Recruiting rundown: Where unsigned top-100 players leaning

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Depending on what recruiting website or scouting service you prefer, there are approximately a dozen or so remaining unsigned and uncommitted top-100 prospects remaining from the 2012 high school class. It’s fair to say that many college programs across the land have one or more of this group of players on their holiday wish lists, and some of the listed players are closer to making decisions than others.

Here’s the status of each of the undeclared top prospects that high-major programs are chasing right now, with the next several months being a marathon towards April’s regular signing period:

Amile Jefferson, 6-8, power forward, Friends Central (Penn.)
The talented forward was considering signing a letter of intent in the early period, but didn’t pull the trigger. His final six has been set for some time with Villanova, UConn, Kentucky, Ohio State, N.C. State and Temple. It’s not clear that there’s any favorite at the time for Jefferson, who could push his recruitment out until April.

Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6, wing, Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
Though there are nominally still six schools on the top senior in the country’s list, many believe that only four are realistic destinations: Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and UNLV. During the summer, many believed the Bruins were the clubhouse leader, but the early season troubles affecting the Bruins are believed to have carried over to their recruitment. At this point, expect an arduous several months of recruiting for the involved schools.

Anthony Bennett, 6-7, power forward, Findlay Prep (Nev.)
A top-10 player, and native Canadian, Bennett’s recruitment has been surprisingly quiet. There are theories on where Bennett will end up, but those thoughts can be mostly classified as shots in the dark. Bennett has yet to take an official visit, and still lists nine schools when given the opportunity. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess where Bennett ends up.

Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, power forward, Southwind (Tenn.)
After graduating high school in the last week, Stokes will declare his college intention Thursday, and will most certainly attempt to join the college hoops ranks at midseason. At 250 pounds, he’s a load inside, and a legitimate top-25 prospect. Opinions vary as to how much he will help this season, but there’s little doubt he’ll help going forward. Tennessee is getting the buzz as of late, though Memphis and Arkansas are also frontrunners.

Devonta Pollard, 6-7, wing, Kemper County (Miss.)
Pollard has pushed his recruiting timetable back in order to play football last fall. The bouncy wing is mostly considering SEC programs, with Alabama and Mississippi State having proximity to Pollard, while Texas, Georgetown, Kentucky and others are still involved.

Tony Parker, 6-9, center, Miller Grove (Ga.) – The beefy post prospect hasn’t had much movement in his list, as UCLA, Memphis, and Duke are considered the front-runners at this time. Parker has Kansas and Ohio State on the outside looking in, and could be taking a wait and see approach to UCLA’s fortunes this year.

Ricardo Gathers, 6-7, power forward, Riverside Academy (La.)
Formerly committed to St. John’s, Gathers is a burly forward with a take no prisoners attitude. He’s highly sought after by numerous schools, including the Johnnies. Their chief competitor at this time could be LSU, or perhaps Duke, which recently got involved as a way to hedge their bets on Tony Parker.

Torian Graham, 6-4, shooting guard, Arlington Country Day (Fla.)
After re-opening his recruitment following a commitment to N.C. State, Graham has entertained interest from a variety of schools, but doesn’t appear to be anywhere near making a decision. Graham teams with former South Carolina guard commits Carlos Morris and Ian Baker at Arlington Country Day, which will clearly be a frequent stopping point for colleges in need of guard help this winter and spring.

Winston Shepard, 6-8, power forward, Findlay Prep (Nev.)
The lengthy and lanky athlete is a native of Texas, but could be Mountain West bound, with San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV all among the schools involved. Shepard could be a sleeper heavy contributor as a freshman in the right situation, if he decides to go with the Mountain West.

Savon Goodman, 6-6, wing/power forward, Constitution (Penn.)
Some believe the former Villanova pledge will ultimately reclassify to the 2013 class and hit prep school next year, though those close to the strong forward say it isn’t so. He’s got a handful of Big East offers, but appears to be far from making a decision.

Nino Jackson, 6-2, point guard, Ardmore (Okla.)
Once considered to be a Kansas lean, the Jayhawks have moved on, and Jackson has battled eligibility and off the court issues after largely disappearing over the summer. He’s considered a likely candidate for maturation in the junior college or prep school ranks.

Wannah Bail, 6-8, power forward, Lamar Consolidated (Texas)
The Bahamas native was set to commit in fall, but canceled. At that time, Houston, Oregon and Texas Tech were options he listed, but it wasn’t clear how any of the three was going to work Bail and teammate Michael Carey on to their respective rosters given their scholarship situations. He could be a sleeper spring pickup, with or without Carey joining him.

Zena Edosomwan, 6-8, power forward, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.)
Though he’s received a variety of high-major offers, all indications are that Edosomwan’s heart is on attending Harvard. He has yet to reach the academic bar set by Harvard just yet, but they appear to be in position to land him if he qualifies.

Top-25 wing Brannen Greene makes Kansas commit
The 2013 recruiting class is shaping up to be potentially a blockbuster group for the Jayhawks, as 6-7 wing Brannen Greene of Mary Persons (Ga.) pledged Tuesday, joining Conner Frankamp, an in-state guard and member of USA Basketball’s Developmental National Team.

Greene is considered by most to be among the top handful of wing prospects in the country in the junior class, as he’s got a unique skill package capable of impacting a game in a variety of ways. Greene had numerous high-major offers, including UConn, Louisville and others.

Several of the elite prospects in the 2013 class are also considering joining Frankamp and Greene at Kansas, and Christ the King (N.Y.) shooting guard Isaiah Lewis is reportedly considering making a post-Christmas college decision, with Kansas considered the favorite.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.