Recruiting rundown: Future stars headline USA U17 team

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The last time USA Basketball sent a U17 team to the FIBA World Championship, it worked out pretty well. That squad unsurprisingly won a gold medal behind soon-to-be millionaires Brad Beal, Michael Gilchrist, Andre Drummond and several collegians that have next, James McAdoo, Adonis Thomas and Quinn Cook. Needless to say, the bar has been set for the newly minted U17 team, which was announced on Tuesday afternoon.

After watching three days of try-outs, it’s obvious that this year’s edition is a defensive-oriented, physical squad. While there may not be many prolific scoring threats, the coaching staff which is headed by high school coach Don Showalter of Iowa, have to be pleased with the team work and hardnosed play that was prevalent as 30 players did battle in Colorado Springs to make the squad. There is some familiarity, though, as seven members of the team captured the gold in the FIBA Americas U16 tournament in Cancun last summer.

Even the most casual fan has heard about the headliner of this team, 6-8 forward Jabari Parker of Simeon (Ill.), who recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Parker, and incoming high school senior, will have two prominent sidekicks in juniors-to-be Tyus Jones, a point guard, and center Jahlil Okafor. Both are top-5 ranked prospects in the 2014 recruiting class, nationally. The super skilled Parker will be the subject of defensive pressure, but he has safety valves with a supreme distributor in Jones and a strong and technical post presence in Okafor. It’s safe to say that the performance of the three-headed monster of Parker, Jones and Okafor will be a key in this team’s success.

Other significant contributors figure to be Kansas pledge Conner Frankamp, who was an undersized gunner at 6-1 during trials. Frankamp absolutely scorched nets with his distance shooting. The same can be said for recent Georgetown pledge Stephen Domingo, who as a 6-8 small forward has the ability to stretch defenses by shooting over them. Both were extremely capable during tryouts and figure to open up the inside for Okafor and Parker.

There are two good options at small forward behind Domingo in two 2014 players, Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow. Johnson played significant minutes in the FIBA Americas tournament last year, while Winslow displayed tremendous bounce at trials, and is the son of former Houston standout Rickie Winslow. Johnson is a strong lockdown defender at 230 pounds, and Winslow has a grown man’s frame that is ripe with explosiveness. Near the hoop, Winslow is almost automatic to crush the rim.

With Jones coming to trials with a minor thumb injury, there are two reserve point guards that were wisely selected to the roster, which could be important should Jones re-aggravate his injury. Joel Berry is a physical, all-around guard, while defensive-minded Kendrick Nunn has the skills to be a reserve at both guard slots.

Up front, skilled big man Johnathan Williams possesses an inside-outside game at 6-9, and is this team’s Lamar Odom. He has some good post moves, but has shooting range that extends to 3-point land. Beyond Williams, there isn’t much mystery about the other two frontcourt players, as 2013 center Beejay Anya and 2014 post Dakari Johnson made the team on their interior defense and rebounding. It’s not likely that Anya or Johnson will be heavy scorers, but expect them to defend the rim and grab caroms.

The roster consists of half 2013 prospects, and half the roster from the 2014 class. The incoming seniors include Anya, Domingo, Frankamp, Nunn, Parker and Williams, while the juniors are Berry, both Johnsons, Jones, Okafor and Winslow. Only Domingo and Frankamp have announced their college intentions.

The squad is set for some exhibition games in the Canary Islands, before making it to Lithuania for the World Championship next week.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.