Western Kentucky hires Rick Stansbury as men’s hoop coach

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) Rick Stansbury wants to take Western Kentucky basketball to the next level.

The Hilltoppers Monday afternoon put their men’s basketball program in the hands of the veteran college coach, who has spent the last couple of seasons as an assistant at Texas A&M after more than two decades at Mississippi State.

I’m not here to rebuild or change the culture,” Stansbury said during a news conference. “We have a winning culture here.”

Stansbury, 56, had spent the past two seasons as associate head coach to Billy Kennedy with the Aggies, who shared the Southeastern Conference regular season championship with Kentucky. Before that Stansbury spent 22 years at Mississippi State, including his final 14 as head coach, when he went 293-166.

Under Stansbury, the Bulldogs won one SEC regular season title, two tournament titles and made six NCAA Tournament appearances before he retired in March 2012.

The Battletown, Kentucky, native replaces Ray Harper, who resigned on March 17 after going 89-64 with two automatic NCAA Tournament appearances in four-plus seasons with the Hilltoppers.

Stansbury has roots in the Bluegrass State along with ties to WKU.

His great uncle, Edgar B. Stansbury, is in the school’s Hall of Fame after playing three sports there and serving as assistant football coach and AD.

The younger Stansbury graduated from Meade County High School and Campbellsville University, where he was a student assistant in 1981-82. He was also a graduate assistant at Cumberland in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and an assistant coach at Austin Peay in Tennessee.

WKU President Gary Ransdell cited Stansbury’s appreciation of the program’s tradition and added that he “has lived it and is returning to his home state with a strong resolve to resume our rightful place at the top of the NCAA in men’s basketball.”

Stansbury spent eight years under Richard Williams at MSU before taking over in 1999 and becoming the program’s winningest coach. During his long stay in Starkville he guided the Bulldogs to 11 postseason appearances and was The Associated Press’ SEC Coach of the Year in 2004.

Stansbury takes over a Hilltoppers program that won two Sun Belt Conference titles and made two NCAA Tournament appearances under Harper before joining Conference USA last year. But WKU has also drawn attention after the March 17 suspensions of WKU guards Frederick Edmond, Marlon Hunter and Chris McNeal and the coach’s subsequent resignation hours later.

Edmond, Hunter and McNeal were suspended after a disciplinary hearing for an undisclosed violation. The school has cited federal privacy law in not releasing any information or commenting on the discipline. However, all three remain enrolled at WKU.

Edmond, a junior, was WKU’s third-leading scorer last season, averaging 12.2 points in 33 games with 27 starts. Freshman McNeil averaged 5.6 points and nearly four rebounds per contest, while Hunter scored 4.3 per outing in his first season.

The Hilltoppers have Tennessee transfers Willie Carmichael and Jabari McGhee available next season.

Stansbury plans to tout the school’s tradition and attract in-state players to the program.

“There’s no reason why players in this state have to go anywhere else to get a good education and compete for championships,” Stansbury said. “This will be the best place and the right place for that kid. … He doesn’t have to go across these borders to do that anymore.”

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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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.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.