Damontre Harris the latest player handcuffed by transfer rules

0 Comments

Damontre Harris, South Carolina’s starting center that averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks (he was 19th in the nation in block percentage), has been given a release to transfer out of the program.

This is not uncommon nor all that unexpected. South Carolina is in the midst of a coaching change — Frank Martin took over for Darrin Horn — and there were already rumors of Harris looking to transfer out of the program before Horn was fired.

But the sad fact is that Harris’ story isn’t uncommon for the wrong reasons.

Martin has granted Harris his release, but he gave it with one exception: Harris is not allowed to transfer to NC State. According to Kevin McCrarey of the SportsTalk Radio Network in South Carolina, the issue is that Martin likely suspects the Wolfpack of tampering:

Former USC assistant Orlando Early is now working on the N.C. State staff. One basketball source told us Early has been working through Harris’ high school coach, Heath Vandevender, for several months trying to facilitate a transfer to Raleigh. According to the source, Early has also reached out to Harris, citing his previous relationship with him as the reason for the contact.

Vandevender denies that claim. He said Harris has not talked to any school about a transfer.

This is just another example of how ridiculously unfair the NCAA’s transfer rules are.

Frank Martin left Kansas State and took over at South Carolina. He didn’t have to sit out a year when he made this change. He didn’t have to request a release from his Kansas State players to leave and take a new job. He found a better job, a job that will earn him more money, and he took it, no questions asked.

But when a player wants to leave a program, he has to jump through hoops. He has to request a release and he has to hope that the coaching staff of the program he is leaving won’t hold any grudges. Nevermind the fact that, in this case, Harris is requesting a release from a coach that has been in charge of the South Carolina program for less than a month.

Tampering with players and trying to persuade a kid to transfer out of a program is not a good thing. That’s why the NCAA has punishments in place for when tampering occurs. The problem is that these issues are difficult to prove. Harris has a previous relationship with Early. How can the NCAA prove what was discussed in their conversations? How can anyone know whether Early was giving advice to Harris on what to do on a second date or checking in with him to see how his grades are doing?

Along those same lines, how can anyone know who brought up the idea of transferring? Isn’t it just as likely that Harris made the decision that he wanted to finish his career at NC State and got in touch with Early to see if that was a possibility? How do we know it wasn’t Harris that was recruiting Early to give him a scholarship and not vice versa? Harris is a native of Fayetteville, NC, which is all of an hour’s drive from NC State’s Raleigh campus. The Wolfpack have a program trending towards the top of the ACC, there is a coach on the staff that Harris has a previous relationship with and there will be plenty of playing time opening up in the front court for the 2013-2014 season, when Harris would be come eligible.

The burden of punishing a player and a program should land on the NCAA, who will have the time and the resources to investigate the accusations. South Carolina shouldn’t have the power to bar Harris from receiving a scholarship during the mandatory redshirt season for transfers, which in-and-of-itself is an unfair rule.

Allowing Martin to deny Harris a release to NC State is akin to allowing a citizen to charge someone with reckless driving because they got cut off on the highway.

I’ve always liked Martin as a coach. I’ve admired the way that he runs his program, but that was because he always seemed to have his player’s best interests at heart.

I guess that is only the case when they want to play for him.

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

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

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.