Hot prep hoops set for the desert in Sin City

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College basketball’s summer evaluation period changes every so often, in terms of dates, places and teams. One of the few constants on the scene, though, has been the fact that late July puts Las Vegas on center stage as the epicenter of the recruiting trail.

This year is no different as no less than three high-octane traveling team tournaments and one event aimed at junior college prospects will grace far flung gyms across the Las Vegas desert, with over a thousand teams in attendance from Wednesday through Sunday.

The 2012 edition of the final evaluation period in July features the adidas Super 64, Las Vegas Fab 48 and the Las Vegas Classic all running in conjunction. The top adidas sponsored squads in the nation will be present at the Super 64, while the Fab 48 is headed by Bishop Gorman (Nev.) coach Grant Rice and Belmont Shore club coach Dinos Trigonis, who also heads the Pangos All American camp. This is the second year of the Las Vegas Classic, which is put on by Bigfoot Hoops, a new company that has Hal Pastner (father of Memphis coach Josh Pastner) in charge.

With a proven stable of talent, the “super pool” format of the adidas Super 64, which pits pre-seeded elite teams against each other, is arguably the most loaded of the three events, though hundreds of D-1 prospects will be present at the other two tournaments.

Here’s a look at the three-headed monster of Las Vegas tournaments this week and weekend:

Adidas Super 64
Rancho High School in North Las Vegas is the home court for the adidas Super 64, as always. The champions from the adidas Invitational earlier in July, Florida Elite, which features two early Florida commits in top-10 prospects Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, have to be the prohibitive favorite to win. Still, their own pool features Urban DFW (two top-50 post players in Jordan Mickey and Karviar Shepherd), Eric Gordan All-Stars (several Big Ten commits on the roster) and the Atlanta Celtics (with Kansas pledge Brannen Greene and Georgia Tech-bound Solomon Poole). North Carolina pledge Isaiah Hicks will lead Garner Road into action, and elite 2014 power forward Noah Vonleh heads up the talented Mass Rivals. Other 17U teams to watch include Dream Vision Elite of California and New Heights of New York City.

Las Vegas Fab 48
Hosted on the palatial campus at Bishop Gorman High School, this year’s event has a good mix of Under Armour, Reebok and non-affiliated teams. North Carolina bound Nate Britt and the DC Assault squad could be considered the favorites, but the strong collection of Tennessee talent playing for M33M that includes power forward Austin Nichols and shooting guard Robert Hubbs could also have a say. There are a number of top prospects on the other 46 teams, but don’t rule out the hometown Las Vegas Prospects, with UNLV pledge Chris Wood, as defending their home turf. The “host” team, Belmont Shore, with Harvard commit Zena Edosomwan, would love to win this one.

Las Vegas Classic
Set at Durango High School, the Las Vegas Classic is already making waves after two Nike Elite Youth Basketball Teams, the Oakland Soliders and Mac Irvin Fire, made their way to the Classic following playing in the Fab 48 last year. While Jabari Parker won’t be present for the Mac Irvin Fire, they and the Soldiers project as two of the top teams in the event, as do fellow Nike league participants the California Supreme and Houston Hoops. Fast rising power forward Jarell Martin of Louisiana Elite will attract numerous college coaches as he continues his rise up through the top-25 player rankings in the 2013 class. It should be interesting to see if the Oakland Soldiers have any letdown following their Peach Jam title, which saw elite 2013 forward Aaron Gordon return from an injury that sidelined him most of the spring and early summer.

There will be hundreds upon hundreds of college coaches in Las Vegas tracking down talent, and while many will complain about the distance between gyms in Sin City, there’s no doubt that the desert will have tons of elite talent on hand. The three tournaments are veritable one stop evaluation grounds for many programs who can concentrate on teams in the west or have only a few scholarships to offer, and there’s no doubt that many prospects will capitalize on the last opportunity to seen by coaches this summer.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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.