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Vanderbilt lands five-star forward Simi Shittu

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Vanderbilt continues to build a monster recruiting class under head coach Bryce Drew as five-star 2018 forward Simi Shittu pledged to the Commodores on Wednesday.

The second five-star commitment for Vanderbilt in the Class of 2018, Shittu joins top point guard prospect Darius Garland to form one of the best freshman combinations in the country for next season. The Commodores also have a top-150 forward in Aaron Nesmith.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Shittu is coming off of a monster summer in which he became a major problem and top-ten recruit. The No. 8 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 recruiting rankings, Shittu is a huge get and an instant starter for Vanderbilt next season.

By landing prospects like Garland and Shittu, Drew is also becoming a major player in a short amount of time as a high-major coach. Always a noted recruiter at the mid-major level at Valparaiso, now Vanderbilt is seeing Drew’s hiring workout as he’s bringing top talent to the program.

If Drew can continue to recruit like this then Vanderbilt could be in position to be in the top half of the SEC as the league has seen some of its rebuilds go poorly over the last few years.

Kansas still without freshman Billy Preston

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Kansas freshman Billy Preston has yet to make his debut for the Jayhawks and it appears he’ll have to wait a bit longer before that happens.

Head coach Bill Self met with media earlier this week to discuss the Preston situation, saying that nothing has changed about his status quite yet. Preston was previously suspended for violating a team rule when he missed the game against Tennessee State. Before Preston was set to debut against Kentucky in the Champions Classic he was also withheld from the contest after the revelation that Preston had been in a single-vehicle accident the previous weekend.

“I have actually been out, until I just pulled back in, so as of this morning, there was no movement. The last time you guys asked me was Friday and so you don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, so there is nothing new on that situation,” Self said.

“Sure, I’m worried,” Self also added. “I’m concerned and I do think that it can work itself, based on what I’ve been told. I also think that it obviously hadn’t happened yet.”

It’s uncertain when the next step in any of this will play out but Self doesn’t appear to be too concerned over it. Kansas has won without Preston so far but they could definitely use his size, scoring punch and overall depth to a team that isn’t very deep right now.

A matchup nightmare, Preston could help the Jayhawk offense while also giving Udoka Azubuike additional help on the glass and protecting the rim.

(H/t: Jesse Newell, Kansas City Star)

Brian Bowen not allowed to play at Louisville

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Louisville announced on Wednesday that freshman wing Brian Bowen will not be allowed to play at the school. The former McDonald’s All-American will be allowed to remain on scholarship but he can’t participate in any team activities.

Bowen was tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball this fall as an adidas company executive is alleged to have been part of a scheme to deliver $100,000 to Bowen’s family, according to court documents.

Bowen hired attorney Jason Setchen to fight the case and seek reinstatement as Setchen had experience dealing with college basketball scandals before. When DeQuan Jones was suspended from Miami after the Nevin Shapiro case in 2011, Setchen helped Jones re-gain his eligibility as Miami.

With this case, Bowen was not allowed back at Louisville as the school has fired head coach Rick Pitino and most of his previous staff. Athletic Director Tom Jurich also lost his job, so the Cardinals are definitely cleaning house and trying to detach themselves from anyone involved.

It will be interesting to see what Bowen opts to do in light of this news. He’s talented enough that other schools could want him, if he’s eligible, but he’s also a former five-star prospect who could have pro aspirations. But since Bowen won’t be playing this season, he also hasn’t had a chance to spotlight his game to potential pro suitors.

 

President Trump fires back at LaVar Ball on Twitter

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The never-ending war of words between President Donald Trump and LaVar Ball escalated to another level on Wednesday morning.

Starting his early-morning tweets with some messages aimed at Ball, President Trump continued to double down on his insistence that he helped play a role in the safe return of three UCLA players arrested in China for shoplifting. LiAngelo Ball, LaVar’s middle son, was one of the three players involved in the international incident as fellow Bruins Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were also arrested. The trio returned to the United States last week after UCLA left China without them following a win over Georgia Tech in the Pac-12 China Game.

ACTUAL HOOPS COVERAGE: Scott Drew’s coaching gem | Porter Jr. out | Toledo player’s Thanksgiving feast
MORE HOOPS COVERAGE: Player of the Year Power Rankings

LaVar has drawn the ire of President Trump for downplaying the President’s role in the return of the UCLA trio as Ball maintains that others had more to do with the release. All three UCLA players publicly thanked President Trump and the United States government during their return press conference on Nov. 15. The three players remain suspended indefinitely from all activities with the men’s basketball team.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, LaVar was critical of Trump’s role in the whole ordeal while also questioning why the President would spend so much time bothering for a thank you from the father of one of those arrested.

Toledo’s Taylor Adway dishes up Thanksgiving for program, gives leftovers to local church

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Thanksgiving dinner, on the road, at the team hotel, wasn’t going to cut it for Toledo junior big man Taylor Adway.

Like many players away from their families during the holidays, Adway wanted a home-cooked meal. As the unofficial chef of the Rockets, Adway hatched a plan with Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk: he wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the entire men’s basketball program before they departed for a mid-week road trip.

Cooking for 15 players, team managers and five coaches and their families seemed like a daunting Thanksgiving feast for even the most seasoned chef.

