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Tuesday’s bombshell proves college players have value, and now amateurism must end

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Brian Bowen was not a one-and-done player.

He ranks 19th in 247’s composite top 100 in the Class of 2017. He doesn’t show up on Jonathan Givony’s latest 2018 Mock Draft for ESPN. He’s not Marvin Bagley III. He’s not Michael Porter Jr. He’s not Deandre Ayton or Andrew Wiggins or LeBron James. He’s not on that level.

And Adidas thought that he was worth the $100,000 that it would cost to get him on Louisville’s roster.

Adidas had just invested $160 million into a contract with Louisville. They need Louisville to be good, and to protect that investment, they were willing to throw another hundred grand at a player that would help the Cardinals win games.

Nassir Little, who is thought to be Player-12 in the FBI complaints that were released on Tuesday, was in the middle of a bidding war between Miami and Arizona. Miami, who is sponsored by Adidas, wanted the shoe company to fund $150,000 to the family of the player to get him onto the Coral Gables campus, according to the complaints, but the slush fund that Adidas executive Jim Gatto uses to make those points was running low. He wanted to get the number down to $100,000 or $125,000, a problem considering a “rival apparel company” had already made an offer of $150,000 to get the player to Arizona.

Might the family be willing to wait until 2018, when money won’t be so tight? No, because, according to another Adidas executive, Merl Code, the family may be looking for $200,000 by then.

The four coaches that were arrested got caught accepting bribes from financial advisors and a runner for an agent in exchange for influence on where the future pros on their roster will eventually become clients. The future earning potential of the best in the college ranks is so great that it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for, say, Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person to be paid $91,500 to steer a pair of borderline first round picks to a financial advisor that was working with the FBI.

None of this is out of the norm.

No coach in the country thought that what they were doing was a federal crime. No one expected the FBI to start arresting shoe company executives for operating their business as usual. This is rampant in the college ranks for the simple fact that it’s how business has to get done.

I say all that to say this: The only way to truly eliminate the corruption in college basketball is to legalize the corruption.

Get rid of amateurism. Allow the athletes to profit off of their name and their image and their likeness. Let them sign with an agent. Let them be sponsored by the shoe companies. Let them get paid to sign autographs or have a local restaurant put their face on a billboard. Let a booster use the star point guard to help him sell cars.

It is the only possible way to save the sport of college basketball from collapsing in on itself.

Given what I mentioned earlier, there is no logical way to deny that college basketball players have value that goes beyond the jersey on their back. They have value to the shoe companies because the shoe companies want the programs they quite literally have billions of dollars invested in to be successful, and that is before you consider the potentially massive future profits if a player comes from nowhere to be the next Stephen Curry or Russell Westbrook.

They have value to the head coaches who makes millions of dollars when the players that they have are good enough to help them win games. Why are “recruiters” so important to a coaching staff? Because if you can’t get players, you don’t win titles, and winning titles is what gets you a contract extension, a job in a bigger league, an extra zero on your contract.

They have value to agents and financial advisors because even a small percentage of their future earnings is massive. If all it took was, say, $10,000 a month for two or three years to ensure that you got 4 percent of every dollar that James Harden earns in his career, you do everything you can to find that $10,000 a month.

Denying this exists flies in the face of simple economic principles like supply and demand or capitalism, or the simple fact that humans are greedy and they like money. The reason this black market exists is because of the NCAA’s arcane amateurism rules.

As our Travis Hines put it, when you outlaw something, you create outlaws.

At it’s core, what’s happening here really is simple: Adidas is sponsoring Bowen. Nike and Adidas are competing over whether or not they can sponsor Little. Agents and financial advisors are funneling money to coaches as a go-between to recruit college athletes because they themselves are not actually allowed to recruit the college athletes.

Want to make that go away?

Allow kids like Bowen – whose $100,000 sponsorship from Adidas is peanuts compared to some of the numbers throw around with bigger prospects – to sign with agents. Allow them to hire professionals whose entire purpose in life is to help athletes navigate the always-expanding business side of sports. Allow those agents to negotiate those sponsorship deals while the player is still in college.

That’s not going to totally eliminate the seedy side of recruiting by agents, but nothing ever is, not when there is that much money at stake. And it’s not going to rid the world of middlemen trying to profit off of these kids. It will make some things uncomfortable in a locker room when a star is getting paid six or seven figures and a scrub is asking him to pay for dinner.

But at least the kids will be getting what they’re worth.

And something as simple as a sponsorship won’t ruin the next Brian Bowen’s college experience and, potentially, his basketball career.

What Tuesday exposed is the market at work.

The NCAA needs to finally stop trying to fight it, because they’re never going to win.

High school basketball player collapses, dies at AAU event

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James Hampton, a member of Team United and a senior at Liberty Heights, a private high school in Charlotte, collapsed and died during a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game on Saturday night.

Hampton was 17 years old.

In the second half of a game against Nike Phamily, a Phoenix-based program that is run by the father of Marvin Bagley III, Hampton collapsed to the floor unresponsive. Trainers at the event began CPR on and administered chest compressions. Parademics arrived within 10 minutes, but Hampton could not be revived.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is not the first time that Hampton had an issue. Last spring, at an event in the Washington D.C. area, Hampton collapsed on the court and had to be given CPR.

“He just fell down on the floor,” Team United director Jacoby Davis told the Charlotte Observer. “He had seizures a year ago and I remember (one of the Team United coaches) telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that.”

RIP James Hampton.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.