Six Takeaways from the Hoop Seen Best of the South and adidas Uprising

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ATLANTA — To close out the first July live evaluation period, I spent some time at the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale watching the 16U division while also heading to Hoop Seen’s Best of the South, one of the best events in the South for discovering under-the-radar talent. Both events showcased some positive showings from players — and a continual alarming trend from some parents that I’ll briefly discuss.

Michigan State got a good one in Nick Ward

I was already a fan of Michigan State commit Nick Ward entering the July live evaluation period after his spring in the Nike EYBL with All Ohio Red. The 6-foot-9 bruising lefty post player from the Class of 2016 made another big impression at the Best of the South over the weekend. On Saturday, Ward did whatever he wanted on post touches and also did quite a bit of damage on the glass. When All Ohio Red, the eventual champions of Best of the South, fed Ward the ball, it usually resulted in a foul or a bucket and his physical way of playing will fit in nicely with what Tom Izzo wants to do. Ward and shooting guard Josh Langford are a great start to the Spartans’ 2016 recruiting efforts.

Ibi Watson has a breakout weekend

While Ward is the obvious go-to guy for All Ohio Red, it was the play of 6-foot-4 shooting guard Ibi Watson who really emerged this first live period weekend. After finishing second in scoring All Ohio Red during the spring at 12 points per game, Watson exploded for MVP honors at Best of the South and had the attention of plenty of college coaches. He shot the ball well and also did a good job of playing in attack mode. High majors are starting to take Watson more seriously as a prospect and he could get some offers here soon.

Some underrated 2017 guards show high-level ability

The Best of the South was a great event to see some underrated national guards who could emerge as high-major prospects in the next few months. Hoop Seen’s Justin Young told me about Florida native and guard Trent Frazier, a scorer who can also throw some nifty passes as a playmaking guard. Though only about 6-foot-1, Frazier has a good amount of athleticism and he played well and got some attention in this tournament. Chicago native and 6-foot-3 guard Elijah Joiner showed an ability to hit shots and score from all over the floor during a very good weekend. After closing out the high school season with some good performances, Joiner has had a good summer, picking up recent scholarship offers from DePaul and UIC.

Good first glimpse of a few 2018 prospects to watch

Seeing a couple of gifted younger prospects is always a nice bonus of July as some rising sophomores start to play up a level against better competition after the spring. Two Class of 2018 players that stood out were Texas native Gerald Liddell, a 6-foot-7 small forward and Indiana native Romeo Langford, a 6-foot-4 guard. Liddell has an advanced feel as a playmaker on both ends of the floor and he just always seems to get the ball in his hands. Langford made plays as a scorer and has an advanced feel for the game.

Alabama has a lot of 2017 talent

Besides the Alabama Challenge 16U team playing down the road a few hours at Peach Jam — featuring two five-star players in shooting guard John Petty and big man Austin Wiley — a few Class of 2017 prospects played up on the 17U at the Best of the South and had a good showing. Shooting guard Jamal Johnson is generating a ton of SEC and ACC interest as a scoring 6-foot-4 guard who can get his own shot, while 6-foot-9 big man Garrison Brooks also showed flashes of strong play on the interior. Those four players, plus many more talented mid- to low-major players, mean the Challenge could be one of the better groups in the EYBL next year.

Parents can still cost their kids opportunities

One of the ugly parts of July is some parents becoming the center of attention for the way they act on the sidelines. More examples of bad parent behavior occurred throughout the first week of July, including some parents acting so outrageously that they cost their kids opportunities.

“I wouldn’t recruit a kid with a parent like that,” one assistant told after one parent drew a warning from an official. “We have enough distractions in our program, we don’t need to deal with parents constantly getting in the way of things.”

The entitlement of some parents when speaking with coaches and officials is alarming in some cases and college coaches are staying aware of those sorts of things during recruiting.

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.