NBPA Top 100 Camp PM Recap: Thon Maker continues to send a message

Kelly Kline/Under Armour

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Thon Maker is the most popular high school basketball player in America when it comes to the casual basketball fan. Because of the hype surrounding a mixtape of Maker made well over a year ago — which unfairly compared the high school big man to Kevin Durant based on some highlights curated over months of game footage — he’s become a household name with American basketball fans.

The last few months for Maker, however, have been a whirlwind. The 7-foot-0 big man enrolled at Orangeville Prep in Ontario before last high school season. He tried as hard as possible to graduate early and enroll in the Class of 2015 so he could play college basketball early. That didn’t quite work out. There were even long-standing rumors Maker would try to graduate this December and enroll at a college for the second semester of the 2015-16 season.

All of those reclassification rumors were put to rest on Thursday as Maker told a group of reporters, including NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster, that he plans on playing the entire 2015-16 season as a high school player and (potentially) enroll in college after. The news of Maker staying in high school is significant because a potentially talented contributor won’t suit up in the college ranks next season.

Staying in high school for another full season also seems to have given Maker the freedom to be a kid and a basketball prospect again.

After some sluggish play during the high school season, Maker has started to play in some recent events and it’s come to a pinnacle at the NBPA Top 100 Camp this week. He’s been arguably the best player here. Maker leads the camp in scoring at 17.8 points per game and was particularly impressive in Thursday night’s camp win. Maker went for 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting (2-for-3 3-point) and hit numerous tough shots while also snaring seven rebounds.

He’s run the floor hard, looked like a complete offensive weapon and also protected the rim. Now that Maker is in the Class of 2016, if he continues to play like this, he’s going to be in the discussion among the best prospects in the 2016 class.

RELATED: NBPA Top 100 Camp Thursday Morning Recap

— Playing with Maker was Class of 2016 point guard Xavier Simpson, who had a strong evening session with 25 points (11-13 shooting), four assists and three rebounds. Simpson shook off a rough morning session to have an efficient outing where he scored from multiple levels, set up teammates and looked good in both the open floor and half-court settings.

— Class of 2017 big men Nick Richards and Mohamed Bamba both showed ridiculous flashes of potential on both ends of the floor on Thursday night, but both big men received minimal offensive touches thanks in-part to shot-happy guards.

— Speaking of shot-happy guards, there are plenty of them at the NBPA Top 100 Camp this year. While guards always have a propensity to shoot a high volume of shots in the camp setting, this year’s camp seems to be as bad as ever in terms of some players looking to get theirs each time they get minutes.

— New York native Shamorie Ponds has put up good scoring numbers this week after also being a high-level scorer with the New York Lightning in the Nike EYBL. The lefty guard went for 16 points on 8-for-15 shooting and did much of his damage in transition.

— Class of 2016 power wing Deshawn Corprew went for 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting on Thursday night. Corprew put together a productive spring with Boo Williams and always plays with a high motor every time he sets foot on the floor.

— Udoka Azubuike, a monster of a Class of 2016 prospect, nearly brought down the rim with one powerful two-handed dunk on his way to 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. The big man’s power moves have been tough to stop in the early part of camp.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

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

1 Comment

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

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.