Five observations from the Pangos All-American Camp

Scott Kurtz
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NORWALK, Ca. — The Pangos All-American Camp is one of the most fun events in grassroots basketball because of its old-school approach to certain things. The camp brings together tons of national prospects — regardless of shoe-company affiliation — and the event is littered with a lot of fun head-to-head matchups.

Always coming the weekend after Memorial Day, the 14th annual Pangos All-American Camp had the most talent the event has ever seen as more than a dozen five-star prospects took the floor for a lot of run-and-gun camp basketball. As most camps tend to go, the ball isn’t exactly crisp at times, but it’s still a nice indicator of where a lot of players stand heading into July.

1. DeAndre Ayton is great but what kind of player will he turn into?

DeAndre Ayton has the tools to be an elite, elite center. Like, we’re talking once or twice in a decade type of athleticism out of a player his size. Just watch this tip slam from Pangos on Friday night and you’ll see what I mean.

The 7-foot Ayton has the kind of quick lift off the floor you seldom see in a big man, but there are some questions as to what type of player he will be (or wants to be) at the next level. Ayton has publicly stated that he wants to try to play a bit on the wing before, but that doesn’t seem realistic given his athletic gifts for his size. No coach is going to let a dude that big and athletic not play near the basket for a good chunk of time.

There are also some questions about Ayton’s ability to protect the rim at an elite level.

Ayton hasn’t shown much interest in being a shot blocker. He’s the type of big man who will happily switch onto a smaller perimeter player (and he usually can with his lateral quickness), but he’s not one for absorbing blows at the rim and re-directing shots as some sort of menacing rim protector. With the way basketball is beginning to embrace switching one through five on defense, Ayton could be some sort of defensive freak who can stay with a lot of guys on the perimeter, but that would also depend on a coach using that style of play and having the right personnel around Ayton to make that possible.

Either way, Ayton’s continued development is going to be a ton of fun to watch. He’s currently the No. 1 player in a very solid class and he’ll definitely be pushed for that spot if he wants to hold onto it.

2. Michael Porter Jr. continues to get better (and push for No. 1)

One of the Class of 2017 prospects sitting right behind Ayton in the national rankings is Michael Porter Jr., a jumbo wing with an ever-improving all-around game.

The 6-foot-9 Porter can score from multiple levels of the floor with a smooth jumper and he’s also improved his toughness over the years to become an effective rebounder in traffic. Porter was the only player in the Nike EYBL this spring to finish in the top five in both points and rebounds per game.

If Porter continues that kind of production and shows that his perimeter skill is getting more consistent, then he’ll push for the top spot in the 2017 class because it’s so difficult to find wings with his size, skill level and athleticism.

With Michael Porter Sr. taking a men’s assistant coaching spot on Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington the writing on the wall would appear that Porter Jr. is going to eventually be a Husky. If Washington gets that one done, you’d have to argue that they’re adapting to the one-and-done culture as well as any program in the country with their last few recruiting classes.

3. Trevon Duval is a consistent jumper away from being impossible to cover

In the Class of 2017, 6-foot-3 point guard Trevon Duval has firmly established himself as the leader when it comes to point guards. With freakish athleticism and ridiculous ball-handling ability, Duval is the type of guard who gets anywhere he wants on the floor whenever he wants. Duval is impossible to keep out of the lane and he’s a contortionist at the rim if he needs to finish in traffic.

Because he has the ball on a string, Duval can make dribble moves others only pull off in 2K and he’s able to rifle some absurd one-handed passes with either hand off of those moves.

The next step for Duval is a consistent jumper. Duval’s jumper is workable and it will go down at times, but there are also stretches where he can go cold. My theory is that he’s still understanding the pure speed of his game, and once things slow down for him, then pull-up jumpers will become easier for him. A lot of Duval’s jumpers are usually taken when he’s on the move, so if he can get more consistent and score off jumpers while stopping on a dime, then it’s going to be impossible to guard him with only one player.

4. The Class of 2019 has some promising players led by Charles Bassey

One of the nice things about the Pangos All-American Camp is that it’s a chance for a lot of younger prospects to play against older competition and get their feet wet on the national stage.

The class of soon-to-be sophomores already has some very strong prospects, led at the top by big man Charles Bassey. Originally from Nigeria and playing his high school ball in San Antonio, Bassey is pushing 6-foot-10 and moves well for a young big man.

And his skill level is very intriguing.

Because he owns a great set of hands, Bassey can corral passes that other big men can’t catch and he also showed some strong court awareness on some difficult touch passes. When DeAndre Ayton went head-to-head against Bassey in a Saturday morning game, the young big man didn’t back down one bit from facing potentially the top player in the country. There is still a ton of time left for this group, but Bassey appears to be a serious contender for the No. 1 spot in a few years if he continues to develop.

Some other promising Class of 2019 prospects at Pangos included 6-foot-2 point guard Cole Anthony (the son of Greg Anthony) and 6-foot-5 shooting guard Cassius Stanley. Both Anthony and Stanley already play above the rim and show the kind of skill and athleticism that could make them five-star prospects with continued development.

5. Events like this are still important

One of the great things about the Pangos All-American Camp is that it brings players together who don’t normally play against each other on the grassroots circuit. With players from adidas, Under Armour, Nike and independent teams, it makes for some awesome head-to-head matchups.

And camp founder Dinos Trigonis makes sure to give the people what they want in terms of marquee head-to-head matchups.

Elite point guards like Trevon Duval, Jaylen Hands, Quade Green and Trae Young got to play against each other. Five-star shooting guards Hamidou Diallo and Gary Trent Jr. matched up for one game. Although they don’t play the same position, one game had DeAndre Ayton’s team playing Michael Porter’s squad. Porter also got to face another talented five-star forward in Billy Preston. It seemed like every session of play had monster matchups that were fun to gauge in terms of where certain guys stack up with other elite prospects.

Obviously, in a camp like this, the games can devolve into street-ball like atmospheres but most of the five-star guys embraced the opportunity to play other top players. There are a lot of very competitive guys in the Class of 2017 and that’s never a bad thing.

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.