College Basketball’s Best Frontcourts

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The most difficult thing to do when putting together a list of the nation’s best front courts if figuring out who, exactly, belongs listed as a member of the front court. 

Take Miles Bridges, for example. Last season, he played the four for Michigan State, typically lining up alongside Nick Ward on the Michigan State front line.

But given his skill-set and his physical tools, he natural position is probably as a three. Then if you actually go back and watch the film, the role he played was essentially as a scoring guard, a walking mismatch that took bigger defenders out to the perimeter. 

Positionless basketball, by definition, makes identifying positions a nightmare. 

So we worked through a lot of these. Bridges is listed as a member of the front court. Louisville’s Deng Adel is in our back court rankings because, like Arizona’s Rawle Alkins, he’s a natural wing. Kevin Knox is a forward even if he’s going to end up playing some on the wing this season.

So with that in mind, let’s get to our list of the top front courts in the country.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Miles Bridges (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

1. MICHIGAN STATE: Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Jaren Jackson Jr., Gavin Schilling, Kenny Goins, Ben Carter, Xavier Tillman

With a chance for a special season, Michigan State had so many unique things come together to form one of the best frontcourts in recent memory. The return of Miles Bridges for his sophomore season was a major surprise in college basketball as the leading preseason Player of the Year candidate will have to play more at the three this season.

That should be fine for Bridges, who utilizes mismatches wherever thanks to his powerful athleticism. As long as his perimeter jumper is consistent then there should be no issues. Sophomore Nick Ward is also back as the bruising big man isn’t afraid to mix it up with anybody on the interior. Complementing Bridges and Ward should be the five-star freshman Jackson as he can shoot with range while also defending the rim and rebounding at a high level.

And then the Spartans also got lucky with returning depth. After Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter missed last season due to injury, both are back for their senior seasons as they bring a lot of experience. Schilling has already been a starter for Sparty on some great teams while Carter is a graduate transfer from UNLV who provides additional depth. Kenny Goins also got minutes when Michigan State was really depleted last season as he adds to the absurd amount of talent. Even if Michigan State sustains an injury or has a player go through a slump, they’ll have another player to step up and contribute.

2. KENTUCKY: Wenyen Gabriel, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tai Wynyard

This group features an astounding six former five-star prospects and a ton of upside at multiple spots on the floor. Gabriel is the elder statesman of the group as far as experience is concerned as he will need to improve his offense after being inconsistent as a shooter last season.

From there, this will be a group mostly dominated by (surprise, surprise) freshmen. The 6-foot-7 Knox is perhaps Kentucky’s best NBA prospect as he has the athleticism to be a major factor this season. The issue with Knox is that he’ll probably be forced to play at the three when he might be more ideally suited to be a small-ball four in college with his inconsistent perimeter shot.

In fact, shooting is the major issue for this Kentucky frontcourt (and team in general in 2017-18). Richards and Washington are both very good athletes who should be productive close to the hoop, but they won’t provide floor spacing. Other teams will likely try to pack it in against the Wildcats, and SEC teams with deep frontcourts like Texas A&M and Georgia will pose as intriguing matchups in that regard.

Vanderbilt’s health could also be a big factor since he is the best with the ball in his hands among the group. If Vanderbilt plays for Kentucky this season, it’s just adding to a wealth of riches on both ends.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Deandre Ayton (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami

3. ARIZONA: Deandre Ayton, Dusan Ristic, Keanu Pinder, Emmanuel Akot, Ira Lee

Considering that Arizona also has the No. 1 backcourt entering this season and you can see why fans in Tucson are so excited for this season. The big key will be Ayton. It’s pretty safe to assume that Ristic can remain productive and that Pinder will be an energy guy off the bench.

But which version of Ayton will we see? Rated as the No. 1 player in the country for much of his high school career, most of the freshman chatter seems to be centered on Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Duke’s Marvin Bagley when it comes to potential No. 1 picks. If Ayton plays motivated and capable he’ll put his name in that conversation. College basketball hasn’t seen many 7-footers with the athleticism and skill of Ayton. His level of play all depends on his motor and how Ayton reacts when the Wildcat guards freeze him out for possessions at a time to get their own shots.

Akot and Lee are also touted freshmen who could make their way into the rotation. The late addition of the 6-foot-7 Akot was particularly intriguing as he could give the second unit a huge boost with his athleticism and versatility.

4. DUKE: Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier

With two potential lottery picks and another former five-star center, the Blue Devils will be a fascinating group to check out this season. Adding Bagley, a freshman who doubles as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, in August gave the Blue Devils the No. 1 preseason ranking in the eyes of many. Bagley is one of the best prospects coming out of high school in the last decade as he’s a truly elite leaper and athlete to go along with a polished skill level.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Marvin Bagley III (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

Combining Bagley with Carter — another highly-touted top-ten prospect — is going to be the fascinating thing to watch. Neither Bagley nor Carter are known for being able to knock down perimeter jumpers with consistency and Coach K has also been hesitant to allow some of his big men to shoot with range in the past. Carter and Bagley will be able to defend and rebound at a high level but this Duke team’s greatest weakness could be floor spacing and perimeter shooting.

