Kris Dunn looks to put injuries behind him as he shoulders heavy load for Providence

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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big East.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In three years at Providence, Ed Cooley has been able to get plenty of talent into his program.

But actually getting that talent on the floor has been easier said than done.

Ricky Ledo was never cleared by the NCAA to play. The Providence native, a gifted scorer, was drafted the following June without ever playing a collegiate game. The following season, Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock — both Rivals Top 150 recruits —were set to add depth to the forward positions. And both were suspended prior to the start of the season. Austin is now on his third college in three semesters and Bullock is set to miss his second straight season after tearing his ACL last month.

For Kris Dunn, a five-star recruit and the top point guard in the Class of 2012, it has been a pair of injuries to the same shoulder that has limited to only 29 games through the first two years with the Friars. A redshirt sophomore, the former McDonald’s All-American is looking to put the injuries behind him, and the Friars will need him because their hopes for this season fall squarely on his shoulders.

“We’re excited to have his smile back,” Cooley said hours before Providence’s Late Night Madness on Oct. 17. “He’s a charismatic young man, and could arguably one of the best point guards in the country at the end of the season.”

RELATED: 2014-2015 Big East Season Preview

LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn (AP)

Even with Dunn sidelined for the final 28 games of the 2013-14 season, Providence was able to reach its first NCAA tournament in a decade on the back of Bryce Cotton. The all-Big East first team guard embodied toughness and endurance for the Friars. At one point during the year he was averaging 40.2 minutes per game. The injured Dunn treated every game like as a learning experience, the Dunkin Donuts Center his classroom and Cotton the professor.

“When you have a year off and you can just see how things work game-by-game. You understand the pace of the game, and you can see the open areas,” Dunn told

Providence took a foreign tour to Italy in August with Dunn still not cleared for full-contact drills. It wasn’t until mid-September when Dunn was allowed to practice without restrictions, which came as a sigh of relief for Cooley and key returnees such as LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris.

“It’s great having him back,” Henton said. “He makes it easier for guys like me. He’ll find you in transition for easy buckets. He brings a lot of energy to the team. Defensively, he’s a dog. I just love playing with him.”

RELATED: The Big East will be better than their second season

With three starters gone from a season ago, almost all of Providence’s experience will reside in the front court with Henton and Harris, both of whom started all 35 games, as well as Carson Desrosiers, who will move into the starting center spot. With Cotton’s graduation and Josh Fortune’s transfer to Colorado, it will be a new-look perimeter for Cooley, though. Dunn’s year off to fully recover, mixed with the talent that made him the top-rated point guard in 2012, will help the transition as Junior Lomomba, Kyron Cartwright and Jalen Lindsey adapt to the level of play.

“He’s mature,” Cooley added. “The game is slowing down for him. Physically, he’s as gifted a player as I’ve ever coached.”

Being able to better understand the game may be the bright spot in an otherwise difficult two-year stretch. Even before arriving on campus in the fall, Dunn had a banged up shoulder. He had injured it during a USA Basketball Under-18 team tryout, requiring surgery that put him out until the second semester of his freshman season. With Kevin Durant’s withdrawal from the FIBA World Cup and Paul George’s season-ending leg injury, an ongoing discussion this summer has been whether top players should or should not suit up for the national team, risking injuries to represent their country. Two years later, Dunn doesn’t regret his decision.

“Not at all,” Dunn said. “It’s an honor to play for the U.S. It was just an honor to even tryout. Freak accidents happen. You can’t base decisions off that.”

Entering the second year of the Big East relaunch, Villanova, a top-15 team, will be the clear-cut favorite while there is uncertainty among the four other contenders. It might just set the stage for a healthy Dunn to reintroduce himself to college basketball and propel the Friars to another NCAA tournament.

“Just like last year, there are a lot of good teams,” he said. “It’s exciting because you don’t know who could come out of it.”

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.