Andy Lyons/Getty Images

College Basketball Conference Reset: The Big Ten’s best players and biggest story lines

Leave a comment

College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Big Ten.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

This was a narrow race between Swanigan and Melo Trimble but Swanigan impacts the game in too many ways. Coming off of back-to-back 20-20 games — including 32 points and 20 rebounds in 30 minutes in a win over Norfolk State — Swanigan is averaging 18.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. The sophomore is also putting up ridiculous splits with 59 percent from the floor, 52 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the charity stripe. If there is one gripe about with Swanigan, it’s his high turnover count, but that is nitpicking at this point. When a player returns from the NBA Draft process, you hope they take take a step forward and Swanigan has completely overhauled his game to become one of the country’s best players.

ALL-BIG TEN FIRST TEAM

  • Melo Trimble, Maryland
  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
  • Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Peter Jok, Iowa

RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | Big EastPac-12 | SEC | Big 12

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  1. Wisconsin looks great with this version of Nigel Hayes: Early in the season we saw the junior-year version of Nigel Hayes — the Nigel Hayes that jacked a lot of bad perimeter looks and had a low field goal percentage. Since returning home from the Maui Invitational, Hayes has looked like a complete weapon and Wisconsin looks like the Big Ten favorites. Hayes has shot 59 percent from the floor since Maui and he’s averaging a team-leading 3.4 assists per game for the season. His ability to find teammates from the elbows makes Bronson Koenig more valuable as an off-the-ball floor spacer while Hayes and Ethan Happ can go to work on the interior. The Badgers are dangerous when Hayes plays this way and they’re fun to watch.
  2. Indiana is a legitimate Big Ten contender: We quickly learned on opening night that Indiana was legitimate as we watched the Hoosiers get up and down with Kansas during a thrilling overtime win in Hawaii. The Hoosiers also looked great in a home win over North Carolina and they’re shooting 40 percent from three-point range as a team this season. Indiana had some in-state hiccups with losses at Fort Wayne and against Butler in Indianapolis, but they remain very tough at home and their offensive balance will win them a lot of games in conference play.
  3. Purdue is much better at perimeter shooting: One of the fun wrinkles of Purdue’s attack this season is how much more effective they are shooting from three-point range. It seems like the last few years the Boilers had the interior scorer but didn’t have the shooters around to have a true impact team. This year’s team still has two impact interior players in Swanigan and junior center Isaac Haas but now this group is shooting 41 percent from three-point range. Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline, Vince Edwards and P.J. Thompson have all shot with good reliability from three while freshman Carsen Edwards is streaky enough to get hot from there. Swanigan will step out and hit shots sometimes. If Purdue continues shooting like they have been they have a chance to win the Big Ten.
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26: Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  1. How does Michigan State rebound from a sluggish start?: Things haven’t been easy for the Spartans but the start of Big Ten play should help Tom Izzo’s team. Freshman Miles Bridges should return to action soon and Nick Ward and Cassius Winston have had some strong performances the last five games. If Eron Harris becomes more consistent — or Josh Langford can step up and produce more — the Spartans should have enough to make another NCAA tournament this season.
  2. Outside of Melo Trimble, who steps up for Maryland?: Melo Trimble is having an outstanding junior year and Maryland is 12-1 but is this team really that good? Sure, the Terps have wins over Georgetown, Kansas State and Oklahoma State but all of those came by one point each. Melo needed to play hero to bail Maryland out in another overtime win over Richmond. The Maryland freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — have been solid as Trimble’s main weapons, but will the Maryland veterans be more consistent in conference play? Will those freshmen show up the same in the Big Ten now that some film exists on them?
  3. Can Northwestern make its first ever NCAA tournament?: Northwestern has never made the NCAA tournament. With an 11-2 start and neutral wins over Texas and Dayton and losses on the road at Butler and neutral against Notre Dame, the Wildcats have some respectable results against good competition. They’re also winning even though junior point guard Bryant McIntosh has struggled to make shots so far this season. Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law are both off to great starts, and if McIntosh plays like he’s shown he can the last two seasons, the Wildcats could have a historic season and make its first Big Dance.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: Michigan State started the season with back-to-back losses against Arizona and Kentucky before running into a red-hot Baylor team and having to play Duke on the road. Between the injuries and the inexperienced roster it was a recipe for a tough start and that’s what we’ve seen from the Spartans as they sit at 8-5. But we know Tom Izzo teams always get better as the season rolls on and this team should get healthier soon. Freshman Miles Bridges has been injured and earned the most headlines but freshman big man Nick Ward is showing strong flashes and freshman point guard Cassius Winston should get better.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: Minnesota is off to a 12-1 start on the season but their schedule hasn’t exactly been tough. The Gophers have played only two games away from home. They’re o-1 in true road games with a neutral court win over Vanderbilt. Wins over UT-Arlington and Arkansas could look good later this season but Minnesota doesn’t have a win over a team firmly in the NCAA tournament field yet.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Nebraska has struggled to a 6-6 start as it looks like the Cornhuskers and head coach Tim Miles will miss the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season. After a home loss against Gardner-Webb in front of only a half-full arena (weather did play a factor) this was an alarming quote from Miles: “I never dreamt in five years this is where we would be, losing to Gardner-Webb. We’re not where we should be. The issue is us. It’s us and our mindset.”

