Emmanuel Mudiay hopes to push SMU into next year’s NCAA Tournament

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(Photo credit: McDonald’s All-American Game)

CHICAGO — The 2014 McDonald’s All-American roster is littered with great players going to the usual blueblood programs of college basketball.

Kentucky and Duke are adding four McDonald’s All-Americans each while traditional basketball powerhouses like North Carolina (3), UCLA (2), Kansas (2) all add multiple players as well in the 2014 edition of high school basketball’s elite all-star game.

But very quietly in Dallas, Larry Brown is getting blue-chip players at a yearly rate. After adding current freshman wing Keith Frazier last year coming off of a McDonald’s All-American Game appearance, the Mustangs will welcome 6-foot-4 guard Emmauel Mudiay into the fold next season.

The current McDonald’s All-American — and native of Dallas — attends Prime Prep in Texas and opted to stay home and play for Brown, even though nearly every school in the country desired his services. As the No. 2 player in Rivals.com’s 2014 rankings, Mudiay is a major impact get for a team that is right on the cusp of a NCAA Tournament appearance.

In the end, the experience of Brown and his championship pedigree won out for Mudiay.

“Larry Brown, he’s the only coach ever to win an NCAA Championship and NBA championship, so why not get coached by one of the greatest coaches that’s ever coached this game,” Mudiay said to NBCSports.com.

SMU hasn’t been a traditional basketball power, but Mudiay is up to the task of being the local superstar that helps build the Mustangs up. SMU was ranked in the top 25 the final week leading up to the 2014 NCAA Tournament but missed the Field of 68 after a first-round AAC Tournament loss to Houston as one of the last bubble teams left out of the field.

Currently, SMU is making a run in the NIT and they’ll face Minnesota for the NIT title at Madison Square Garden.

“I know it’s going to take a lot of work. I love challenges, that’s part of the reason I picked there,” Mudiay said of SMU. “I’m not the type of person that just picks a school for the name. I feel like some people do that. It’s fine with me. I feel like once you bring Larry Brown’s name into it, it shuts everybody up. This year they had one of the best years they’ve ever had, they didn’t make the tournament, but they’re doing their thing in the NIT.”

With the addition of a player like Mudiay, it could really push SMU over the top in the American Athletic Conference next season. The Mustangs are going to have high hopes next season as Mudiay joins talented sophomore guard Nic Moore in the backcourt. Mudiay said he and Moore talk regularly about playing with each other next season.

“I feel like we can both alternate (guard spots) because he can score the ball too,” Mudiay said. “I’m going to play on-the-ball some, I’m going to play off-the-ball some, so it’s going to be fun. We talk all the time, every time I go watch them play. He tells me all the time, and I tell him, that we can’t wait to play with each other. Just how Shabazz (Napier) and (Ryan) Boatright play, something like that. We can be a two-guard front.”

While the Mustangs have changed from pretender to contender under Larry Brown, Mudiay has also noticed a revitalized fan base down in Dallas since last season. The guard broke down the difference between SMU’s old building and the newly renovated Moody Coliseum.

“The fan base there is crazy now. It’s really fun to go to the games and how loud it is. It’s going to be really fun,” Mudiay said. “I remember last year I went to a game against Memphis on one of my visits and you could literally change seats every two minutes because it was so empty. But this year it was standing room only. The Moody Coliseum is definitely crazy.”

The new atmosphere in Moody Coliseum and the push to be a good basketball program has also had a noticeable affect on recruiting, according to Mudiay.

“I think a lot of people are surprised by how (SMU) is now and they have to take (SMU) into consideration,” Mudiay said. “I know Sedrick (Barefield) committed in 2015, so he sees what I see (in SMU). I’m definitely happy it’s starting to get people’s attention.”

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.