Commission on College Basketball says ban cheats, end one-and-done

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Commission on College Basketball sharply directed the NCAA to take control of the sport, calling for sweeping reforms to minimize one-and-done, permit players to return to school after going undrafted by the NBA and ban cheating coaches for life.

The independent commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, released a detailed 60-page report Wednesday, seven months after the group was formed by the NCAA in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme , and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations.

“The members of this commission come from a wide variety of backgrounds but the one thing that they share in common is that they believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving,” Rice told the AP. “We believe there’s a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong.

“We had to be bold in our recommendations.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report ahead of Rice presenting its findings to top NCAA officials. It’s not yet clear how the governing body would pay for some of the proposals, and some of the panel’s key recommendations would require cooperation from the NBA, its players union and USA Basketball.

The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that includes AAU leagues and brings together agents, apparel companies and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding college basketball “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents.

The group recommended the NCAA have more involvement with players before they get to college and less involvement with enforcement. It also acknowledged the NCAA will need help to make some changes and defended its amateurism model, saying paying players a salary isn’t the answer.

“The goal should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league,” the commission wrote in its report.

Rice was scheduled to present the commission’s report to the NCAA’s Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors on Wednesday morning. The two groups of university presidents planned to meet after Rice’s presentation to consider adopting the commission’s recommendations. If adopted, the hard work of turning the recommendations into NCAA legislation begins.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has said he wants reforms in place by August. The commission does, too. And it wants to review the NCAA’s plans for implementation before it goes before the boards for approval.

The 12-member commission made up of college administrators and former coaches and players was tasked with finding ways to reform five areas: NBA draft rules, including the league’s age limit that has led to so-called one-and-done players; the relationship between players and agents; non-scholastic basketball, such as AAU, meant to raise the profile of recruits; involvement of apparel companies with players, coaches and schools; and NCAA enforcement.

NCAA officials mostly stayed out of the process. Emmert and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson were part of the commission, but not included in executive sessions, when proposals were being formed. The commission spent 70 percent of its time in executive session, Rice said, and kept its work secret until Wednesday’s reveal.

The overarching message to those in college athletics: Take responsibility for problems you have created.

ONE-AND-DONE

The commission emphasized the need for elite players to have more options when choosing between college and professional basketball, and to separate the two tracks.

The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year.

“One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told the AP, expressing hope the NBA would act.

The commission decided against attempting to mirror rules for baseball but said it could reconsider. Major League Baseball drafts players out of high school, but once an athlete goes to college he is not eligible to be drafted until after his third year. Baseball players can also return for their senior seasons after being drafted as long as they do not sign professional contracts.

The commission did take a piece of the baseball model and recommended basketball players be allowed to test the professional market in high school or after any college season, while still maintaining college eligibility. If undrafted, a college player would remain eligible as long as he requests an evaluation from the NBA and returns to the same school. Players could still leave college for professional careers after one year, but the rules would not compel them to do so.

ENFORCEMENT

The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and that the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools. By comparison, recent Level I infractions cases involving Louisville and Syracuse basketball resulted in postseason bans of one year.

In those cases, then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was later fired after being tied to the FBI investigation, received a five-game NCAA suspension for violations related to an assistant coach hiring strippers for recruits, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was suspended for nine games for academic misconduct and extra benefits violations. The commission said suspensions should be longer, up to one full season.

Instead of show cause orders, which are meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules, the report called for lifetime bans. The commission also said coaches and administrators should be contractually obligated comply with NCAA investigations.

AGENTS

The commission proposed the NCAA create a program for certifying agents, and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers.

AAU AND SUMMER LEAGUES

The NCAA, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer, the commission said, and take a more serious approach to certifying events it does not control.

The NCAA should require greater transparency of the finances of what it called non-scholastic basketball events and ban its coaches from attending those that do not comply with more stringent vetting, the report said. Such a ban could wipe out AAU events that have flourished in showcasing future talent.

APPAREL COMPANIES

The commission also called for greater financial transparency from shoe and apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. These companies have extensive financial relationships with colleges and coaches worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adidas had two former executives charged by federal prosecutors in New York in the corruption case.

The commission also called out university presidents, saying administrators can’t be allowed to turn a blind eye to infractions.