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Kentucky Wildcats in the first half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Miles Bridges (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1. Wisconsin: The Badgers are getting great starts from Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig this season and role players like Vitto Brown, Zak Showalter, D’Mitrik Trice and Khalil Iverson have been solid. The Wisconsin offense has become efficient and its defense remains very good.
  • 2. Indiana: Indiana’s high-octane offense makes them one of the most fun teams to watch in college basketball as they’re capable of putting up points in a hurry. James Blackmon has recovered nicely and Thomas Bryant, Robert Johnson and O.G. Anunoby remain major threats.
  • 3. Purdue: This team has a chance to make a special run thanks to the outside shooting to match Swanigan and Haas inside. With eight reliable rotation players and a backcourt that is capable of giving some scoring punch, Purdue is going to be fun to follow these last few months.
  • 4. Michigan State: We’ve gone over how the Spartans have to play well to make the NCAA tournament. The key could be increased minutes for Cassius Winston. Winston is leading the Big Ten is assists — despite only 20 minutes per game — and his recent uptick in offensive production has been important for the offense.
  • 5. Maryland: This Maryland team doesn’t have any marquee wins to speak of and has relied a lot on freshmen to produce outside of Melo Trimble. The Terps need more from veterans like Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley to be a contender.
  • 6. Michigan: The Wolverines don’t have any bad losses and they have enough depth, balance and experience to navigate the league and back into the tournament. Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton have more help this season.
  • 7. Northwestern: More from the bench is going to be necessary for Northwestern to be a Big Ten factor. The Wildcats have some solid role guys like Gavin Skelly and Sanjay Lumpkin but more production outside of those guys could be the difference in making the tournament.

NIT teams

  • 8. Ohio State: It’s hard to tell how good Ohio State is since they haven’t beaten anyone of note. The Buckeyes have minimal depth outside its six double-figure scorers and they shoot only 32 percent from three-point range.
  • 9. Illinois: Six straight wins has Illinois in strong position entering conference play but the start to Big Ten schedule is brutal and this team is inconsistent. Senior Malcolm Hill remains an underrated All-American candidate.
  • 10. Minnesota: Four more wins than all of last season is a great start but the Gophers haven’t beaten a guaranteed NCAA tournament team and a good chunk of the roster has never played a Big Ten schedule.
  • 11. Iowa: The Hawkeyes have responded nicely with wins over Iowa State and Northern Iowa since a four-game losing streak but Peter Jok doesn’t have enough help to make the NCAA tournament.

