Duke enters another season as reigning NCAA champion

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Don’t call Duke a defending national champion.

For many of these current Blue Devils, there’s nothing to defend – because they had nothing to do with the program’s most recent title.

Their goal – as it always is at Mike Krzyzewski’s perennial powerhouse program – is to hang a banner of their own.

Krzyzewski expects “there will be a little bit more of a learning curve with regard to this group” than last year, when freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones played with the poise of veterans from the moment the season began.

Expectations are never low at Duke, which six months ago won the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time since 1991.

Since then, half the scholarship players on that team and its only four double-figure scorers – those three one-and-done freshmen plus senior Quinn Cook – have moved on.

The Blue Devils will have a new look but the same mission – to mesh a talented crew of freshmen with a few experienced returnees quickly and effectively enough to remain near the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last year’s freshmen arrived with ready-made relationships after playing together at various levels.

These newcomers – led by swingman Brandon Ingram, big man Chase Jeter and guards Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard – don’t quite have that familiarity yet.

“Our freshmen are talented … and for the guys coming back, they have to adjust to a different level of expectation,” Krzyzewski said. “They have to play more good minutes in a game, and then they have to play game after game well. … You’ve got to do it all the time.”

Some things to know about Duke’s pursuit of a sixth national championship:

CHANGING STYLES: Krzyzewski expects these Blue Devils to generate most of their scoring from the perimeter – a pretty stark contrast to last year’s team, which revolved around the 6-foot-11 Okafor in the paint. Krzyzewski says this team will be more “opportunistic” in the low post, sticking back offensive rebounds. “This team’s strength is its perimeter scoring,” he said.

SHADES OF GRAYSON: Duke is counting on Grayson Allen to pick up where he left off in April. After barely playing at times, Allen blossomed into the hero of the Final Four, scoring 16 points and coming up with the biggest hustle play of the title-clinching win over Wisconsin. He says there’s “definitely a change in mentality” that comes with his added confidence.

IMPACT FRESHMAN: Krzyzewski expects Ingram to be “all over – he’s that good of a player,” and could see time on the wing and inside. The 6-9 Kinston product is the first Associated Press men’s high school player of the year to choose Duke since Shavlik Randolph in 2002, and is one of two players in the history of the state high school association to win four state titles. With a wingspan that’s 7-foot-3, Ingram has “that versatility, that flexibility (that) puts him in a position to be in almost any lineup.”

THE RETURNERS: The four scholarship players who played last season combined to average 18.7 points and the leading returning scorer is senior forward Amile Jefferson, who averaged 6.1 points.

THE LAST PLUMLEE: The end of an era in Duke basketball is coming – the end of the line for the Plumlee family. Big man Marshall Plumlee is a graduate student entering his final season of eligibility. While older brothers Miles and Mason have played their way into the NBA, Marshall is headed on a different track – he’s joining the Army, and spent a month this summer at a leadership course at Fort Knox. Krzyzewski said, “The growth that he has a leader is showing up here.”

Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.