Kyisean Reed latest second chance story at Utah State

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LOGAN, Utah – Stew Morrill has built Utah State into a power in the WAC. They’ve won seven regular season titles since 2000 and made eight NCAA Tournaments in that time. To get an idea of the level that this program has reached, think about this: they packed the 10,270 seat Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at more than 80% capacity — over 90% capacity in the 4,000 seat student section — in a down year and it was still considered a mediocre crowd.

Granted, he did take over a team coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998, but before Larry Eustachy built that team into a winner, the Aggies hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in a decade. Recruiting players to spend the winter in Logan, UT, a small town in the northeast corner of Utah that sits squarely in one of the most religious areas of our country, is not an easy sell.

Which is why Morrill has to take some risks.

And those risks don’t always pan out.

Remember Anthony DiLoreto? A 7’1″ center from Wisconsin, DiLoreto was supposed to be headed to Cal Poly before he was arrested for taking part in a bank robbery while he was in high school; he was the getaway driver. Morrill gave him a shot, and DiLoreto blew it. He enrolled at Utah State during the 2009-2010 season, but couldn’t make it a full year without getting in trouble. He was kicked off of the team after getting caught with weed that May.

“I’m willing to roll the dice,” Morrill said. “I’ll give a guy a second chance. I won’t give him a third.”

And there have been times where those second chances have paid off.

Gary Wilkinson dropped out of high school after getting cut from the basketball team, spending his time, as he told ESPN.com, sitting around and partying with his friends. But Wilkinson turned his life around, finding religion — he became a member of the LDS church, like the overwhelming majority of USU students — while earning his GED before spending two years on a mission in Canada and heading to Salt Lake Community College. Wilkinson eventually ended up at Utah State, where he became the WAC Player of the Year in 2009 as a 26 year old power forward.

Willkinson was “as solid as they come”, Morrill said. He had turned his life around by the time that he reached Logan.

That wasn’t necessarily true with David Pak.

In 1993, when Pak was 16 years old, he raped a 23 year old woman at knife point. After pleading guilty to one count of forcible rape and another count of forcible rape with a weapon, Pak was sentenced to eight years in prison. Pak cleaned up while he did his time, eventually enrolling at Saddleback Community College, winning the Orange Empire Conference’s MVP as a sophomore.

It took some cajoling, but Morrill eventually convinced Utah State to accept Pak. “A lot of people wouldn’t take that gamble,” he told the San Diego Tribune back in 2006, “I’ll be honest with you. Our president said, ‘It’s on you.’ I swallowed hard and said, ‘OK.'”

Pak was a two year starter for the Aggies, leading the team in assists in 2005-2006 and eventually carrying them to the NCAA Tournament. That’s quite a difference from asking his cellmate’s permission to dribble a basketball late into the night.

The latest risk Morrill has taken is Kyisean Reed, a bouncy, left-handed 6’6″ combo-forward that can crack the Sportscenter Top Ten just as easily as he can step out and hit a 17 footer. Reed enrolled at Antelope Valley, a Junior College in Lancaster, CA, that is more well-known for producing USC transfer Dewayne Dedmon, but he didn’t last the full two years there.

“I guess me and coach didn’t really see eye to eye,” Reed said of getting kicked off the team as a sophomore. “I made a mistake.”

Reed was concerned about his reputation, especially when it came to the schools that were recruiting him. He’s not a bad kid, he’s actually quite friendly. Shy, even. And while he got himself kicked off of the basketball team, he wasn’t kicked out of school. Reed finished up his classes and got himself eligible for Division I basketball, but that didn’t change the fact that he was concerned about his image.

“No one absolutely knows what happened except me and the coach,” he said. “I understand that, even coming here, people had questions like, ‘What did he do? Was it really that egregious to get kicked off the team?’ Well, I’m here.”

And his arrival was something that Morrill was not concerned about.

As he did with Pak, Morrill got a tip from AVJC about Reed. Its a program that he has a long and established relationship with, so when he was told he can trust in Reed, he believed it.

“I’ve known the program — the AD and the former basketball coach is a longtime friend of mine,” Morrill said. “I was up to speed on everything that went on. Kyisean had a tough background growing up at times. It was a different type of issue, it wasn’t criminal or anything like that. They allowed him to finish his year [academically] and we felt like we could take a chance on him.”

And its paid off. Reed has started 15 games while averaging 10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and leading the team in blocked shots. That said, Morrill isn’t yet satisfied with Reed, but that dissatisfaction stems completely from Reed’s performance on the court.

“We need him to rebound a little better and play a little harder at times, but he gives us an athletic presence that we desperately need,” Morrill said.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.