2016 July Live Period: 25 names to know this month

(Photo by Jon Lopez)

1. DeAndre Ayton: Everyone should be pretty familiar with Ayton’s name by now, as he’s long been thought to be the best prospect in the class. He’s 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, the kind of athleticism that Amare Stoudamire dreamed of having and good enough touch to hit threes. The question with Ayton, the prospect, is his his motor and whether he loves to play. The question with Ayton, the one-and-done player, is whether or not he’ll be eligible to play in college.

2. Michael Porter Jr.: An intriguing talent whose recruitment has probably already come to an end. A 6-foot-9 small forward, Porter has the physical tools that should endear him to NBA scouts that love versatile players with perimeter skill sets and the ability to defend multiple positions. His father, a former women’s assistant coach at Missouri, recently left to join Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington, where Michael’s brother Jontay is committed.

3. Marvin Bagley III: The Class of 2018 is generally considered to be pretty weak — our own Scott Phillips called it worse than the Class of 2015, which spawned all kinds of “Make American Basketball Great Again” narratives after the NBA Draft — but Bagley is the exception. Not only is he considered far and away the best prospect in the class, there are those that believe he is the best prospect in high school basketball. Period. The 6-foot-10 forward and Arizona native has cut his list to six: Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State.

4. Mohammed Bamba: Bamba, a 6-foot-11 forward that plays his high school ball in Pennsylvania, is probably best known for his wingspan at this point: it’s a ridiculous 7-foot-8. He’ll evoke comparisons to the likes of Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis given his penchant for playing facing-up and the fact that he weighs all of 215 pounds. Duke and Kentucky are both hot on his trail.

5. Hamidou Diallo: Diallo is widely considered the best off-guard in this class. He’s a typical New York City wing: tough, athletic, aggressive and a joy to watch in transition and in space. He needs to develop his handle and extend the range on his jumper, but that will come with time. His upside is why he’ll be able to pick from any college in the country.

6. Kevin Knox: Knox is being targeted by every program in the country that builds around one-and-done players. A 6-foot-8 small forward, he’s the kind of smooth athlete with a developed offensive game that will have a major impact at whatever program he decides to sign with.

Kevin Knox, Jon Lopez/Nike
Kevin Knox, Jon Lopez/Nike

7. Wendell Carter: Carter, a 6-foot-10, 240 pound power forward that doubles as a top five prospect in the Class of 2017, is one of the most interesting prospects in the class. He skipped an EYBL session during a live period to take part in a class play and values academics enough that the three schools chasing him are Duke, Kentucky and Harvard.

8. Trevon Duval: Duval has slowly climbed his way up the rankings to emerge as the best guard in the Class of 2017 and the best point guard by a good margin. The problem? Duval transferred to API for his junior year, which is the same high school team that Terrance Ferguson played for and the same program that Emmanuel Mudiay was associated with. Duke, Kansas, Arizona, UCLA and Maryland are among the programs pursuing him. But will he be eligible to play for any of them?

9, 10. Quade Green and Trae Young: With Duval’s recruitment expected to be something of a roller coaster, Kentucky and Duke and set their sights on the rest of the point guards in this class. Green, from Philly, and Young, from Oklahoma, are generally considered to be the best of the rest. There’s some added intrigue with Young. A teammate of Michael Porter Jr.’s on the MoKan Elite AAU team, there has been some talk of the two playing together in college.

11-14. Kris Wilkes, Paul Scruggs, Malik Williams and Jaren Jackson
15, 16. Brian Bowen and Jeremiah Tilman: Tom Crean has reached something of a crossroads in his Indiana tenure. He turned a team that looked like it would be a disaster into one of the most popular in Hoosier history, and while he managed to bring back a pair of potential lottery picks in Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby, he lost Yogi Ferrell. It’s not a secret that there is a love-hate — sometimes mostly hate — relationship between the people of Indiana and Crean, and that extends to the coaches and confidantes of some of the best high school players in the state.

There are six players in Indiana in the high school Class of 2017 that are considered elite recruits — Wilkes, Scruggs, Williams and Jackson are all Indiana natives while Bowen and Tilman play for prep powerhouse La Lumiere in Indiana. The question that matters more than anything for the long-term future of Crean’s program is whether or not it is cool for Indiana kids to go to Indiana again. We’ll likely find out with this group.

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell gets a hug from coach Tom Crean, left, after the team's NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Ferrell scored 20 points as Indiana won 81-78 and clinched the Big Ten title. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and coach Tom Crean (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

17. M.J. Walker: Walker is a 6-foot-5 off-guard from Georgia that is probably going to star somewhere in the SEC or the ACC in college. He’ll be doing so on the hardwood, which is notable because Walker was an SEC-caliber recruit on the football field as well.

18. Billy Preston: Another API product, Preston is a powerfully built, 6-foot-8 forward with some perimeter skills and even more question marks about whether or not he’ll ever move into a college dorm room.

19. Brandon McCoy: McCoy is a 7-footer whose defense surpasses his offense at this point, but his athleticism makes his a priority target and a potential top 10 prospect in the class. Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Kansas and Louisville, among many others, all have offered.

20. Gary Trent Jr.: The Shaq of the Mac, Jr., is one of the best scoring guards in the class. His dad was known as a bruiser while Junior is an elite shooter. A product of the same high school that produced Tyus Jones, Trent holds offers from Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.

21. Troy Brown: Brown’s an interesting prospect. He’s a 6-foot-6 small forward, but he’s at his best with the ball in his hands as a passer.

22. Jarred Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt is a versatile, 6-foot-7 player that refers to himself as a point forward. He’s a good passer, a good rebounder and can play — or guard — multiple positions. How dangerous is he as a shooter?

23. P.J. Washington: Washington is an undersized four with the standard game of an undersized four: long arms, soft touch and a developed face-up game.

24. Mitchell Robinson: A 7-footer with the length and athleticism to be an absolute nightmare defensively, Robinson decommitted from Texas A&M after Rick Stansbury left only to commit to Stansbury at Western Kentucky.

25. Collin Sexton: A new-age lead guard, Sexton is a scorer and a slasher that is put in the point guard role because he can handle the ball. He’s a borderline top 25 recruit that could end up being a top 10 prospect by the end of July.

Father Tolton Catholic's Michael Porter, Jr. (1) celebrates after sinking a basket and drawing a foul during the first half of the Missouri Class 3 boys high school championship basketball game against the Barstow Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Michael Porter, Jr. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

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

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

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


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.