What if the college kids hadn’t gone pro?


I’m not going to lie — I couldn’t care less about what is going on with the NBA Lockout. It simply doesn’t interest me. And given the fact that I focus all of my basketball-watching between October and the beginning of April on the collegiate ranks, seeing the NBA lose two weeks worth of its regular season does nothing but make me happy that college hoops will be the focus of the hoops-watching world for however long the lockout lasts.

There is one part of the lockout that upsets me, and that’s seeing the kids that made the decision to ignore all the warning signs enter the NBA Draft sitting at home as we bear down on Midnight Madness. Let’s pretend, for a second, that all of those players that left school early … didn’t.

What would the college basketball landscape look like right now?

The Pac-12 would be the best conference in America: Seriously. It may have been. Arizona would return everyone from a conference championship team that made a run to the Elite 8, including their all-american Derrick Williams. Well, they wouldn’t return everyone; Sean Miller would still trade in Momo Jones for Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner. UCLA’s talent drain on the perimeter wouldn’t have happened, meaning that Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt would be joining Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson and Laz Jones in the starting lineup again. Isaiah Thomas would give Tony Wroten Jr a helluva role model. Washington State would still have their big three of Klay Thompson, DeAngelo Casto and Reggie Moore. Even USC would head into the season with the formidable front line of Nikola Vucevic and Dewayne Dedmon.

Texas would be a national championship contender: Imagine a back court featuring Cory Joseph and Myck Kabongo with Jordan Hamilton at the three and Tristan Thompson anchoring the front line. Terrifying isn’t it? I don’t think we’d have the same issues determining a Big 12 favorite, especially if …

Some kids are better off gone: Was Josh Selby really a good thing for the Kansas team? He was suspended for the first semester, injured for the second semester and clearly had no desire to actually attend a class. Was he really a positive presence in that locker room? The same thing can be said for Jereme Richmond at Illinois, although if he didn’t declare for the draft, I think its a safe bet he would have been kicked off the team already.

Kansas still would have been good though: The Morrii would have one last go ’round. And we’d get to say “The Morrii” for another year.

New head coaches would have an easier inaugural season: Gary Williams left Mark Turgeon some talented back court pieces to work with in Terrell Stoglin, Pe’Shon Howard and Nick Faust. What Williams didn’t do, however, was leave Turgeon with a front court. You think Maryland’s outlook would be brighter with Jordan Williams on the block? Cuonzo Martin can feel Turgeon’s pain. He lost Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson. I don’t think its a stretch to say that taking over a new team would be easier with two former top 10 recruits on the roster.

Would Kentucky have too much talent?: It sounds weird to say, but it could have happened if Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins hadn’t kept their names in the draft. Liggins would have become that team’s 9th or 10th man. That’s crazy. Their path through the SEC would have gotten tougher, however, as Georgia would not be losing Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins.

John Beilein’s best team ever: If Darius Morris doesn’t enter the draft, Michigan heads into the season in the top 15 in every poll in the country. Beilein never has teams that are ranked in the preseason. With a potential all-american running the show, a potential all-Big Ten first-teamer in Tim Hardaway Jr. and enough smart role players that buy into his system, Beilein may have been able to put together a team that would challenge for the Big East

Would Butler be planning a third straight title game trip?: Its possible, because they would be getting their lead guard and all-american Shelvin Mack back. The idea of Mack playing with the sophomore version of Khyle Marshall is appetizing for me, but terrifying for the Horizon League

Duke’s back court would be scary: Austin Rivers and Kyrie Irving? With Seth Curry and Andre Dawkin coming off the bench? But that’s not quite as scary as …

UConn!: Take last year’s national champion, give all of them a full summer to develop their game and then throw Deandre Daniels, Andre Drummond and Ryan Boatright into the mix. Think about that. That includes Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, Alex Oriahki and Jeremy Lamb.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.