Autobid or bust

  • 12. Penn State: The Nittany Lions already have home losses to Albany and George Mason so its hard to expect a huge turnaround in Big Ten play. This team has the talent to win some unexpected games but they’re a year away.
  • 13. Rutgers: The 11-2 start is commendable but the Scarlet Knights have played next to nobody and open with three of four on the road in conference play. Forward Deshawn Freeman could be an all-league candidate.
  • 14. Nebraska: Senior Tai Webster is having an outstanding start to his senior season but he needs more help outside of sophomores Glynn Watson and Ed Morrow. The Huskers need to regain its homecourt advantage.

Duke freshman breaks Zion’s vertical jump record

Screengrab via DukeMBB
Leave a comment

Duke freshman Cassius Stanley has some big shoes to fill this season.

The 6-foot-5 California native went viral this week after he broke a program record in the vertical leap that had stood for … exactly one year.

That’s right.

We now have definitive proof that there is a player on the current Duke roster that might end up being a better dunker than the guy on last year’s roster:

LOL.

Yes, of course I’m kidding.

Zion is from another planet.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Cassius Stanley has been known as a freak athlete for years now, and that he’ll find a way to put at least one defender on a poster this season.

Evolution of Matt Painter: Most malleable coach in college basketball

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The second installment of our memorable moments series features Purdue.

The Boilermakers played two of the best games of last year’s tournament, and they exemplified just how malleable Matt Painter’s coaching is, and just how much that matters heading into next season.

RELATED: Looking back at Virginia’s title run

This is recency bias at it’s very finest, I can fully admit that, but I find it very hard to believe that you can find an example of a more heart-wrenching roller coaster ride of emotions than what Purdue fans experienced in Louisville during the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in 2019.

Let’s start with that Sweet 16 game against Tennessee. Purdue blew a 17-point second half lead before Ryan Cline made four straight threes in the final six minutes to put the Boilermakers in a position where a controversial foul sent Carsen Edwards to the free throw line. He made two of three to force overtime, where Purdue pulled away. After putting the Volunteers to bed, Matt Painter’s boys advanced to the Elite Eight to face Virginia, owners of the nation’s best defense, where Edwards went nuts, scoring 24 of his 42 points – and hitting six of his ten threes – in the final 13 minutes before a missed box out and this heads up play from Virginia’s Kihei Clark forced overtime and, eventually, cost the Boilermakers a trip to their first Final Four in 39 years:

My fingernails and voice were gone by the time Tony Bennett and Virginia officially advanced to the Final Four, and all I had on the line was a couple of bets.

(For the record, I took Tennessee in the Sweet 16 and Purdue in the Elite Eight. I lost both bets.)

But beyond my degeneracy, both of these games had something else in common – a Purdue player going absolutely bonkers to close out the game.

Against Tennessee, Cline scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half, hitting four straight threes in a five minute stretch to get the game to the extra period. Cline didn’t even end up as Purdue’s leading scorer on that night. Edwards, who had 29 points and fired up 14 threes, was. Those 29 points came in between back-to-back 42 point outbursts by the 33rd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In total, Edwards found a way to get up 61 threes in four NCAA tournament games. Cline was able to get off 34 threes in four games, and those two stats serve as a pretty fair summation of what Purdue basketball was during the 2018-19 season.

Purdue attempted 977 threes last year. Since 2010, only four high major teams have shot more threes in a single season than Purdue did last year – Villanova in each of the last two seasons, Auburn in 2018-19 and Michigan in 2017-18; the latter played in an NCAA record 41 games that season and averaged 2.5 fewer threes attempted per game than Purdue did this past season. The Boilermakers set a record for the most threes attempted in a Big Ten season with 501.

Edwards and Cline were the two guys that led the way. They took 646 threes combined last year, which is two-thirds of their team total. Edwards led the Big Ten in three-pointers attempted during league play. Cline finished second. Combined, they shot more threes – 327 in total – than Minnesota’s entire team.