Facing four days of cooking for over 30 people, Adway’s roommate, Deshaun Cole, a manager at Toledo, even offered the idea of a pair of HoneyBaked Hams to alleviate some of the burden. Adway shunned his roommate’s last-ditch offer for fresh-and-ready ham. The HoneyBaked Ham was the easy way out.

“I’m, like, no I want to cook these hams. When people eat it, I want them to know that it’s good and that Taylor made it. ‘That ham was good.’ Cooking relieves stress. I get joy from cooking. That’s why I didn’t want to buy nothing already made. I wanted to make everything,” Adway said to NBCSports.com.

After four days of hard labor in the kitchen, Adway put together an unbelievable spread for his coaches and teammates — all of it from scratch — including the first turkey he ever made completely on his own. The meal included:

  • smoked turkey with dressing
  • two hams — one pineapple citrus, one honey-glazed brown sugar
  • two pans of macaroni and cheese
  • sweet potatoes
  • greens
  • fried sweet corn
  • potatoes with string beans
  • cranberry sauce
  • toasted Hawaiian rolls

“A lot of the times, the guys will throw in five bucks and he’ll go and do a variety of different meals and just cook for the whole team,” Kowalczyk said of Adway. “And he just does that on his own at the spur of the moment without coaches asking him to do anything. He just loves to do it. And he’s really, really good at it. Really good at it. The meal that we had last night was amazing.”

Toledo’s players did a smaller-scale Thanksgiving on their own last year where they collected money before Adway cooked. For this year’s feast, Adway thought it would be smart to include the whole program. Not only would the meal bring more people together, it would be considered a “team meal.” The school and coaching staff could help pay for the groceries without NCAA interference.

Going grocery shopping last Wednesday with Director of Operations Justin Ingram, Adway started preparing the feast last Thursday, finishing everything up by Sunday morning. While Adway prepared everything in his kitchen, he called home to speak with his dad, Tony, for advice on handling things. Taylor learned his way around the kitchen from as young as seven years old thanks to his father’s love of cooking and grilling.

“He’s my foundation when it comes to cooking. Now that I’m older and I have my own place with my own kitchen and my own groceries, I try to do things my way. But everything kind of stems back to everything he taught me,” Adway said of his father. “When I was cooking Thanksgiving, I was constantly calling him, asking for advice. I just try to add my own spin to things. I want it to come off as Taylor’s recipe.”

Tony is so good with family recipes that he can often taste minor differences from his cooking and Taylor’s. Sometimes Tony will even point out specific ingredients his son might have used to alter the recipe. Family is a big reason why Taylor has grown comfortable making food. Adway comes from a big family that regularly spends holidays at his Great Aunt Esther’s, as everyone gathers together to eat, play games, laugh and watch football.

When his basketball career is complete, Adway wants to get into coaching, with the hope that he can also open his own restaurant. That means high school coaching is likely more feasible for achieving both goals since it involves less travel.

“I want to continue to play basketball after college, make money, and then save up and open up a restaurant called Triple T’s. Tony, which is my dad. Tyler, which is my brother. And, Tarmika, which is my mother,” Adway said.

“I get joy from making big meals and making new things. Big meals, usually I’m cooking for a lot of people. I just like cooking for people and they’re enjoying my food. And new things, like making stuff that I never made before, and it winds up being good. My confidence with cooking just gets higher and higher.”

Adway doesn’t adhere to traditional methods when it comes to cooking. While he watched Emeril Lagasse growing up, and still enjoys celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri, Adway often sees a video of a recipe and stores it away to try at another moment. Scrolling on Instagram or Facebook will lead Adway to videos of things he wants to cook. One time, Adway took white rice with broccoli, chicken and steak and cooked it inside of a carved-out pineapple. Adway has also made everything from homemade french toast to lasagna and is an expert handling a grill. During the summer on campus, Adway sent group messages to teammates, asking what they wanted to eat. After receiving responses, Adway collected the money he needed for groceries and cooked for his teammates before gatherings.

“I know he’s really good with ribs and chicken on the grill. He’s fantastic on the barbeque,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s great in the kitchen but I think his passion is probably more on the grill side of it. He learned that all from his dad.”

Kowalczyk did assist Adway with some of the Thanksgiving spread for Toledo last weekend, challenging him to see who could make a better turkey and dressing. It was the only assistance that Adway had for the general meal, which also included a dessert table.

“To make it fun, we made it a little bit competitive. We had a turkey contest between myself and him — as well as stuffing. He did everything, I just did turkey and stuffing. His stuff was a lot better than mine. And I think I’m pretty good at it,” Kowalczyk said.

“He didn’t want to give it to me for the stuffing, but I asked my teammates, and everybody was saying mine was better. So, I got him on the cook-off this time,” Adway said.

Although leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving, the team knew they’d be gone for the next five-to-six days.

While Adway and Cole might not have agreed on the preparation of the ham, the roommates were united in deciding to donate the leftovers to a homeless shelter.

They delivered their Thanksgiving food to the St. Paul Community Church on Monday evening.

Toledo’s Taylor Adway and Deshaun Cole deliver food to a homeless shelter.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.