The ‘Chaminade Crew’ and how Jonathan Holmes has changed the culture of Texas hoops

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NEW YORK — Jonathan Holmes is the lone senior rotation player on the Texas roster, which means he’s the only remaining member of Rick Barnes’ vaunted, but ill-fated, 2011 recruiting class. Shelden McClellan, Julien Lewis, Sterling Gibbs and Jaylen Bond all transferred out of the program within two years of enrolling. Myck Kabongo flamed out after two seasons, one NCAA investigation and a 23-game suspension. Kevin Thomas never even made it to campus.

And Holmes?

He almost left, too. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t leave the ‘Chaminade Crew’ behind.

“I thought about leaving with those guys and transferring,” Holmes said. “But there was a quote I was told when I came in: ‘When you leave here, are you going to leave it better than when you came in?'”

If he had left after the disastrous 2012-2013 season, he wouldn’t have, because that was the season that Texas finished just 16-18, failing to make the NCAA tournament or the NIT, instead losing in the first round of the CBI to Houston. That was the same season that Texas lost to Chaminade, a Division II program located in Hawaii that hosts the Maui Invitational, which is where the nickname the ‘Chaminade Crew’ came from.

“It goes to show how far we came and how we stuck together and made it through,” Holmes said, and he’s right, because the Texas program is most certainly better today than it was in 2011 when Holmes enrolled.

On Friday night, No. 10 Texas cruised to a 71-55 win over overmatched Cal in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, with the most impressive part of the win being that they did it without starting point guard Isaiah Taylor, who broke a bone in his wrist on Thursday night after an ugly spill late in a big win over Iowa. He may miss the next month and a half.

Texas was not hurt by the absence of Taylor on Friday, thanks in large part to the presence of Holmes, who is arguably the nation’s most underrated player. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with 21 points, 13 boards and two Lebron-esque, chase down blocks a night after he scored 16 second half points in a come-from-behind win over Iowa.

On the basketball court, it’s easy to figure out what makes Holmes so valuable for this Texas team.

He’s got the size and the strength of a power forward at this level. That’s what he was recruited to Austin as. That’s the position he’s played for most of his career. But over the last couple of years, Holmes has expanded his game. He’s not Kyle Korver, but he’s a good enough shooter that opponents cannot allow him open looks from three. If a defender closes out on him too quickly, he can put the ball on the floor and beat them off the dribble.

“[Holmes is] a 6-foot-8, 230 pound guy that can go inside-outside,” Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin said.

He can play the small forward position, and that creates a huge advantage for this Texas team. He can overpower a typical small forward, but he can also spread the floor, meaning that he can’t be helped off of when the likes of Myles Turner and Cameron Ridley are scoring on the block.

“It’s like a five or six headed monster,” Cal’s David Kravish said. “You cut off one and they bring three more after you.”

“We don’t have bodies like that,” Martin added.

As good as Holmes is, as much of a matchup problem as he creates, it’s his presence off the floor that sets the tone for this team. Holmes is a work-a-holic, willing to completely retool his jumper, and unselfish enough that he’s willing to change positions during his final year in school if it will help his team win.

“He’s a senior and that’s what you expect from him,” Barnes said. “I don’t know if there’s a harder worker in the country. If people knew how much time he put into basketball. He literally lives in our practice facility.

“He was willing to learn a new position as a senior.”

When your lone senior, the elder statesmen in the locker room, is willing to work that hard and to make those sacrifices, it sets a tone for the team. Can an incoming freshman be concerned about his shots or complain about his playing time when he sees the face of the program putting the team first?

“Everybody bought in. Everybody wanted to be part of the solution,” Holmes said. “People talked down on us and we didn’t listen to it. We had a season like we had last year and we’re trying to build on that.

“It’s good to win and it’s even better to win with these guys.”

Holmes was named the MVP of the tournament on Friday night after the game, but in the locker room following the win over Cal, Barnes said that he believed Demarcus Holland’s defense and aggressiveness earned him the MVP.

So what did Holmes do?

“Jon handed Demarcus Holland the MVP trophy,” Barnes said.

And he wasn’t even a member of the ‘Chaminade Crew.’

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

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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.