And that’s fascinating to me.

Because just four years ago, the Boilermakers finished 12th in the Big Ten in three pointers attempted with just 332 as a team. That season, the first in a four-year stretch where Purdue has been arguably the best program in the Big Ten, 24.8 percent of Purdue’s offense came via post-ups.

For the record, that number is insane.

Oral Roberts finished second nationally in that stat in 2016, finishing with just over 18 percent of their offense coming via post-ups. Since the 2007-08 season – which is as far back as I’m willing to trust Synergy’s data – only three teams have finished the season running more than 21 percent of their through the post: Purdue in 2015-16, Purdue in 2016-17 and Stanford in 2007-08, the final year that the Lopez twins were in Palo Alto.

But there’s more.

This past season, just 7.4 percent of Purdue’s offense came via post-ups. In 2011-12, Robbie Hummel’s final season with the program, that number was just 2.9 percent.

In the span of seven years, Matt Painter went from running a program that played Hummel, a 6-foot-8 small forward, at the five to one that paired Caleb Swanigan with Isaac Haas to one that rode Edwards going full YOLO to within a Mamadi Diakite buzzer-beater of the Final Four.

That is not normal.

And it should tell you all you need to know about the man running things in West Lafayette.


(Getty Images)

Robbie Hummel remembers it like it was yesterday.

It’s early December in 2011, just nine games into his senior season, and Purdue is fresh off of blowing a 19-point second half lead in a loss in Cincinnati to No. 11 Xavier. He’s with the rest of his team in the film room, watching as Painter is going over everything that went wrong on that Saturday in the Cintas Center. When you blow a 19-point lead in less than 11 minutes, a lot went wrong.

Hummel’s not looking forward to it. He scored 17 points, but it took him 21 shots to get there. He didn’t play great, but there is one shot in particular that he’s dreading. He knows it’s going to be in the edit that Painter shows. With more than 20 seconds left on the shot clock, he waves off not one but two different Purdue guards. He squares up Xavier’s Travis Taylor. He goes between his legs, he crosses over, he puts the ball back between his legs, takes one dribble to get into a rhythm and lets loose with a 24-foot three that hits nothing but air.

It’s not even close.

When it shows up on the screen, he knows what’s coming.

“Robbie,” Painter says, without a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “that’s the worst f***ing shot in the history of basketball.”

And Painter is right.

The announcers on the broadcast point out how bad the shot is. His teammates at the time know it’s an awful shot. Watching the clip now, Hummel says it’s “just a horrific possession and shot,” laughing with the benefit of hindsight.

I’m telling you that story because it’s funny. Anyone that knows Painter has a story like that, he’s just that kind of a guy. Maybe one day I’ll share the one I heard about the time Pat Knight hosted him on a recruiting visit at Indiana, but first I’ll need to iron out what’s fact, what’s legend and what is forever off the record. Again, that’s the kind of guy he is.

But it also serves to drive home a point, one that I kept hearing from people is what makes Painter so damn good as a coach: His ability to identify what, specifically, his players can do great, how to put them in a position to take advantage of those skills and – this is the important part – convincing them that they need to fully understand their own scouting report and play within their own abilities.

“Everybody looks at ‘talent,'” Painter told me last month, “but talent is overrated if someone is not going to play within the limits of what they can and cannot do. The more guys embrace that, the more productive they can be.”

And, in turn, the better the team can be.

The story I told you?

It’s the perfect example of this.

As a senior, Hummel was an All-American. As a junior, before suffering a pair of torn ACLs within the span of nine months, he averaged 15.7 points for a team that was one of the five best in America. As a senior two years later, he averaged 16.4 points before becoming a second round pick. He was a damn good college player, one of the best to ever set foot in Mackey Arena.

And that shot?

The worst f***ing shot in the history of basketball?

