Five observations from the Pangos All-American Camp

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CARSON, CA. — The Pangos All-American Camp is once again in the books and this year’s annual showcase featured a deep camp roster with some of the best players in the country. A couple of Class of 2016 shooting guards are making a strong push towards All-American status as we enter the summer while the 2017 class showed it has a lot of big men who could be national recruits.

1. Mustapha Heron and Rawle Alkins position themselves for a big summer

In the Class of 2016, shooting guards Mustapha Heron and Rawle Alkins have already positioned themselves as national recruits with a chance to become future All-Americans. Both bruising East coast guards had outstanding showings at the Pangos All-American Camp and they were the two best players during the weekend.

The 6-foot-5 Heron showed an ability to score going to the hoop almost any possession he wanted and he also showed that he can create for others with the pass. While his jumper and going right (using his off-hand) are both still a work-in-progress, Heron showed that he’s more confident going to those moves than he was last summer. He’s put himself in prime position to potentially be a five-star recruit with All-American honors this spring if he continues to play like this.

As for Alkins, he was a bit more inconsistent than Heron, but the New York native had peaks that were as good as anyone at the camp. With a deceptive first step and a lot of power going to the rim, the 6-foot-4 Alkins is very difficult to stop going to the basket and he had his way at Pangos in the camp’s up-and-down style of play. Much like Heron, the jumper is still a work in progress, but Alkins is crafty scoring the ball inside of 15 feet and he isn’t afraid to finish with either hand.

2. The Class of 2017 will have a lot of big men with national-level recruitments

The Class of 2017 already has some star power among big men as DeAndre Ayton sits clearly in the pole position. Other five-star big men like Zach Brown, Wendell Carter and Jeremiah Tilmon also had some good spring showings playing up an age level in the Nike EYBL.

Although Heron and Alkins were the two best players at the Pangos All-American Camp, the two best long-term prospects might be New York-native Mohammed Bamba and San Diego-native Brandon McCoy. The 6-foot-10 Bamba has been playing 16U basketball this spring since the PSA Cardinals already have Omari Spellman and Kassoum Yakwe playing on the 17U team, but Bamba a big-time prospect with mobility, an emerging skill level and a lot of desirable physical tools. Bamba made a few moves during camp that had the place buzzing and he’s beginning to put the ball on the floor a little bit, which helps him use his quickness for his size in the post.

McCoy, who is originally from Chicago, showed flashes of strong play this spring in the Nike EYBL playing up with Cal Supreme and he’s pushing 7-feet tall and already weighs 230 pounds. Despite his size, McCoy moves incredibly well for a young big man and is at his best running the floor and making plays. The added strength has also given McCoy more of an edge on the interior and he’s getting more consistency as a rebounder and post defender.

3. Javin DeLaurier and Taurean Thompson make a big statement

Two big men in the Class of 2016 that have put themselves in position for a big summer include Virginia native Javin DeLaurier and New Jersey native Taurean Thompson. After seeing both players do good things this spring on the grassroots circuit, both big men had tremendous Pangos camps and should hear from a lot of high-major programs this summer.

DeLaurier has already been bumped into the top 50 in the 2016 class for Rivals this week with LaGerald Vick’s move out of the class and onto the Kansas roster for next season. During Pangos, DeLaurier outworked every other player on the floor and ran rim-to-rim as hard as any player on every single possession. Rebounding the ball at a high rate, DeLaurier also showed a bit of a face-up game and defended a bit as a weak-side rim protector.

While DeLaurier rebounded the ball well, Thompson was arguably the camp’s top glass man, as he snatched away numerous rebounds in traffic and finished plays around the rim. Thompson also showed an improving face-up game that included a smooth jumper out to 17 feet.

Expect both DeLaurier and Thompson to receive a lot of high-major attention this summer when they hit the July live evaluation period.

4. Terrance Ferguson needs to be more consistent

There is no question that five-star Class of 2016 wing Terrance Ferguson is an elite prospect and one of the best in his class. But now is the time for Ferguson to showcase more consistency after an up-and-down showing at Pangos All-American Camp. Ferguson is regarded as the No. 5 overall prospect in Rivals’ Class of 2016 rankings and if you’re going to be that high in the rankings, you have to bring it every game.

Ferguson is an exceptional athlete with good range on his jumper, but he disappeared for too many stretches of time during camp play. It’s admirable that Ferguson was playing through some injuries during a camp that isn’t a live-period event, but his so-so outings also happened this spring on the Under Armour circuit. Ferguson played on a very talented MWA Elite squad — so he didn’t have to carry big scoring numbers — but he shot 37 percent from the field, 55 percent from the free-throw line and 34 percent from 3-point range over the 12-game league schedule. If he wants to remain a top-five prospect, those numbers have to improve across the board.

That being said, there is no doubting that Ferguson has the physical tools to remain an elite prospect going forward. He’s still a likely All-American with his best basketball ahead of him.

5. Some new 2017 names emerge

The Pangos All-American Camp is often a good setting to see some new players who flew a bit under-the-radar this spring. The Class of 2017 had some new names emerge that high-major schools should look out for this summer. New York native Isaiah Washington had a strong camp going toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the country. The 6-foot-0 point guard is crafty with the ball in his hands and gets to the rim using a variety of moves, including spins, hesitation moves and quick bursts that leave his defender off-balance.

Connecticut native Walter Whyte emerged out of nowhere to be one of the better young guards in the camp. His jumper is a tad inconsistent, but the 6-foot-5 guard scored the ball at all three levels and played solid, fundamental basketball in a camp that can sometimes produce some bad basketball.

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.