Eight uncommitted McDonald’s All-Americans give a recruiting update

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Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram remain two of eight uncommitted All-Americans (adidas)

CHICAGO — The McDonald’s All-American game tips tonight at the United Center in Chicago and the game is especially intriguing this season because eight of the game’s 24 participants remain uncommitted in the recruiting process.

CBT caught up with all eight of those uncommitted players this week to see where they stand as we near the April Signing Period.

You can view the complete rosters for the 2015 McDonald’s All-American game here.

EAST TEAM

Jaylen Brown, 6-foot-7 small forward, Marietta, GA

As the No. 2 overall player in the class, Brown has the most attention on him this week and he’s still considering a number of different options. Brown has taken all five official visits to Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina and Michigan (in that order) and Cal recently received a surprise unofficial visit. Local schools like Georgia and Georgia Tech have also done their best to stay in the picture for Brown.

While Brown called Kentucky the “best basketball program in the country,” to reporters on Tuesday, he’s open to all of the schools on his list and is looking for more than just a school that churns out NBA players.

“It’s not about going to a certain school to be a pro. If I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, I think I can get to the NBA,” Brown said. “With my abilities, I just have to stay focused. A pro is a pro; it doesn’t matter what school [you attend].”

Cheick Diallo, 6-foot-9 forward, Centereach, NY

One of the best defenders in the 2015 class, Diallo is the No. 7 player in Rivals‘ rankings and has taken official visits to all five schools on his final list.

“I have my top five: Kentucky, St. John’s, Iowa State, Pitt and Kansas,” Diallo told NBCSports.com. “I’m just waiting to announce in April. Sometime before or after the Jordan game.”

St. John’s remains in the picture for Diallo, even with the hiring of new head coach Chris Mullin.

Thomas Bryant, 6-foot-10 forward, Huntington, WV

One of the better post players this week has been Bryant, who is down to four schools in the recruiting process. Bryant is looking at Syracuse, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. He’s finished all of his visits and is looking over a few factors in his recruitment.

“I’m looking at which guys that are still there, know the system,” Bryant said. “Coaches that really want me to be there as a focal point of their offensive system. I’m just taking it day-by-day. I just want to know that if I’m going to school, I’m going to get better there.”

There have been two schools on the final list of four that have been in touch the most in recent weeks.

“Two schools that have been really in touch with me are Indiana and Missouri,” Bryant said.

Since Syracuse was given sanctions by the NCAA, Bryant said he hasn’t heard from the coaches, but they’ve been in contact with his mother.

“I haven’t heard from them that much. They talk to my mom, I know that. I haven’t heard from them.” Bryant said of the Orange.

Bryant is planning on making a decision in the near future with the help of his mother.

“We’re trying to make a decision soon, but it just depends. When me and my mom talk it over and everything. When we both know, and I know, that’s when everyone else will know,” Bryant said.

WEST TEAM

Brandon Ingram, 6-foot-8 small forward, Kinston, NC

The fastest-rising prospect this week has been North Carolina native and small forward Brandon Ingram. The stellar play of Ingram has impressed a number of people in attendance at practices and he’s still weighing his options.

“I’m considering all six schools on my list right now. Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State,” Ingram said. “I took all my visits. I’ll take a couple of in-state visits when I get back home. And now I have a couple of in-homes.”

Many believe that Ingram could announce soon and he wants to figure things out before the end of the month.

“I want to announce by the end of this month,” Ingram said. “Of course, I want to get some more answers out of the way before I make my decision.”

Some of those answers might be about the situation at North Carolina, where the school is under scrutiny for an academic scandal that rocked college basketball this season. Ingram is only worried about his dialogue with the North Carolina coaching staff concerning the matter.

“The dialogue has been pretty good — and private — right now with [assistant] coach Steve Robinson and coach Roy Williams. I’m not listening to any outsiders or anything,” Ingram said. “I trust Roy Williams and I trust Steve Robinson, so [the recruitment] has been pretty good.”

