Recruiting rundown: Superb Solomon Poole short circuits season

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On the list of the most athletic high school junior guards in the country, 6-1 Solomon Poole of Terry Parker (Fla.) would have to be prominently featured. The younger brother of recent Kentucky transfer to Georgia Tech, Stacey Poole, is a highlight reel waiting to happen, but has been unfortunately combustible this year, as well.

Solomon Poole reportedly will miss the remainder of his junior season after accruing his second ejection of the season, per news reports from Florida. The state rule precludes Poole from participating in any more games this season. Poole is one of the nation’s most gifted players and will still be pursued by many high majors, but this is a red flag, to say the least. With bounce like few others, Poole has many college programs hoping he gets back on track as they expect to give him serious recruiting interest.

Devonta Pollard treks toward decision
One of the 2012’s most intriguing members has long been 6-7 wing forward Devonta Pollard. The standout from Kemper County (Miss.) is conservatively a top-30 talent in his class with major upside, but has gotten minimal attention as of late, due to his decision to play football in the fall rather than be active on the official visit circuit.

Now, Pollard is turning more attention to his college decision, and took his first official trip to Texas over the weekend. He excelled with the Southern Phenoms travelling team, and drew the attention of countless college programs over the spring and summer. A commitment or decision isn’t imminent by any means, and there’s popular belief that Mississippi State will be tough to beat in their quest to keep Pollard in the Magnolia State.

Also, Georgetown is expected to be a player for Pollard, as assistant coach Robert Kirby is a well-respected presence in Mississippi after having served on the staff at Mississippi State. There’s also the matter of off-and-on interest from Kentucky, which has occurred periodically for Pollard.

Pollard has great bloodlines, as his mother was a former professional basketball player. He’s likely to be the subject of a hotly contested spring recruitment, with many schools that missed out on top targets attempting to get in the picture late for his services. Texas had the first crack at Pollard, but it certainly won’t be the last. In the end, it will be hard to pull Pollard from his home state.

Pac-12 hoops fans should file football blue chippers in memory
Football is king this week, with the heavily publicized and analyzed national signing day. Still, Pac-12 hoops fans would be wise to make note of two football stars expected to sign with USC and Oregon, respectively. Gridiron recruiting experts consider 6-8 blue chippers Zach Banner of Lakes (Wash.) and Arik Armstead of Pleasant Grove (Calif.) to be among the top signees for their future schools this week. Hardcore basketball fans may hope to see Banner and Armstead in a different light.

Both are physically dominant presences on the football field, but both also excel on the hardwood, and could have been high-major recruits to basketball in their own right. Both have at least indicated some intention to play college basketball, though it remains to be seen if that will happen for either player, given the heavy emphasis on football for the Trojans and Ducks.

Still, Armstead starred for the Compton Magic on the AAU circuit, and Banner was an imposing force for Seattle Rotary during the summer. Both were key members of highly-regarded traveling team squads, as Armstead and Banner were at the forefront for each team. Armstead, in particular, has the tools to be a serious hooper if he ever chooses. With solid footwork and soft hands, Armstead could be a strong center in the Pac-12, if given the time and opportunity to work on his game in the college setting.

College football has reached unprecedented levels of interest and revenue generation, and there’s no mistaking that Banner and Armstead have huge futures in that sport. The basketball fans at Oregon and USC should hold out some hope that their programs have the opportunity to borrow both players, if only as talented walk-ons and post presences.

Seton Hall rides Canary Island pipeline for a point guard
Across the college basketball landscape, there isn’t a particularly long list of players more important to their teams than Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope are to Seton Hall. Theodore is heavily used as a lead guard for the Pirates, and there will no doubt be a huge hole when his eligibility is exhausted. Two freshmen guards have seen minimal minutes on the current team, and Seton Hall added another prospect to the mix to replace Theodore when Tom Maayan, a native of Israel at the Canarias Basketball Academy, enrolled in the school over the weekend.

Maayan becomes the fourth player from the Canarias Basketball Academy to join the roster, as inside players Patrik Auda and Aaron Geramipoor, and wing Haralds Karlis are on this year’s team. Maayan played in the FIBA Europe U18 tournament over the summer for Israel, and is said to be a solid pass first guard, as indicated by averaging over 4 assists per game in that event. Maayan is reportedly out with an ACL injury at the present, but if his recovery goes well he could fit into the mix in the epic task of replacing Theodore.

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

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.