SIGNING DAY: 25 Class of 2016 players you need to know

Harry Giles (AP)
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(The post has been contributed to by Corey Evans, Managing Editor of HoopSeen.com.)

THE STUDS? Here are the ten best players in a class that may be better than 2013

Harry Giles, 6-foot-10 forward: The best player in all of high school basketball, while Giles will sit out his senior year at Oak Hill Academy this winter with a torn ACL, it still doesn’t take away from the immense potential, production, and alpha-dog mentality from the 6-foot-10 forward. Giles recently called Duke his college home and should be a one-and-done type and future lottery draft pick come 2017. (CE)

Josh Jackson, 6-foot-7 wing:  There’s an argument to be made that the native of Detroit is the No. 1 overall prospect in the class and some firmly believe that he is. The 6-foot-7 Jackson is as athletic as it gets on the wing and he’s well-rounded as a defender, rebounder and passer besides being a high-level scorer. Still uncommitted, expect Jackson to be one of the last prospects to make a commitment as he’ll likely sort through who declares for the NBA draft before making his decision. Arizona, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State have been getting the most chatter with Jackson recently. (SP)

De’Aaron Fox, 6-foot-3 point guard: Fox will make his college decision on Thursday evening and all signs point to Kentucky grabbing the 6-foot-3 lefty from Texas. Regardless of where he calls fit, Fox had one of the best senior summers that I can recall and because of it, is an elite, blueblood recruit and a potential one-and-done prospect. An excellent two-way ballplayer, Fox can score it, facilitate, distribute, finish, and defend, all things that make him a top shelf prospect in the 2016 class. (CE)

Jayson Tatum, 6-foot-8 wing: Part of a loaded recruiting class at Duke, Tatum is a smooth and natural wing scorer who can also do a lot of damage as a passer in the pick-and-roll. Adept at drawing a lot of fouls, the 6-foot-8 Tatum has an advanced mid-range game and has improved on straight-line drives this fall. Another potential one-and-done candidate in Duke’s loaded Class of 2016. (SP)

Dennis Smith, 6-foot-3 point guard: Just like Giles where Smith hails from North Carolina and also sitting out his senior year due to a torn ACL, when healthy, there aren’t many more athletic and explosive guys around. He has received Russell Westbrook and Baron Davis comparisons and whichever way you see up, Dennis Smith is a top of the line recruit who will be playing out his college days at NC State. A lethal athlete who has gotten better as a facilitator within the half-court setting, Smith sets the bar at the lead guard spot within the high school realm. (CE)

RELATED: HoopSeen.com’s National Signing Day coverage

Malik Monk, 6-foot-4 guard: Perhaps the most electric scoring guard in all of high school basketball, the uncommitted Monk can put up points in a hurry from anywhere on the floor. Whether its deep 3-pointers or high-flying dunks, Monk is capable of going for 50 points if he heats up. Arkansas and Kentucky are the main schools involved for Monk, the younger brother of former Razorback star wide receiver Marcus Monk. (SP)

Thon Maker, 7-foot-0 center: Polarizing is an easy way to describe the way that many within the basketball industry view Thon Maker over the years. After settling upon remaining within the 2016 class, Maker had quite the summer campaign winning the MVP of the famed NBPA Camp in June and ever since, had matched the production with all that the buzz that the 7-footer has received. Maker competes with unlimited energy levels, has gotten better with his decision-making abilities, and because of it, the Athlete Institute senior big man has seen his numbers on the stat sheet improve vastly; Arizona State, Indiana, St. John’s, and Notre Dame seem to be among the top four for Maker at the current moment. (CE)

Miles Bridges, 6-foot-6 wing: A powerful and versatile wing who can score from all three levels, Bridges gives Michigan State a talented wing to help build around. The lefty can play multiple spots on the floor thanks to his size and skill level and he’s physical enough to be a very good rebounder from the wing as well. (SP)

