Damontre Harris the latest player handcuffed by transfer rules

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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.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.