It looks an awful lot like these, doesn’t it?

Ask guys that have played for Painter about him, and they’ll tell you that he is very much a believer in the idea of confidence. He doesn’t want his players to be thinking when they are on the floor. If they have a chance to make a play or take a shot, he wants them to let it fly without being concerned that they’ll get yanked if they miss. But that comes with the caveat that his guys understand that what is a good shot for them differs from what is a good shot for him.

Edwards was the best in the country at what he did last season. He’ll spend a decade playing in the NBA specifically because of his ability to score, to make tough, deep, contested shots. “He’s got the juice,” Painter said. Likewise, Cline was one of the Big Ten’s very best shooters, and when he gets into the kind of rhythm that he was in against Tennessee, Painter is going to let him go. He has the ability to make those shots.

Hummel, as good as he was, is not a guy you want going 1-on-1 35 feet from the rim and settling for a contested, pull-up three. That’s not his game, but it is a good way to blow a 19-point lead on the road.

Which brings me back to the top.

Those post-ups.

In 2015-16, Purdue laid claim to the biggest and strongest frontline you’re ever going to see. They started 6-foot-9, 250 pound Caleb Swanigan at the four alongside either A.J. Hammons – who stood 7-foot, 250 pounds – or Isaac Haas – who checked in at 7-foot-2, 282 pounds. The following season, after Hammons graduated, Swanigan and Haas started together.

In 2017-18, Purdue ran out a lineup that looked different but played the same. Instead of using lineups predominantly featuring a pair of posts playing together, the Boilermakers put four perimeter players around Haas. That season, “only” 16 percent of their offense came via post-ups, which was sixth nationally.

“We had some really good big guys,” Greg Gary, who ran Purdue’s offense for the last four seasons, said. “That was our advantage. Our guards would get mad because we threw it in so much.”

The advantage for the Boilermakers lay in the fact that they forced the defense into making a decision. There were few, if any, players in the college ranks that were capable of slowing down any of those three Purdue bigs 1-on-1 in the post. If they got the ball where they wanted it, they were going to score. They were probably going to draw a foul. They would get your frontline into all kinds of foul trouble. You had to double, but doing so meant leaving someone that was a very good three-point shooter, because every perimeter player on the Purdue roster in recent seasons was a good three-point shooter.

Over the course of the last four seasons, even with a roster that featured the best post-up play in the country in three of those four seasons, Purdue has shot 36.7 percent, 40.2 percent, 42 percent and 37.4 percent from three. At worst, they were in the 80th percentile nationally from beyond the arc.

There is no better example of this than in 2017-18. That was the best offensive team Painter has ever had. They were the second most efficient offense in the country that season, trailing only national champion Villanova, who set a KenPom era record for efficiency that season. Your choice was either allowing Haas – who shot 61.7 percent from the floor, drew seven fouls per 40 minutes and made better than 75 percent of his free throws – to go 1-on-1, or you double-teamed him by leaving one of Carsen Edwards (40.6% 3PT), Vincent Edwards (39.8% 3PT), Dakota Mathias (46.6% 3PT), Ryan Cline (39.6% 3PT) or P.J. Thompson (44.1% 3PT).

So you tell me.

How do you stop that?

Everything changed this past season.

Matt Haarms took over as the starting center. He may be 7-foot-3, but he is not the post presence of his predecessors. Trevion Williams is going to be good, but he was a 280 pound freshman that just wasn’t ready. What that meant was that the Purdue coaching staff had to figure out something different.


(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Purdue has one of the biggest playbooks in college basketball.

Painter estimates that they have roughly 50 plays, but each one of those plays can be initiated from multiple different looks and they all have counters to the counters that are countering a counter.

“We would get a stapled booklet with all the plays every year during preseason,” Cline said, adding that often times offseason pick-up games would double as playbook study halls, because “if you don’t know the plays, you don’t play.