And where does Bolden fall into the equation? Once thought of as a potential lottery pick, Bolden was injured right before his freshman season and found himself in the doghouse much of the year. There was an offseason report of Bolden even transferring that turned out to be false. So how does Bolden feel now that Bagley swooped in and took a lot of his minutes right before school started? Hopefully it motivates Bolden to try to earn back playing time but there is the potential that this backfires and Bolden loses all of his confidence and desire to play.

5. TEXAS A&M: Robert Williams, Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg, Tonny Trocha-Morelos, Isiah Jasey, John Walker

It could be a mistake ranking Texas A&M this low. The combination of Williams, Davis and Hogg has a chance to be the nation’s best starting frontcourts this season because of how the three combine together. Williams is the major NBA prospect thanks to his ridiculous leaping ability. Showing more offensive polish than many knew he had, Williams was a breakout player last season who could emerge as a top-ten pick.

The junior duo of Davis and Hogg have been together since they played for the Texas Titans in the Nike EYBL as their inside-outside combination can be tough to stop. Looking more nimble this summer after getting in even better shape, Davis is still a load to handle for any post defender as he’ll be one of the few big men in college hoops who should command a double team. Hogg has great size on the wing as a shooter but he has to get a bit more efficient to truly reach his ceiling.

Trocha-Morelos also started 27 games and logged heavy minutes last season, as the senior just gives the Aggies even more size to contend with on the interior. Now armed with guards who can do a better job of working the ball inside, Texas A&M has the talent in place to be a major force this season.

6. USC: Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatwright, Nick Rakocevic, Jordan Usher

The Trojans don’t have as much depth as many of the teams on this list but it’s hard to argue with a starting frontcourt that could both leave a year early for the 2018 NBA Draft. Metu was one of college basketball’s breakout players last season as he put together a great campaign on both ends of the floor.

Boatwright wasn’t healthy for all of last season, but his perimeter stroke is a perfect compliment to Metu’s game and the two collectively do a solid job on the glass and defending the interior. If both Boatwright and Metu stay healthy and play the full season together, USC has a very high ceiling for this season thanks to an experienced backcourt that should know how to get these guys the ball.

Depth is the big question mark. Rakocevic was serviceable during his freshman year but he wasn’t more than a role player while Usher is a freshman. Don’t be surprised to also see the Trojans experiment with some small-ball lineups with some bigger wings at the four if foul trouble or injuries arise.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

7. SETON HALL: Angel Delgado, Ismael Sanogo, Michael Nzei

Angel Delgado is the reason the Pirates are this high on the frontcourt list. When one player can single-handedly control the glass while potentially scoring 20 points every night, it’s a pretty big deal. Delgado was overshadowed by Caleb Swanigan’s impressive season at Purdue but the Seton Hall big man was throwing up double-doubles nearly every single game. Delgado also improved enough as a passer out of double teams that he just missed a triple-double in the Big East Tournament last season.

Besides for Delgado, Sanogo and Nzei are serviceable upperclassmen who both started at least 14 games each last season. Sanogo is effective as a second player on the glass if Delgado happens to miss a rebound while Nzei is content being a role player who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

8. CINCINNATI: Gary Clark, Kyle Washington, Tre Scott, Nysier Brooks, Mamadou Diarra

It always seems like Cincinnati gets left out of too many national conversations but this group is definitely worth discussing. Clark is one of the nation’s better frontcourt defenders, a former AAC Defensive Player of the Year who can also be productive on offense. If Clark’s perimeter shooting becomes a bit more consistent then he could be up for a monster senior season.

The addition of Washington last season brought the Bearcats to a whole new level. At 6-foot-9 and with the ability to protect the rim and space the floor with jumpers, Washington was Cincinnati’s second-leading scorer and rebounder last season as he helps immensely on both ends of the floor.

Reserves Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks are both big bodies who earned some run last season while the late signing of  Diarra, a former Washington commit, could also prove beneficial for the Bearcat frontcourt rotation.

9. LOUISVILLE: Raymond Spalding, Anas Mahmoud, Malik Williams, Lance Thomas, Jordan Nwora

The numbers these guys put up won’t jump out at you but not many frontcourts create as many issues on the defensive end as Louisville. Spalding is a maddening player to watch on a nightly basis because you don’t know what to expect from him. Some games, Spalding is the long-and-active defender who seems to be everywhere in a press or a zone. Other games he barely registers a blip on the box score. Offensively, Spalding gets lost in the shuffle way too frequently. But he also has the upside to be a major breakout player if he puts everything together.

At center, Mahmoud is an above average defender and rim protector who also shoots a high percentage. His big problem is that he’s never played heavy minutes and his skinny frame might not be up for banging in the post for extended minutes every game. Thankfully, the Cardinals brought in a five-star center in Malik Williams, who should be able to fill some of Mangok Mathiang’s minutes. Williams is talented enough to space the floor a bit and he moves very well for his size.

