College Hoops Player of the Week: Erick Green, Virginia Tech

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Player of the Week: Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech wasn’t supposed to have a chance this season. Not only was head coach Seth Greenberg fired at the end of April after his entire coaching staff had left during the offseason, but without Greenberg at the helm, both Dorian Finney-Smith, a rising sophomore, and Montrezl Harrell, Greenberg’s star recruit in the Class of 2012, decided to continue their careers elsewhere. When former assistant James Johnson was hired, most believed that it was an empty cupboard he was inheriting; a rebuilding job that would take a couple of seasons to make relevant.

Enter Erick Green. The star point guard for the Hokies has gone from one of the ACC’s best-kept secrets the past two years to a guy that is legitimately deserving of all-america consideration. After going for 24 points, five boards and five assists in a win over Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and following that up with a 28 point performance in a win over a ranked Oklahoma State team last week, Green is averaging 24.9 points, 4.4 assists and 40 boards. He’s also shooting at ridiculous rates (51.6/37.5/87.7 are his splits) while posting a 2.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For those that are into the stats, he’s currently the most efficient player in the country that uses more than 28% of his team’s possessions.

Making those numbers all the more important is that Green is spearheading a new style of attack. He told CBSSports.com that the team’s motto is “bring your track shoes“, which makes it all the more important for Johnson to have an efficient, talented ball-handler. Undefeated Virginia Tech is one of the nation’s most surprising teams, and Green is the biggest reason for that. This week proved it.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

  • G: Dez Wells, Maryland: Dez Wells set career-highs in back-to-back games this week, going for 23 points on 9-11 shooting in a 20 point win at Northwestern and following that up with 25 points in a win over George Mason on Sunday. When it was announced that Wells would be eligible for the Terps this season, the general consensus was that it would make Maryland a competitor in the ACC. That was before we knew that he was capable of putting up scoring numbers like this. With NC State, North Carolina and Florida State faltering, could it be that Wells makes Maryland the second best team in the league?
  • G: TJ Price, Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers started off league play in the Sun Belt with two roads wins thanks in large part to Price. The sophomore averaged 26.5 points, 8.5 boards and 3.5 assists while shooting 54.3% from the floor and 42.1% from three.
  • F: Nik Stauskas, Michigan: Trey Burke is Michigan’s star. Tim Hardaway is their second option. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are the superstar freshmen. But fellow frosh Nik Stauskas is quietly putting together a great season. After averaging 21.0 points in wins against NC State and at Bradley, he’s averaging 14.3 points while shooting 57.7% from the floor, 62.1% from three and 97.5% from the free throw line.
  • F: James Southerland, Syracuse: Syracuse played just a single game this week, but Southerland’s performance in that one game was on a different level. He finished with 35 points on 12-17 shooting (9-13 from three) as the Orange went into Fayetteville and knocked off a good Arkansas team. He’s now averaging 19.2 points and shooting 54.5% from three for the Orange despite coming off of the bench.
  • C: Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey put together one of the most dominating performances from a post player in recent memory against San Jose State on Monday, finishing with 16 points, 12 boards and 12 blocks while notching just the second triple-double in Kansas basketball history. (That’s impressive.) he followed that up with 17 points, five boards and three blocks in a win over Oregon State. Withey’s averaging an absurd 5.7 blocks thus far.
  • Bench: Karvel Anderson (Robert Morris), Raheem Appleby (Louisiana Tech), Reggie Johnson (Miami),  Mike Muscala (Bucknell), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Nick Russell and Jalen Jones (SMU)

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.