Yet another AAU coach gets a high-major assistant position

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Villanova’s basketball staff has undergone a restructuring.

Doug West is leaving, according to a tweet from Jeff Goodman, and will be replaced by Doug Martin.

Normally, coaching staff changes don’t require a post of more than a couple words, saying where the new assistant coach came from while stuffing in some quote from a press release by the head coach on why this new hire will lead them directly to a national title.

But Jay Wright’s decision to hire Martin is quite interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Martin coaches for DC’s Team Takeover, one of two powerhouse AAU programs in one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. And I’m sure the fact that Villanova is currently pursuing Josh Hart, a DC native and a kid that plays for Team Takeover, had nothing what-so-ever to do with Wright’s decision to bring Martin aboard.

“I like Villanova’s coaching staff,” 2013 Sidwell Friends guard Josh Hart told SNY.tv at the recent “Live in AC” event. “They seem kind of genuine and that kind of thing. And also my 16s coach I think is going to be at Villanova so that’s never a bad thing.

“I know I will be taken care of with him there.”

It’s become a bit of a hot topic in recent years. According to a story from Mark Gianotto of the Washington Post, 13 coaches from the DC Assault program have become assistant coaches. One of those coaches is Dalonte Hill, who was hired at Kansas State because Bob Huggins knew Michael Beasley would come along with him and is now an assistant at Maryland. David Cox is responsible for three starters at Rutgers. Martin is the fourth Takeover guy to get a Division I coaching job. Kenny Johnson’s hiring at Indiana helped Tom Crean land a commitment from Stanford Robinson.

And it’s not just the DC area, either. Ben Howland hired Korey McCray of the Atlanta Celtics last June and has two Atlanta natives in this year’s recruiting class, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams.

This trend has, obviously, rubbed some people the wrong way. There is a stigma involved with being an AAU coach, three scarlet letters that mark you unscrupulous, money-hungry and incapable of coaching basketball. There are plenty of cases where that stereotype is true, but there are also good coaches on the AAU circuit. Don’t believe me? The DC Assault had former NBA head coach Eddie Jordan working for them in April. Former No. 1 pick Pervis Ellison has coached Philly’s Team Final in recent years.

The bigger problem, however, is the assumption that hiring an AAU coach as an assistant implies that there is something else — something straight out of the movie ‘Blue Chips’ — going on. While there are unquestionably situations where that is the case, the bottom line is that these AAU coaches are getting these jobs because of who they know, not what they know. Recruiting is all about connections, and, frankly, it’s much easier to hire a guy that already has connections with a group of talented recruits than to hope that the coach that is hired is able to build those friendships over time.*

(*For those that don’t remember, in 2010, the NCAA passed a rule that curbed some of these package deals. They implemented a rule that said a school couldn’t recruit a player that was associated with anyone hired to a non-coaching position. No more putting a player’s father on staff as a strength and conditioning coach, in other words. If you’re going to hire a coach for his connections, you have to hire him as one of your three assistants.)

By hiring a guy like Martin or Johnson or Hill, you get immediate results and, hopefully, an immediate infusion of talent.

It is a bit discomforting — when you step back and look at it, grown men are relying on their relationship with 16 year old kids to get them six-figure paydays — and, like I said, it’s unlikely that all of these deals are acceptable in the eyes on the NCAA.

But I, personally, have no issue with it. Recruiting is all about connections, and if you can’t recruit talent into your program — if your staff doesn’t have those connections — you won’t be winning many games or coaching for very long at that institution.

And you better get used to it. As this method of recruiting continues to prove successful, it will only become more common-place.

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

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.