No shortage of stars in the 2014 high school class

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After every July evaluation period, college basketball recruiting junkies put an eye towards their favorite school’s current recruiting class. It’s hard not to take an early look out a little bit further, though, and dig into the underclassmen stars who will be making an impact as college freshmen.

There already is significant excitement in the 2014 recruiting class, as many members of the basketball community already are familiar with 6-7 wing forward Andrew Wiggins, the native of Canada who recruiting analysts and NBA scouts already believe is the best overall prospect current in the high school basketball ranks. He plays in West Virginia for Huntington Prep, and is believed to be weighing Kentucky and Florida State (where is father played). A player with athleticism and explosiveness as calling cards, Wiggins looks like he’s ideally forged to be a long-time NBA player.

All summer long, it’s been rumored that Wiggins will jump up to the 2013 recruiting class, a move many top stars have made the last few years. With Wiggins being the same age as many 2013 stars, it would make sense for him to do so. If he does reclassify, the top of the 2013 class is still deep and talented, though lacking in the “sure thing” pizzazz that Wiggins represents. Two lead guards on opposite borders of the country, Tyus Jones of Minnesota and Emmanuel Mudiay (pictured) seem poised to fill the gap at the head of the class if Wiggins does reclassify. Jones is the Chris Paul of the high school ranks, while Mudiay is a long, sleek and attacking point guard that has some Russell Westbrook in him.

If Jones and Mudiay don’t do it for fans in terms of excitement, then two Windy City big men, Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander have the post prowess to turn heads. Okafor has a FIBA Americas U17 gold under his belt, and his nearly immovable at over 250 pounds solidly on his 6-9 frame. Alexander has the explosiveness near the hoop to make him unstoppable in drawing fouls and converting, and he has some nasty to his game. At 6-9, 230 pounds, Alexander projects as an elite-level power forward when he refines his skills and harnesses his talent.

An X-factor in the 2014 class is burgeoning combo forward Noah Vonleh. He was a road warrior all spring and summer, taking on all comers in adidas and Nike sponsored events. He’s caught in a no man’s land between small forward and power forward, but at 6-8 he has time to clarify his ultimate position. A long, gazelle-like mover who can just as easily start breaks as he can finishing them, Vonleh can also ascend to the head of the class if Wiggins is gone.

As mentioned above, the core of the best players in the class already have two summers of undefeated play in international competition under their belt. The 2013 class is far from in the books, and certainly has not decided how the top player is, but 2014 has the makings of something special, at present.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.