Recruiting rundown: Will Louisville get the Purvis treatment again?

0 Comments

Louisville made three former scholarship men’s basketball players into walk-ons this year, so it’s clear that the Cardinals have a dearth of future full rides available for current high school prospects. With that said, they’ve approached their incoming recruiting classes with precision, making few offers, but also scoring important pledges.

In recent days, Louisville reached into traditional ACC recruiting country, North Carolina’s Triangle region, and landed 6-2 shooting guard Anton Gill, a top-50 prospect from Ravenscroft (N.C.).  Known as a crafty scorer and accurate shooter, Gill is a terrific all-around prospect, and gives Louisville flexibility with his ability to play a passable point guard in addition to his off the ball prowess.

Coach Rick Pitino and his staff have made the backcourt their top priority in future recruiting classes, as Louisville signed Ohio-native point guard Terry Rozier as the sole current member of their 2012 class. In addition to Gill, the first 2013 pledge, Louisville also have a commitment from a hometown player, in a 5-11 point guard from Ballard (Ky.), Quentin Snider, a 2014 prospect.

Louisville fans are hoping that Gill works out better than the last commitment Louisville held from a top prospect from the Triangle, in 2012 star combo guard Rodney Purvis. He pledged to the Cardinals early on in high school, mostly due to his relationship with former Louisville assistant coach, and current Missouri assistant coach Tim Fuller. After Fuller left Louisville, Purvis re-opened his recruitment and ultimately signed with NC State.

It’s unlikely that Gill will follow Purvis’ footsteps, as he cited his relationship with Pitino as one of the chief reasons he decided to head to the Bluegrass State for college.

Stokes gives Vols instant impact in frontcourt
As expected, Southwind (Tenn.) power forward Jarnell Stokes, a 6-8, 250 pound presence, is headed the college hoops ranks early, and the blue chip native of Memphis is bucking the recent trend of elite Memphis high schoolers in joining coach Josh Pastner’s Tigers program, as Stokes has cast his lot with Tennessee.

What makes this decision even more important is the fact that Stokes will most likely be eligible to play in SEC league play for the Volunteers. He’s already signed an institutional offer of financial aid, and now needs to be officially admitted to the university, added to Tennessee’s institutional squad list, and become approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Those three steps are expected to be mostly formalities, as Stokes was an honors student in high school. He’s expected to be set to go around the start of Tennessee’s spring semester, which starts January 11. A universal top-25 talent in the 2012 class, Stokes was ruled ineligible to play by the state association after transferring from Central (Tenn.) to Southwind this season. Instead of sitting the season out, Stokes sought to enter college basketball early.

In the fallout from Bruce Pearl era, new Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin didn’t have much time to put together a quality 2011 recruiting class after being hired late in the recruiting cycle, and quite simply focused on completing the roster with scholarship players, rather than selecting from any quantity of available talent. The two signees for 2012 to date, forwards Derek Reese and D’Montre Edwards, aren’t particularly highly-regarded, either. Stokes is an important first five star recruit for Martin.

In Stokes, Tennessee is in a double-bonus situation. Not only do the Volunteers have a player that could conceivably be a valued contributor this season, Stokes also represents a huge score and gives in-state recruiting credibility to Martin’s fledgling program. Stokes was considering several high-major programs, but Florida and Arkansas were the other programs that had scholarship space to offer him. Had Stokes selected Memphis, which originally was considered a favorite for his services, he would have sat out the season as a “recruited walk-on” according to NCAA regulations.

Over the summer Stokes was impressive, but he will be thrust into SEC play after not playing in a meaningful game for several months. It’s not clear how much impact he can have from the outset, but the bar hasn’t exactly been set high in terms of performance on the largely mediocre current frontcourt.

Don’t be surprised to see Stokes be an important addition for this season, and a building block and interior force as early as next season for the rebuilding Tennessee program.

Torian Graham commits and reconsiders NC State, again
Shortly after taking the reins as the head coach at NC State, new coach Mark Gottfried added a verbal commitment from top-50 shooting guard Torian Graham. That pledge lasted almost three months, before Graham decided to break off his pledge to the Wolfpack, and then transferred to Arlington Country Day (Fla.) to finish out high school.

On Thursday, Graham re-upped his verbal to the Wolfpack, and in fact announced his decision to attend NC State in a YouTube video. At the time, the scorer stated, “I’m going to end up at NC State, in my heart that’s where I want to be”.

While joining the Wolfpack may be what is in Graham’s heart, less than twelve hours after his commitment, he re-opened his recruiting, yet again. There is unquestionably more at play with the Graham/NC State situation that has fully been fleshed out publically at this point, as more influences are in play than the star player simply deciding he wants to attend NC State and play basketball.

As it stands, it seems fairly clear that Graham wants to join the NC State roster. His addition would push the already loaded NC State recruiting class into the No. 2 haul in the land (unless Kentucky adds one of the blue chip players they are pursuing first), with top notch distributor Tyler Lewis at point guard, elite combo guard Rodney Purvis and slick forward TJ Warren already signed and sealed.

Graham has bounced around in recent years, attending three high schools and playing on several AAU teams. He’s faced his mother’s death this year, and now something is holding up his apparent desire to play at NC State. It’s speculation as to what that factor ultimately is, but Graham’s talent is undeniable, and he’s one of a handful of elite guards left unsigned in the 2012 class.

For Graham’s sake, here’s hoping he receives some quality advice and counsel from the adults in his life, and makes a college star out of his basketball promise and acumen.

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

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

Getty Images
1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.