College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup

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source: AP
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Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Memphis coach Josh Pastner’s local recruiting efforts are paying off, Mickey Mitchell, Ohio State and the rare re-commitment and Jalen Brunson’s impact on Big East recruiting.

Josh Pastner moves recruits around to make it work at Memphis

One of the major recruiting moves of the week was the announcement that former Class of 2016 forward Dedric Lawson would be joining his brother Keelon in the 2015 class.

Both Lawsons are committed to Memphis as their father, Keelon Sr., was hired as an assistant coach there this past summer. Moving Dedric to the 2015 class is an interesting move for the Tigers — and probably the right move — because K.J. and Dedric have always played together both on their high school team and with Team Penny in the EYBL.

It gives the brothers, and Memphis, more stability going forward by keeping them together and the duo makes for an enticing and talented pair to put with Tiger target and five-star center Skal Labissiere. Memphis is believed to be a major player for Labissiere, and with the center’s potential one-and-done aspirations, it makes the Tigers more attractive if both Lawson brothers could be there to play with him.

But that isn’t the only way head coach Josh Pastner is moving pieces around. Notice how Memphis commit Nick Marshall moved from the 2015 class to the 2016 class when he committed last month? As a local center with upside, Memphis obviously wants Marshall in the fold, but Labissiere plays the same position and is also a member of the 2015 class. By getting Marshall to do an extra prep year, now more playing time opens up for Labissiere and there won’t be any kind of conflict. Josh Pastner is doing big things with local prospects and Memphis could have one of the best 2015 classes in the country if Labissiere decides to join the Lawson brothers.

Mickey Mitchell, Ohio State and the rare re-commitment

When Mickey Mitchell opted to re-commit to Ohio State on Thursday night it was a rare instance in which a player returned to a school after decommitting.

Although we’ve seen re-commits the last few recruiting cycles with James Blackmon going back to Indiana and Myck Kabongo re-upping his commitment with Texas, often when a player moves on from a school he committed to, he isn’t coming back.

In the case of Mitchell, the Class of 2015 6-foot-7 forward with great passing skills is back on board at Ohio State after a positive official visit last weekend. The No. 91 overall player in the 2015 class opted to open things up once his football-playing brother left the Ohio State football program in favor of Texas Tech, but the Buckeyes did a nice job of getting him back in the fold after in-state forward Esa Ahmad pledged to West Virginia.

Head coach Thad Matta and Ohio State made a hard push for Mitchell and got it done. Decommitments are often just trying to be recruited hard when they decide to open things up and the Buckeye staff made sure they let Mitchell know that he was wanted back in Columbus.

Brunson’s commitment a big win for the Big East

Jalen Brunson picked Villanova over Illinois on Wednesday and the major headline seemed to be the Fighting Illini coming close and ultimately losing out on an All-American from their own state.

But Brunson’s commitment on Wednesday also meant a huge recruiting victory for the Big East, which now gains a McDonald’s All-American candidate and one of the best guards in the country.

The conference now boasts a major five-star player in the class to round out two more  commits currently in Rivals‘ top 50 in the 2015 class — Jessie Govan to Georgetown and Justin Patton to Creighton.

The conference is still very much behind some other leagues like the ACC and Big Ten in number of top-50 prospects, but the league also has a eight overall commits of top-150 players and should get more before the end of the November signing period.

If the basketball-only league wants to have a shot at sticking with the BCS football leagues on the hardwood Big East schools have to land high-end players and commitments like Brunson’s certainly help.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.