The maturation of Jerian Grant: What one star learned during a season-long suspension

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Jerian Grant (AP Photo)

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 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we will be previewing the ACC.

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

Jerian Grant screwed up.

He knows it. He freely admits his screw up was a doozy — a stupid, selfish and ill-timed decision that he paid for dearly. Grant was suspended from school for the spring semester, costing him the final 20 games of Notre Dame’s 2013-14 season, for what the school has termed “an academic mistake.” After the tears dried up following a December 21st loss to Ohio State in Madison Square Garden, Grant traveled back to South Bend, Indiana, with the team, packed up his apartment and headed home.

His season was kaput, but Grant’s Notre Dame career wasn’t over. Academically, he was a senior, but Grant redshirted his first season on campus. He still had a year of eligibility remaining, and after discussions with his family and high school coaches, Grant quickly made the decision that he would be returning to school for his final year. Head coach Mike Brey made it a point to keep Grant close, to make sure he felt like he was part of the team even if he was a thousand miles away. He gave Grant some homework: He had to watch every Notre Dame game, and at some point after the final buzzer, he had to email Brey with his thoughts and observations.

The assignment was harder than Grant anticipated. He was fine breaking down the game — Brey said he rarely needed to wait more than 45 minutes after the game was over to get the email from Grant — the issue was watching his teammates struggle. The Irish finished 15-17 overall, 6-12 in the ACC and didn’t play in any postseason events.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

At some point in every telecast, Grant’s face was flashed on the screen as the broadcasters proceeded to explain just how badly he had messed up, how dreadful Notre Dame’s season had been since the suspension and how fortunes could have been changed if it wasn’t for Grant and his “academic mistake”.

MORE: The NBCSports.com 2014-2015 ACC Season Preview

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Mike Brey’s biggest concern when bringing his star back into the Notre Dame team this season wasn’t anything that had to do with Jerian Grant’s basketball ability. He knew the 6-foot-3 guard had stayed in shape during his seventh months away from school. He wasn’t worried that he’d be rusty or that his jump shot would have suddenly become ineffective. He knew that, as Brey put it, “our finisher” would still be lethal in the pick-and-roll and capable of picking out his open teammates.

No, what kept Brey up at night was the Blame Game.

Notre Dame’s inaugural season in the ACC was a disaster. The Fighting Irish finished the year below .500, seeing their season come to a close with a loss to lowly Wake Forest in the opening round of the ACC tournament. The majority of that happened with Grant, the team’s best player, separated from the program.

How would the team react when Grant rejoined them that summer? Perhaps more importantly, how would Grant react to a season where it was beaten into his head that he was to blame for Notre Dame’s struggles? Grant and Eric Atkins were very, very close. They were both from Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C., and they had roomed together since their first day on campus. Atkins didn’t redshirt. Last season was his final season; he watched the last NCAA tournament he was eligible for from a couch, just like you did.

“We came in together. We wanted to do something special here,” Grant told NBCSports.com last week. “We had our good runs, but we never got to leave the mark that we wanted to. It was hard not to go out with him.”

“Talk about swallowing pride,” Brey added. “There was a lot for him to deal with.”

The only game that Grant didn’t watch on television was Notre Dame’s ACC tournament loss. Instead, he made the trip to Greensboro for the game, in part to see his brother, Jerami, play for Syracuse, but mainly to support his teammates in their last chance at trying to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. He joined the team in Brey’s hotel room just hours after the loss, and it was in that room, as the coach addressed his players, that Brey’s concerns melted away.

“One of my major points was, ‘Jerian, you’re coming back to us,'” Brey said. “I wanted him to get over this mindset, ‘I let everybody down, it’s my fault.’ When I looked at the guys sitting in front of me, Pat Connaughton had his arm around him. That was awesome. Our rock, our guy, our voice was like, ‘I got his ass, he’s back.’ For me, I’m looking at that going, ‘Ok, we had a tough year, but I’m feeling a little better now.'”

“The guys welcomed me back with open arms,” Grant said. “And that’s been good for me,”

“Pat was really a lifeline for him,” Brey continued. “They’ve been through a lot together. They’ve won a lot together. I think Pat always kind of reached out to him and stayed connected to him. ‘I’m coming back, you’re coming back.’ I thought that that’s kind of been a neat thing to watch, those two guys.”

The suspension couldn’t have come at a more convenient time for the Irish. Missing Grant hurt, but the good news was that Notre Dame had a foreign tour scheduled for this past summer. Grant, Connaughton — who spent the spring playing pro baseball — and the rest of the team returned to campus in the middle of June and were back on the practice court by the end of July.

They got 10 days worth of practice in before they spent 10 days in Italy, playing four games in total. And in that time, Brey noticed a subtle, but important, difference in his star. He started preparing like a pro. And not just for games, either. He was going hard for every minute he was on the floor in practice. He was showing up in the morning, before class, to get shots up. He was getting to practice an hour early, getting to the trainer and working through his own stretches before the team stretch.

