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 Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.