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Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech accused of NCAA violations by former friend of the program

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If Josh Pastner has learned anything this week, it’s that he probably should wish his bag man a happy birthday.

Last week, Georgia Tech announced that Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson were going to miss some games as the result of a investigation into roughly $1,300 in improper benefits they were provided. We reported that this was not the result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball, and the Georgia Tech release stated that the person that provided the benefits to the players was not a booster and was not a member of the program.

On Tuesday, we learned exactly what had transpired.

A former friend of Josh Pastner’s named Ron Bell, a man that had known Pastner dating back to his days as an assistant coach at Arizona, had paid for flights, shoes, clothes and put the players up for five days at his house in Arizona. We know this because that man, who is a recovering addict and an ex-convict, spoke to CBS Sports detailing exactly what he provided to the players and to Pastner’s programs over the years. He claims that Pastner provided him money to give to players on Pastner’s Georgia Tech and Memphis teams, and says that Pastner knew precisely what Bell was doing. He also alleged providing benefits to former Memphis Tiger and current Ole Miss guard Markel Crawford.

Here is what Bell said when asked to explain why he decided to turn on Pastner:

He said he feels Pastner has failed to compensate him properly for the “work” he’s done. He said Pastner didn’t call him on his birthday this year, which is something he interpreted as disrespectful. He said he has for a while had a bad relationship with Georgia Tech’s program and operations manager, Ellie Cantkier, and that when the two had a disagreement recently he felt Pastner “took her side.” And Bell also said the FBI scandal that engulfed multiple schools, including his alma mater (Arizona), made him realize he was complicit in something with which he was no longer comfortable.

“I just started to realize [Pastner] is not a friend,” Bell said. “I told him ‘I hold your career in my hands. You’re going to show me respect.’ … I said, ‘I’ve been protecting you for two years. And if you don’t watch yourself, if I start self-reporting, you’re going to be coaching high school basketball.’ And he said, ‘Are you threatening me?’ And I remember it like it was yesterday. I said, ‘Josh, I don’t make threats. Everything I say I’m going to do, I do it.'”

My word, is that petty.

This is where things get complicated.

Because there is nothing in this report that proves that Pastner knew what Bell was doing. As far as I can tell, there is no hard evidence that says that Pastner endorsed this, or that he was the source of the money that made it’s way to the players. It’s Bell’s word against Pastner’s, and if I’m Pastner’s lawyer, my defense is really quite simple: Ron Bell is a troubled man – a former addict and ex-con – that Pastner befriended in Tucson. Pastner brought him around his Memphis and Georgia Tech programs, and it backfired. Bell provided his players with money and trips and clothes without his knowledge, and them attempted to extort him. This line from the report – “[Bell] said he feels Pastner has failed to compensate him properly for the “work” he’s done.” – backs up that defense.

I probably would believe Bell. But is Bell’s word enough for the NCAA to do any kind of real damage to Pastner or the Georgia Tech program after they self-reported the violations?

If I had to guess, Okogie and Jackson will have to repay the value of the benefits they received, they’ll get dinged a game or two, Pastner and his staff will get hit with something minor – maybe a few recruiting sanctions – and we’ll all forget that any of this happened the next time some news in the FBI’s corruption probe comes to light.

As one source phrased it to NBC Sports, “Josh is one of the smartest guys coaching college basketball. He knows how to do things. Highly doubt he would ever put himself in position to be caught.”

But it all could have been avoided if Josh Pastner had just called his bag man on his birthday.

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

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Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

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Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

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Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

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Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

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Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”