Izzo would like to see college rules mirror NBA’s more

Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) If Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had his way, college basketball would take a few more pages from the NBA rulebook.

“If I was the czar for the day, I’d try to get every rule like the NBA, personally,” he said Thursday. “I just think that we’d have a better working relationship.”

The NCAA is instituting several rules changes and issued a directive to officials in an effort to speed up the pace of play, create more movement, cut down on stoppages and strike a better balance between offense and defense.

One of the most notable rules changes is the reduction of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30, a move Izzo applauds. He would not mind playing four quarters instead of two halves, although he is not advocating bumping the length of the game from 40 minutes to 48.

He just wants to see more similarities between the NCAA and NBA rules.

“You know, I get disappointed on the committees I’m on,” Izzo said. “I think you always hear, “Well, you don’t want to be like the NBA.” Why not? That’s what the kids want.”

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said he’s not sure that simply copying the NBA rule book is right for the college game, given the talent of the pros, the length of their season and the way rosters are constructed. But he does think there are things the NCAA can learn from the league. He also thinks the college game is better than the pros in some ways.

“What we have to do is find out a way to make the changes that are appropriate with 32 conferences, lots of different styles, lots of different talent level,” Delany said. “I don’t know that just en masse taking the NBA approach and dumping it on the colleges is necessarily the right answer. But I think it is the right answer to look at their game, see how they have made the changes. They have better, more plays at the rim. They have less block/charge. They have less congestion. They’ve taken their hands off the point guard, which I think was a good adjustment.”

TOURNAMENT TIME: Northwestern enters its third season under coach Chris Collins with some promising talent and that same old albatross. The school that hosted the first Final Four still has not played in the NCAA Tournament.

“For me, it’s a matter of when that happens, not if,” Collins said.

The Wildcats won five of their final eight games after dropping 10 in a row to finish 15-17 last season. Six losses during that slide were by single digits, including an overtime defeat at Michigan State.

If Bryant McIntosh builds on a promising freshman season (11.4 points per game) and seniors Tre Demps (12.5 points) and Alex Olah (11.7 points) provide a little more scoring, this just might be the year the Wildcats make it.

BANGED UP: With a long list of injured players, Illinois coach John Groce opted to make light of the situation rather than shed tears.

“I tried to make sure, when I got up out of bed this morning, that I didn’t trip over anything or, you know, tried to remain healthy between the walk from the hotel room down the elevator here to the press conference,” he said.

Illinois added starting guard Kendrick Nunn to the list this week after he injured his left thumb in practice. The junior was expected to see a hand specialist Thursday, and Groce wasn’t sure about the extent of the injury let alone how long he will be out.

Sophomore forward Leron Black had knee surgery earlier this month that is expected to keep him out up to six weeks. Freshman guard Jalen Coleman-Lands is out with a stress fracture but expected back by the Nov. 13 opener against North Florida. Guard Tracy Abrams will miss the season.

HEADING EAST: Media day next year will be held in Washington, as will the 2017 conference tournament.

HE SAID IT: Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig, who figures to get more scoring opportunities this season: “Sometimes when I’m falling asleep, I kind of think of how many opportunities I’m going to have this year. Feeling the pressure a little bit here and there. But it’s going to be good for me. It’s going to be a feeling process of when to kind of take the shots, when to take over.”

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

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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.