2016-17 Mid-Major All-Americans

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Before we get into the meat of this post, let’s hold the annual tradition of laying out our “mid-major disclaimer”, or how we determined who was eligible for this team:

The schools from the Power 5 conferences were excluded, obviously, as well as any program in the Big East, the American, the Atlantic 10 or the Mountain West. The WCC, with the exception of Gonzaga and BYU, were included, as was the Missouri Valley, with the exception of Wichita State. The Zags and the Shockers are top 25 programs nationally paying their head coaches many millions of dollars and recruiting like the big boys. And to me, BYU is still a Mountain West program that was forced to relocate because #football.

This is our plea: Don’t argue the semantics of who we rated as high-major vs. mid-major. That’s not the point of this. The point is to highlight the best players in the country that you’re probably not aware of.

So without further ado …

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MID-MAJOR ALL-AMERICAN FIRST TEAM

ALEC PETERS, VALPARAISO

Alec Peters could have not appeared on this list. He initially declared for the NBA Draft before withdrawing his name. After Bryce Drew left for Vanderbilt, it would have been understandable if Peters elected to enroll in a high-major school as a graduate transfer. But the 6-foot-9 big man decided to stay at Valparaiso for his final year. In many eyes, he’s the best mid-major player in the country this season, ranked the highest by NBC Sports.

A well-rounded forward, Peters averaged 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, shooting better than 44 percent from three (and that percentage was down from his sophomore season). He also led the Crusaders to the NIT championship game.

MIKE DAUM, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

The Summit League race will be one to monitor throughout the winter. The Jackrabbits will be in the mix because of Mike Daum. The 6-foot-9 sophomore, who is certainly on NBA radars like others on this list, averaged averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in his first season in Brookings.

MARCUS EVANS, RICE

The Conference USA Freshman of the Year burst onto the scene last season, averaging 21.4 points and leading the league in steals. Evans will likely be one of the top scorers in the nation, especially if he can improve upon his 30 percent three-point shooting. While he continues to put up the points — and being a pest on the other end of the floor — he could see an increase in assists per game, as he will undoubtedly have the ball in his hands on the majority of the Owls’ possessions.

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KEVIN HERVEY, UT ARLINGTON

Kevin Hervey was a breakout star through 15 games of last season. He was close to averaging double-double, putting up 18.1 points and 9.8 boards. More importantly, the Mavericks were 13-2 and held wins over Memphis and Ohio State while taking Texas to overtime. His season — and subsequently, UT Arlington’s Cinderella hopes — were dashed when he tore his ACL during warmups of a showdown game with league champs Little Rock. He’s still working his way back to healthy, tbut he 6-foot-8 forward is the face of one of the scariest mid-majors in the country, bringing back all five starters from a 24-win team. Texas and Saint Mary’s are on UT Arlington’s non-conference schedule, and should be on upset alert.

EMMETT NAAR, SAINT MARY’S

The latest in a long line of Australians to star for the Gaels, Naar, like Matthew Dellavadova, Patty Mills and Mickey McConnell before him, led one of the best offenses in the country, ranked top-20 in offensive efficiency by kenpom.com. The 6-foot-1 junior was first-team all-West Coast Conference as a sophomore, averaging 14.0 points, 6.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

  • January 14th
  • February 11th

Mark those dates down in your calendar. Emmett Naar going up against Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss will be appointment viewing.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon | Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 19: Makai Mason #11 of the Yale Bulldogs dribbles the ball in the first half against the Duke Blue Devils during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 19, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Yale’s Makai Mason (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

MID-MAJOR ALL-AMERICAN SECOND TEAM

EVAN BRADDS, BELMONT

This time last season, Craig Bradshaw was tabbed as a Mid-Major All-American. However, by season’s end, Evan Bradds was the leading scorer for the Bruins. The 6-foot-7 senior is coming off a breakout junior campaign, posting 17.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He led the nation in field goal percentage, connecting on 72 percent of his attempts. Somehow, he only shot 71 percent from the free throw line. How many players shoot better from the floor than they do from the charity stripe?