“There’s so many different play calls, five word sentences where one word changes [the play].”

Edwards used to joke with Gary that the play book “was my toughest class at Purdue.”

As a result, so much of Purdue’s success on the offensive end of the floor comes down to execution and deception. They don’t win off of raw talent. They win because the players excel at doing what the coaching staff asks them to do, and the coaching staff excels at figuring out exactly where they have an edge.

From 2015-2017, the answer was pounding the ball into the paint as much as humanly possible. When every post touch turns into David vs. Goliath, and you have Goliath, you give him the rock.

In 2017-18, it was forcing defenses to choose between guarding Mr. Incredible with one guy or playing 4-on-3 against four of the best shooters you’ll find in the college ranks.

This past season, the coaching staff figured out that there were three things they could build an offense around:

1. Edwards’ speed. He is not only one of the fastest players on any basketball court he steps foot on, he’s an absolute nightmare to chase around screens because he’s small, he’s compact, he can maneuver around screens better than anyone chasing him and he’s capable of rising up and drilling a catch-and-shoot three at top speed, especially when running to his left.

2. Haarms’ mobility. He can really move for a man his size. He can also handle the ball, he thrives in dribble-handoff actions and he has an innate understanding of when he can slip a screen and get a free run at the rim.

3. Cline’s awkward release. He has something of a slingshot motion that he fires from behind his head with a natural fade. That makes it very difficult to contest, especially when he is sprinting around screens to his right. He also proved himself an excellent passer and decision-maker, capable of hitting a big man rolling to the rim.

The result was an offense that, quite literally, turned into Edwards and Cline running circles around the court.

“We just had so much more movement because of not having a low post guy down there,” Gary said. “When you throw it to a guy in the post it gets stagnant. You try to get the big guy as much space as possible. We weren’t going to overpower anybody, so we had to have movement to occupy both sides of the floor.”

Imagine trying to guard this.

Imagine chasing Carsen Edwards off of a triple-screen. Imagine being a center 22 feet from the rim knowing that if you don’t help, Ryan Cline might bang a three in your face, but if you do help, Matt Haarms will slip the screen and find himself all alone in the paint without anyone within 10 feet of him.

And now imagine doing all of that knowing that one word is all it takes to change what action Purdue will be looking for, or that they can run the same thing out of three different looks.

Here’s the perfect example. Purdue ran the same action – a dribble-handoff in the middle of the floor that acts as a double-pindown for a shooter – 10 times in the Tennessee game. Look at how many different options they have, and how many ways they can get into it:

Perhaps the most frustrating part, at least if you are a member of that Purdue coaching staff, is that you’re going back to the drawing board next year.

Edwards is gone. Cline is gone. Gary is gone, too. That’s a huge chunk of their offense, the two guys they built the way they played around, not to mention the guy that was in charge of building it. What’s left is … well, it’s different.

But it’s also familiar.

Of Purdue’s five best players next season, there’s a reasonable argument to make that four of them will be bigs – Haarms, Williams, Aaron Wheeler and Evan Boudreaux – and the fifth will be a guard – Nojel Eastern – that has shot 3-for-13 from three in two years.

Bringing in Jahaad Proctor from High Point, a grad transfer lead guard, will help, and sophomore guards Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter did have their moments last season. Frankly, Painter seems to like what he has in his program, and their new offensive coordinator – Micah Shrewsberry – has already spent time on Purdue’s staff, in between spending time with Brad Stevens at Butler and in Boston.

They’re in good hands.

“There’s a really big sophomore jump with talented guys,” he said, “and we had four freshmen come off the bench that will now be sophomores. I think all four of them will have good years, and Nojel and Matt will be able to expand what they’re doing.

“I think the one think we have to make sure is that we don’t try to make anyone Carsen or Caleb. Allow guys to be the best version of themselves and play through that.”

It’s Painter’s job to figure out what, exactly, “the best version of themselves” is.

