Weekly Awards: Sir’Dominic Pointer and Baylor shine in a wild week of hoops

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sir’Dominic Pointer, St. John’s

Pointer was sensational this week as the Johnnies landed two critical wins that have punched their NCAA tournament ticket. In a win over Xavier on Monday, Pointer had 19 points, nine boards, six blocks, four steals and three assists, following that up with 24 points, 10 boards, two blocks and two assists in a double-digit win over Georgetown on Saturday.

The two wins this week completed a stretch of seven games where St. John’s won six out of seven, a stretch that has taken this team from NIT-bound to the NCAA tournament. At one point in time, the Johnnies were just 3-6 in Big East play, and without the energy that Pointer has brought to this team, they would not have made this turnaround. As good as Kris Dunn, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and about half of Villanova’s roster has been, Pointer has been the best player in the Big East this year, and he’s proven it of late.

THE ALL ‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Aaron White, Iowa: Iowa landed a pair of critical wins for their tournament resume, beating Illinois and winning at Penn State in overtime. White had 29 points and nine boards against Illinois and followed up with 21 points and 14 boards over the weekend.
  • Justise Winslow, Duke: Winslow was terrific this week for the Blue Devils, just as he has been terrific for them for the past month. After posting 15 and seven in the overtime win at Virginia Tech, he went for a career-high 23 points, nine boards and three blocks against Syracuse. When Winslow plays like this, Duke is much more dangerous.
  • Derrick Marks, Boise State: Marks went for 30 points, five boards and five assists in a win over New Mexico, following that up with 18 points to lead the Broncos to a win at San Diego State. The win may end up getting Boise State into the tournament.
  • Jarrell Martin, LSU: The Tigers kept themselves on the right side of the bubble with wins over Auburn and Ole Miss, and Martin starred in both, averaging 21.5 points and 12.0 boards.
  • Trey Lyles, Kentucky: Lyles scored 18 points in back-to-back games, giving Kentucky yet another player that can take over a game.
  • Notables: Obi Emegano (Oral Roberts), Nigel Johnson (Kansas State)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Baylor Bears

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Baylor picked up one of the most impressive wins of the season on Wednesday night, as they went into Hilton Coliseum, one of the toughest road venues in the country, and knocked off Iowa State. They followed that up with an impressive win over a short-handed West Virginia team, putting Scott Drew’s team in a great position to land a top three seed when the brackets are released in two weeks. I still feel like I don’t really have a grasp on this team, but at some point, you have to respect a team that can get to the offensive glass and shoot the three the way that Baylor can.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Kansas State: The Wildcats knocked off the two best teams in the Big 12 this week, picking off both Kansas and Iowa State in Manhattan. All of a sudden. Kansas State — despite having a 15-15 record — has a chance to go to the NCAA tournament.
  • BYU: The Cougars did what they needed to do in order to have a chance at earning an at-large bid, by going into Spokane and knocking off Gonzaga. They’re not a lock for the tournament yet, but they’re close.
  • Maryland: The Terps beat Michigan on Saturday, a win that followed up their upset of No. 5 Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble were fantastic all week long.
  • Villanova: While the rest of the potential No. 1 sees seem to be limping their way into the NCAA tournament, Villanova is playing as well as they have all year long. They beat Providence by 28 points on Tuesday, following that up with a 12 point win at Xavier.
  • Wichita State: The Shockers smacked around Northern Iowa in Koch Arena on Saturday, a win that earned them the Missouri Valley regular season title.
  • Notables: Iowa, Arizona, Boise State

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 16 Oklahoma at No. 12 Iowa State, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 20 West Virginia at No. 8 Kansas, Tue. 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 17 Louisville, Wed. 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 8 Kansas at No. 16 Oklahoma, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 2 Virginia at No. 17 Louisville, Sat. 6:30 p.m.
  • No. 4 Duke at No. 15 North Carolina, Sat. 9:00 p.m.

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.