How Jaylen Brown’s commitment made a huge impact on the finalists recruiting him

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The long and strange recruiting journey of Jaylen Brown is finally over.

A Georgia native and consensus top-five prospect in the Class of 2015, the 6-foot-7 wing ended his recruitment on Friday night by committing to Cal after keeping America waiting in suspense for a few hours on Twitter.

Of Brown’s final four schools in Cal, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina, this commitment has a big impact on three of the finalists recruiting him.

Sorry, Michigan.

You lost out on Brown, but you return arguably the best senior in college basketball next season in Caris LeVert and point guard Derrick Walton will also be back (and hopefully healthy) for 2015-16. Adding Brown would have surely helped the Wolverines, but with LeVert and Zak Irvin set to return on the wing, Michigan is already looking like a top-15 program heading into next season. They didn’t need Brown as badly as the other three programs based on returning personnel.

But how about the turnaround for Cal, and specifically, head coach Cuonzo Martin?

During the 2013-14 season, some Tennessee fans were calling for Martin’s head during an up-and-down tenure that ended in a surprise Sweet 16 appearance. Some in the fan base said Martin couldn’t recruit at an elite level. Some boosters reportedly cut off Martin from using private planes to go recruiting. Other Volunteer fans drew up an online petition hoping to get former coach Bruce Pearl back at Tennessee that had over 36,000 signatures.

Martin had enough of the drama in Knoxville and bolted for the West Coast right after making the Sweet 16 last spring. Fourteen months later, Martin has landed more top-10 prospects in the Class of 2015 than recruiting juggernauts like Arizona, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina. With Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird returning to go along with Brown and local five-star big man Ivan Rabb, suddenly, Cal has a potential Pac-12 title team.

When you also factor in how Cal landed Brown, it’s even more impressive. The Golden Bears jumped into the Brown recruitment incredibly late. After taking all five of his official visits, Brown opted to pay his own way for an unofficial visit to Berkeley to see what Martin and his program had to offer. Clearly, Brown liked what he saw and the rest is now history.

Martin has proven his critics in Knoxville wrong by landing blue-chip talent at Cal. Now the pressure comes to win with those players.

For North Carolina, the loss of Brown further illustrates an already bleak recruiting picture of a proud program that can’t land blue-chip talent because of the uncertainty surrounding an NCAA investigation. The Tar Heels have arguably the No. 1 team in the country entering the 2015-16 season. They also have a J.P. Tokoto-sized hole on the wing in their starting lineup after his unexpected departure to the 2015 NBA Draft and they just missed on two five-star wings in the past week.

Losing Brandon Ingram, an in-state kid who North Carolina was recruiting before his rise into the top five in his class, certainly hurt. Missing on Brown means the recruiting future for North Carolina is even more murky.

And North Carolina can’t whiff on the Class of 2016, either.

The top Class of 2016 power forward (Harry Giles) and point guard (Dennis Smith) both reside in North Carolina and top-ten forward Edrice “Bam” Adebayo is also an in-state product. If this current Class of 2015 recruiting trend continues, the Tar Heels are going to miss on blue-chip talent in their own state for two consecutive seasons because of the concerns of potential NCAA sanctions. Things aren’t getting any better in Chapel Hill any time soon.

And when is the last time Kentucky was involved with so many five-star prospects in the spring, only to miss out on all of them?

At the McDonald’s All-American game in late March, there were eight uncommitted prospects playing in the game. Kentucky was still a finalist for seven of the eight uncommitted players when they spoke to NBCSports.com during the event.

They ended up with none of the eight uncommitted McDonald’s All-Americans.

Now head coach John Calipari is scrambling for spring recruiting scraps.

Just this past week, Calipari landed a junior college shooter in Mychal Mulder and tried to sway a Class of 2015 three-star forward, Shaun Kirk, from signing with N.C. State. Calipari missed on Kirk like he did the Burger Boys and it leaves Kentucky with some question marks entering next season.

The Wildcats still have a tremendous class coming in, highlighted by arguably the best Class of 2015 player (Skal Labissiere) and the best point guard in the class (Isaiah Briscoe). Mulder and four-star wing Charles Matthews are not scrubs either. Kentucky’s four-man 2015 class would still be the envy of most college basketball programs in America.

But after gaming the one-and-done system for so long — culminating in four McDonald’s All-Americans joining a roster that had nine total McDonald’s All-Americans on last season’s team that started 38-0 — can Calipari ever reach the recruiting levels that he was at again?

I’m not saying Calipari can’t reach more Final Fours or win more titles at Kentucky, but no college basketball team has ever gone 38-0 and even that team fell short of the title game. Kentucky has made the Final Four in four of the past five seasons — largely with one-and-done players. This 2015 recruiting class is underwhelming compared to the past few classes, especially after seven Wildcats left early for the 2015 NBA Draft. The 2015-16 roster now also seems underwhelming by Kentucky’s recent standards and only one title came from those recent Wildcat juggernauts.

It’s not as if Kentucky wasn’t trying to get more blue-chip guys to come aboard for the 2015-16 campaign before sending them on their way to shake Adam Silver’s hand on draft night. They missed on seven All-Americans who they were in on as of late March.

Jaylen Brown even called Kentucky the, “best basketball program in the country,” to reporters at the McDonald’s All-American media day and decided not to go there.

Suddenly, Calipari and Kentucky’s system of landing the best one-and-done players has taken a serious hit. The Wildcats have been beaten by Duke at their own game for two consecutive recruiting classes and the Blue Devils were the ones hoisting hardware in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.

Are these spring recruiting misses merely an outlier, or the end of an era of recruiting dominance for Calipari and Kentucky? Did the platoon system Calipari used during the 2014-15 season mean that elite players in the Class of 2015 didn’t want to sacrifice minutes and shots to be apart of Kentucky’s program?

We’ll have to wait and see how things play out from here in regards to elite recruiting, but Jaylen Brown’s commitment definitely shook up college basketball at a time when the sport is usually dormant.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.