Cal freshmen stars Brown, Rabb focused on school first

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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Ivan Rabb is so famous around Berkeley and San Francisco’s East Bay that fellow California freshman and top recruit Jaylen Brown is doing his best to take the pressure off.

“This guy, this is young Iv right here,” Brown said with a chuckle before Thursday’s practice. “Oh, it’s great. I kind of played a role for him like, `No pictures, no pictures.’ That’s the role I play for Iv when he’s walking around. It’s cool just seeing that. I’m happy for him.”

That’s how Brown tells it anyway. He figures there are a few times a week when he’s shooing away the crowd around Rabb, noting “it could happen multiple times in one day, sometimes I’m fighting off a group of people.”

Rabb begs to differ.

“I guess,” Rabb said with a sigh. “I think they’re asking both of us for pictures. I don’t know whose side of the story you’re going to take. I would just say, take my side.”

One thing nobody will argue is that these two are the new high-profile faces of the program, nationally ranked recruits landed by second-year Cal coach Cuonzo Martin who will make an immediate impact on the Golden Bears, who are picked to place second in the Pac-12 behind defending champion Arizona. Cal hasn’t won a conference crown since capturing its first title in 50 years in 2009-10.

NBA scouts have been regulars inside Haas Pavilion to watch practice nearly every day, and a couple of scouts showed up at the start of Thursday’s session. Most are there to see the 6-foot-7 Brown, from Marietta, Georgia, and 6-11 Rabb, out of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High.

Yet you’d hardly know Brown and Rabb are freshmen going through the transition to college life and a new level of basketball after all they did in high school and traveling the world with USA Basketball. Both are well-spoken, which they credit to guidance from their families, and unfazed by the hype surrounding the start of their highly anticipated college careers. They held their first interviews since school got underway and practice began, and since the team’s August tour of Australia.

“We understand what’s going around on us. At the end of the day rankings only matter on paper,” Rabb said. “We’re going to take advantage of these academics to become better men in life, too.”

Both players will take on leadership roles right away, and want to be great defenders aside from their high-flying scoring abilities.

“They’re doing a great job. To their advantage probably since these guys were 14 years old, 15 years old, they’ve been in USA Basketball. They’ve been exposed to a lot of things,” Martin said. “They’ve seen it all. They’ve had thousands of cameras in their faces. So they know what that feels like. For those guys it’s just more than anything having a peace of mind to know that I can actually be a student and then an athlete. Both of those guys take a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that people recognize them as students first even though they have a tremendous amount of talent and potential at 18-19 years old.”

Brown chose to come cross-country to Cal to have a balanced experience between athletics and academics. He learned the importance of that at home.

“It definitely is a blessing, I would say, to have parents like I did and grandparents like I did to teach us to understand and to be able to advocate for ourselves,” Brown said. “I appreciate that so much.”

In fact, when Brown was around sixth grade, his grandmother, Diane Varnado, required him and older brother Quenton to write a paper explaining why they wanted an Xbox 360 video game console.

“She made us tell her why we wanted it and what would be the benefit and we came up with some lame excuse like hand-eye coordination,” he recalled.

There are some benefits for Brown being the guy so far from home. Rabb’s mother, Tami, helps the young men with their laundry and delivers nice dinners to campus such as a memorable seafood pasta. Rabb is only about 20 minutes from home.

“I’m really comfortable but I didn’t realize how different Berkeley was from Oakland `til I got here,” Rabb said. “I feel like I’m at home but at the same time there’s a big difference.”

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.