Eight up-transfers who will impact the NCAA tournament

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Transferring has become so common place within Division I college basketball that distinctions have been formulated in recent years to categorize the transfers. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn coined the term ‘up-transfers’ a few years ago, and how a player becomes an up-transfer is simple: either transfer from a low to a mid-major, a mid to a high-major, or a struggling high-major to a perennial contending high-major. If you take one step up the college basketball pecking order, you are now an up-transfer.

The up-transfer trend has distinctly risen in the past seven years. Combing through the NCAA’s official reports on DI transfer rates, which covered a period from 2007 to 2012, Winn discovered there were six up-transfers during that first offseason; during this past fall, though, Winn reported that more than 30 up transfers would be eligible to play in 2014, eight of which have significantly impacted their teams and will provide a boost in the coming NCAA tournament games:

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T.J. McConnell, Arizona-via-Duquesne

Arizona would not have attained the number one ranking this season or likely been a top seed in the tournament without McConnell. The ball-hawking guard has strengthened the Wildcats’ defense, and his ability to find through screens and recover quickly has made the perimeter defense of an already competent pack-line defense even stingier. On offense, McConnell’s presence moved Nick Johnson off the ball and allowed the junior to take advantage of his other-worldly athleticism and scoring ability, and the ex-Duke has been a perfect fit directing UA’s offense — McConnell’s assist rate is a robust 31.8 percent.

Lasan Kromah, Connecticut-via-George Washington

The former George Washington wing had a reputation as a three-point shooter when he arrived in Storrs, and though that recognition might have been a bit overstated — he is making one-third of his threes — Kromah is another perimeter option for a team that needs a Husky other than Ryan Boatright or Shabazz Napier to emerge.

Davon Usher, Delaware-via-Mississippi Valley State

No one knew what to expect from the wing when he arrived in Newark, but his reunion with Devon Saddler, his former AAU teammate, has bulked up Delaware’s already notorious backcourt scoring. Usher is making an impressive 54 percent of his twos and 36 percent of his threes, and when combined with Saddler and Jarvis Threatt, the UDee backcourt is responsible for more than 60 percent of the team’s point production.

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Rodney Hood, Duke-via-Mississippi State

When Hood announced he was transferring from Starkville to Durham, it was unknown how Hood would mesh with the Duke offense. After an efficient but underutilized freshman year, would he have much of an impact upon assuming a focal role in the Blue Devil offense? Hood can score from deep — 42 percent from three — and has the tools to compete in the middle of the defensive interior (50.4 percent), but the most impressive quality of Hood’s game is his knack for always being in the right spot (i.e. the Syracuse game).

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida-via-Virginia Tech

Under Billy Donovan, Florida has always been known for their wing offense, forwards who operate from either wing on the court and can take the ball to the basket via pick and rolls, or extend the defense with their shooting. Finney-Smith is still working on his ability to be effective off the bounce, but his shooting fits seamlessly with the idea of a Florida wing: nearly 50 percent of his field goals are from beyond the arc, and he makes 32 percent (a somewhat low percentage, yes, but one that was dinged by a late season slump).

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State-via-Marshall

The ex-Thundering Herd guard needed a coach who would trust him, and coach Fred Hoiberg needed a guard whose desire to win would inspire and overtake his Cyclones. When Kane arrived in Ames, he reportedly told his teammates all he wanted to do for his final season was win, and Kane has ably directed this efficient offense (1.15 PPP), handing out an assist on 31 percent of his possessions and keeping defenses from sagging with his perimeter shooting (40 percent from three).

Jason Calliste and Joseph Young, Oregon-via-Detroit and Houston

Joseph Young is a scorer, and that was evident from the first moments he took the court for the Ducks, but the ultimate surprise of all these up-transfers is Calliste. The ex-Detroit guard was a good shooter in the Horizon League, but Calliste’s accuracy has completely transformed in Euegene. He is leading the nation in true shooting percentage, and several of his offensive statistics rank within the top percentile for KenPom.com. While occupying a similar percentage of shots attempted as he did in Detroit, Calliste is converting more than 50 percent of his threes.

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.

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.