Five Takeaways from Elevate Hoops’ The Showdown

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PHILADELPHIA — I spent the weekend up at Philadelphia University for The Showdown, a tournament hosted by Elevate Hoops that featured some of the best young talent in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The event featured some of the best players in the Class of 2017 and 2018.

Here are five takeaways from the event:

Zach Kent is going to continue to draw high-major attention: Kent, a member of the Class of 2017, did not enter the weekend with much hype, considering he plays in a program — Delaware’s We-R1 — where he may not even be a top five front court player. But the 6-foot-10 Kent was terrific all weekend, stepping out on the perimeter to hit jumpers and taking apart defenses with his ability to pass the ball out of the high post. He’s slender and he needs to be stronger and more physical in the paint, but he’s got a frame that he can add strength to and a bit of a mean streak in his game.

Kent listed offers from La Salle, St. Joseph’s and Dayton but added that he had been getting some interest from Purdue, Notre Dame and Maryland. Given his desire to “play like Frank Kaminsky” — he’s done his homework, saying he liked the rip-throughs and jab-series the reigning National Player of the Year used — it’s not hard to see him collecting offers from top 25 programs by the time his high school career is done.

Andre Rafus is expanding his game: I’ll be honest — the first couple of times that I saw Rafus play, I wasn’t enamored with his game. A 6-foot-7 lefty, he seemed far to eager to stand on the perimeter and fire up contested threes, and while the three-point shot is still a major part of his game, Rafus showed off an expanded arsenal in Philly this weekend. He hit a couple of mid-range pull-ups, he got to the rim and finished over longer defenders with a soft touch and he threw down a couple of thunderous dunks, including one over a defender in transition. He still relies heavily on his left hand, but it’s clear that, when he wants to be, Rafus is more than just a spot-up shooter.

Rafus, who is ranked 59th by Rivals, has been piling up offers from high major programs, whipping out his cell phone and pulling up a list of 17 schools that have offered him, including the likes of UCLA, UConn, Georgetown and UNLV.

Quade Green’s ankle is still bothering him: Green is one of the best point guards in the Class of 2017, but he’s sat out for much of the summer circuit. He didn’t play at NBPA Top 100 camp, his missed a couple of days at Steph Curry’s camp and while he played at Under Armor’s All-America camp in Charlotte, he sat out the tournament this weekend. Back in May, Green suffered a high-ankle sprain, and while it feels good enough to play in stretches, he wanted to make sure he was back to 100 percent for the finals of the Under Armor Association in Atlanta this weekend.

Green was terrific in Charlotte, however, good enough that his No. 46 rankings is expected to move higher. He listed Michigan State, Arizona, Arizona State, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, Syracuse, Temple and Villanova as his offers.

There are a lot of kids to be excited about in the Class of 2018: There was quite a bit of talent on display from the crop of rising sophomores that were in Philly this weekend. The biggest name was Nazreon Reid, a 6-foot-10 power forward from New Jersey who is considered to be a top five player in the class. But he wasn’t even the most impressive player in the Class of 2018 on his Sports U team. That title belonged to Jahvon Quinerly, a smooth, 6-foot point guard that plays for Hudson Catholic. He’s got three-point range, ball-on-a-string handle and the ability to break defenses down off the dribble and in ball-screen actions.

Montez Mathis, a 6-foot-4 wing from Baltimore, was also terrific all weekend long playing up an age group. He’s a powerful penetrator with the ability to finish above the rim, and while he knocked down some perimeter jumpers, it’s clear his shooting stroke needs some work; his shot looks like a knuckle-ball that R.A. Dickey would be jealous of. And Antwan Butler of We-R1 actually played in both the U16 and U15 tournaments, proving to be a commanding point guard despite the wear and tear that much basketball put on his legs.

Get in on Jahlil Jenkins before it’s too late: There may not have been a more surprising star this week than Jenkins, a Class of 2017 point guard from West Virginia that, right now, is probably 5-foot-8 and 110 pounds soaking wet. He was also the toughest kid in Philly this weekend, the kind of competitor that any coach would want leading their team. He’s nightmarishly quick with a terrific handle, making him a terror in the open floor, but he also understands how to run off of ball-screens and control a team in the halfcourt. Jenkins dominated games against U16 competition, but in a game that his team played against older competition, he struggled a bit with the size and athleticism of the older players. Jenkins listed offers from Navy, St. Peter’s and George Mason, but if he manages to grow another inch or two and add some strength to his frame — one coach that saw him in January said he’s already put on 10-15 pounds since the high school season — there’s a chance he ends up being a high-major player.

 

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.