Two other talented freshman, Lance Thomas and Jordan Nwora, probably would not have seen a lot of time if Rick Pitino was still coaching but it’s hard to say how new head coach David Padgett will utilize freshmen.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Markis McDuffie (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

10. WICHITA STATE: Markis McDuffie, Shaquille Morris, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Darral Willis Jr., Rauno Nurger

McDuffie’s health will be the main thing to monitor, since he’ll miss time early in the season, but the Shockers have some insane depth coming back. The group admittedly lacks star power with McDuffie out, but the other five players on the list are all seniors who averaged at least 14 minutes per game last season. Not many teams in the country can match that kind of depth and experience in the frontcourt. Wichita State can just wear you down with body after body.  It’s part of the reason why many have pegged the Shockers to hit the ground running in the American.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Reid Travis (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
  • 11. STANFORD: Reid Travis, Michael Humphrey, Josh Sharma, Oscar da Silva, Kezie Okpala, Kodye Pugh: Former McDonald’s All-American Reid Travis is finally living up to the hype after staying healthy as he’s a darkhorse Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate. Humphrey is a rock-solid senior who is productive at times as a scorer while the depth of Sharma can give more some center minutes. If one of the three freshmen of da Silva, Okpala or Pugh can help then this could be a deep unit.
  • 12. GEORGIA: Yante Maten, Derek Ogbeide, Mike Edwards, E’Torrion Wilridge, Pape Diatta, Rayshaun Hammonds: Maten is one of college basketball’s most underappreciated players as he could be an All-American with a big season. Junior rebounding machine Ogbeide also returns and Edwards, Wilridge and Diatta were all solid role players last season. Hammonds, a four-star recruit, might force his way into the rotation as well. This frontcourt is way deeper than people give them credit for.
  • 13. PURDUE: Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas, Jacquil Taylor, Matt Haarms, Aaron Wheeler: The loss of Biggie Swanigan will loom large but the Boilermakers have two productive seniors back in Edwards and Haas. Edwards can do a bit of everything in the frontcourt while the 7-foot-2 Haas remains a matchup nightmare. Taylor needs to stay healthy to crack the rotation while Haarms and Wheeler are freshmen who could contribute.
  • 14. SAINT MARY’S: Jock Landale, Calvin Hermanson, Evan Fitzner, Jordan Hunter, Jock Perry: Do yourself a favor and stay up late to watch this group play. Landale is a joy to watch if you like post production as he’s a threat to hit 20 points and a double-double on any given night. Hermanson and Fitzner both provide valuable floor spacing and solid overall production. If one of the Australian centers in Hunter or Perry can give a boost then less will be asked of Landale.
  • 15. TEXAS: Mohamed Bamba, Dylan Osetkowski, James Banks, Royce Hamm, Jericho Sims: A lot of new faces for the Longhorns up front led by a potential lottery pick in Bamba. Osetkowski steps in from Tulane as he should make a difference right away on both ends while the Longhorns need some of their young bigs to step up. Banks has potential but wasn’t very productive as a freshman while Hamm and Sims were a pair of top-100 prospects that Smart recruited with Bamba.
Mohamed Bamba, Jon Lopez/Nike
  • 16. MINNESOTA: Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Bakary Konate, Michael Hurt, Davonte Fitzgerald: The Gophers return the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in Lynch, a shot-blocking machine, as he leads a strong unit. Murphy is another starter who is an all-Big Ten candidate as he can score and help on the glass a bit. Konate is a reserve center with experience while Hurt could be a floor spacer with added strength. Fitzgerald is the wild card after missing the past two seasons (transfer redshirt followed by injury).
  • 17. VILLANOVA: Omari Spellman, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall, Dylan Painter, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Jermaine Samuels: We were robbed of seeing a talented Villanova team with Spellman last season as the redshirt freshman gives the Wildcats a legitimate post scorer who can draw double teams. Bridges and Paschall are both back to be defensive menaces with their length and ability to move all over. Painter has played enough to know what he’s doing.
  • 18. IOWA: Tyler Cook, Cordell Pemsl, Nicholas Baer, Dom Uhl, Ahmad Wagner, Ryan Kriener, Luka Garza, Jack Nunge: There isn’t one star player on this deep and intriguing unit but Cook has a chance to be a breakout player during his sophomore season. The first five players on this list all played at least 15 minutes per game each last season while Kriener could still crack the rotation as a shooter. Garza and Nunge are a pair of 6-foot-11 freshmen who add size and rebounding.
  • 19. NEVADA: Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Darien Williams, Elijah Foster: The return of Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Jordan Caroline alone was enough to warrant mention for this list but the depth added from transfers Caleb and Cody Martin (N.C. State) and Darien Williams (St. John’s) gives the Wolfpack a big lift. Elijah Foster, previously suspended last season, could also have a big year.
  • 20. OREGON STATE: Tres Tinkle, Drew Eubanks, Gligorije Rakocevic, Ben Kone, Seth Burger: The return of Tres Tinkle is the key to this underrated group. The duo of Tinkle and junior center Drew Eubanks could be among the most productive frontcourts in the country. Rakocevic and Kone have also given solid minutes while Burger adds to the rotation as a graduate transfer from UMass.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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

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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

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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.