DMVelite 80 recap

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BY ANDREW FEATHER

UPPER MARLBORO, MD. — The third annual DMVelite 80 took place on Saturday, Sept. 5, gathering the top high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia at Henry Wise High School.

Among those in attendance were several nationally-ranked players throughout the classes. Everyone at the one-day showcase was a college-caliber player in their own right, but here are a few of the standouts:

Chyree Walker, Bullis School (Md.) 2017 Wing

Walker put an exclamation point on what has been a huge summer by taking home the DMVelite 80’s Most Valuable Player Award. The 6-foot-5 wing showed off his freakish athleticism with numerous highlight reel dunks, including one to beat the buzzer and win his team the championship trophy. He was very efficient offensively, finishing second among all participants in points per game while shooting 72 percent from the field and going to the free throw line an event-high 19 times. But his dominating performance extended well beyond the offensive side of the ball. He was one of the event’s best defenders, tipping numerous passes and igniting the fast break for his team. It’s easy to see him being a standout in a pressure defense at the next level. Walker holds offers from Central Florida, Georgia Tech, James Madison, Old Dominion, St. Francis (Pa.), Towson, and VCU.

Immanuel Quickley, John Carroll (Md.) 2018 Point Guard

Standing at 6-foot-4 with the ability to play either guard spot, Quickley has some of the highest upside of any prospects at the event, and his feel for the game is incredible for someone heading into his sophomore year. He displayed the ability to get to the rim and create for teammates. Though he didn’t have a great statistical output over the weekend, Quickley’s combination of poise, size and skill showed why many think he will be one of the top lead guards in his class.

Daquan Bracey, St. Frances (Md.) 2016 Point Guard

A pure point guard, Bracey impressed with his ability to lead his team, despite playing with them for less than a day. He brought excitement every time he touched the ball, whether it was setting up teammates with pinpoint passes or getting by defenders with jaw-dropping crossovers. But while he brought the crowd to its feet, he did so while making all the right decisions.

Naji Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.), 2017 Wing

Marshall was absolutely unstoppable when attacking the basket, where he initiated and finished through contact on his way to a team-leading 9.7 points per game. One of the most consistent sights of the weekend was Marshall getting by a defender and finishing above the rim, but he also showed nice touch on his midrange jumper. At 6-foot-5, very long with a motor that’s always running, Marshall was a menace defensively where he harassed the ball-handler and disrupted passing lanes. His performance Saturday was good enough to earn an offer from Virginia Tech, which joins a list that includes Manhattan, Rhode Island, Rutgers and Towson.

Noah Locke, McDonogh (Md.), 2018 Guard

Definitely the best looking sophomore at the event, Locke impressed with his ability to put the ball in the basket from anywhere on the floor. He finished fifth in points while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. Though he’s more of scorer at this point, Locke showed an ability and willingness to get his teammates involved. So far only UNC-Greensboro has pulled the trigger with an offer, but his performance Saturday and over the summer has Locke’s stock soaring.

Ejike Obinna, Virginia Academy 2017 Center

One of the summer’s fastest risers, Obinna defended his reputation as one of the area’s best big men, showing an improved offensive game from earlier this summer. Though he still doesn’t have much of an arsenal in the post, he showed more of a willingness to back down defenders and wasn’t afraid to power through for a dunk traffic. Where Obinna really impressed was on the defensive end, where he used his length well to contest nearly every shot in the paint and clean up the defensive glass. Though he’s still pretty raw and needs to add strength, it’s easy to see Obinna’s tremendous upside.

Luka Garza, Maret (DC) 2017 Center

Another of the area’s top bigs, Garza took total control of the paint in every game he was. He was the event’s best rebounder by far, pulling down nearly two more per game than anyone else there. Garza clogged up the post on the defensive end, finishing among the event leaders in blocks and not allowing opposing players easy access to the hoop. Offensively, he displayed a variety of moves down low and the ability to stretch the defense with his shooting ability. Though not an exceptional athlete, Garza already has the body of a college big man, plays smart and always competes with energy.

Brayden Gault, Battlefield (Va.) 2018 Wing

Another rising sophomore who stood out among older players, Gault was a bastion of efficiency on Saturday. He led the entire event in scoring with 15 points per game, shooting 72 percent from the field. He showed a quick first step when attacking the basket and was able to finish through contact or get to the free throw line. Gault was active and engaged defensively and not afraid to go up against bigger players for rebounds. He wasn’t someone that wowed with any one aspect, but did everything well and was consistent throughout, which you love to see in a young player.

Justin Gorham, Calvert Hall (Md.) 2016 Wing

Gorham, who committed to Towson in August, was a do-it-all player for his team on both ends of the floor. The long 6-foot-7 wing was among the event leaders in points and showcased an ability to score both inside and out with efficiency, shooting 64 percent from the field and 67 percent from three point range. Gorham was very active defensively, denying his man access to the paint and disrupting passing lanes.

Jahlil Jenkins, Virginia Academy 2017 Point Guard

A relatively unknown commodity coming into the summer, Jenkins continued his breakout with another strong performance. He was one of the best pure point guards at the event, showing great command, a tight handle and the ability to find open teammates, leading the event with 5.3 assists per game. Though his first instinct was to set up teammates, Jenkins also displayed a nice scoring touch from outside, shooting 57 percent from beyond the arc. He had a huge impact on the game defensively, where his quickness and athleticism helped him lead the event in steals. So far the 5-foot-10 Jenkins has picked up three offers (Howard, LIU-Brooklyn and St. Peters), but expect that number to increase significantly.

Dajour Dickens, Miller School (Va.) 2017 Center

A 6-foot-11 big with tremendous upside, Dickens was one of the best players there when he played with a mean streak. Sometimes he seemed to shy away from contact, but when he didn’t he showed a polished game down low with a variety of ways he could score around the basket. Also, he displayed nice touch on his midrange jumper for a player of his size. Because of his length, defense was where Dickens was at his best. He seemed to change every shot in the paint and when he went for a rebound he nearly always got it.

Qudus Wahab, Virginia Academy 2019 Center

The lone freshman at this year’s DMVelite 80, Wahab has the potential to be one of the area’s best bigs in 2019. Already standing at 6-foot-11, Wahab is very raw offensively, but that’s to be expected for a player of his age. At Virginia Academy he will play alongside Ejike Obinna (see above) which should toughen him up and help him learn from one of the top post players in the area. While he is definitely more potential than production at this point, Wahab contributed on defense, where his size and athleticism make him a natural, finishing among the event leaders in blocks and rebounds.

Quick Hits

  • 2018 wing Myles Dread of Gonzaga (DC) was one of the best sophomores at the event and should see his recruitment pick up significantly with more playing time at the varsity level.
  • 2016 forward AJ Wilson is a freak athlete who played stingy defense and had a few highlight-reel dunks. He transferred from Montrose Christian to Elev8 Academy (FL) this summer and is choosing between Nevada, Rhode Island and Central Florida, among others.
  • DeMatha (Md.) 2017 guard Ryan Allen is known mostly as a shooter but he showed he could do much more at DMVelite 80, distributing and impressing on the defensive end.
  • National Christian (Md.) 2016 forward Christian Matthews displayed creativity when attacking the rim, scoring in a variety of ways. He should give Georgia Tech immediate scoring relief next year.
  • 2016 Miller School (Va.) wing Ron Alston committed to NJIT at the DMVelite 80.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.