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Corruption scandal threatens eligibility for college players

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal fraud and bribery scandal shaking college basketball has led to a key question of what will happen to recruits who received money linked to attending certain schools.

It could mean the permanent loss of college eligibility for some players for violating a core NCAA rule prohibiting improper benefits. But there’s also the chance that some ineligible players could go through the NCAA’s reinstatement process and eventually play after sitting out some games.

“Some of them will possibly not play depending on how large the benefits or inducements were,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “Others, it’s going to impact them some, some of them may have to be withheld (from games). But I think overall, they’re going to have that stigma that they were involved in this fraud and corruption scandal.”

The case went public Tuesday, with federal prosecutors announcing that 10 men — including a top Adidas executive and four assistant coaches at power-conference programs — were charged with using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence star athletes’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents.

Prosecutors also said at least three top high school recruits were promised payments of as much as $150,000, using money from Adidas, to attend two universities sponsored by the company. Court papers didn’t name those schools but contained enough details to identify them as Louisville and Miami.

Prosecutors have made it clear that the investigation is ongoing, too, meaning it could widen in scope. And that has Don Jackson, an Alabama-based attorney who has worked on numerous college eligibility cases, saying the case is “going to break new ground.”

Consider: NCAA guidelines for improper benefits violations of at least $700 recommend an athlete sit out at least 30 percent of the season and repay the value to charity as conditions for reinstatement.

“Those rules are out of the window of this case,” Jackson said, “because no one ever envisioned a $100,000 benefit.”

The scandal has led Louisville — already on probation for violations tied to an escort’s allegations that she and other escorts were hired to have sex parties and strip for recruits and players — to put Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave . Pitino wasn’t named in the complaints released by prosecutors.

One of the coaches arrested, Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, was fired Thursday. He is accused of taking $2,000 a month in bribes to funnel athletes to certain agents.

In addition, Louisville interim president Greg Postel said Wednesday that one student-athlete has been informed he will not practice or play for the university until the investigation is resolved. Postel and court documents didn’t name the athlete but the complaint had enough details to make clear investigators were referring to 6-foot-7 freshman Brian Bowen.

The process typically requires a school to declare an athlete ineligible pending an investigation into a concern, then go to the NCAA’s Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. Improper benefits violations of at least $100-$200 can lead to athletes being held out of games, with the suspension growing as the value increases.

Jackson said there are plenty of variables in that process, such as an athlete being unaware a family member took payments, that leave openings for each athlete to salvage his playing eligibility. There’s also the possibility that the NCAA could offer an athlete limited immunity in exchange for full cooperation in its own investigation separate from the federal probe, which could allow him to play college basketball at another school.

“If the student-athlete received money, knew it was a violation and accepted it anyway, it’s more likely that he could be sanctioned in a potentially harsh way,” Jackson said. “And if he lies about it, then he’s going to be charged with … an unethical-conduct charge, which could render him permanently ineligible.”

Buckner said the burden also falls on school compliance staffers to go back and review the recruitment of high-profile prospects who have arrived on campus or any other athletes with connections to the people named in the criminal complaints.

“Now that it’s been nationally publicized, all schools are under notice now,” Buckner said.

“What’s sad is for these young men who are just starting off their journey toward being men, that they’ve been led astray by adults in their lives,” Buckner said. “Whether it be families, their coaches, agents, apparel representatives, anyone that was involved in this alleged corruption and fraud – they’ve led these young men down the wrong path.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter @aaronbeardap

North Carolina gets commitment from four-star 2020 forward

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North Carolina has its first piece in its 2020 recruiting class.

Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6-foot-9 forward, committed to the Tar Heels on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

The Winterville, N.C. native picked Roy Williams’ in-state program over offers from Florida, Georgetown and Virginia, among others, after a second visit to Chapel Hill recently.

“We weren’t expecting it, and it kind of came out of the blue,” his father, Derrick Sharpe, told 247 Sports about the commitment. “He told coach Williams and coach was just really excited about it.”

Sharpe averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore season.

“He’s a very multi-talented player,” Dwayne West, executive director of the Garner Road Bulldogs told the Raleigh News & Observer. “He does several things very well at a high rate. He can obviously score the ball around the basket, has a solid shot and is actually a very good playmaker. Handles the ball very well.”

Sharpe is a four-star, consensus top-75 player in the 2020 class. Williams also has one commit in the 2019 class, top-50 point guard Jeremiah Francis, who, like Sharpe, committed to the Tar Heels the summer before his junior season.

Former Western Michigan basketball player cleared of murder

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Western Michigan basketball player of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student but convicted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge.

The Kalamazoo County jury deliberated two days before returning the verdict for Joeviair Kennedy. He faces a possible life sentence when he’s sentenced July 16.

Nineteen-year-old Jacob Jones was killed near the campus on Dec. 8, 2016.

Co-defendant Jordan Waire of Muskegon was convicted last month of felony murder, armed robbery and weapons charges.

Prosecutors said it was Waire who shot Jones. Kennedy has said they took marijuana and about $25.

Kennedy’s attorney, Eusebio Solis, said his client agreed to the robbery but not the killing.

Kennedy was arrested in 2016 at the start of his second basketball season.

Kansas, Missouri to play alumni game for charity

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Kansas and Missouri are putting their differences aside for charity.

Kareem Rush, a former Missouri Tiger and the brother of Brandon Rush, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is organizing a game called “Rivarly Renewed“, which will pit alumni from Missouri against alumni from KU.

On July 28th, the two teams will face-off in a game where the proceeds will go towards benefitting the Boys and Girls Club as well as Kareem Rush’s “Rush Forward Foundation”.

