Looking Back: The 2004 Recruiting Class

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Next week, the first session of July’s live recruiting period will begin, and high school hoopers around the country will take their talents to tournaments across the country, looking to impress coaches enough to earn a spot on a team at some level.

Those that are good enough will be playing for a scholarship. The best of the best will have a spot in all of the top 100 recruiting rankings on the line.

Over the course of this week, we will be looking back at the RSCI — a composite index for top 100 lists — to reinforce a point: recruiting rankings are not a guarantee. Top ten recruits flame out and unranked players make the NBA. The only thing that is a given is that hard work will be talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Keep that in mind while tracking where a kid is ranked and who is recruiting him.

We’ll be looking at the Class of 1999-2008, the last 10 classes that have finished the five years they are allowed to use their four seasons of eligibility.

To read through the rest of our Looking Back posts, click here.

THE TOP 20

1. Dwight Howard: Howard’s been a popular person of late, as he is the most sought-after free agent in the NBA this summer. Howard went straight from high school to the NBA, with the Orlando Magic selecting him with the first pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. While blessed with immense physical gifts, there’s still work to be done from a maturity standpoint with his departure from Orlando being the most glaring example why. In nine seasons as a pro, Howard has averaged 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game.

2. Shaun Livingston: Originally a Duke commit, Livingston also took advantage of the ability to go directly to the NBA out of high school. Livingston was selected fourth overall by the Clippers, but his career was derailed by a horrific knee injury in 2007. After missing the remainder of that season and all of the 2007-08 campaign, Livingston played 12 games in 2008-09 and has been in the NBA ever since. Livingston averaged 6.3 points and 3.3 assists per game last season.

3. Al Jefferson: Like Howard, Jefferson is on the free agent market this summer. Jefferson went straight from high school to the NBA, and in nine seasons as a pro the 15th selection in the 2004 NBA Draft is averaging 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

4. Josh Smith: Like AAU teammate Howard (Atlanta Celtics), Smith entered the 2004 NBA Draft straight out of high school. Selected 17th overall by Atlanta, Smith has averaged 15.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in nine seasons. He’s also a free agent this summer.

5. Rudy Gay: Gay was the lone member of the Top 5 to go to college, with his recruitment not lacking for controversy. In two seasons at UConn, Gay averaged 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Drafted eighth overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by Houston, Gay has career averages of 18.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

6. Sebastian Telfair: The subject of a book and a documentary, Telfair originally committed to attend Louisville before deciding to enter the 2004 NBA Draft. Telfair was picked 13th overall by Portland, and he’s played for eight different franchises in his nine seasons as a pro (7.4 ppg, 3.5 apg).

7. Marvin Williams: Williams played just one season at North Carolina (11.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), helping Roy Williams win his first national title and generating the greatest amount of draft buzz of any player on the team. Picked second overall by Atlanta in the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams (career averages: 11.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) spent seven years with the Hawks before joining the Jazz prior to the 2012-13 season.

8. Robert Swift: Swift’s tale is a sad one, with the Bakersfield native never reaching the potential that led to Seattle selecting him with the 12th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Swift spent four nondescript years with the franchise, and his last professional action came with the Tokyo Flame (now defunct) in 2011. Swift was in the news earlier this year for refusing to leave his foreclosed home.

9. Malik Hairston: Hairston was the only Top 10 player who spent four years in college, as he averaged 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as an Oregon Duck. Drafted in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft by Phoenix, Hairston would be traded to San Antonio where he played a total of 66 games over two seasons. Hairston played for Olimpia Milano in the Italian league this past season.

10. Randolph Morris: Morris played three seasons at Kentucky (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), and ended up joining the New York Knicks five days after Kentucky was eliminated from the NCAA tournament. (Per NCAA rules Morris was allowed to return to school as a junior since he wasn’t selected in the 2006 NBA Draft, and with the NBA prohibiting players from re-entering the draft the Knicks were able to sign him as a free agent.) Morris has played with the Beijing Ducks since 2010, and this past season he teamed up with Stephon Marbury to lead the franchise to its first-ever league title.

