateurism is a good thing is that this will turn their favorite college players into primadonna, quasi-professional athletes before they’re “allowed” to be; that Nike or Gatorade or McDonalds will make them rich at a time when they should be learning how to be broke and focusing on getting that all-important education.

Or something like that.

To that point, there would be some athletes that major corporations would throw money at. I’m sure Nike would have invested pretty heavily in Ben Simmons — who, as an amateur, was such a conscientious student — prior to his freshman season.

But for the most part, the endorsement deals that these athletes would get would be something like the ad you see above. A local restaurant chain. A car dealership. Some injury lawyer whose commercials pop-up during daytime cable TV. Even with 20 different locations, four of which are in Wichita, Carlos O’Kelly’s isn’t making Baker, VanVleet or Wessel rich. Those guys probably got paid somewhere between a down payment on a car and a down payment on a house, enough to help their families travel to games and buy some nice new clothes but no where near enough to make them forget their dream of getting to the NBA or the NFL.

How is that such a bad thing?

Auriemma says he’s feeling better after hospital stay

Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma listens to a question during a news conference at the women's Final Four in the NCAA college basketball tournament Monday, April 4, 2016, in Indianapolis. Connecticut will play Syracuse in the championship game on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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NEW YORK (AP) Geno Auriemma is feeling a lot better.

The UConn women’s basketball coach spent a few days in the hospital last week after taking himself off a plane on April 16.

“It started the week of the Final Four. It got worse when I got home,” Auriemma told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. “I thought I was over it and then I was laid up for three or four days.

“Lot of tests, lot of fluids, lot of different things that I was just exhausted and run down. The flu part was real. The bronchial infection was real. The other stuff. Maybe I was holding it back for a month. Just got me.”

The 62-year-old coach had boarded a plane to go speak at a clinic in Chicago. He said he decided to get off the plane because he wasn’t feeling well.

“I knew something wasn’t right and I wouldn’t be able to make it through the flight,” he said.

He went to the hospital and they admitted him. He was released three days later.

Auriemma, who is 955-134 in 31 seasons at UConn, had been sick since UConn won its 11th national title earlier this month. The illness forced him to miss the team’s victory parade in Hartford and he didn’t accompany the team when it was honored by lawmakers at the state Capitol. He did make it to the WNBA draft to see Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck get picked 1-2-3.

The Hall of Fame coach has a busy summer ahead as he will try and guide the U.S. women’s Olympic team to a sixth straight gold medal in Rio de Janeiro this August. It’s his second stint in charge of the Olympic team.

Once that’s done he plans to head back to UConn. He laughed at rumors over the past few weeks that he may retire or leave UConn to take an NBA job or men’s coaching position.

“I didn’t watch TV, read the paper, check the internet, didn’t do anything in the hospital,” he said. “When I got out, all this was news to me. I was probably as surprised as anybody. Nope, I’m the coach of Connecticut and that hasn’t changed.”

NBA Draft Early Entry: The most influential ‘testing the water’ decisions

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Now that the NBA has released a full list of the players that have declared for the NBA Draft, here are the 14 programs that have the most on the line with players that are testing the waters:

Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, Oregon: The Ducks were one of the biggest surprises last season, and part of what made that performance so exciting for Oregon fans was that basically everyone on the roster was schedule to return next season. Chris Boucher opted not to declare for the draft, but freshman Tyler Dorsey and sophomore Dillon Brooks did. I don’t think Dorsey is an NBA player, at least not yet, but Brooks is a guy whose size and skill set as a small forward makes him intriguing. He’s not a great athlete, however, which may be the best news for Dana Altman. Because if Dorsey and Brooks, who is a potential Pac-12 Player of the Year, both return, the Ducks will enter the season as national title contenders.

Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, Villanova: Prior to this season, I would’ve said that there was no way that these two would be declaring for the draft. While Jenkins seems to be a situation where he’s just trying to get an answer on what he needs to do to get drafted in 2017, Hart may actually have a chance to be a first round pick this season. He’s a tweener, but tweeners that can do a lot of different things and defend multiple positions — Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, etc. — are all the rage these days. Like both of those guys coming out of college, Hart is tough, he’s versatile, he defends, he rebounds and he cannot shoot. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone gave him a promise late in the first round or early in the second round, and that may be enough to pull him out of school, and that would be a massive blow for a Villanova team that’s currently projected in our top five.

