College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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1. Roosevelt Jones, Butler’s playmaker?: The Bulldogs notched a win in their opener on Friday, beating Elon 74-59. Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham were as good as advertised, finishing with a combined 39 points while knocking down eight of their 18 threes. The concern for this group heading into the season, however, was at the point guard spot. Clarke, who is technically Butler’s starting point guard, finished with just a single assist, as he simply turned into the guy that brought the ball up the floor for Butler before reverting to sprinting off of off-ball screens. The guy that fill in as Butler’s playmaker ended up being Roosevelt Jones, a bruising, 6-foot-4 small forward. He ended the game with six points, nine boards and six assists.

Could Jones end up playing a role similar to what Draymond Green did at Michigan State?

2. Delaware lost their opener: The Blue Hens were supposed to be Drexel’s biggest challenger in the CAA this season, but their season didn’t exactly get off to a memorable start as Delaware lost at La Salle on Saturday afternoon. Delaware’s vaunted back court or Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt finished with just 31 points on 31 shots from the floor, handing out three assists and turning the ball over four times. La Salle is somewhat underrated this season, but that’s still a loss — and a performance — that will be tough for UD to swallow.

3. Notable injuries this weekend:

  • Isaiah Austin, Baylor: After scoring 22 points in his debut for the Bears, Austin went down with a sprained ankle midway through the second half against Lehigh. He didn’t play Sunday against Jackson State, but with a trip to a tournament in Charleston kicking off of on Thursday, that was more of a precaution.
  • Otto Porter, Georgetown: Porter caught a nasty-looking, inadvertent elbow early on in Georgetown’s win over Duquesne on Sunday evening. Georgetown classified it as a head injury and said Porter was being held out for precautionary reasons. He only played six minutes on Sunday.
  • Terone Johnson, Purdue: Johnson suffered an ankle injury in practice this week and missed the Bucknell game. He came off the bench on Sunday when Purdue destroyed Hofstra.
  • Vincent Council, Providence: Council injured his hamstring on Saturday in a win over NJIT. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out. “The hamstring is a very tender area and an injury you have to be careful with,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “We’re all feeling for Vince right now.”

4. Three losses to non-Division I teams: Howard dropped a 68-62 decision to Division II Lincoln (PA) University. Nebraska-Omaha, in their first season in Division I, lost to Saint Mary (not to be confused with St. Mary’s) 96-86. USM is an NAIA Division II team. But the ugliest loss of them all was given to Rice, who lost to NAIA St. Thomas by 13 points. St. Thomas has only had college athletics since 2006.

5. No more games on boats, please: The two that were supposed to be played on the east coast were cancelled due to condensation on the court making it unsafe to use. The one on the west coast had to be rescheduled because of rain on Friday night, and when it was played, the wind was so strong and the sun so bright that it created a situation where shooting from the perimeter was pointless. The game was, frankly, not enjoyable to watch.

Look, I’m all for supporting the troops and raising money and playing games between top 25 teams in exotic locales. I love the creativity. But there are ways to do all of that while playing inside — see: Michigan State and UConn. There are a lot of creative marketers out there. It’s time to come up with a new idea.

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

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.