Recruiting rundown: ‘Live’ weekend showed off Nike’s talent


The first April weekend in three years that college coaches were allowed to attend events and evaluate players also allowed Nike, adidas and Under Armour to hold competing events for their respective sponsored teams in Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh.

While adidas has some talented grassroots basketball teams wearing their stripes, and Under Armour has started to penetrate the market, the clear balance of power still lies with the swoosh.

For the last two years, Nike has organized what it calls the Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), which pits its 40 sponsored teams against each other for four sessions on various weekends, and culminates in an August championship tournament — the Peach Jam — in North Augusta, S.C.

This weekend was Nike’s first opportunity to showcase its EYBL during an evaluation period, and college coaches responded by the hundreds.  Teams played four games, which provided opportunities for coaches from virtually every conference to track the progress of players from their last chances to scout them, and make scholarship offers as a result.

Here were the standouts from Nike’s first EYBL session in Minneapolis:

Jabari Parker, 6-8, 2013, SF, Mac Irvin Fire
Fresh off winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Parker’s stock continues to soar. He showcased his talents in three contests, with Coach K, John Groce, Oliver Purnell, Tom Izzo and dozens and dozens of other high-major head coaches taking his game in. Parker showed the strength to guard taller and heavier centers, but also the handle and mid-range shot to dominate smaller defenders. Parker has a terrific combination of body composition and skill set. He presents a significant mismatch at the high school level, even against the best competition, and presents a legitimate argument to be allowed to enter the NBA draft out of high school. While playing on a talented team, Parker scored 16 points per game and grabbed 7 rebounds. He is the consensus top high school player in the country.

James Young, 6-7, 2013, SF, The Family
The wing forward from Michigan was shown to be an elite scorer and a Big Ten high-priority recruit. There was a heavy presence from Michigan State and Ohio State coaches and their competitors at all of his games, and he could not be stopped in scoring over 26 points per game. The lanky wing also pulled down and impressive 8 rebounds per game, and did everything but sell hot dogs at the venue, the High Performance Academy. Coming into the tournament, many believed Young was a top-10 national recruit, but he may have worked his way into the top-5 with this performance.

Tyus Jones, 6-1, 2014, PG, Howard Pulley
The event was held approximately 15 minutes from Jones’ high school, Apple Valley, and local fans responded in droves to check his play out. Jones took a team that exceeded expectations to several impressive wins. He is the most pure, fundamental point guard nationally in the 2014 class, and showed why most Big Ten schools, Duke and many others are hot on his tail and have tendered scholarship offers. He averaged better than 5 assists per game in the event, to go with 18 points. Jones is firmly a top-10 national recruit in the incoming junior class.

Andrew Wiggins, 6-7, 2014, SF, CIA Bounce
It may be time to put an asterisk next to his incoming junior high school class, as rumors were already flying that he may join the 2013 academic class in order to speed up his timetable to the NBA by one year. The Canadian native is an explosive talent that clocked a 62 percent shooting percentage, mostly due to an extreme number of dunks. Wiggins is constantly above the rim and possesses such unique talent that it is apparent even among other high-major talents. He scored 17 points per game during play, but more importantly his team was undefeated and Wiggins shined in pressure situations.

Kameron Williams, 6-4, 2013, SG, B-More Elite
Coaches with “scoring guard” on their checklist would be wise to include time to make trips to Baltimore this spring and summer. Williams is instant offense and scored from all three levels during his four games. Williams holds the title as the league’s leading scorer at over 27 poitns per game, which includes an absurd 58 percent 3-point percentage, on a healthy 36 attempts. There was no way to stop Williams in transition, where he both got the rim and also pulled up and hit mid-range shots and beyond.

Matt Jones, 6-4, 2013, SG, Texas Titans
There was plenty of reason for the Duke coaching staff, on hand for several of Jones’ games, to smile regarding Jones’ play. He was a workhorse for the Texas Titans, where he teamed with 6-9 power forward Julius Randle during a 3-1 session. Jones can handle, is a reliable scorer, and will present an intriguing option when he gets to campus, as he could team with incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Rasheed Sulaimon in a tall and skilled backcourt. Jones chipped in 16 points per game and showed reliable shooting stroke.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

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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


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

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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

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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.