Sandy Cohen’s break out, Ja’Quan Newton update, Terrance Ferguson intro

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HAMPTON, Va. — The best part about covering an AAU tournament is following along with the kids who go from relative unknowns to hot commodities, and at Nike EYBL Hampton, Wisconsin Playground Elite’s Sandy Cohen may just be that guy.

Cohen entered the game with just four offers — Wisconsin-Green Bay, La Salle, North Dakota and George Washington — but that will likely change after this weekend.

On Friday night, Cohen, a 6-foot-4 combo-guard, was one of the best players on the floor despite going scoreless in a loss, as he finished with seven boards, seven assists and two blocked shots. He found his shooting stroke on Saturday, however, as he led Playground Elite to a win over Tyus Jones’ Howard Pulley squad with 24 points on 8-14 shooting (4-7 from three) to go along wit six boards and three assists.

Cohen has played well on back-to-back weekends in the EYBL, and some of the big boys have started to notice.

“It’s definitely picked up my recruitment,” the Seymour, WI, native said. “I was getting low-major D’I’s and now I’m starting to hear from high-majors.” Minnesota and UCLA are two of the high-major programs that have reached out to him recently.

Minnesota, in particular, seems like an intriguing destination for Cohen as the lanky combo-guard should be a perfect fit in the pressing style that new head coaching Richard Pitino likes to play.

“I’m just looking for a coach I really like and a school that plays to my personality and style of play,” he said. “I like a fast-pace, pick-up pressure.”

Cohen, who is rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals, sees himself playing the point in college, but there is some work to be done in order for that to happen. At this point in his development, Cohen is a playmaker, but he’s admittedly not yet ready to be a primary ball-handler.

“I think I got alright handles,” he said, “but I need to work on them more.”

Ja’Quan Newton continues to collect offers: Ja’Quan Newton is everything that you should expect out of a Philly point guard.

He’s quick and strong getting into the lane, and he’s tough enough to take a hit and finish through contact. His jumper isn’t where it needs to be yet, but he’s got the (ahem) intestinal fortitude to take, and make, a shot when his team needs it.

As you might expect, all of the Philly schools are coming after the Neumann-Goretti product and the 60th ranked recruit in the Class of 2014, but he’s not all that concerned about staying in Philly for school.

“It doesn’t really matter if I get away,” Newton said. “Whatever school fits me. If it’s in Philly or all the way on the other side of the country on the west coast, it doesn’t matter.”

Newton currently holds offers from Georgetown, Miami, Cincinnati, Missouri, Villanova, Temple, La Salle and Xavier, but he says he’s not trying to narrow his list down until after the AAU circuit.

“I’m just playing out the summer,” he said.

Remember the name Terrance Ferguson: Terrance Ferguson has been putting on a show at the Nike EYBL Hampton this weekend. In three games for Texas Pro, the Dallas native is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 54.1% (13-24) from three, playing with the 17’s.

Should I mention that the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter doesn’t turn 15 until May 17th?

Yup. He’s still a freshman at Prime Prep, but he’s been impressive enough this weekend that he was offered a tryout for the 16U USA team on Saturday.

“It feels amazing to be my age and doing all this,” Ferguson said, although acknowledging that he needs to really improve his ball-handling to be “more than just a jump-shooter.”

So how good is he?

“Terrence Ferguson is the best freshman in the country.” That quote is from Rivals No. 2 player in the Class of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay, who is Ferguson’s teammate at Prime Prep and with Texas Pro. He may be biased, yes, but in time we may find out that it was a factually correct statement.

(Image via Green Bay Gazette)

You can find Rob 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.