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Grayson Allen’s Duke career closes with a near-miss of an iconic March moment


OMAHA, Neb. — In a career that seems to have lasted an eternity and encompassed a universe of accomplishment and controversy, it’s fitting that the final game of Grayson Allen’s career featured a moment frozen in time.

In the space of a second, history hung in the balance and on a rim. Either Allen had made one of the most iconic shots ever, or he had lost a chance to put Duke in the Final Four.

He missed.

Top-seeded Kansas survived Allen’s shot at the end of regulation and outlasted No. 2 Duke in overtime, 85-81, to win the Midwest Region, clock the Jayhawks’ 15th trip to the Final Four and finish of one of the more interesting careers in recent memory.

Allen was a surprise hit in a national championship winner, an ascendant star, his own worst enemy in a series of bizarre tripping episodes and an elder statesman on a title contender. His career isn’t likely to ever be replicated. It’s been successful, self-destructive and salvaged. He’s been maddening and magnificent. Sometimes in the space of the same 40 minutes.

“He’s one of the outstanding players to have ever played in our program,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

The final chapter played out in a game worthy of the teams and programs it featured. By definition, Duke vs. Kansas in the Elite 8 is a historic happening. Two of the most storied and successful schools to ever do it facing off with the Final Four as the prize is as close to the pinnacle of the sport as it gets when there’s not a national title at stake.

There were 18 lead changes and 11 ties, All-Americans and lottery picks, Coach K and Bill Self. The play wasn’t always pretty, but the game was beautiful.

And perhaps the most polarizing player of the last decade had a shot at solidifying the immortality he may already own.

Twenty-six seconds on the clock. Scoreboard with matching 72s. Season at stake.

Allen crossed over to his right before Kansas’ Malik Newman forced him back left. A hesitation dribble. Allen pushed forward to his left. Rose up off his right foot and measured the shot before releasing. The ball collided with the backboard, carrommed into the rim and spun around, back to the backboard and then once more it danced across the rim.

That’s when time stopped. A country waited to watch history. Two teams awaited their fate. One man saw his legacy, sliding across a small piece of metal in the middle of America.

“It came really close to going in,” Allen said, “and it didn’t.”

It’s as simple and cruel as that. It didn’t go in, and as such, Allen missed out on his One Shining Moment, his spot next to Christian Laettner in tournament lore and a chance at a second national championship.

“To have a chance at winning it and moving on and not being able to do it, it hurts a lot,” Allen said. “But I’m so happy, so happy I made that choice to come here, so happy that they asked me — they asked me to come here and gave me a scholarship.

“I’ve learned so much in my four years here, coming out a completely different person and for the better. And the relationships I’ve built with Coach, the coaches. Some of my teammates who are guys I call my brothers now, those will last for a really long time. And that’s one of the things I’ll cherish. Those don’t go away.”

Duke was the beneficiary of maybe the most famous miss in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s oh-so-close heave delivered them the 2010 national championship. Allen’s misfire may not be in that pantheon, but it’s one that will stand the test of time. That missed shot won’t be forgotten. It’ll be remembered not as a scarlet letter, but as a what-if. A tantalizing tease of a moment when history diverged. When the shot looked like it was going in, but didn’t.

The game officially didn’t end there in regulation, but, really, that was the last moment of Grayson Allen’s Duke career. The ball sitting on the rim, his critics and fans both on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens.

Former Penn coach allegedly took bribes from potential recruit’s father

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Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes from a Miami businessman who wanted his son to get into the school as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his chances to gain entry to the Ivy League school.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Michael Smith, David Voreacos and Eben Novy-Williams, Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes, who had a son, Morris, who was allegedly recruited by several Ivy League schools. When Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen is identified strictly as “Coach-2” in the indictment that alleges that he took multiple cash payments, paid trips from Philadelphia to Miami, and a private jet trip that included Allen, Esformes and his son. The benefits are alleged to be $74,558 — including three separate wired payments of $15,000, $20,000 and $18,000 to Allen from Esformes.

These alleged incidents took place in 2013 and 2014, when Allen was still head coach at Penn and Morris Esformes was a high school basketball player trying to make it to the Division I level. Esformes was eventually granted admission to Penn as he was allegedly going to be on the basketball team. But Allen was fired before Esformes enrolled at the school. So Esformes went to school at Penn, but he never played for the basketball team. Esformes is currently still a senior at Penn.

Allen has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics since leaving Penn in 2015. He hasn’t been criminally charged for any of these alleged benefits while the NCAA also hasn’t been involved with anything yet.

But this is yet another black eye on college basketball — and this time coming from a prestigious Ivy League institution. It shows that cheating and using leverage happens at all levels of Division I college basketball. Lately, the schools have been paying to get players. This shows there are instances of wealthy people attempting to gain influence through athletics.

This case at Penn is certainly a rare one. Esformes tried to exploit a loophole that would allow his son entry into a great school under the guise that he was a potential Division I-caliber basketball player. And Morris Esformes did end up at Penn — and seems to be doing well. So, this didn’t end poorly for Morris or Allen.

Since Allen is coaching at the NBA level, this likely won’t alter his coaching career, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NCAA get involved with Penn and Allen going forward.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”