Recruiting rundown: Florida, Indiana snag junior commits

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It wasn’t exactly a secret that dynamic 6-1 point guard Kasey Hill of Montverde (Fla.) was favoring the Florida Gators in his recruitment. The high school junior listed Louisville and Kentucky as schools he was considering, among others, but it was long believed to be only a matter of time before coach Billy Donovan gained his pledge for the future.

After a trip to catch Florida’s shellacking of Yale on Saturday, Hill decided to make his intentions known, and announced he was committed to Florida.

Hill is a national top-25 prospect in the Class of 2013, and a teammate of current Florida signee Michael Frazier at Montverde Academy. Among his many talents, Hill can get to the basket and finish over anyone, and possesses a burst in the open court. Montverde is among the elite high school teams in the country, and could be a pipeline of future Gators.

Its current head coach is Kevin Boyle, who was hired at the school after leaving New Jersey power St. Patrick’s for the warm Florida weather and a college coach level salary. The last notable point guard prospect that Boyle mentored at St. Patrick is none other than current Cleveland Cavalier lead guard Kyrie Irving, so Hill has an able coach leading his squad.

Hill is also associated with two of the best underclassmen post prospects in the country. His AAU team, the Florida Rams, gave him the opportunity to partner with a top-10 prospect in the junior class, Chris Walker, a 6-9 power forward from Holmes County (Fla.). Additionally, another of Hill’s teammates at Montverde, 6-10 sophomore center Dakari Johnson, is among the top prospects in the land. Johnson followed Boyle from St. Patrick to Montverde.

Though Florida may not ultimately get either Walker or Johnson, the tie to Hill certainly doesn’t hurt. While he has a season and a half left of high school competition, Hill is likely to contend to start from the time he hits campus. The only pure point guard on the roster for Florida when Hill hits campus will be Scottie Wilbekin, an unspectacular program player to date. Florida has signed combo guard Braxton Ogbueze for next year, but he’s capable of playing either guard slot.

New Year’s first pledge is Luke Fischer to Indiana
It’s possible that 6-9 power forward Luke Fischer would have committed to Indiana, regardless of the result of their contest against Ohio State. When the Hoosiers toppled the Buckeyes, it certainly didn’t make Fischer’s decision any harder as he told coach Tom Crean after the game that he intends to play college basketball at Indiana.

Fischer is a face-up power forward from Germantown (Wis.) who many consider to be a lesser talented version of current freshman star Cody Zeller. It remains to be seen just how long Zeller will play in Bloomington, and Fischer could be pressed into service earlier than expected if Zeller makes the jump to the NBA.

Fischer runs with the Wisconsin Swing on the AAU circuit, and is the third commitment for Indiana in the 2013 recruiting class. As a reminder, their 2012 class, which includes five signees, is ranked among the top-5 in the country. Fischer joins two in-state players in 6-6 combo forward Devin Davis and 6-5 wing Colin Hartman as verbal commitments for Indiana among high school juniors.

At around 200 pounds, Fischer will have to add strength to effective in the Big Ten, though he can run the floor, his quickness can improve as well. He’s a skilled and disciplined player that possesses developing post skills and a decent shooting stroke. While 2013 rankings aren’t formulated yet by all scouting services, it’s a safe bet that Fischer’s will be a borderline top-100 prospect.

South Florida wraps up 2012 class with AAU teammates
With two full rides still remaining in their 2012 recruiting effort, South Florida snared pledges from two teammates from the Dallas Mustangs traveling team on Monday to complete their class.

Both 6-7 forward Zach LeDay and 6-2 guard DeMarcus Holland took in Tampa over the weekend on an official visit, before returning to their home state of Texas. Within 24 hours of the end of the trip, both LeDay and Holland are set to be Bulls.

While neither LeDay nor Holland is ranked nationally, the five player class that the Bulls have for next year is a good one, especially given what is likely to be a diminished Big East talent pool going forward.

Center Waverly Austin is considered to be one of the better JC prospects in the country, and the same can be said for guard Musa Abdul-Aleem. In the Texas two, as well as Michigan native Javontae Hawkins, South Florida has a crew of three high schoolers with decent upside.

Global prospects draw attention
There isn’t a deep pool of prospects remaining uncommitted in the United States with high-major talent, so some schools are looking beyond the borders for talent to fill out their recruiting classes. Two hot names now are guard Amedeo Della Valle, and 7-1 center Boris Bojanovsky.

Playing for one of the most talented high school teams in the country, Findlay Prep (Nev.) Italian import Amedeo Della Valle may not be a household name, but the 6-4 point guard has already drawn scholarship offers from Arizona, UConn, Gonzaga, UCLA, and Kansas, with interest from many other high-major schools from across the country. With no prior allegiances in the college ranks, Della Valle will be a hot spring signing in the 2012 ranks.

Also, Boris Bojanovsky is drawing plentiful recruiting interest, primarily from the ACC, while spending the year at the Canarias Basketball Academy, in the Canary Islands, Spain. The native of Slovakia already holds scholarship offers from NC State, Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State.

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

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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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.