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Yogi Ferrell gets one more chance to shape his legacy at Indiana

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Yogi Ferrell entered Indiana as the McDonald’s All-American centerpiece of a five-man, all-Indiana recruiting class that was ranked No. 5 in the country. Coming on the heels of a surprise Sweet 16 appearance, this was supposed to be the class that helped bring the Hoosiers back to glory.

An ultra-talented point guard who can score or distribute, Yogi was viewed by some Indiana fans as the next Isiah Thomas. But disappointing results, ugly off-the-court incidents and roster turnover became the trend at Indiana the last few years. After Ferrell spurned the NBA to return for his senior season, he became the only player still at Indiana from the class that was supposed to define the Tom Crean era.

With Crean on the hot seat and a proud Indiana program suffering a Final Four drought since 2002, the pressure is on for a talented Hoosier team to make a big move this season. As the senior point guard, Ferrell knows a lot of that burden falls on him.

“We’re just trying to play better and do what we’re supposed to do and show people what we’re capable of,” Ferrell told NBCSports.com.

“We want to rep our state and put on for the state of Indiana.”

Indiana has seen a lot of new faces during Ferrell’s three seasons on campus. He’s the only senior on the Hoosiers who didn’t transfer into the program.

After some early difficulties during a hellacious rebuild, Crean successfully recruited pieces like Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers seemed to be on the right track after knocking off No. 1 Kentucky during the 2011-12 regular season and making a surprising run to the Sweet 16. Ferrell and his 2012 classmates were lauded as the group that would put Indiana over the hump. Sweet 16 appearances were supposed to be the baseline by which Indiana measured success.

Ferrell and three other members of the 2012 class, small forward Jeremy Hollowell, forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea — both four-star prospects — and center Peter Jurkin were grassroots teammates together with Indiana Elite. At every tournament Indiana Elite played in, flocks of Indiana fans would follow, hoping to see the bright future of Hoosier basketball as four commitments shared the floor in the same starting lineup.

Things began to unravel before that 2012 group could even make it to Bloomington.

Shooting guard Ron Patterson, the fifth member of the class, went to prep school instead of Indiana and eventually ended up at Syracuse. That would be the first of many dominoes to fall around Ferrell the next few years.

Indiana was at one point the No. 1 team in the country and made the Sweet 16 in Ferrell’s freshman season, but Oladipo and Zeller left early for the NBA.

Joining the starting lineup and taking the reigns as a team leader, Ferrell and his teammates endured a disappointing 2013-14 season that saw the Hoosiers barely finish above .500.

More members of the 2012 class fled Bloomington. Hollowell transferred to Georgia State after the season and Jurkin soon followed him out the door.

The exodus at Indiana continued the next spring as Mosquera-Perea was dismissed from the program in May along with sophomore Devin Davis. The Hoosiers — again — found themselves with more roster turnover and Ferrell’s 2012 classmates were all gone.

MORE: Previewing the Big Ten

Through it all, Ferrell has tried to remain focused and be a positive influence in the locker room. He expected to be a senior surrounded by familiar faces from that celebrated recruiting class, but plans changed and he had to adapt to being a different type of leader.

“We’re growing and trying to get our new guys to know our system,” Ferrell said. “The season is right around the corner. We’ve had guys come in and out and the personnel has changed. But I have to help get them ready. I have to be a leader on and off the court.”

Indiana has seen plenty of off-the-court incidents during Ferrell’s tenure with the team and he hasn’t been immune to incident himself. After that disappointing sophomore season, Ferrell was issued a citation with former teammate Stanford Robinson and charged with minor consumption of an alcoholic beverage and possession of a false identification.

Ending up in the headlines for a drinking ticket could have sent Ferrell in a downward spiral and sent him searching for a new home like many of his former teammates. Instead, Ferrell overcame the off-the-court chaos and continued to mature both on and off the court.

“I wouldn’t trade Yogi for any player in the country,” Crean said at Big Ten media day.

A glimmer of hope emerged for Indiana’s future last season as Ferrell became more efficient as a shooter, started setting up teammates for more assists and showed more consistency on the defensive end. The point guard’s breakout season, coupled with new reinforcements, helped lead the Hoosiers back to the NCAA tournament after the disappointing sophomore year with no postseason.

Plenty of perimeter firepower returns around Ferrell this season with James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Troy Williams all coming back. With McDonald’s All-American big man Thomas Bryant entering the starting lineup in the middle, the Hoosiers have top-25 talent — more than enough to make a run in Ferrell’s final season. Crean is sitting squarely on the hot seat and this will be the season at Indiana that could define both the veteran head coach and his senior point guard.

Both Crean and Ferrell have underperformed to the lofty expectations of Indiana fans, but a huge year would erase some of the bad memories.

There is already a noticeable difference in the Hoosiers’ roster this season with the addition of Bryant and former Michigan big man Max Bielfeldt, a graduate transfer senior who should give Indiana more interior depth.

“It’s been nice adding big men who can help us right away,” Ferrell said. “Max being a veteran and Thomas being as talented as he is, those are some high-level guys.”

“We’ve improved on the defensive end. We can get into the ball more [as perimeter defenders] since we have the rim protected.”

As his Indiana career currently stands, Ferrell has put up good numbers and played on some fun teams, but he doesn’t have many important wins to show for it. The only time he’s won a NCAA tournament game was in 2013 during his freshman year when others like Zeller and Oladipo carried the team.

Things didn’t go according to plan for Ferrell during his rocky journey at Indiana, and in a cruel twist of fate, he’s actually come to define the Crean era at Indiana: high expectations, disappointing finishes and off-the-court issues.

But Yogi’s senior year with a talented Indiana team gives him a chance to write his own final chapter. As the driving engine of a Big Ten contender, he gets one more chance to change the way he’ll be remembered in Bloomington.

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.