“He has his routine now,” Brey said. “He’d never been a great practice player. I was on his ass throughout his career,” mentioning that Grant would sometimes show up “20 minutes before practice with a quarter pounder in his hand.” But Grant was young. He was 17 years old when he got to college, as immature as you would expect any 17 year old freshman to be, and it took him a while to grow out of that.

But a public embarrassment like the one Grant dealt with? A suspension that was on the front page of every sports website in the country, that got his name mentioned on Sportscenter for all the wrong reasons?

That’s an easy way to force a kid to grow up.

It’s the quickest way to give him a new perspective on life.

“I don’t take things for granted,” Grant said. “I’ve been preaching to the guys, you’ve gotta play every game like it’s your last. You never know when it’s going to be taken from you.”

As Brey put it, “I feel like I’m talking to a man now.”

2019 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who declared? Who is returning? Who are we waiting on?

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Here is a full list of the players that have signed with an agent, declared and are testing the waters and those that have decided to return to school. The NBA released its official list of early entry candidates as it includes 233 total names –175 coming from colleges or other educational institutions. 

Underclassmen have until April 22nd to declare for the NBA draft this season and until May 29th to remove their name from consideration and return to college. With players now allowed to sign with agents, we’re not designating players who are “testing the waters” vs. declaring with an intention to stay in the draft.

One change worth remembering here is that underclassmen are now allowed to hire an agent to help them navigate their way through the NBA draft process, and that is expected to increase the number of players that test the waters of the draft. 

The NBA Draft Combine will be held May 16-20 this year. 

This will be updated throughout the spring, as more and more players put their names in the mix. 