11. Glen Davis: “Big Baby” was one of the SEC’s best players during his three seasons at LSU, and he was one of the leaders for a team that reached the 2006 Final Four. Davis was a second round pick in 2007 (Seattle), and he was part of the deal that sent Ray Allen to Boston. Davis has played in Orlando the last two seasons with 2012-13 being his best as a pro (15.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

12. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge nearly made the decision to enter the 2004 NBA Draft, but ultimately the Seagoville, Texas native ended up playing for Rick Barnes at Texas. After his freshman campaign was shortened by a season-ending hip injury, Aldridge came back as a sophomore and ended up being one of the best big men in the country. He’s since played seven seasons in Portland (drafted 2nd overall by the Bulls in 2006, then traded), but it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll remain a Trail Blazer.

13. D.J. White: White spent four seasons at Indiana, with his sophomore campaign consisting of just five games due to a broken foot. As a Hoosier White averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and he was selected 29th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. The 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year has spent the majority of his career in the NBA, most recently joining the Boston Celtics in March.

14. Joe Crawford: Crawford spent four seasons at Kentucky, where he would average 11.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest as a Wildcat. Drafted by the Lakers in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft, Crawford seen the majority of his action as a pro in China (Beijing Ducks) and Israel (Maccabi Rishon). His last NBA action (regular season) came in 2009, when he finished the season with the New York Knicks.

15. Darius Washington Jr.: Washington joined John Calipari at Memphis, and it’s hard to discuss the point guard’s time as a Tiger without mentioning one of the most heartbreaking moments in recent college basketball history. But to his credit Washington bounced back as a sophomore, averaging 13.4 points and 3.1 assists per game for a team that reached the Elite 8. Washington would go undrafted in 2006, and outside of a brief stints with the Austin Toros (D-League) and the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 he’s spent his professional career overseas.

16. Juan Palacios: Palacios arrived on the Louisville campus amidst much fanfare, but it’s safe to say that the forward from Colombia didn’t live up to the praise (8.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg in four seasons). Since the end of his college career Palacios has played for five different teams, most recently playing for JSF Nanterre in France.

17. Jawann McClellan: Despite Aldridge’s higher national ranking it was McClellan who won Texas’ Mr. Basketball award in 2004. From there it was off to Arizona, where he averaged 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a Wildcat (McClellan played just two games in 2005-06 due to a knee injury. McClellan had to deal with the passing of his father as a freshman, and the knee issues would continue to nag him throughout his college career. McClellan is currently an assistant coach at Jack Yates HS in Houston.

18. DeMarcus Nelson: Nelson spent four years at Duke, averaging 10.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest as a Blue Devil. Undrafted, Nelson became the first undrafted rookie in NBA history to start on opening night with the Golden State Warriors. Outside of that brief stint with the Warriors (he was sent to the D-League in November 2008) and another with the Bulls in 2009, Nelson’s spent most of his career overseas. Nelson played for Red Star Belgrade this past season.

19. Daniel Gibson: Gibson, like Aldridge, spent two seasons at Texas (13.8 ppg, 3.5 apg) before moving on to the professional ranks. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft by Cleveland, Gibson has been a Cavalier for all seven seasons of his career (7.8 ppg, 2.0 apg).

20. Jordan Farmar: The Taft HS (Los Angeles) product played just two seasons at UCLA but he certainly had an impact, averaging 13.3 points and 5.2 assists per contest as a Bruin. As a sophomore Farmar helped lead UCLA to its first national title game appearance since 1995, scoring 18 points in the Bruins’ loss to Florida. Drafted 26th overall by the Lakers in 2006, Farmar has played six seasons in the NBA with spells at Maccabi Tel Aviv (2011) and Anadolu Efes (2013) sprinkled in.

OTHER NOTABLE NAMES 

  • 21. Rajon Rondo
  • 23. J.R. Smith
  • 25. Corey Brewer
  • 26. Arron Afflalo
  • 37. Greg Stiemsma
  • 42. Dorell Wright
  • 48. Al Horford
  • 54. Drew Neitzel
  • 64. Andray Blatche
  • 68. Darnell Jackson
  • 72. Joakim Noah
  • 89. Nick Young
  • UR: Jeff Green
  • UR: Taurean Green
  • UR: Roy Hibbert
  • UR: Tyrus Thomas

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.