Lonzo Ball, 6-foot-5 point guard: Has there been a better passer in the past 5-10 years of high school ball than Lonzo Ball? I am not totally sure. His outlet passes rival only Kevin Love and funny as it seems, the 6-foot-6 guard will play out his college days at UCLA, just as well. Not afraid to let it go from deep either, Ball is a very entertaining but productive lead guard who makes other better but can also score the ball via the pull-up jumper and should be an immediate presence as one of the best guards throughout the college realm during the 2016 basketball season. (CE)

Bam Adebayo, 6-foot-9 power forward: One of the top uncommitted forwards left in the Class of 2016, Adebayo formed a ridiculous one-two punch with point guard Dennis Smith on the grassroots circuit this spring. Adebayo could follow his former teammate to N.C. State, but Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Wake Forest are also doing everything they can to get Bam on campus. (SP)

Terrance Ferguson (Getty Images)
Terrance Ferguson (Getty Images)

THE NEXT D’ANGELO RUSSELL? Here are five guys from outside the top ten that have the ability to be a top five NBA Draft pick one day

  • Jonathan Isaac, 6-foot-10 wing: If we are talking about breakouts, no one has gone from a relative unknown and into the picture as a top-10 recruit nationally within the past calendar year than Jon Isaac. The 6-foot-10 forward is the closest thing that we have seen since Kevin Durant due to his slender frame, quality length, and impeccable shooting touch from off the deck. Heading to Florida State, Isaac could be the scoring replacement on the wings if Xavier Rathan-Mayes and/or Dwayne Bacon leave after this upcoming college basketball season. (CE)
  • Terrance Ferguson, 6-foot-6 wing: One of the most naturally gifted players in the Class of 2016, the Alabama commit could win the NBA dunk contest or 3-point contest someday if he maximizes his potential. While Ferguson is known best for his ridiculous mixtapes filled with impossible dunks, he’s also a fluid shooter with deep range. (SP)
  • Marques Bolden, 6-foot-10 center: With great length, a body that should blow up once it hits a college weight room, and an excellent, low-block skillset, there aren’t many more at the 5-spot in the 2016 class that have a better future ahead of them than Marques Bolden. The Texas native can score over either shoulder, is deceptively bouncy around the basket, and when engaged, can put up 20-20 numbers on the stat sheet. There have been mixed reports of when Bolden will commit but it looks like things are down to the likes of Kansas, Alabama, Kentucky, and Duke, with the Jayhawks and Tide as the favorites heading into the winter months. (CE)
  • Rawle Alkins, 6-foot-4 shooting guard: As one of the best players to come from New York City in recent memory, Alkins carries a big reputation and a big game to match. The scoring guard gets it done in a number of different ways as he can attack the basket or knock down jumpers. Alkins recently moved to North Carolina to play his senior year of high school and he’s taken multiple visits to N.C. State and North Carolina. St. John’s and head coach Chris Mullin are hoping Alkins comes back to New York. (SP)
  • Markelle Fultz, 6-foot-4 guard: From a jayvee performer and now a McDonald’s All-American shoe-in within a matter of 16 months, Markelle Fultz took the country by storm and has yet to stop improving. More of a scorer from off the bounce with progressing athleticism at the basket, the DeMatha standout has now taken on the task of becoming a lead guard who can score it and pass it. Headed to Washington next year, a quality coup and steal for the Huskies, Fultz might have the best shot at being the next D’Angelo Russell out of anyone within the 2016 class. (CE)

THE NEXT BONZIE COLSON? They may not be Burger Boys, but here are five players that may play a major role in March as freshman

