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 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.