Kris Jenkins surprised his brother, Nate Britt, at last night’s regional final

Rob Dauster, NBCSports.com
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PHILADELPHIA — Thanks to the miracles of technology, Nate Britt was able to watch his brother, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins, advance to the Final Four on Saturday night.

The Tar Heels were at a team meal, watching the Wildcats beat No. 1 seed Kansas on a choppy stream on their cell phones.

“Before the meal started, we were watching it in our rooms so we knew it was a close game,” Britt told NBCSports.com. “Once we finished, we had five phones set up, leaning on cups. We had one person that was lagging by two seconds, one was lagging by ten seconds, so everyone was huddled around the one phone that was closest to game speed.”

Kris Jenkins was able to watch his brother, North Carolina’s back-up point guard, reach the Final Four from the front row behind UNC’s bench. And the best part about it? Britt had no idea that Jenkins would be there.

“I looked over in warmups and I only saw my parents,” Britt said. “But I knew my sister was coming so I was like, ‘I don’t see my sister, she has to be here somewhere.’ When we were doing the introductions, the starting five, I saw him sitting there and I was like, ‘Whoa, Kris is here!'”

What else was he supposed to do?

Villanova’s campus is 30 minutes away from the Wells Fargo Center. Was Jenkins really going to sit at home while his brother played an uber ride away?

The story of how these two are connected dates back nearly 12 years. Kris’ mother met the Britts during an AAU tournament in 2004, and the following summer Kris stayed with the Britt family in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as the two were teammates in the D.C. Assault AAU program. But as Jenkins grew older, his grades started to slip and he started running with the wrong crowd in his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, so his mother — Felicia Jenkins, currently an assistant coach for Jackson State’s women’s team — had him move in with the Britts and allowed them legal guardianship.

Jenkins became so close with the Britt family that he continued to live there his senior season his high school, after Nate had transferred out of Gonzaga HS and into prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy.

“It feels like Kris has always been there,” Britt said. “He didn’t move in with me until I was like 12 years old, but when I think about it, it feels like he’s always been a part of our family.”

What made the night all-the-more special is that the two rarely get a chance to see each other play. They have their own practices and their own games while dealing with their own homework assignments and travel issues. The Big East doesn’t have any teams south of D.C., which is a good four hours from Chapel Hill, while the closest that Carolina gets to Philly is a trip to Pittsburgh, which is still nearly five hours away.

Britt was able to get to Brooklyn to see Villanova play over Thanksgiving, but those opportunities are few and far between, the games far less meaningful than a Regional Final.

“It’s amazing,” Jenkins said.

“It was extremely cool he was here for this,” Britt added.

Jenkins also provided some added motivation. More than just the opportunity to potentially compete against each other for a national title, Britt didn’t want to let Jenkins be the only one in the house with a Final Four snapback. They’re brothers, but they’re also competitors. Bragging rights mean everything, whether it’s spades, NBA2K or a trip to Houston for the Final Four.

“I saw him with the hat on, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get one of those hats,'” Britt said.

But here’s the catch: Jenkins wasn’t wearing his Final Four hat. It was just a random black snapback. Bragging rights matter down the road, but on this night, Jenkins didn’t want to step on his brother’s shine.

“This is his night.”

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.