  • Bruce Brown, 6-foot-3 guard: A tough and capable guard with a lot of experience, Brown is physical enough to be able to compete from the moment he sets foot on campus. Indiana, Miami and Xavier have already hosted Brown for official visits while he’s also scheduled to check out Purdue. There is some speculation that Brown could end his recruitment during signing week, but he could wait until the spring as well. (SP)
  • James Banks, 6-foot-10 center: The task is a bit of a daunting one for Shaka Smart and his coaching staff this recruiting cycle as they may have to replace possibly four big men within the interior in the 2016 class. With just one in the hopper in the frontcourt, James Banks is definitely a good start and the opportunity ahead of him in Austin is there for the taking. A quickly improving big man with the ideal tangibles already at hand, the Peach State native can score from 15-feet and in, cleans his area on the glass, and is a fine rim protector who should fit in from the day one under Smart’s  newly established culture and system at UT. (CE)
  • Braxton Key, 6-foot-7 wing: Five-star guard Terrance Ferguson is the centerpiece of Alabama head coach Avery Johnson’s recruiting efforts, but the 6-foot-7 Key gives the Crimson Tide a versatile wing who can score, pass and rebound. As part of a talented perimeter trio in Alabama’s Class of 2016, Key could be counted on to do a lot of the little things among that group. (SP)
  • Tony Carr, 6-foot-5 guard: While Penn State basketball hasn’t been at the forefront of many national rankings, Pat Chambers has had success with his lead guards in past years. With Tone Carr now set on attending PSU next fall, the native of Philadelphia should step right in and lead the Big 10 squad from the get-go. Carr showcases great size and length at the point guard spot, an improving perimeter jumper, and should have solid assets around him that might make the Nittany Lions a darkhorse candidate for some runs in the NCAA Tournament in the years ahead. (CE)
  • Alterique Gilbert, 6-foot-0 guard: The jet-quick point guard can touch the paint nearly any time he wants and head coach Kevin Ollie has to be thrilled that UConn has Gilbert in the fold. Although he’s a tad undersized, Gilbert makes up for it with a solid repertoire of floaters in the lane. If his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent, Gilbert could be an immediate scoring force for the Huskies. (SP)

KEY LATE ADDITIONS? Here are the five best prospects that have yet to decide when or where they’ll be going to school

  • Kobi Simmons, 6-foot-5 guard: One of the more interesting recruitments that we have seen in the 2016 class, Simmons came out a few weeks ago stating that he was down to a final three of Kentucky, UNLV, and Ohio State. However, his father also recently stated that the senior guard would wait until the spring to sign, making his recruitment even more intriguing. Regardless, the 6-foot-5 lead guard oozes with potential, has added some consistency to his perimeter jumper, and continues to improve as a facilitator of his team’s offense in the half-court setting. (CE)
  • Jarrett Allen, 6-foot-10 center: Recruiting in the case of the talented native of Texas has been interesting, as local program Houston tries to go against juggernauts like Kansas and Kentucky. Whoever ends up with Allen is getting a talented post scorer with good length and a high motor. A tremendous rebounder with good hands, Allen is a very good long-term prospect who could make a big impact in college. (SP)
  • Dewan Huell, 6-foot-10 forward: Huell is down to the likes of Florida State, Miami, and South Carolina and the 6-foot-9 center should produce wherever he calls fit. He competes with a mean streak and has really improved his face-up game from 15-feet and in. He has the body that should really take off once he hits a college weight room and though he might not be seen in the top-20 of most rankings, he could outperform many others due to his size, motor, and toughness down low. (CE)
  • Udoka Azubuike, 6-foot-11 center: A bruising center who nearly brings down the hoop when he dunks, Azubuike’s power game is incredibly difficult to stop at the high school level. Although he’ll need to work on his scoring moves outside of five feet, once the 270-pound big man establishes low post position, it’s game over for opposing defenses. Azubuike has taken official visits to Florida State, Kansas, N.C. State and North Carolina and many consider the Seminoles the team to beat. (SP)
  • Andrew Jones, 6-foot-5 shooting guardAt this time last year, Jones was primarily being coveted by Louisiana Tech. Now, the 6-foot-3 guard could pick from any school that he might choose where Texas, Baylor, Arizona, and Kansas look to have the best shot at him. The Texas native can play both on and off the ball and sure doesn’t mind contact on the attack to the basket. With a fine motor, good toughness, and an ever-improving skillset in the backcourt, Jones continues to flourish as a well-tracked and prioritized blue chip recruit who won’t sign until the spring. (CE)

(You can read Corey’s work at HoopSeen.com and you can follow him on twitter @CoreyEvans_10)

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

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

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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.