UNC athletes steered to a Navy Weapons class?

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The North Carolina academic scandal took another twist late on Tuesday night as the Raleigh News & Observer published yet another article on the investigation.

Instead of focusing on the African and Afro-American Studies department, the N&O dug up some information on a Naval Weapons System class that attracted a high-concentration of athletes. 30 of the 38 students in the class were athletes, and of those 30, six were basketball players. Bobby Frasor spoke on record about the class to the paper, and while he declined to name which of his teammates also took the class, the paper did identify Tyler Hansbrough as one of the six.

According to the report, it was the only time in the past six years that the class had basketball players in it.

That fact, in and of itself, isn’t troubling.

This is:

The syllabus for the NAVS 302 class shows that it was a different type of course than in other years. It had no required exams or quizzes and no major research paper. Students received much of their grade from a two- to three-page double-spaced midterm paper and a group project that required a 20-minute oral presentation split among five students.

Frasor recalled the paper was on weaponry and the presentation was on battle scenarios.

The professor for the class, Lt. Brian Lubitz, taught it only once, UNC records show. […]

The current head of the Naval Science Department at UNC, Capt. Doug Wright, said the course work requirements in that particular class had troubled his predecessor, Capt. Stephen Matts, so much that Matts told subsequent instructors he wanted them changed. Later course outlines show quizzes, tests and papers or presentations. Matts could not be reached.

Wright said he would have made the same changes because the class as structured under Lubitz would make it difficult to determine whether the students were learning the material.

Now, there is an important distinction to make here.

No-show classes, like what was happening in UNC’s AFAM department, are a problem. Having courses adjusted to make them easier so athletes can enroll in them, which is what yesterday’s revelation appears to say, is a problem.

But athletes gossiping about, and clustering in, classes that are rumored to be easy?

That happens on every college campus and includes far more students whose only athletic achievement involves an x-box controller than students who are on athletic scholarships. I certainly did it. I took four years of spanish in high school and, as a senior in college, enrolled in an Intro Spanish class with a teacher that I had heard graded quite easily. I took a half-credit Geology course that I knew was only graded with online, multiple-choice tests, and the enrollment in that class might have been 75% athletes. I took multiple Anthropology courses with one professor that I knew to be quite easy and that also brought her dog to class.

And I was an economics major at Vassar.

It also should be noted that simply having a large number of athletes in one class or one major isn’t indicative of cheating, either. At a school like North Carolina, the coaches are more concerned about having their athletes in practice than whether or not they are getting into the classes they want to take. (I doubt the players complain about that.) The more players that are in a class that meets at Noon instead of 7 p.m., the easier it becomes to schedule practices with the majority of the roster able to attend.

Don’t take what I’ve written here as evidence that North Carolina hasn’t cheated. I’m not saying that. I don’t know anything more than what’s been reported.

My point is simply that there needs to be more than a high percentage of athletes and an easy syllabus for a class to constitute academic fraud.

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

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.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.