2019 EARLY ENTRANTS

  • MILAN ACQUAAH, California Baptist
  • BRYCE AIKEN, Harvard
  • NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech
  • AL-WAJID AMINU, North Florida
  • DESMOND BANE, TCU
  • R.J. BARRETT, Duke
  • CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky
  • TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
  • TROY BAXTER JR., FGCU
  • DARIUS BAZLEY, Princeton High School (OH)
  • KERRY BLACKSHEAR JR, Virginia Tech
  • PHIL BLEDSOE, Glenville State
  • BOL BOL, Oregon
  • MARQUES BOLDEN, Duke
  • JORDAN BONE, Tennessee
  • KY BOWMAN, Boston College
  • DAQUAN BRACEY, Louisiana Tech
  • KEITH BRAXTON, St. Francis (PA)
  • IGGY BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan
  • OSHAE BRISSETT, Syracuse
  • ARMONI BROOKS, Houston
  • CHARLIE BROWN JR., Saint Joseph’s
  • MOSES BROWN, UCLA
  • YOELI CHILDS, BYU
  • BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga
  • NIC CLAXTON, Georgia
  • AMIR COFFEY, Minnesota
  • RJ COLE, Howard
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa
  • ANTHONY COWAN JR., Maryland
  • JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
  • JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati
  • CALEB DANIELS, Tulane
  • TULIO DA SILVA, Missouri State
  • AUBREY DAWKINS, UCF
  • JAVIN DELAURIER, Duke
  • SILVIO DE SOUSA, Kansas
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia
  • ALPHA DIALLO, Providence
  • JAMES DICKEY, UNC Greensboro
  • DAVID DILEO, Central Michigan
  • DAVON DILLARD, Shaw
  • LUGUENTZ DORT, Arizona State
  • DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
  • JASON DRAGGS, Lee College
  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
  • CJ ELLEBY, Washington State
  • STEVE ENOCH, Louisville
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
  • JAYLEN FISHER, TCU
  • SAVION FLAGG, Texas A&M
  • DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas
  • DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt
  • EUGENE GERMAN, Northern Illinois
  • QUENTIN GOODIN, Xavier
  • TONY GOODWIN II, Redemption Christian Academy
  • KELLAN GRADY, Davidson
  • DEVONTE GREEN, Indiana
  • QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas
  • JON AXEL GUDMUNDSSON, Davidson
  • KYLE GUY, Virginia
  • RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA
  • JERRICK HARDING, Weber State
  • JARED HARPER, Auburn
  • KEVON HARRIS, Stephen F. Austin
  • JAXSON HAYES, Texas
  • DEWAN HERNANDEZ, Miami
  • TYLER HERRO, Kentucky
  • AMIR HINTON, Shaw University
  • JAYLEN HOARD, Wake Forest
  • DAULTON HOMMES, Point Loma
  • TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State
  • DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia
  • TY JEROME, Virginia
  • JAYCE JOHNSON, Utah
  • KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
  • MARKELL JOHNSON, N.C. State
  • TYRIQUE JONES, Xavier
  • MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State
  • SACHA KILLEYA-JONES, N.C. State
  • LOUIS KING, Oregon
  • V.J. KING, Louisville
  • NATHAN KNIGHT, William & Mary
  • SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
  • MARTIN KRAMPELJ, Creighton
  • ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana
  • CAMERON LARD, Iowa State
  • A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
  • DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas
  • JALEN LECQUE, Brewster Academy (N.C. State recruit)
  • JACOB LEDOUX, Texas-Permian Basin
  • NASSIR LITTLE, UNC
  • TEVIN MACK, Alabama
  • JERMAINE MARROW, Hampton
  • NAJI MARSHALL, XAVIER
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
  • SKYLAR MAYS, LSU
  • JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
  • E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky
  • JA MORANT, Murray State
  • ANDREW NEMBHARD, Florida
  • KOUAT NOI, TCU
  • ZACH NORVELL JR., Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN NOWELL, Washington
  • JOEL NTAMBWE, UNLV
  • JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
  • CHUMA OKEKE, Auburn
  • KZ OKPALA, Stanford
  • MIYE ONI, Yale
  • DEVONTE PATTERSON, Prairie View A&M
  • REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State
  • LAMAR PETERS, Mississippi State
  • FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
  • JALEN PICKETT, Siena
  • SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s
  • JORDAN POOLE, Michigan
  • CLETRELL POPE, Bethune-Cookman
  • JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
  • KEVIN PORTER JR., USC
  • MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall
  • PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon
  • NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
  • BRANDON RANDOLPH, Arizona
  • CAM REDDISH, Duke
  • ISAIAH REESE, Canisius
  • NAZ REID, LSU
  • NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
  • LAQUINCY RIDEAU, South Florida
  • ISAIAH ROBY, Nebraska
  • AYINDE RUSSELL, Morehouse
  • KEVIN SAMUEL, TCU
  • PAUL SCRUGGS, Xavier
  • SAMIR SEHIC, Tulane
  • JOSH SHARKEY, Samford
  • SIMI SHITTU, Vanderbilt
  • NIKE SIBANDE, Miami OH
  • JUSTIN SIMON, St. John’s
  • D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State
  • JAVONTE SMART, LSU
  • JUSTIN SMITH, Indiana
  • DERRIK SMITS, Valparaiso
  • LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State
  • JALEN SYKES, St. Clair College (Canada)
  • ETHAN THOMPSON, Oregon State
  • KILLIAN TILLIE, Gonzaga
  • DONNIE TILLMAN, Utah
  • TRES TINKLE, Oregon State
  • OBI TOPPIN, Dayton
  • RAYJON TUCKER, Arkansas-Little Rock
  • JUSTIN TURNER, Bowling Green
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State
  • PJ WASHINGTON, Kentucky
  • TREMONT WATERS, LSU
  • KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
  • COBY WHITE, UNC
  • JIMMY WHITT, SMU
  • JOE WIESKAMP, Iowa
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State
  • KRIS WILKES, UCLA
  • CHARLES WILLIAMS, Howard
  • EMMITT WILLIAMS, LSU
  • GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee
  • ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
  • HOLLAND WOODS II, Portland State
  • KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
  • AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
  • ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
  • MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
  • TRE JONES, Duke
  • JALEN SMITH, Maryland
  • CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Prosecutor: Greed fueled college basketball coaches’ bribes

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NEW YORK (AP) — A scandal in which college basketball coaches were bribed to steer NBA-bound players to favored agents and money managers was motivated by greed, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday — before defense lawyers criticized the case as an FBI-led setup.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Mark said at the opening of a criminal trial that Christian Dawkins cheated to elevate prospects for his fledgling sports management company.

“This is a case about money, bribes and college basketball,” Mark said.

The prosecutor said Dawkins was aided in his scheme by Merl Code, a Clemson point guard in the 1990s who developed many contacts while doing work for shoemakers Nike and Adidas.

Mark said Code played a key role in the crimes by introducing college basketball coaches to two investors in Dawkins’ company. Those individuals, the prosecutor said, were undercover FBI agents.

“Why was Code doing this? Simple, greed,” Mark said.

Mark said Dawkins gave envelopes stuffed with cash to coaches who Code brought to him.

He said the men arranged payouts to coaches at the University of South Carolina, University of Arizona, University of Southern California, Creighton and Texas Christian University.

Dawkins’ attorney, Steven A. Haney Sr., said his client was 22 years old when the undercover FBI agents posing as investors and a cooperator seeking leniency from criminal charges met him on a yacht in lower Manhattan in 2017 to convince him to bribe college coaches.

Haney said that although Dawkins accepted thousands of dollars in cash given to him on the yacht, jurors will learn that Dawkins and Code resisted the plan to bribe coaches.

