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Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen lead No. 1 Duke past Elon, 97-68

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Grayson Allen put on a show in his final season opener for No. 1 Duke. So did Marvin Bagley in his first — and perhaps only — one.

Bagley had 25 points and 10 rebounds in his college debut, and Duke opened another season of high expectations by routing Elon 97-68 on Friday night, moving Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski one victory from yet another career milestone.

Allen added 22 points and made six of the Blue Devils’ 12 3-pointers while Gary Trent Jr. added 17 points and four more 3s.

“We’ve been working in the summer, practicing and going in the weight room, we were doing all this stuff for this night right here,” Bagley said. “To come out and show the world what we can do with this great team we have. We just have fun, man, we share the ball well, we come out in attack mode.”

Duke shot 55 percent — 71 percent while pulling away in the second half — and held the Phoenix to less than 40 percent shooting while looking the part of a team beginning a second straight season atop the AP Top 25 .

One of the tallest Duke teams in school history — this is just the program’s fourth with an average height of at least 6-foot-7 — outrebounded the smaller Phoenix 48-30 while also forcing them into 11 consecutive missed shots during an early, tone-setting 17-0 run.

“When they have (6-10 forward Wendell) Carter and Bagley both in the game, for us, it’s incredibly difficult to guard because we’re guarding one guy and they throw it inside to the other,” Elon coach Matt Matheny said. “And that leaves the opposite big with a free lane for an offensive rebound.”

Coach K had no trouble earning his 999th career victory at Duke. The winningest coach in men’s Division I history has 1,072 victories in a 43-season career that also includes five years at Army.

Dmitri Thompson scored 13 points to lead the Phoenix.

BIG PICTURE

Elon: There’s no shame in losing at Cameron Indoor Stadium — no non-Atlantic Coast Conference team has won here since 2000. Elon has four starters back from a team that went 18-14 a year ago and led the Blue Devils at halftime of their trip-dominated game in Greensboro. The Phoenix missed 22 shots in the first half but rebounded just two of those while falling behind by 20, and were never in the game after that.

Duke: The Blue Devils return only one player (Allen) who averaged more than three points or 8 minutes last season, and didn’t have their second-most important returnee — big man Marques Bolden (strep throat) was on the bench in street clothes. Krzyzewski said Bolden wouldn’t play Saturday night and “I don’t see how he could play by Tuesday” against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago.

Duke started four freshmen — Bagley, Trent, Carter and Trevon Duval — for the first time since the Johnny Dawkins-Mark Alarie class in 1982-83 made 23 starts. Speaking of his young teammates, Allen said he “didn’t think they looked nervous to start the game at all.”

STAR WATCH

At times it was hard to tell this was Bagley’s first college game. The star freshman originally was part of next year’s recruiting class before reclassifying to get a jump start on his college — and, presumably, pro — career. The potential one-and-done forward was 12 of 18 from the field and his length gave Elon problems all night. The only quibbles: Bagley was 1 of 4 from the free-throw line — and was the only Duke player to earn a trip to the stripe until midway through the second half.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

There were a few to choose from. Duval’s alley-oop pass to Bagley midway through the first half sent the Cameron Crazies into delirium. But the topper might have been Bagley’s two-handed, down-the-lane jam with the shot clock winding down and about 10 seconds left before halftime. That made it 45-25 and put Duke up by 20 to stay.

UP NEXT

Elon: Plays host to William Peace on Saturday night.

Duke: Plays host to Utah Valley on Saturday night before facing its biggest test of the young season next Tuesday night against No. 2 Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Middle Tennessee loses four returnees during the week

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country over the last few years but now the Blue Raiders will be facing a major rebuild.

With former head coach Kermit Davis taking the Ole Miss job and new head coach Nick McDevitt coming over from UNC Asheville, the program experienced some major roster turnover this week as four returnees left the program.

Earlier in the week, junior guard David Simmons opted to transfer out of Middle Tennessee after he averaged 17.9 minutes per game for the Conference USA regular-season champions last season.

On Friday, the losses continued, as three more players left the team. Rising junior point guard Tyrik Dixon announced his intention to transfer while the program dismissed guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas. Dixon was a valuable floor leader for Middle Tennessee the past two seasons while Johnson, a rising senior guard, would have been the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 10.3 points per game last week.

Since so much of the successful core of the past three seasons is now gone from Middle Tennessee, it will be on McDevitt to bring in new talent to sustain the recent great stretch of play. The Blue Raiders made two Round of 32 appearances in a row before missing the NCAA tournament last season after winning C-USA’s regular season crown.

Now, with Western Kentucky making a power play by bringing in five-star big man Charles Bassey, and the power has shifted very quickly in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country.

Report: One-and-Done rule could be eliminated for 2021 NBA Draft

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The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of ending the infamous one-and-done rule that forces many potential professional basketball players to head to college for at least one season.

According to a report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, citing a league memo sent to NBA teams late this week, the league office is indicating that “eligibility rules” for the NBA draft could change as soon as 2021 or 2022 — but not earlier. The league is currently trying to figure out how the FBI’s investigation into college basketball will play out while also trying to navigate the player development changes that would be needed for high school players to once again potentially enter the NBA. Recently, the NBA has started to allow its teams and front-office personnel to attend elite summer high school events as the Pangos All-American Camp and the NBPA Top 100 Camp both had an NBA presence to watch elite Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects.

Lowe’s report mentions that the one-and-done rule is not mentioned directly by name, but the NBA is trying to warn its teams before the 2018 NBA Draft. These future changes could be on the horizon and teams need to understand what they are doing with future draft picks in potential trades.

