Kodi Maduka’s career ending should be a joyous event

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I feel for Kodi Maduka. I really do.

The 6-foot-11 center had his basketball career cut short on Thursday as the school announced that he is officially done with the sport. Maduka has a heart ailment, one serious enough to force him to miss game time on two different occasions during the season and serious enough that he collapsed during a practice in early April.

I’m sure there is nothing that young man would rather do than continue his hoops career. It sucks that it was cut short. There’s no other way to put it.

But today is not a sad day. Not in the least. Not for Maduka. Not for his family. Not even for Danny Manning and the Tulsa basketball team, who lose a guy that probably would have started at center.

Today should be a happy day, because while this decision means Maduka’s career will end with him finishing up his degree as strictly a student and not an athlete, it also means that basketball won’t kill him.

Maduka’s heart is a ticking time-bomb, one that has become all-too familiar for basketball fans, players and coaches. Everyone knows about Hank Gathers, who collapsed and died during a WCC tournament game back in 1990. Most in basketball circles know about Jeron Lewis, who passed away while playing in a game for Southern Indiana back in 2010. There are so many more tragic, untimely deaths of young athletes as a result of these heart ailments. It’s a subject that hits close to home for me. A friend of mine by the name of Stanley Myers died while jogging with teammates at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

It’s a nightmare that no one should experience, a nightmare that will never become a reality for the Maduka family.

Look, Kodi Maduka is not Anthony Davis. He’s not Andrew Wiggins. He’s not on a fast track to NBA stardom and eight figure annual salaries and millions upon millions upon millions in endorsement deals. Could he have made a living playing basketball? Probably, but there would eventually come a time when the ball stops bouncing, and I truly doubt that, at that point in his life, he would have the kind of money that would allow him to quit working.

And all of that is assuming that he stays healthy and motivated, receiving enough good luck to land in a league where salaries are guaranteed and are significantly more than what minimum-wage workers can make annually. The D-League pays less than $30,000-a-year.

Instead, Maduka will be allowed to keep his scholarship. He’ll leave Tulsa with a degree like any other student. He’ll struggle with figuring out what he wants to do with his life like any other graduate. He’ll get frustrated trying to land a job like every other kid in their early-20’s. He’ll be just like the rest of us.

Life goes on. Literally, in Kodi’s case.

Danny Manning called this outcome “heart-breaking” in a statement released by the university, which is ironic. It may have saved his heart.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate returns to school

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The nation’s most entertaining shot-blocker is back for another season.

Sagaba Konate, a 6-foot-9 center from Mali, will return to school for his junior season to anchor West Virginia’s defense for yet another season, according to ESPN.

Konate declared for the draft and went through the combine, and while his shot-blocking and intensity shined through there as it did throughout the season, he’s more of a mid-to-late second round pick than he is a first rounder at this point.

As a sophomore, Konate averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 boards and 3.2 blocks. He also shot 79 percent from the free throw line.

So let’s sit back and enjoy what we get to see for another year:

Luke Maye to return to North Carolina for senior season

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Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Luke Maye is returning to North Carolina for his senior season, meaning that the Tar Heels will have their preseason National Player of the Year candidate back in the fold.

Who saw that coming?

“I have had a great experience learning from the NBA process and growing as a basketball player during the past couple weeks,” Maye wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for all of their support. Through this process, I have decided that I am going to comeback to school to improve as a player and finish my college career. I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face and there is no better group to do it with than my teammates and the Carolina family! Time to finish the right way with two of the best players and leaders that I know! Let’s finish our legacy the right way!”

Maye, who averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 boards as a junior, declared for the draft last month, but he did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. The 6-foot-9 forward is a stretch four that will fit perfectly at the four for the Tar Heels this season, with Nassir Little, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams on the perimeter and a trio of sophomore bigs to handle the five.

Getting Maye back was key, but expected. UNC reaching their ceiling this season will depend on whether or not their point guard play is up to par. With Jalek Felton gone and Joel Berry II graduated, that is going to come down to whether or not Seventh Woods can handle the lead guard role or if Coby White can step in and start as a freshman.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.