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

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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.

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

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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.