Braxton Beverly, Evan Battey and Jalen Hayes are proof NCAA has no business determining academic ability

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The NCAA cannot get out of their own way.

Just seven days after N.C. State formally appealed the NCAA’s initial ruling on Braxton Beverly’s eligibility and two weeks after the association announced that they have no grounds to punish North Carolina for decades of academic fraud that helped keep national title-winning players eligible, the Wolfpack were informed that there was going to be no change in the eligibility status of their freshman point guard.

Beverly will not be playing for the Wolfpack this season.

If you haven’t been following along with this story, buckle up. You’re about to get angry.

Beverly is a three-star recruit from Kentucky that originally committed to, signed with and enrolled at Ohio State while Thad Matta was the head coach. He went as far as to take summer classes at the school, enrolling in May, a good two months after Ohio State’s athletic director had given Matta a vote of confidence.

That vote of confidence lasted three months. In early June, a couple of weeks after Beverly had enrolled in summer courses under the impression that he would be playing for Matta, the old coach was out and, by the end of that week, new head coach Chris Holtmann was hired.

But Beverly wasn’t recruited by Holtmann. He didn’t have a relationship with that staff, not the kind of relationship he had with N.C. State’s staff, so he left the school at the end of June – about two months before the start of the fall semester of his freshman year – and made his way to Raleigh.

Generally speaking, when there is a coaching change in a program, the players that had signed with the previous staff are granted a release by the new staff. It’s how things work at the college level. No matter how much the NCAA wants to bury their head in the sand and ignore the obvious, basketball players are committing to basketball coaches, not to the school. When there is that change, the right thing to do is to let those players move on. It’s what VCU did with LaVar Batts, who reconsidered his commitment after Will Wade left for LSU, getting a release and ending up at N.C. State. And it’s what N.C. State did with Thomas Allen, who reopened his recruitment when Mark Gottfried was fired and eventually signed with Nebraska.

And that’s what Ohio State did with Beverly. They gave him a release. They even supported his appeal with the NCAA. But since Matta’s firing happened in June, after Beverly had already started taking classes and working towards his degree but before he start of his freshman year, he was considered a transfer.

One year in residence.

No questions asked.

“This is a situation where adults failed a young man, and he’s the one paying the price,” head coach Kevin Keatts said.

If that one is bad, this one will infuriate you.

Evan Battey is a freshman with Colorado. When he was a 13-year old freshman in high school, the Southern California native dealt with what head coach Tad Boyle described as “personal and family issues” that sent his grades off a cliff. He failed his freshman year, repeated the grade and, in the four years since, has turned himself into a model student, quite possibly the most academically sound player on the Colorado roster.

But he will not be playing basketball as a freshman with the Buffaloes just like he was not able to play basketball as a senior in high school. You see, when Battey was failing as a freshman, his mother – who, by the way, is an aerospace engineer and probably knows a thing or two about academia – pulled him off the team, a source told NBC Sports. You don’t get five years of high school ball in California, but Battey didn’t transfer to a prep school for his final year. He finished up at Villa Park as a player/coach and earned Orange County Athletic Directors Association with its Athlete of Character Award.

That sounds like a pretty impressive young man, but since he couldn’t mentally handle being a 13-year old freshman in high school at the same time that his family was going through their own problems, the NCAA has forced him to take an academic redshirt.

“It’s a little bit ironic to me with all the things that are going on in college basketball,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said last week. “North Carolina academic scandal, they lawyer up and fight the NCAA for two years, and they win on a technicality. They get off scot-free. There’s an FBI investigation going on. There’s four assistant coaches that have been arrested by the FBI. As of today, nothing has happened to those four schools. No ramifications for those sorts of things.”

“But you have a kid who struggled a little bit when he was 13 years old in the classroom due to a lot of personal and family issues he was dealing with at the time, and he gets stuck sitting out this year.”

And what about Jalen Hayes?

A 6-foot-7 senior that averaged 15.9 points and 8.0 boards last season, Hayes will not be allowed to compete for the first semester this season. He earned a 2.5 grade in a class within his major last year, and Hayes’ major just so happens to require a 2.8 grade in order to get credit. That meant that Hayes fell under the NCAA’s minimum requirement for credit hours. He’s ineligible in the NCAA’s eyes for “failed to make satisfactory progress toward a degree” despite the fact that – get this – he’s on track to graduate a semester early with a 2.9 GPA.

I’m not allowed to curse in this space, otherwise I would be here.

Profusely.

This is the way that it works for the NCAA on the academic side.

They do not have the power to punish North Carolina for years and years and years of academic fraud because the school made the simple argument that the fake classes weren’t actually fake and the NCAA has ceded the ability to determine what is and isn’t academic fraud to the universities.

On the other side of things, three kids who are quiet clearly the embodiment “student-athlete” that the NCAA should be using as their posterboys – Take summer school classes! Graduate early! Failing freshman year doesn’t mean you can’t turn your life around! – and instead force them to sit out games even after appeal.

And if that is the case, it is time for the NCAA to get out of the business of determining academic ability.

Because if this is the way that it is going to go, the system is broken beyond repair.

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.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.