Recruiting rundown: Colleges stoked for Jarnell Stokes


The story with the most potential impact in college basketball recruiting right now centers on Jarnell Stokes and the possibility that one lucky college program may land him in the coming days. It’s not often that high-major schools are in the position to add a national top-25 prospect at midseason, but that is the place that Memphis, Arkansas, Kentucky, UConn, Florida and Tennessee are in, according to a report from The Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Stokes is a 6-8, 255 pound power forward who is strong enough to play center. He played at Central (Tenn.) last year and is a Memphis native. Over the summer, Stokes was expected to transfer to powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Va.), but got cold feet and returned home to the Bluff City.

Tennessee high school officials denied Stokes the opportunity to play at Southwind (Tenn.) this year, after he decided not to return to Central. He would have teamed with elite 2013 recruit Jonathan Williams III if he played at Southwind. The denial of his eligibility after transferring set into motion Stokes and his family looking into the possibility of enrolling at a college in midseason.

Stokes’s conditioning is unclear, though he’s said to be practicing with the team at Southwind. He has always had a large frame, and hasn’t played in a competitive game since late summer. Still, his interior presence would be welcomed on the decimated front line at Arkansas, and he would certainly be an upgrade to the players currently patrolling the interior at Tennessee. Then again, since taking the head coach position at Memphis, Josh Pastner has kept the city’s top players from leaving for college.

The Razorbacks, Volunteers and Tigers seem to be the most likely destination for Stokes, if he decides to enroll at the break. Notably, Stokes played with fellow Memphis signee Shaquille Goodwin, of Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) for the Atlanta Celtics on the AAU circuit, and at times his recruitment has been thought to be a two-team race between Arkansas and Memphis.

Stokes could also elect to wait, and enroll with his class next season, but as an honors student, he could be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse and be ready to play at most schools right away. He would be a solid addition to a shaky front line so far at Memphis, and have the possibility of becoming a starter out of the chute at Arkansas or Tennessee. With that said, Stokes decision could be extremely important to the schools he’s considering, in the coming days.

Package duo pops for South Florida
In recent years, South Florida has relied on junior college transfers perhaps as much as any program in a BCS conference. That may be changing as coach Stan Heath seeks to add stability to the Bulls program with over four seasons under his belt now.

So-called package deals are rare in college basketball recruiting, perhaps occurring less often than the average fan might believe. The Bulls though, have landed a duo that is unquestionably a package deal in the 2013 class, current high school juniors, as evidenced by the fact that the players live within the same household.

Team Georgia Elite teammates Drew Davis, a 6-0 guard and John Egbunu, a 7-0 center, both attend Eagle’s Landing (Ga.), but do not play at the school, instead playing on the Christian schools tournament circuit, for long-time AAU and high school coach Linzy Davis, Drew’s father. Egbunu is a native of Nigeria that resides in the Davis home.

While Davis is thought to be a decent shooter, the prize here is Egbunu. He had plenty of high-major interest before pulling the trigger for South Florida. He’s an active and potential filled interior player that could rise up the charts. With three junior college players already signed for next season, Egbunu will be given the opportunity to develop behind an experienced roster as a senior, and could be a strong player in the decimated Big East.

South Carolina loses two to doubts
It’s never a good thing when verbally committed recruits fail to sign during the allotted time period for making verbal pledges official. When South Carolina only signed post Tyrone Haughton of Dr. Krop (Fla.), and didn’t receive letters of intent from AAU and high school teammates Ian Baker and Carlos Morris during college basketball’s early signing period, there immediately were whispers regarding the recruitment.

It became official in recent days that Baker and Morris, a backcourt tandem, were re-opening their recruitments, due to doubts regarding Gamecocks’ coach Darrin Horn, and his future at South Carolina.

Morris is the biggest prize of the two players, a 6-6 shooting guard that has ideal size and athleticism. Both Baker and Morris ran together over the summer with the Dwight Howard Warriors, and play together for one of the top high school basketball teams in the country, in Arlington Country Day (Fla.).

There’s at least lip service that Morris and Baker will still consider South Carolina, but it’s obviously an uphill battle after both players failed to sign and are entertaining other offers. Expect both players to end up at BCS schools, but it remains to be seen how many programs have scholarship availability for both players, given that the early signing period has already passed.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

Getty Images

WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.