       RELATED: Who are the Early Entry Winners?

Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps are already losing four of their five starters from last season, but given the way that that group fit — well, didn’t fit — together last season, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. That’s assuming that Trimble opts to return to school. We’ve seen what he can do when he’s asked to carry a team by himself — he did it as a freshman — and the Terps will remain relevant as long as he’s on the roster. If he’s gone? NIT baby.

      RELATED: Who were the Early Entry Losers?

Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina: All the talk about the North Carolina program during the season was how this group was going to fall off after last year’s run to the title game, but that may not necessarily be the case. There is still talent there, even if Jackson and Meeks opt to stay in the draft. But if they return, we’re looking at a team that is once again loaded with veteran depth. Will that be enough to beat out Duke for the ACC title? Maybe not, but it could be enough to make them the biggest challenger to the Blue Devils.

Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., Indiana: The Hoosiers, like the Tar Heels, actually have a better chance to be good than most people probably realize. But Blackmon is the best shooter and scorer that the Hoosiers will return, which is something that they are going to need now that Yogi Ferrell is an alum, and Williams’ presence alongside O.G. Anunoby will make Indiana one of the most athletic and versatile teams in the Big Ten. They’re a top 15 team with those two back in the mix.

Mo Watson, Creighton: I’m not sure people realize just how good Watson was last season. There’s an argument to be made that he was the best point guard in the Big East not named Kris Dunn. And if he returns, he’ll be paired in a back court with Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster, who was one of the best off-guards in the Big 12 before his falling out with Bruce Weber. That duo would have a strong argument as the best back court in college basketball, and it’s the reason that we have the Bluejays sitting in the first spot outside the top 25 right now.

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: Hayes actually had a somewhat disappointing season in 2015-16 and the Badgers still managed to find a way to make the tournament as a No. 7 seed — despite their 9-9 start — and get to the Sweet 16. The Badgers should be pretty good even if he doesn’t return, but if he comes back, a Big Three of Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ looks pretty good on paper.

Malachi Richardson, Syracuse: The Orange caught a break when Tyler Lydon opted not to enter his name in the NBA Draft, but as good as Lydon was — as good as he can be — he’s still something of a complimentary piece. The same can be said for Richardson, but the thing that makes him so dangerous is his ability to go for 25 points on any given night. He’s streaky, but he can win games by himself (ask Virginia). With Michael Gbinije graduating and without a clear replacement at the point guard spot, the Orange need guys that can create points for themselves.

Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville: The Cardinals have a number of talented wings returning next season. They also have a slew of big bodies that they’ll be able to bring back, but unlike Onuaku, none of those other big men are physical presences in the paint. Onuaku is a rebounder that can battle with the physical big men he’s going to run into in the ACC. If he’s gone, that’s something Louisville is going to miss.

Julian Jacobs, USC: Jacobs was one of the most surprising players in the Pac-12 last season, showing off his athleticism and ability to make plays in the open floor. He fits so well with what Andy Enfield wants to do with the Trojans, and pairing him with Jordan McLaughlin in the back court makes USC a nightmare to try and slow down in transition.

Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya, N.C. State: Anya was one of the biggest surprises that showed up on the Early Entry list, but he’s not the name that State fans need to worry about. Abu is, because Abu has the potential to be an All-ACC player next season. With Dennis Smith entering the fray, Maverick Rowan returning and Torin Dorn getting eligible, they need a big body in the paint.

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall: Whitehead played such a huge role in Seton Hall’s return to the NCAA tournament last season, and the good news is that he’s nowhere near a lock to get picked in the first round. That also may not be enough to keep him from signing with an agent. The Pirates have a shot at returning to the dance if he’s back. If he’s not, they’re not.

Dedric Lawson, Memphis: As a freshman, Dedric Lawson averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 boards for the Tigers, and while that was a bad Memphis team that lost a number of pieces — including head coach Josh Pastner — his father is back with the program meaning that Dedric, if he opts to return to school, will play with the Tigers. Memphis probably isn’t a tournament team with or without him, but give Tubby Smith a potential all-american in the American and anything can happen.

Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil was one of the best players in all of college basketball last season, but his Friars really struggled down the stretch of the season. With Kris Dunn off to the NBA, it’s hard to see Providence reaching the NCAA tournament either way, but if Bentil does return, he may pop up on a few preseason all-american teams.

NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline Losers: Washington, Texas, West Virginia fans cry tonight

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Now that the NBA has released a full list of the players that have declared for the NBA Draft, here are the eight programs that take the biggest hits heading into next season:

Washington: You have to feel for head coach Lorenzo Romar. His Husky team was loaded with talent and potential this season, but with nearly two-thirds of the team playing for the Huskies for the first time this year, their raw ability was masked by the inconsistency that comes with playing freshmen. The line of thinking, however, was that when this group came back next season and teamed with Markelle Fultz, the uber-talented lead guard who, they’d make some real noise in the Pac-12.

And then Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray declared for the draft while announced that they would sign with an agent.

That’s a gut punch, but by the end of the season, it had to be something that Romar knew was coming. Chriss has the chance to be a lottery pick based on the ridiculous tools that he has. He’s a long, long way from being an impact player in the NBA, but he’s the Powerball ticket, the guy that, if he reaches his potential, will end up being an All-Star. Murray is in a similar spot. He’s got the size, athleticism and ability to get in the lane of a point guard at the next level, but he’s a turnover machine that doesn’t shoot it well enough. He’s a borderline first round pick that, if he had returned to school, would have combined with Fultz to form a devastating back court attack.

But instead of seeing that, Washington fans will be left wondering what could have been.

Texas: I think that it’s safe to say that Texas is heading in the right direction with Shaka Smart. He’s getting his guys — kids that fit into that ‘Havoc’ system that he made work at VCU — and he’s landing some big name players from high profile programs within the state of Texas. The problem? With Isaiah Taylor opting to sign with an agent, he’s left with a back court that’s insanely young and a front court that was decimated by graduation. With Taylor, the Longhorns had the pieces to make a push for the top 15, if star freshman Andrew Jones and company rode the coattails of their would-be senior leader. Without him? Let’s put it like this: starting freshman point guards in the Big 12 is not ideal.

       RELATED: Who are the Early Entry Winners?

UNLV: Everything about UNLV’s offseason was an L for the Runnin’ Rebels, and the players they lost to the NBA Draft certainly fell into that category. Stephen Zimmerman was a lock to be headed to the professional ranks after one season with UNLV, but Patrick McCaw, Chris Obekpa, Derrick Jones and Goodluck Okonoboh — who technically transferred out of UNLV without actually transferring anywhere — all are gone for good.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers have reached a point where ‘Press Virginia’ is the kind of system that will keep them relevant regardless of who they lose. Next Man Up works for Bobby Huggins’ guys. But the system is built around the idea that, when they score, they can throw on their press. And not only did they lose their best perimeter scorer in JaySean Paige to graduation, but their best post scorer and offensive rebounder — Devin Williams — declared for the draft and will sign with an agent. That’s a tough break.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack have undergone a makeover this offseason, with turnover on their coaching staff and players leaving the program. Cat Barber was the biggest name, and he declared for the draft while signing with an agent. That loss is mitigated by — and, potentially, created by — the addition of freshman Dennis Smith Jr. The big question mark now: Will Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya stay in the draft or return to school?

Oakland: The Grizzlies had a chance to be one of the nation’s best mid-major teams again next season because they were returning one of the best mid-major players: Kahlil Felder, who averaged 24 points and nine assists as a junior. Felder opted to enter the NBA Draft and sign with an agent. That’s a loss that Oakland cannot recover from.

Maryland: There wasn’t much shock when Diamond Stone, a top ten recruit that was always going to be a one-and-done player, announced that he would be signing with an agent. It was somewhat surprising when Robert Carter Jr. did the same. Mark Turgeon’s club could overcome those losses, but what they won’t be able to overcome is Melo Trimble opting to remain in the draft.

Vanderbilt: Vandy was one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball this season, and new head coach Bryce Drew won’t have it any easier as he will have to find a way to replace big man Damian Jones and point guard Wade Baldwin IV.

NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline Winners: Duke, Indiana, Syracuse headline list

Grayson Allen, Jake Allsmiller
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Now that the NBA has released a full list of the players that have declared for the NBA Draft, here are the seven programs that will be the most excited about not seeing their players on that list:

Duke: The Blue Devils were already going to be the Preseason No. 1 team before they got the news that Grayson Allen — and, to a lesser extent, Amile Jefferson — were returning to school. Allen was a second-team all-american last season and a prospect that had a chance to end up being a first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Instead, he’ll be returning to the Blue Devils to try and finish his degree in three years, win a second national title and put together the kind of historic season a team with this much talent always aspires to. Allen is probably not the best prospect to skip out on the draft, but he is the best player from last season that we know is coming back.

The Blue Devils also return Amile Jefferson, who will be a fifth-year senior after he received a medical redshirt for last season. Jefferson likely would not have been an NBA Draft pick, but he has the potential for a professional future overseas. It’s not uncommon to see guys that finish their undergraduate degree opt to pursue a contract in Europe over playing out their fifth-year. Those two will give a Duke team loaded with soon-to-be lottery picks playing out their one-and-done year — Harry Giles III, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, maybe Marques Bolden? — a strong veteran presence and an ideally balanced starting five.

RELATED: Who were the Early Entry Losers?

Indiana: The Hoosiers still don’t have all the answers as to who is going to be returning this season — James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams have declared for the draft without signing for an agent — but Tom Crean’s crew already received two fantastic pieces of news, as Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby both opted to skip the draft this year. Bryant’s the big name here, as he’s a potential lottery pick in 2017, a young and talented defensive presence that’s still learning the game. And while Bryant entered the season with all the hype, it’s Anunoby that was the most pleasant surprise of the season. Another guy with future first round potential, Anunoby’s a versatile defender — his emergence was a major part of Indiana’s season turning around — that should give Hoosier fans some comfort that all is not lost if Williams stays in the draft.

Syracuse: The Orange are still waiting to hear back from Malachi Richardson, the freshman who had the breakout NCAA tournament and opted to enter his name in the NBA Draft. Richardson is a big time shooter on the wing that would help Syracuse stretch the floor and give them the size and athleticism that Jim Boeheim loves in that 2-3 zone. But the big news for them is that Tyler Lydon opted not to declare for the draft, and for my money, Lydon is going to end up being their most important player next season. He’s a knock-down three-point shooter that can defend the rim at the other end of the floor. He makes Syracuse hard to guard and gives them lineup versatility when their two best big men — Paschal Chukwu and Tyler Roberson — aren’t effective offensively if they aren’t dunking.

Iowa State: The Cyclones lose quite a bit from last season’s team, but they return Monte’ Morris, a potential all-american point guard. Morris will not make up for the departure of guys like Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay, but he is good enough that he’ll keep Iowa State out of the Big 12’s cellar next season. Remember: When Steve Prohm had his best teams at Murray State, they both had super-talented, future NBA guards that they were built around. That’s precisely what Morris is. The big question now: If Deonte Burton and Emmanuel Malou stay in the draft, are the Cyclones actually going to have enough bodies to compete in that league?

Cal: Losing Jaylen Brown is going to hurt the Bears, but that was expected. He was always going to be one-and-done. He was supposed to be joined by Ivan Rabb in the one-and-done ranks, but Rabb announced shortly after the deadline to declare for the draft had passed that he was taking a pass of his own. He very likely would have been a first round pick this season. Instead, he’ll anchor the front line for Cuonzo Martin once again. The Bears likely aren’t going to make all that much noise in the Pac-12 next season, but like Morris, Rabb keep Cal from the basement.

Xavier: The Musketeers did lose Jalen Reynolds to the draft, but that wasn’t necessarily unexpected. Trevon Blueitt’s name is still in the draft, but it seems fairly likely that he’ll end up returning to school. The most important name for Xavier is Edmond Sumner, a 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman point guard who had a freshman season that was equal parts dominant and frustratingly inconsistent. With a more guard-oriented team coming back, Sumner should be in for a big season.

Florida State: The Seminoles lost Malik Beasley to the NBA Draft, which is a blow, but they returned Dwayne Bacon and should expect to return Xavier Rathan-Mayes, meaning they’ll have a talented back court to pair with Jonathan Isaac, a top 15 prospect in the Class 0f 2016. The reason they’re winners? Because they should still have the talent to be relevant in the ACC this season, but those pieces should fit together better. Isaac is not a player that needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and while he may not score as much as Beasley, it should allow the Seminoles to be a better team overall.