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Five Takeaways from the Nike EYBL Indianapolis

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WESTFIELD, In. — The second session of the April live evaluation period was busy in the Indianapolis area as both the Nike EYBL and Under Armour Association had events near each other. It meant a lot of the nation’s elite players were all in the same vicinity and I’ve now had a chance to watch good chunks of all three shoe company circuits after checking out the adidas Gauntlet last week in the Dallas area.

I’ll have some takeaways from the Under Armour Association on Tuesday but here are five things I learned from the EYBL this weekend.

1. Missouri should try to get Jontay Porter in immediately¬†— I’ll start with this point since it might have the most immediate impact on the college game. Missouri should be working as hard as possible to get Jontay Porter to enter school this year to help his older brother, Michael Porter Jr.

Jontay has been very good in the Nike EYBL so far this spring as he could really help the Tigers for the 2017-18 season with how much he has improved over 2017.

Jumping from the EYBL to the SEC is a whole different ballgame. But as a Class of 2018 forward who is considering the jump to 2017, Jontay has shown an ability to be a versatile threat and potential double-figure scorer as early as next season. Jontay is currently putting up 18.9 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while shooting 43 percent from three-point range.

Over an eight-game stretch, Porter is top fifteen in the EYBL in scoring and top five rebounding and blocked shots while shooting like that from the perimeter. That’s a potentially solid second or third option that Missouri could use when Michael Jr. doesn’t have a lot of help next season. Many seem to believe that Jontay will play at Missouri for next season and he could have more of an impact than what was initially perceived.

2. Marvin Bagley remains the top player in the Class of 2018

As for the Class of 2018 prospects who seem to be staying in that class, big man Marvin Bagley III remains the No. 1 prospect as he continues to look like the clear No. 1 at this point. The top player in the class since he entered high school, Bagley has lived up the hype in the EYBL so far this spring as he’s been a double-double machine while leading the league in points (26.9 points per game) and rebounds (14.7 per game).

The best rebounder in the class by a wide margin, Bagley displays great timing off the floor and his initial and secondary bounces are both elite because of how quickly he gets off the ground. Bagley can also score in a number of ways, although he has a tendency to take too many three-pointers at certain times when he could be dominating on the interior.

Down to a final six schools that includes Arizona, Duke, Kansas Kentucky, UCLA and USC, Bagley is definitely looking like a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and he’ll have a major impact in a class that is weak with star power.

3. But Bol Bol isn’t very far behind Marvin Bagley in 2018

Since moving to California for his junior season, 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, looks like a changed player.

Looking like the most lethal scorer in Indianapolis during the second session of the EYBL, the Class of 2018 five-star prospect had some breaktaking scoring runs over the weekend. In fact, this weekend made it seem like Bol is potentially the second best player in the class behind Bagley.

Third in the EYBL in scoring at 25.4 points per game, Bol elevated his play to a ridiculous level over four games this weekend.

Averaging 29.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.75 blocks per game, Bol was 45-for-60 (75 percent) from the field, 10-for-14 (71 percent) from three and 19-for-22 (86 percent) from the free-throw line. And his numbers from the weekend before weren’t that much different.

Through eight Nike EYBL games, Bol is averaging over 25 points a game on 66 (FG)/53 (3PT)/86 (FT) splits. And he’s also 7-foot-2 and can impact the game on the glass or protecting the rim. Bol’s perimeter jumper looks jaw-droppingly good at times and he’s one of the best perimeter shooters in the country even though he’s one of the tallest players in his class.

There are still times when Bol can slack a bit on defense and chasing after loose balls, but his overall talent and penchant for scoring are undeniable and he currently looks like the second best player in the country behind Bagley.

4. There is solid depth at point guard in the Class of 2018

The Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of star power and there does look like a healthy number of talented lead guards who should stick around college basketball for a couple of seasons. Between the three shoe company leagues, there is a lot of lead guard talent available for top programs in this class.

The Nike EYBL had a number of guys competing for the honor of top floor general in the class as Tre Jones (Tyus Jones’ younger brother), Javonte Smart and Darius Garland all looked like they could be in that conversation at various times over the weekend.

With Tyus watching him from the front row, Tre Jones had a very good weekend as he continues to be one of the top distributors in the country while also playing with more of an edge than his brother did on defense. Tre doesn’t have the same vision and offensive capabilities as his brother at the same age, but he plays with tremendous poise and has a lot of traits college coaches would love to have.

Smart is a bigger guard who plays with more of a scoring edge but his ability to get to the rim is tough to stop. Also good in the passing lanes, Smart needs to work on his perimeter jumper, but he can also score at the basket more effectively than most of the other point guards in his class.

Garland offers an enticing package of perimeter shooting and playmaking for others. Since the Tennessee native can drop in deep jumpers off the dribble, he keeps defenders honest at all times and forces them to play up on him when he crosses half court.

Along with plenty of others from adidas and Under Armour, it looks like the college ranks will get a healthy amount of quality floor generals in this class. It will be one of the fun storylines of this summer to see which of these guards can separate themselves from the pack.

5. North Carolina off to a solid start in the Class of 2018

The defending national champions are already off to a solid start recruiting this Class of 2018 as the Tar Heels own two commitments from guard Coby White and point forward Leaky Black.

Although both are only considered four-star prospects, in a class that doesn’t have a lot of elite players, both White and Black showed flashes of being better than their rankings might indicate. The 6-foot-4 White looked like a possible high-level scorer at the college level with his ability to knife in traffic and change directions. White is putting up over 20 points per game through eight EYBL games while also showing an ability to handle the ball.

The 6-foot-7 Black is more of the enigma, as he is clearly very talented but he hasn’t quite figured out how to play yet. More of a distributor then scorer, Black looks like he could take over a game but sometimes he plays too passively for his own good. Then, Black will make some sort of ridiculous pass or score on a tough finish and you see why the Tar Heels pursued an early commitment.

It’s hard to say if either of these guys will elevate to five-star status, but having two commitments means that head coach Roy Williams and his staff can spend more time evaluating other Class of 2018 and 2019 prospects who can play with these guys over the next several seasons.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.