TIM KEMPTON, LEHIGH

Entering his senior season, Tim Kempton is poised to win the Patriot League Player of the Year for the third time. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game as a junior. With several guards capable of knocking down shots, teams are forced to pick their poison: double Kempton and give up open looks, or let him go to work on the block. He anchors the Patriot League favorite.

MAKAI MASON, YALE

On the biggest stage, Makai Mason had a breakout performance: dropping 31 points win over Baylor in first round of the NCAA Tournament. Mason did average 16.0 points per game last season, but the reason for Yale’s success was its rebounding. It was among the best in the country. With Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod graduating, Mason is going to need to take over on a nightly basis. After spending the offseason working with the German National Team, Mason should be up for the challenge.

DALLAS MOORE, NORTH FLORIDA

The reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year was highly efficient on offense during his junior campaign. He averaged 19.8 points, dished 6.0 assists (to 1.9 turnovers) and grabbed 4.0 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-1 guard also shot 52 percent from the field and a tick under 40 percent from three. The Ospreys have won 61 games (back-to-back 20-win seasons) and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament during Moore’s career.

JUSTIN ROBINSON, MONMOUTH

Despite several upset wins, Monmouth received more national attention for the four guys at the end of the bench than the five players on the floor. That’s unfortunate because the Hawks, who ended up being snubbed for an at-large bid, were really good. They should be the MAAC favorite again this season, with Justin Robinson leading the way. The diminutive point guard averaged 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists last year.

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17: Chris Flemmings #1 of the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks reacts during the game against the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
UNC Wilmington’s Chris Flemmings (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

MID-MAJOR ALL-AMERICAN THIRD TEAM

ANTONIO CAMPBELL, OHIO

The senior forward averaged 17.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, shooting 56 percent from the field, en route to MAC Player of the Year honors. The 6-foot-9 forward has improved leaps and bounds from his freshman season (3.8 points in 9.6 minutes per game). His improved ability to step out and shoot (37 percent from three last season) only benefits a Saul Phillips’ offense that requires spacing for its screen and rolls.

CHRIS FLEMMINGS, UNC WILMINGTON

Chris Flemmings began his career in Division II. He ended last season as first-team all-CAA guard. Read more on his rise here. He averaged 16.2 points per game, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 31.9 minutes per game. The last time we saw Flemmings he was putting a scare into Duke, dropping 18 points on the Blue Devils in a near upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

WILLIAM LEE, UAB

UAB returns four starters from a 26-win team last season. One of those players poised to make a jump should William Lee. The 6-foot-9 junior was named Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year and earned third-team all-league honors. He was seventh in the nation in blocked shots, posting 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 24.8 minutes per game.

JEREMY MORGAN, NORTHERN IOWA

Northern Iowa, like Saint Mary’s, isn’t far off from joining the other teams in the “mid-major disclaimer” mentioned above. Northern Iowa is a solid program and should be in store for another successful season despite the loss of Paul Jesperson, Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun. That’s because Jeremy Morgan, who averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 40.7 percent from 3-point range, should take a leap as a senior. While it’s certainly an ending Panther fans would like to forget, Morgan showed a glimpse of what he’s capable of in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by scoring 36 points — of 10-of-20 shooting — with 12 boards in a double-overtime loss to Texas A&M.

OMAR PREWITT, WILLIAM & MARY

The 6-foot-7 senior is coming off a junior year where he averaged 17.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for the Tribe. He’s truly hard to matchup with. He’s got great size for a guard at that level, which allows him to get to the bucket — and the free throw line — with regularity. Defenses can back off him either considering that he connected on 36 percent of his threes last season.  Chris Flemmings is the preseason Player of the Year in the CAA, but Omar Prewitt will compete with him for those postseason honors, as William & Mary and UNC Wilmington fight for the top spot in the league.

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.