Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest Saturday: Tevin Mack outshines Seventh Woods

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Seventh Woods (Kelly Kline, UA)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — When you talk about the Carolina Wolves, the first name that is going to be mentioned is Seventh Woods.

An electrifying athlete, Woods made waves last spring when a scintillating mixtape of his freshman season exploits went viral. He spent last summer playing in the U-16 World Championships with Team USA and shot up the Class of 2016 recruiting rankings, where Rivals currently ranks him No. 5 nationally.

But through three games at Hoop Group’s Pittsburgh Jam Fest, Woods has been an after thought on his own team as Tevin Mack has taken over. Mack is averaging 36.0 points in the three games, including a pair of 38 point performances on Saturday, making him by far the most productive scorer in the tournament.

“Best thing I do is shoot,” and Mack certainly showcased that skill in Pittsburgh. As a 6-foot-6 wing with a lengthy wingspan, Mack has the size to be able to take advantage of that shooting ability over smaller defenders. And while he’s more than just a spot-up shooter on the offensive end of the floor, part of the reason that he’s only ranked No. 97 in the Class of 2015 in Rivals top 150 is that he’s limited as an athlete and a ball-handler.

The good news?

Mack is aware of where his deficiencies lie. When asked what his goal is for this spring and summer, he said he wants to improving his “defense, ball-handling and getting more athletic.”

And if he does? “I’ll get my ranking up and show people I’m actually good.”

Georgia is considered the favorite to land Mack, as his family has a relationship with head coach Mark Fox from when his brother played for Fox at Nevada and Tevin has already made a couple of visits to the campus. But Mack, a native of Columbia, S.C., said that VCU recently extended an offer and that Clemson, Wake Forest, Southern Cal and South Carolina have shown interest in recent week.

“Stability in the program,” Mack said of what he’s looking for in a school. “The coaches that are recruiting me are going to be there the entire time. A winning program, but somewhere that I can make an impact.”

Mack shined, but Seventh Woods struggled: Woods did not have his most impressive performance in a pair of games on Saturday. He struggled with his perimeter stroke and committed a handful of unforced turnovers. His potential is evident to anyone that makes an effort to watch something as simple as layup lines, and Woods certainly has a knack for making some incredible plays on the defensive end of the floor. The problem? He seems to be trying to prove that he’s a point guard, facilitating offense and distributing the ball, which takes him out of what he does best: attacking the rim off the dribble. I’ll chalk this up as a bad day, so it will be interesting to see what kind of performance he has on Sunday.

Moustapha Heron shows out in front of Pitt fans: Heron is a beast, plain and simple. The 6-foot-5, 220 pound wing is an overpowering athlete that is strong enough to bully any wing that he will run into at the Pitt Jam Fest despite playing up an age group. Heron, the No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2016, showed off that physical prowess on Saturday, posting 27 points in a blow out win for his New Heights (NYC) over the very talented Team Thad. Panther fans would have a reason to get excited about Heron, who committed to Pitt last fall, if there wasn’t a concern that he will be reopening his recruitment soon. Barry “Slice” Rohrssen was the coach that recruited Heron, and Rohrssen left Jamie Dixon’s staff and accepted the same position with Kentucky last week.

Doral Moore’s post game is coming along: Like every lanky, athletic big man that comes through the high school ranks, Doral Moore has been an excellent shot blocker and finisher throughout his younger years. But the God-given ability to be seven-feet tall and able to dunk a basketball will only get a player so far if he can’t develop the rest of his game, and on Saturday, Moore showed off some of that development. He’s always had a soft touch on the perimeter, but Moore showed off a nice, right-handed jump hook as the Atlanta XPress advanced to Sunday’s quarterfinals. Given his length and athleticism, if Moore can perfect that shot, it can be unstoppable.

“Mostly my post-up game,” Moore said of what he’s been working the hardest on to develop. “I can shoot, but I have to get down and dirty sometimes. Finish strong.”

Moore is the highest-rated Class of 2015 prospect in Pittsburgh, ranking No. 16 on Rivals. He listed Illinois, Ohio State, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and Louisville.

Derrick Jones is still learning how to play: Derrick Jones will never lose a dunk contest.

Ever.

Period.

He’s the freakiest of freak athletes that you are going to come across. I’d give 5-to-1 odds that he’ll give himself a concussion by hitting his head on the rim at least once in his career, and the fact that he’s 6-foot-8 with long arms only makes him that much more impressive.

The issue is that the rest of his game is still developing. His ball-handling, his ability to shoot the ball, developing his slender frame. His ceiling is limitless, but he’s got a way to go before he reaches that ceiling. Until then, just don’t try to jump with him.

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.