Duke lands D.J. Steward, third commitment in the Class of 2020

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Duke landed their third commitment in the Class of 2020 on Wednesday, as Chicago shooting guard D.J. Steward pledged to play his college ball for Coach K.

A high-volume scorer and potent shot-maker, the 6-foot-2 Steward visited Duke over the weekend before committing.

“Me and my family were amazed on our official visit, we loved the principals of Duke, and how united Duke is as a basketball program,” Steward told Rivals.com. “At Duke I will be able to get the best of both worlds; education wise and on the court playing on the biggest stage possible night in and night out.

“I will get to chase my goals and be one step closer to achieving my dream of playing in the NBA. Also I will be able to develop as a person off the court and as a ball player while playing under the most winningest coach in history, Coach K.”

Steward joins five-star forward Jalen Johnson and five-star point guard Jeremy Roach in Duke’s 2020 recruiting class. Johnson is the quintessential small-ball four that we have seen arrive in Durham in recent classes, while Roach appears to be the heir apparent to Tre Jones at the point guard spot. Steward should fit in nicely playing off the ball for the Blue Devils, who can always use some excess shot-making.

Duke is far from done here, as they are in the mix for the likes of Walker Kessler, Ziaire Williams and Henry Coleman.

New York senator the latest to propose bill to abolish amateurism

Johnny Nunez/WireImage
3 Comments

A second state now has legislation in the works that would make it legal for college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness.

Kevin Parker, a New York state senator from Brooklyn, has proposed a bill similar to California’s Fair Pay To Play act, not only giving college athletes the ability to sell their NIL rights but also requiring athletic departments to give a 15 percent share of their annual revenue to the student-athletes. California’s bill, which will go into effect in 2023 if it is signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, would make removing a student-athlete from their scholarship for accepting endorsement money illegal.

“It’s about equity,” Parker told ESPN. “These young people are adding their skill, talent and labor to these universities.

“You don’t need the shortcuts and the end-arounds because now we’re providing some real support for these student-athletes.”

New York joins the growing list of organizations that are pushing back against the NCAA’s rules on amateurism. South Carolina, Maryland, Colorado and Washington have had legislators discuss whether or not to make similar changes to the law, while Congressmen from North Carolina and Connecticut have made pushes at the federal level. Democratic Presidential candidate Anrew Yang has blasted the NCAA over their amateurism rules, while just last week, NBA agents made public the fact that they will be refusing to register for the NCAA’s proposed certification process.

Rick Pitino, Louisville settle lawsuit

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals looks on in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
2 Comments

The University of Louisville and former head coach Rick Pitino have reached a joint agreement to drop their lawsuits against each other.

The two sides “have mutually agreed to dismiss their legal claims against each other, designate his departure as a resignation and move forward,” according to a joint statement that was released by the University and Pitino. Pitino will not be paid any money as a result of this settlement, but he departure will now be classified as a resignation, effective Oct. 3rd, 2017.

Pitino had sued Louisville for somewhere around $40 million.

“For 17 years, Coach Pitino ran a program that combined excellence on the court with a commitment to the program’s student-athletes, their academic achievement, and their futures in and out of basketball,” the state said. “Nevertheless, there were NCAA infractions during his term which led to serious consequences for the university. Although these infractions may not have occurred at Pitino’s direction or with his knowledge, the problems leading to NCAA infractions happened under his leadership. We thank Coach Pitino for his years of service to the University of Louisville basketball program and wish him well.”

“Today I move on to a new chapter in my life,” a statement from Pitino reads. “Against my lawyer’s advice, I’m dropping my lawsuit with ULAA. I am very proud of the many accomplishments my teams achieved at Louisville. I’m so thankful and honored to coach such dedicated athletes. I’m also disappointed in how it ended. But as head coach I am held responsible for the actions of all team members. I still have so much passion for the game and so many goals I want to achieve. From this day forward I start my climb.”