It’s beyond time for college basketball to return to NBA’s early entry calendar

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In 2011 the NCAA made changes to its early entry deadline, moving away from the NBA calendar. With some coaches citing the fact that their roster was in a state of flux during the spring thanks to the NBA’s system, the NCAA moved its early entry withdrawal date to the day before the start of the spring signing period. With that being the case, the general line from supporters was that coaches would know who they’d have back before collecting those final signatures heading into the summer.

However what was seen as a victory for coaches does little to help those who need the assistance the most: the players and their families looking to collect the information needed to make a wise decision.

With this move the option of “testing the waters” was essentially eliminated, with the amount of time a player, his coach and family have to evaluate their options depending largely upon when the season comes to an end. For a player on one of this year’s Final Four teams, accounting for the weekend the earliest they’d be able to truly get going was April 7, a mere eight days ahead of the withdrawal deadline. And with the amount of information that’s out there, some of it inaccurate, going with the NBA’s calendar would be more beneficial to the players and their families.

Consider the example of Washington freshman Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had a solid season for the Huskies, averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. And according to a report from Christian Caple of the News-Tribune on April 9 the freshman and his family were considering the option of entering this year’s NBA Draft. Ultimately Williams-Goss decided to return to Washington for his sophomore season, but a quote from his father in the story was particularly eye-catching.

“I didn’t anticipate it,” Virgil said. “And my thing is, you’re only as good as your last game, so I never really put a ton of thought into it. But as the season progressed and it was over and everyone else’s season ended, compare him to the other top point guards in the country, he’s right there.”

While that certainly sounds good, wouldn’t Creighton’s Doug McDermott be the clear top choice if NBA executives were using numbers to determine who they’d draft? It should be noted that Williams-Goss and his family were awaiting more information from the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee at the time of that story, and it’s likely that what they were told impacted the final decision.

Or what about Syracuse’s Jerami Grant? Grant’s decided to leave Syracuse after two seasons to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, and in a story written by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated his father Harvey (who played more than a decade in the NBA) was quoted as saying the family “had no idea” where Jerami would be picked. These are just two examples where using the NBA deadline would help, and in the case of a player who’s set on at least “testing the waters” there would also be the opportunity to go through a couple workouts and truly understand what their prospects are.

And some programs are advising their players to go by the NBA calendar when making these decisions, something Arizona head coach Sean Miller pointed out during the press conference in which Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson announced their intentions to go pro.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matters.”

Of course there will be counter arguments, one of which surrounds recruiting which was the impetus for the rule change back in 2011. But how often are there true surprises when it comes to a player making the decision to turn pro? While many like to hang onto what happens during the NCAA tournament as the be-all and end-all to NBA draft “stock” and whether or not a player should leave school, the fact of the matter is that NBA franchises have been watching prospects all season long. There aren’t many secrets by the time March rolls around.

When it comes to accounting for possible early departures on the recruiting trail, this is something programs have to account for well before the spring. There are evaluations days during the season (130 for the coaching staff as a whole) for programs to send someone out to look at a recruit, meaning that moves can be made as a current player’s chances of going pro strengthen.

And for the folks who’d argue about what “testing the waters” would do to the academic side of things, how does the amount of missed class time in March help “student-athletes” academically?

The move away from the NBA’s calendar was one that didn’t do much to help the prospects of players who need as much information as possible in order to make the “right” decision. Sure it helps coaches to know what they’ll be working with, but when the deadline is just one day ahead of the start of the spring signing period how much of an aid is it? It’s time to move back to the NBA calendar, because that’s what some programs are already going by.

And in a system that claims to be about helping the players, wouldn’t it be most helpful to make sure they have as much information as possible before making a life-altering decision such as this? Yes.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.