“He said he was going to bribe the coaches but he didn’t,” Haney said.

Haney predicted a not guilty verdict.

“You are not going to condemn a man for something he didn’t do,” the lawyer told jurors.

Attorney Andrew Mathias, representing Code, said evidence will show his client did not want to bribe coaches.

“Merl wanted to get paid for making introductions,” Mathias said.

He said Code repeatedly said coaches should not be given money.

He also told jurors they could conclude there was reasonable doubt because no coaches would testify.

Prosecutors objected, but Judge Edgardo Ramos allowed the statement.

The trial was the second to result from an investigation that’s exposed a seedy side of college basketball recruitment.

Code and Dawkins already were convicted in October on similar charges and were each sentenced to six months in prison. This time, the focus is on bribes to coaches instead of players’ families.

Former assistant basketball coaches Tony Bland at USC, Emanuel “Book” Richardson at Arizona, Chuck Person at Auburn University and Lamont Evans at South Carolina and Oklahoma State have pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.

North Carolina lands second 2019 guard commitment of the day

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North Carolina added another top-100 talent on the perimeter on Tuesday as four-star Class of 2019 guard Anthony Harris pledged to the Tar Heels.

The commitment from Harris comes on the same day that North Carolina made a major splash by landing five-star 2019 guard Cole Anthony.

The 6-foot-4 Harris was previously committed to Virginia Tech, but he opted to re-open his recruitment once head coach Buzz Williams left and took the same position at Texas A&M.

Missing most of his senior season with a torn ACL, Harris gives the Tar Heels another solid perimeter option who should contribute as early as next season. Playing with notable programs on the high school level like Team Takeover in the Nike EYBL and Paul VI during the high school season, Harris can contribute in many different ways.

Team Takeover was arguably the best AAU team in the country last spring and summer as Harris put up 8.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. More importantly, Harris is a strong and willing defender who is capable of locking down opposing perimeter options.

The commitment of Harris gives North Carolina’s thin perimeter group even more depth for next season as they now have Anthony, Harris, seniors Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson and fellow freshman Jeremiah Francis. Sophomore shooter Andrew Platek is also returning.

Regarded as the No. 65 overall player in the Class of 2019 per the 247Sports composite, Harris is a quality late pickup for the Tar Heels as North Carolina’s perimeter depth looks far better at the end of Tuesday than it did entering the day. While Anthony is likely a one-and-done player, Harris will likely stay and contribute for at least a few seasons as he comes from a winning background.

Michigan’s Jordan Poole staying in 2019 NBA Draft

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Michigan sophomore guard Jordan Poole will remain in the 2019 NBA Draft, according to a post on his Instagram.

The 6-foot-5 Poole already announced his intention to declare for the NBA draft while signing an agent. But Poole has made it clear that he’ll not be returning to school before the May 29th deadline as he’s set on turning pro.

“I need to thank God for putting me in the position to walk along the right path. There has been much consideration, but after weighing all my options and having many positive discussions, my family and I, along with the help of coach (John) Beilein and the rest of the coaching staff, believe now is the right time for me to begin my professional basketball career,” Poole said in a statement. “It has been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. I feel I am ready to go after that dream.”

As a sophomore, Poole became a key piece for the Wolverines as he averaged 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 rebounds per game. Shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 36.9 percent from three-point range, Poole is a talented shot creator who can be very streaky.

Poole’s decision to leave has major ramifications on Michigan for next season as the Wolverines currently sit at No. 2 in the NBCSports.com Preseason 2019-20 Top 25. Without Poole, Michigan will likely turn to Eli Brooks to earn more minutes.

The pro decision of freshman wing Ignas Brazdeikis now becomes a major focus for the Wolverines this offseason as his return would likely solidify Michigan as a top-five preseason team. If Brazdeikis also opted to go pro like Poole, and junior Charles Matthews, then the Wolverines would need to figure out where their offense will come from next season.

Arizona lands grad transfer Max Hazzard

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Arizona has landed a commitment from UC Irvine grad transfer Max Hazzard, one of the most sought after transfers on the market this season. Hazzard’s brother, Jacob, was a walk-on for the Wildcats from 2012-2016.

The 5-foot-10 rising senior averaged 12.5 points and 2.1 assists and shot 38.7 percent from three as a junior with the Anteaters. He put up 19 points against Kansas State’s suffocating defense in UCI’s upset win in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament.

Hazzard joins a perimeter in Tucson that is absolutely loaded. He joins a recruiting class that includes five-star guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green, plus four-star bigs Zeke Nnaji and Christian Koloko and four-star guard Terry Armstrong. Sean Miller also returns a number of backcourt veterans, namely Brandon Williams, Brandon Randolph and Dylan Smith.

The Wildcats look like they should be favorites, along with Oregon, to win the Pac-12 this season.