A little over a week ago a study completed by CNN took a look at the academic credentials of student-athletes entering college, focusing on their reading levels specifically. According to the research done by correspondent Sara Ganim, anywhere from seven to eighteen percent of basketball and football players at some Division I schools are reading at an elementary school level.
Despite the gravity of the findings this surprised few familiar with big-time college athletics, as it’s been an issue for years. One of the individuals interviewed was Mary Willingham, who at one time worked with student-athletes at the University of North Carolina, and through her time at the school she encountered players who were illiterate much less reading at a substandard level.
Her findings, and that of the CNN report, were disputed by the school and on Thursday it was announced that UNC’s research review board has suspended Willingham’s research work on the topic of the “literacy level of university athletes.”
“Ms. Willingham had said a number of times that she had identified data, and in fact had shared some pieces of it … in connection with earlier investigations,” Provost Jim Dean said. “The (review board) had decided to look into her case before she finally turned the data set over to me.”
He added that Willingham “did not have the authority to use identifiable data because to do so would have required (review board) … approval, which she did not have.”
According to the Raleigh News & Observer Willingham will have the opportunity to meet with the review board to discuss not only what led to her releasing her data but also the steps she would take in the future to “protect her data.” Willingham was recently named a witness by the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA, and she was also the whistleblower in regards to student-athletes being enrolled in “no-show” classes.
In response to CNN’s report UNC chancellor Carol Folt stated that while the school disputes the accuracy of the report it would take a thorough look at the claims.
Andy Enfield’s 2019 recruiting haul already includes two five-star, top-20 recruits along with a pair of additional four-star prospects in the top-100. It’s good enough, right now, for USC to own the best class in the country.
And on Thursday, the Trojans added to it.
Kyle Sturdivant, a top-100 recruit out of Georgia, has committed to the Trojans.
The 6-foot-3 point guard previously committed to his home-state Bulldogs and new coach Tom Crean, but backed off that pledge last month. He also had offers from Cal, Clemson, Auburn and Florida, among others.
Sturdivant put up 16.2 points, 5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game last season while playing alongside top-five recruit Vernon Carey on Team Takeover Florida.
His commitment gives Enfield a point guard in an already loaded class. The Trojans previously received commitments from five-stars Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu and four-stars Max Agbonkpolo and Drake London, giving them the consensus top class in the country this fall.
The Trojans’ continued success keeps the trend alive of schools who were caught up in the FBI corruption investigation simply shaking it off and landing more top talent.
The kings stay the kings.
Dana Altman and Oregon have reached into the junior college ranks to pick up their first commitment in the 2019 class.
Chris Duarte, a top juco from Northwest Florida State, committed to the Ducks on Thursday, it was announced.
“NWF State helped me grow as a player on and off the court,” Duarte said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the staff who has helped me become the player I need to be to play at a Division I program like Oregon. I’m very excited and thankful for this opportunity.”
In his freshman season at Northwest Florida State, the 6-foot-6 former 2017 Western Kentucky signee averaged 12.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2 steals per game en route to all-conference honors as the Raiders won a state championship and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NJCAA tournament.
“Chris is an outstanding student-athlete who represents Northwest Florida State well,” Northwest Florida State coach Steve DeMeo said in a statement. “The University of Oregon is the best decision for him and I am excited to see what his future holds as he finishes up his career as a Raider and heads to Eugene to play at the next level.”
Duarte will play for the Raiders this upcoming season and then will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Ducks. He is considered one of, if not the, top junior college player in the country.
Lon Kruger continues to assemble a monster 2019 recruiting class.
The Sooners received a commitment Thursday from Jalen Hill, a four-star wing from Las Vegas, to bolster a group that already is among the best in the country.
Hill chose the Sooners after visiting earlier this month. He had also visited TCU and had trips scheduled to DePaul and St. John’s. He also sported offers from Oregon, Arizona and Illinois. The 6-foot-7 small forward announced his decision at his school Thursday.
“I thought that it was just the best fit for me,” Hill told Rivals. “The the players over there are great and I just loved the coaching staff, really. They let you rock over there and let you be you.”In terms of everything else, they didn’t have a lot of wings coming back at that position. They compared me to Buddy Hield a little and said they might use me as a shooting guard and as a small forward.”
Hill averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in the EYBL with the Las Vegas Prospects. He’s the latest edition to Oklahoma’s 2019 class that already includes two top-100 prospects. De’Vion Harmon, a top-50 point guard from Texas, committed to Kruger and Co. last November while Victor Iwuaker, a top-100 forward also from Texas, pledged earlier this month. It’s a consensus top-10 class.
It’s hard to call Kruger underrated given the success he’s had in the college ranks and his stint in the NBA, but even with that recent Final Four run and the Trae Young Experience last year, the Oklahoma coach rarely seems to get his due as one of the top coaches in the country. He keeps winning – both on the floor and the recruiting trail.
Gonzaga has landed their third commitment in the Class of 2019, as Martynas Arlauskas, a 6-foot-6 Lithuanian wing, announced that he will be heading to Spokane for college instead of signing a professional contract.
Arlauskas ranks 42nd in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports, although he does not show up in their composite rankings; not even recruiting outlet ranks foreign prospects in their top 100. He spent last season played with the second division team from BC Zalgiris, one of the biggest clubs in Lithuania. He averaged 5.2 points as an 18-year old.
The last player Gonzaga recruited from Lithuania was Domantas Sabonis.
A skilled perimeter that is at his best playing on the wing, Arlauskas is the third member of Gonzaga’s 2019 recruiting class, joining Anton Watson, a top 50 prospect from Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, and three-star guard Brock Ravet.
Oklahoma landed its second four-star prospect in the Class of 2019 on Wednesday as forward Victor Iwuakor pledged to the Sooners.
The 6-foot-7 Iwuakor is a long-armed, undersized forward who has the strength and motor to still compete against other players on the interior. Rivals rates Iwuakor as the No. 116 overall prospect in the Class of 2019, as he joins top-40 point guard De’Vion Harmon in Oklahoma’s group.
Iwuakor is a great start to rebuilding Oklahoma’s frontcourt as they have a lot of scholarships to work with in this class. Now with two four-star prospects in the fold, head coach Lon Kruger is continuing to recruit at a high level — which is also a good sign that they’re capitalizing on Trae Young’s successful season becoming a top-five pick. Oklahoma was in a recruiting battle with Baylor and Texas Tech for Iwuakor, as all three schools received official visits, but the Sooners were able to pull the promising forward out of Texas.