Keith Rendleman returned to UNCW because he liked the beach?

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ARLINGTON, Va – Keith Rendleman, buried in the depths of the CAA standings, is one of the nation’s best kept secrets.

A 6-foot-8, 220 pound pogo stick — his head coach at UNC-Wilmington, Buzz Peterson, said he once reached 12-feet, one-inch when testing his max-jump — Rendleman averaged 15.1 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Seahawks last season, one of just 22 players nationally to average a double-double. You can probably understand why, then, Rendleman evokes comparisons with former mid-major rebounding machine.

They both even have long hair.

You should also be able to understand why, when UNCW’s APR scores came back and the Seahawks were hit with the news that they wouldn’t be allowed to play in the NCAA tournament this season, some bigger schools came-a-callin’. Since Rendleman’s senior season was to be played under a postseason ban, he was allowed to transfer anywhere in the country without sitting out the mandatory one season.

Who wouldn’t want to add a rebounding machine whose motor never stops running?

And why would Rendleman turn down the chance to make the jump to a bigger school — Peterson said ACC, Big East and SEC schools inquired — with an opportunity to make one final run at an NCAA tournament big on the line?

Well, actually it’s quite simple.

“He likes the beach,” Peterson said with what can only be described as a relieved chuckle. “He loves to go down there a lot. When practice is over with, he’s gone.”

UNCW, known as “the state’s coastal universtiy”, is the perfect place for a beach bum to go to school, as the campus is just a couple of miles from Wrightsville Beach.

“[The beach] was one of the main reasons I came here,” Rendleman said. “I hadn’t really been that much before my freshman year, but when I got here? I like to get out there and play in the water all the time.”

As much appeal as bikinis, waves and beach football has for a college student, there was much more that went into Rendleman’s decision than proximity to the water. UNCW isn’t the only school close to the ocean. He has friends on campus. He has fans in and around town. His teammates are his family. His coaches have his back. Missing out on the postseason will be tough, but for Rendleman, missing out on a final chance to play college ball with the same guys he’s spent the past three years with was unimaginable.

“It’s kind of like my home, so I’m not ready to go anywhere else,” he said.

It’s refreshing, really. At times, it almost seems as if the one-and-done era has made way for the transfer era, as key players are seemingly bouncing from team to team more than ever. Rendleman, however, values loyalty, both from and for his coaching staff and the rest of his team. What’s more, he doesn’t seem to understand why the decision that he made is noteworthy.

“A lot of people are thanking me for staying and talking about how loyal I am and stuff, but it’s just part of my personality,” he said. “A lot of people thought I was going to do something else, and I already made up my mind that I was going to try and stay and just play here. I didn’t see it as as big of a deal as everyone else, but I’m just thankful for having everyone support me behind it.”

Part of the reason that Rendleman feels indebted to the university is that the school was one of the only ones that offered him a scholarship for basketball. He was a much more highly-regarded football prospect as a high schooler in rural, northwest North Carolina. He caught 15 touchdowns as a senior. Some major programs were on his tail, but Rendleman knew hoops was his true love.

So Rendleman wound up at UNCW. And it’s why he’ll finish up at UNCW as well, playing out what is more or less a meaningless season for the chance to win the CAA’s regular season title and bring the CAA player of the year trophy back to Wilmington “because we haven’t had that in a while”.

He’s back for no reason other than the fact that he simply enjoys where he goes to college.

Well, that, and the opportunity to become a flag football legend.

“Our guys say all the time, ‘Coach, you should see him throw a football,'” Peterson said. “It’s incredible how far he can throw it. Unbelievable athlete. He goes to the beach, he’s whipping that thing 70 yards.”

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

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.