After struggles this week and Allen meltdown, what’s up with Duke?

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Duke is probably just fine. The Blue Devils haven’t lost in over a month, winning 10-straight games. Their highly-touted freshmen – Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Harry Giles – are are healthy. Luke Kennard is in the national player of the year conversation.

But something doesn’t seem totally right with NBC Sports’ top-ranked team.

The Blue Devils have struggled to get by Tennessee State earlier this week and Elon on Wednesday, Giles and Bolden are seeing minimal minutes and, perhaps most concerning, Grayson Allen had yet another tripping incident, this one followed by as intense a meltdown on the bench that I can remember seeing in some time.

First, let’s discuss Allen’s penchant for tripping dudes. It’s truly amazing for a player of his caliber to continue to keep doing stuff like that. It’s almost as if it’s a defense or coping mechanism for him when he’s frustrated.

The first documented instance came last year against Louisville, immediately after he fell to the ground after missing a layup. Then against Florida State, he was even more malicious when he stuck his foot out behind him to slip up Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The latest came when he got called for a foul in a surprisingly competitive game against Elon.

Yet another boneheaded and dangerous move by Allen, who apologized for it after the game, is troublesome, but his seeming inability to deal with the immediate aftermath is what’s really noteworthy here.

I’m not really sure how to process what’s going on here with Allen, who was NBC Sports’ preseason player of the year. Is he upset with himself? Is he mad at the officials? The situation? Something else? Whatever exactly is going on there, it’s a total and complete loss of emotional control in a very public setting.

Maybe Allen knew what was coming for him the next time he checked his phone or opened up his laptop. My twitter mentions were a mess after simply posting the video, I can’t imagine the type of vitriol that was awaiting Allen, and he’s smart enough to know what vilification was coming.

It’s hard not to feel bad for a college kid being the target of so much anger and dislike, but it’s impossible to forget that most – if not all – of this is Allen’s doing by continuing to act on the basketball court in a way everyone knows not to. “Don’t trip people” isn’t a hard concept to understand or execute.

Mike Krzyzewski sat Allen after the play and to start the second half, but later re-inserted him into the game. I’d guess that’s a pretty strong signal Coach K probably may not entertain suspension talk about Allen, but he should. His words after the game suggested that a suspension is far from a given.

“I handle things the way I handle them,” Krzyzewski said, “and I think I’ve handled this correctly, and moving forward I will continue to handle it correctly, and I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do.

“And I’m a teacher and a coach, and I’m responsible for that kid. So I know him better than anybody. So to think that it’s the last thing said about this to him is wrong. Obviously we will do more. Doesn’t mean you have to see it, or anybody else has to see it.”

If a suspension doesn’t come from Krzyzewski, the ACC should step in. Three instances of this type of behavior warrants sitting a player for a game. At this point it’s hard to argue these are incidental instances and as such, there should be repercussions. It might not be a bad thing for Allen to catch his breath, either.

Whatever the state of Allen’s psyche or footwork, the rest of the Blue Devils aren’t without issues, either.

First off, Giles and Bolden are getting limited run despite being cleared to play. Giles played 4 minutes in his debut Monday and 6 against Elon. Are those low numbers a product of Duke being cautious with him after yet another knee surgery after two ACL tears? Is it something else? Bolden has been back from injury for five games, but hasn’t reached double-digit minutes three times, including the 3 minutes he played this night.

For Duke to be as good as we think they can be, Giles and Bolden need to be contributors. The Blue Devils can be extremely good and maybe even great without them, but they may be invincible with them.

It could be it’s just a late December swoon. Between finals and the holidays, attention to detail can certainly wane for any college team, and few are under the microscope Duke is.

“Everybody, they’re not bought in,” Kennard said. “They’re not all the way consumed in winning. Everybody’s not consumed in just being one.”

That microscope magnifies issues that may indeed be small and stay small, but it also reveals blemishes that sometimes grow into more.

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

1 Comment

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

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.