Las Vegas Wednesday Recap: Corey Sanders working to become a better leader

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LAS VEGAS — The final open period of the month is now underway, with many prospects having one last opportunity to display their skills in front of college coaches this summer. One team on the receiving end of attention from multiple assistants at high-major programs was the Showtime Ballers, thanks in large part to the guard tandem of Corey Sanders and Dwayne Bacon. While the first half of their showcase game against the Upward Stars was relatively quiet, both Bacon  and Sanders were the catalysts in the second half.

They worked well together, with Bacon being at his best when in “attack mode.” As for Sanders he displayed the ability to penetrate the defense, using his handle to get to the basket on multiple occasions while also having the willingness to move the basketball to teammates in better positions to score. And in speaking with Sanders following the game, the area where he’s looking to make the greatest strides this summer is one that is of great importance to successful point guards.

“The number one thing [I’ve been working on] is leadership,” Sanders told NBCSports.com. “Being able to run the team and get my teammates open; just making sure my teammates are involved so they play with me. [Leadership has] been the most important thing I’ve been working on this summer.”

Sanders is in a slightly different position than Bacon this summer, due to the fact that he’s gone through the experience of verbally committing to a school and then changing his mind. Sanders verbally committed to attend UCF back in September, only to reopen things a month later. And while the time Sanders spent as a committed recruit wasn’t particularly long, it served as a learning experience for a player who now finds himself juggling multiple options entering the final open period of the summer.

“Make sure you take your time [with the process],” Sanders said when asked what he took away from that experience. “Look through everything and all the schools that want you, and let them do their job and recruit you.”

Sanders also noted consistency as an important factor when it comes to the recruiting process, and that can be an issue for many recruits. While there certainly are programs that exercise great caution in handing out offers, there are others who aren’t as judicious in doing so. As a result there can be confusion for some prospects, as they look to figure out which schools are truly interested and which ones are merely offering multiple options at the drop of a hat.

In regards to Sanders’ ongoing recruitment, he mentioned DePaul, Texas A&M, UNLV, Rutgers, USF and Wichita State when asked which schools have been recruiting him the hardest. As for what he’s looking for, a strong coaching staff that will help him improve his game and solid academics are two keys according to Sanders. The point guard is hoping to narrow things down at the end of the month, which will allow him to focus even more of the schools that make his list heading into his senior year of high school.

Dorsey solid but Brunson displays better lead guard skills in win: One of the most intriguing individual matchups in the Fab 48 showcase games was that between Mac Irvin Fire floor general Jalen Brunson and Belmont Shore’s Tyler Dorsey. While both players were productive, with Brunson’s sparking a second-half comeback for the Fire, it was evident which player is further along when it comes to being able to run a team at the college level. That would be Brunson, who displayed a solid balance of attacking the defense in search of his own looks with the need to make sure his teammates wound up with the ball in advantageous positions himself.

Dorsey’s more of a scorer at this point, but there were cases in which he made a concerted effort to get his teammates quality looks. However it’s still a work in progress for Dorsey, who will make the move from St. John Bosco to Marantha High (Pasadena, California) this coming season where he’ll play alongside 6-foot-10 forward Trevor Stanback. With Dorsey playing with two talented options in Jordan Dallas and Vance Jackson this week, he’ll have opportunities to set up his teammates. While he’s definitely a talented scorer, it’s premature to assume that Dorsey improving as a distributor is out of the question.

Among the programs represented at this game: Texas, Kansas, Minnesota, Illinois, Wichita State, Arizona State, UNLV, St. John’s, Oklahoma State, Creighton and Nebraska.

DeAndre Ayton shows glimpses of skills that have many excited: While Ayton and fellow 2017 prospect Troy Brown don’t play the same position, with the 6-foot-11 Ayton plying his trade in the front court and the 6-foot-6 Brown doing so on the perimeter, the fact that they were on the same court attracted many interested observers. And when it came to which player had the greater impact on the matchup between the Las Vegas Prospects and Supreme Court Force, Ayton was clearly the more impactful player of the two.

While there were times in the open floor when Ayton seemed to be going a bit too fast for his handle, skills such as his ability to catch just about anything thrown to him (including a couple impressive one-handed alley-oops) and rebound outside of his area were on full display. As mentioned above both are 2017 prospects, so we’ll be hearing a bit about these two as they work to become even better players in the years to come. Among the schools watching this game were UCLA*, Arizona*, San Diego State*, USC, Wyoming*, Oregon State*, UNLV and Florida (* – head coach was present).

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

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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.