Malik Newman, 6-foot-3 guard, Jackson, MS

Malik Newman has been quieter than most about the recruiting process but schools like Kansas, Kentucky, LSU,  N.C. State and Ole Miss remain in the picture. New Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland also visited with Newman right after taking the job and made a hard push for Newman to stay close to home.

“He came to the house. He did a tremendous job with [Russell] Westbrook. I think he can do a great job with me,” Newman said of Howland. “He’s one of those coaches; he’s demanding. He expects a lot out of you. I think he gets a lot out of his players.”

Even with many of the nation’s best making a late charge, Newman is taking his time with his decision.

“I think everyone is on an even platform,” Newman said of the recruiting process. “I’m trying to set up a few visits and once I set those up, [everyone] will know all of the schools that I’m looking at.”

Among the factors that will help Newman decide include finding a coach who has taken players to the next level.

“[I’m looking for] a program that has some players around there. A coach that has coached players of my caliber. Just a program that can help me accomplish my dreams; hopefully in a year or so,” Newman said.

Ivan Rabb, 6-foot-11 forward, Oakland, CA

Much has been made of Rabb making a decision in the near future. The five-star forward is down to two Pac 12 schools and broke them down to NBCSports.com.

“Right now, I’m down to Cal and Arizona. Those are my final two schools,” Rabb said. “Right now, it’s just me talking to both coaches, trying to make a decision. I like both schools a lot, I like the coaching staffs from both schools. I want to talk to my family and I want to try to figure out what I’m going to do.”

Cal is the local favorite for the Oakland native. Head coach Cuonzo Martin is selling Rabb on staying home and making a difference.

“Cal, I’m the hometown kid. I know for a fact that they’ll support me and the fan support will be ridiculous. The thing they’re selling me on is, ‘don’t be a part of something, be the start of something,'” Rabb said. “It’s been a very long time since they’ve had a player like myself that came in and they believe can make a big impact. And I believe in myself. Coach Martin and the coaches, they won’t let me fail.”

Arizona is also making a hard push for Rabb, though, and their track record with big men and making deep NCAA tournament runs is appealing to him.

“Arizona, they’ve proved themselves throughout the past few years — Sean Miller’s been there for awhile now — and he’s had a lot of bigs come through there. They’ve had Brandon [Ashley] and Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] and Aaron [Gordon], so he’s shown me different ways I can play, similar to those guys, fitting into that system. It’s proven that the system works. They get deep in the tournament every year. Right now, he just says he needs me to get over that hump to get to the Final Four and maybe the national championship. I believe him and that may be a direction I want to go in but I have to figure that out.”

Stephen Zimmerman Jr., 7-foot-0 center, Las Vegas, NV

Another top-flight west coast post player still weighing his options is Stephen Zimmerman. Zimmerman cut his list earlier in the season and is still staying strong with that group of schools.

“I still have my top five: Kansas, Kentucky, UNLV, UCLA and Arizona. I talk to all of them a lot and they basically have the same message,” Zimmerman said. “Right now, I’m just talking to my parents. With games like this, people are committing and stuff. So, things come up and we’ll see.”

Zimmerman is awaiting to see where some other players commit and which players might go to the NBA before making a choice.

“Right now with the season winding down people are going to the NBA and deciding if they’re going to stay and people are committing. I’ll be able to see who I play with on each team. Of course, that’s a big thing,” Zimmerman said.

Caleb Swanigan, 6-foot-8 center, Fort Wayne, IN

One of the most bruising post players in the class is Swanigan, who is still considering a number of different schools.

“I’m still looking at Cal, Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Purdue, Chicago State and Arizona,” Swanigan said.

Chicago State is the school that really sticks out there, but Cougars head coach Tracy Dildy recruited Swanigan’s older brother, Carl, to Ole Miss when he was an assistant there. Chicago State also offered Swanigan his first scholarship.

While the Cougars are likely an extreme darkhorse to land Swanigan, he’s taken official visits to Cal and Duke during the process. Kentucky has also received multiple unofficial visits.

Swanigan plans to announce his decision in April.

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.