It’s also a chance for the Tigers and the Jayhawks to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, although they did play a scrimmage prior to the start of last season. There is no lack of hatred between those two fan bases and any chance they get to square off is a good thing.

There should also be some big names involved. According to the Kansas City Star, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden, Kim English, Ricky Paulding and Marcus Denmon are among the players that will be participating.

I love it.

Can we make sure that Bill Self is invited so that he can get convinced to play the Tigers in a non-conference game?

Doppelgangers Grayson Allen, Ted Cruz finally meet

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Ever since Grayson Allen burst onto the national scene during the 2015 Final Four, the former Duke star has been called a Ted Cruz lookalike.

That, frankly, is not exactly a compliment, and it is a comparison that Allen initially bristled at, but now that his college career, Allen seems to be embracing the long-running joke.

We know that because Allen met Cruz this weekend as he helped the senator from Texas beat Jimmy Kimmel in a game of one-on-one:

The actually game won’t be broadcast until Monday night so we won’t know exactly how Cruz won or what Allen did to help, but Cruz did beat Kimmel 11-9.

We will get getting our answers this evening.

2018 NBA Draft: What top ten picks are the most likely to be busts?

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The 2018 NBA Draft is loaded with top-end talent and potential future all-stars.

The fascinating thing about this group in the top ten is that you can make a solid case that most of these guys could become stars.

On the flipside, all of them also have some kind of glaring weakness.

Deandre Ayton is likely going No. 1 overall and there is a healthy contingent of draft analysts and skeptics who point to his lack of defensive presence as a 7-footer.

Some of these same detractors also believe the NBA is continually going smaller — meaning giants like Ayton will get played off the floor by certain small-ball lineups like the Golden State Warriors just did to some teams during another title run.

That’s just one example.

Going down the list of top-ten prospects and you can point to a lot of potential flaws that could lead to downfalls. But here are two top-ten prospects who could wind up being busts.

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

Before his freshman season at Missouri, I thought Michael Porter Jr. was going to put up monster numbers and be a Player of the Year candidate. His top-five status in the 2018 NBA Draft appeared to be safe. After a decorated high school career in which he destroyed most challengers and played well on the international stage with USA Basketball, Porter looked like he could be a jumbo scoring wing at the game’s highest level.

Then the back and hip issues began.

Porter only played in three games during his lone season with the Tigers — including two uninspiring postseason efforts in which he couldn’t get his shot to fall while trying to prove that he was healthy. And now it feels like there are a million questions about MPJ and his health.

During the NBA Draft process, Porter has cancelled and rescheduled pro days, kept medical records private for long lengths of time and given plenty of teams pause as to whether or not he is truly healthy. If Porter’s back and hip stay as a lingering issue then it changes who he is as a basketball player. Already a bit rigid, with hips that aren’t particularly fluid, Porter could have trouble moving laterally in an increasingly quick and nimble league that is only getting smaller.

Porter’s jumper also uses his whole body to elevate. It didn’t look nearly the same during those March games where he tried to gut it out. And Porter has been such a gifted scorer during his high school career that he’s never had to worry about passing or making others around him better.

Some have also questioned Porter’s ego and his ability to be a willing teammate — which are legitimate questions in a league that often sees its stars feud with others and move on to new teams.

Again, if Porter is fully healthy and ready to go, he could be a double-double threat on the wing and a 20-point per game scorer. But if Porter isn’t healthy? Some team is taking a big risk on not only taking an injured player but passing on a talented healthy player who could morph into an all-star.

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TRAE YOUNG

Perhaps the most fascinating prospect in the draft because of his insane range and overall offensive ability, Young is going to be one of the names to watch on draft night.

Some mock drafts feel he’s a top-three talent, or even the best prospect overall because of his new-age ability to pull-up and hit threes from 30 feet away. Others feel like he’s a potential defensive liability who doesn’t necessarily play winning basketball all the time because of his shot selection and high number of turnovers.

While Young could be a monster steal for some team hoping to get the next Steph Curry, those comparisons are also going to be dangerous, while likely following Young the rest of this career.

For Young, it could be all about fit and who winds up taking him.

When Young was in high school, he was at his best when he had elite talent around him. Michael Porter Jr. was the go-to scorer on a MoKan team that won the Nike Peach Jam. Young also looked solid during stretches with USA Basketball when he had tons of weapons around him.

Once teams in the Big 12 figured out his individual offensive tendencies after a hot start last season, they forced him into being a playmaker and the Sooners struggled to win games. Of course, the lack of talent around him doesn’t fall on Young, who didn’t recruit his teammates at Oklahoma. But what happens if Young falls to a dysfunctional franchise like the Orlando Magic? He’ll be expected to be a savior right away with minimal help — while also having to overcome glaring deficiencies like perimeter defense and a high number of turnovers.

And how do you think NBA players are going to react to the task of guarding Young? There’s an old Dream Team story about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen practically fighting so they could defend future Chicago Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc one-on-one during the ’92 Olympics. They had heard about the hype surrounding Kukoc, even though he had never played in an NBA game.

After being a national media darling much of last season, Young is going to get a lot of strong one-on-one defenders who are hungry to slow him down. Game plans will revolve around limiting Young’s touches and ability to launch shots. Teams and veteran players are going to do everything they can to frustrate Young and make life tough.

Young is talented and skilled enough to make all of these questions go away. He’s a unique talent who could very well end up being worthy of all of the hype. But he’s going to need some help reaching his full potential, and some of those things are out of his control.