The scenario of a 2021 NBA Draft in which high school players might be eligible is a fascinating subplot for college basketball, and the sport at-large, over these next few years.

As Lowe pointed out in his report, whenever the rule is eventually opened up, it will create one large mega draft in which two elite classes of high school players would be draft-eligible in the same year. With potentially double the lottery-level and first-round talent of a typical NBA draft, it would force a lot of elite college recruits to exam the possibility of reclassifying up in order to get ahead of that mega draft and be in a pool with fewer elite prospects.

It also gives the high school players themselves a unique decision with regard to their potential college futures. If an elite high school prospect is one year away from entering the NBA draft out of school, would some go to college or would they try to go for a postgrad year and follow in the footsteps of players like Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons?

The expanding presence of the NBA’s G-League is also a factor in all of this as salaries for the league are increasing and becoming more respectable — giving high school players a viable professional option in the United States instead of college for one year before moving on to the draft.

There are still way too many moving parts to truly speculate how this will all go down. But at least we know that the NBA appears to be viewing 2021 or 2022 as the potential change to the one-and-done rule. We’ll have to see how elite high school prospects start potentially adjusting to reclassify while colleges also might have to adopt some new and unique recruiting strategies if they rely on one-and-done players to fill out their roster.

Five-star guard Ashton Hagans enrolling at Kentucky after graduating year early

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Kentucky received additional reinforcements for the 2018-19 season on Friday as five-star guard Ashton Hagans graduated high school a year early with the intent to head to Lexington for next season.

The 6-foot-4 Hagans is considered by many recruiting analysts to be a top-ten national prospect in the Class of 2019 as he gives the Wildcats three five-star recruits at lead guard for next season. The Georgia state Player of the Year as a junior this past season, Hagans joins a crowded Kentucky backcourt that includes sophomore Quade Green and fellow incoming freshman and McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley.

While the juggling of minutes is going to be a major storyline for head coach John Calipari this season, the addition of Hagans gives Kentucky even more lineup flexibility than they had before. Because Hagans has good size and defensive ability, he could be used to play alongside the smaller Green, giving the Wildcats a two-guard look that would have more defensive intensity. Playing Quickley and Hagans together would give Kentucky a bigger two-guard lineup that would have a chance to be pretty strong defensively.

And, of course, Calipari could opt to go with some three-guard lineups with other off-guards like Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro to give Kentucky a tough perimeter attack.

Handling minutes and egos will be something to watch for in Lexington this season, but Calipari has handled this sort of situation with a Final Four appearance before. It’s hard to say if the Wildcats will try to play another platoon type of system like we saw in 2014-15, but if they end up getting graduate transfer forward Reid Travis, they might have the personnel to give it a shot.

Villanova lands late commitment from four-star prospect

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Villanova made a late addition to their 2018 recruiting class on Friday afternoon as they landed a commitment from four-star prospect Saddiq Bey.

Bey was originally committed to N.C. State, but he asked out of his Letter of Intent in mid-May as the Wolfpack ended up over the scholarship limit. The versatile, 6-foot-7 forward is a good fit for the way that Villanova likes to play, as he can guard different positions, plays with the toughness you expect out of a kid from Washington D.C. and is a capable scorer.

Bey is also a product of Sidwell Friends, the same high school that produced former Villanova star Josh Hart.

He will joined a recruiting class that also includes five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, four star prospects Cole Swider and Brandon Slater and Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo.

The news was first reported by 247 Sports.

Marvin Bagley III, a ‘Nike kid’, to sign endorsement deal with Puma

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In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Marvin Bagley III will reportedly sign an endorsement deal with Puma in the NBA.

It’s a five-year deal, according to reports, that will pay Bagley and his family quite a bit of money and will allow them to fund an AAU program for Bagley’s younger brother. That program will be coached by Marvin Bagley Jr., and that gets to the heart of what makes this decision so surprising.

Bagley III has always been considered a “Nike kid”. He played for Nike AAU programs throughout his high school career. The last two years, his father ran the program that he played for, originally called Phoenix Phamily but eventually changed to Nike Phamily. That meant that Nike was able to legally pay Bagley Jr. a significant amount of money to fund that program. Eventually, Bagley would up enrolling at Duke, one of Nike’s flagship college basketball programs.

This is not the way that it is supposed to go for a shoe company like Nike. The reason they spend as much money as they do in the youth ranks is to keep as many kids as possible loyal to the brand. It’s fairly easy to figure out who will end up having a chance at being an NBA player as early as 15 years old, but what’s harder to do is to predict who will actually be able to move product. Did anyone think James Harden or Damian Lillard would be worth a signature shoe? So these shoe companies will spend a relatively small amount of money to fly those kids around the country during their high school years, keep them decked out in their gear and hope that lottery ticket eventually pays off.

What is a couple hundred thousand dollar investment when the payoff is hundreds of millions of dollars in shoe sales? All you need to do is land one Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to make the math work.

But that isn’t all that the shoe companies are looking for here.

With the amount of money that they have invested in sponsorship deals with these schools, they need to protect that investment. We saw it with Adidas and Louisville. They funneled $100,000 to Brian Bowen, a Nike kid, to get him to an Adidas school not because they thought he would end up being an uber-profitable spokesman but because they needed to protect their investment at the college level.

So while it’s easy to look at this and same that Bagley’s time spent at Duke helped him get a big, fat shoe contract, I think it’s the other way around. He helped Nike — without getting his market value — during his one season at Duke, and what it got him was a shoe contract worth roughly $1 million a year, according to Oregon Live.

Either way, the fact of the matter is that Bagley’s value to these brands is no different now than it was when he was playing for the Blue Devils.

Why is it only now that he’s allowed to cash in on it?