To that end, the commission said university presidents should be required to “certify annually that they have conducted due diligence and that their athletic programs comply with NCAA rules.”

The commission recommended the NCAA Board of Governors, currently comprised of 16 university presidents and chancellors, include five public members with full voting privileges who are not currently employed as university leaders.

Finally, the commission admonished those within college sports who use the NCAA as a scapegoat for the problems in basketball, saying universities and individuals are accountable for keeping the game clean.

“When those institutions and those responsible for leading them short-circuit rules, ethics and norms in order to achieve on-court success, they alone are responsible,” the commission wrote. “Too often, these individuals hide behind the NCAA when they are the ones most responsible for the degraded state of intercollegiate athletics, in general, and college basketball in particular.”

Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

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Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

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USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

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USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Michael Porter Jr.: ‘I’m the best player in this draft’

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The more I think about it, the more that Michael Porter Jr. is becoming the most interesting prospect at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

As a high school senior, he was considered by many to be the top player in the class, a 6-foot-10 combo-forward with a lethal three-point shot, NBA dunk contest athleticism and the versatility to, one day, be a multi-positional defender that would seamlessly fit into fit into the modern NBA.

But his one and only season at Missouri was derailed by back surgery, and that has allowed the rest of the class of 2017 to shine while we have focused on everything else that comes with drafting Porter. The reputation that he had for the majority of his high school career of being soft. The intel that was coming out of Missouri, that he was cocky and arrogant and something of a bad teammate. Questions about whether or not he is truly a wing or a four, more like a more athletic Lauri Markkanen.

When the only thing that we’ve had a chance to see this season is an out-of-shape Porter struggling in postseason games, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that his hype train has derailed.

“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told ESPN. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

And therein lies the conundrum for any team drafting him.

I have little doubt that Porter is going to be able to score and score a lot in the NBA. I think he and Bagley are the safest bets to average 20 points at the NBA level before their rookie contract runs out.

But putting up points and playing on winning basketball teams are not one and the same. For a ten-year stretch after his rookie season, Rudy Gay averaged at least 17.2 points while making the playoffs once during that stretch. Is that what Porter is going to turn into at the next level? Or will be find a way to become the kind of NBA defender his athleticism says he should be and, by the time he signs his first contract extension, end up the player that Paul George is?

The mitigating factor here is that Porter is going to do a fantastic job in every interview he has. He’s an intelligent, charismatic and articulate kid that is going to be able to sell himself. The red flags that he has aren’t going to show when he’s sitting down in front of NBA general managers.

They would have shown up — or been written off — if there was a season’s worth of game-tape available, but there isn’t. What that means is that scouts are going to have to decide whether or not Porter, who by all accounts had a very impressive senior season in high school, is that player or the one that had the reputation for being soft for years before that.

And all of that is going to come after the doctor’s have a chance to examine his back to see if the surgery he underwent fixed what was wrong, or if this is the kind of situation where a recurrence is likely.

The result is the widest range for any player at the top of the draft.

He could sell someone on taking him as a top four pick. He could also slide his way down to the Knicks at No. 9 or the 76ers at No. 10.

Which is what makes him the most interesting prospect at the top of this draft.

P.J. Washington ‘definitely going back to school’ without first round guarantee

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Kentucky forward P.J. Washington is one of the handful of players that currently finds themselves in the tenuous position of having their name in the NBA draft pool without having a clear picture of where, exactly, they are going to end up getting picked.

Will they be a late-first round pick? Will he be an early second round pick? Will he even be drafted at all?

Washington told reporters at the NBA combine this week that, if he’s a first round pick, he’ll be heading to the NBA. If he only gets a second round guarantee, he’ll be returning to school.

As we detailed last week, getting selected in the second round does not mean a player is destined to end up being broke his first year out of school. In the last six drafts, only one college player picked in the top ten picks of the second round (31-40) did not receive a guaranteed contract. In the 2017 NBA Draft, every college player selected in the top 50 received a guaranteed deal of at least one year, and Thomas Bryant was the only player whose one-year guaranteed deal was at the league minimum.

That doesn’t mean that Washington should leave Kentucky if he’s going to be a second round pick. If he returns to school, becomes a 42 percent three-point shooter (and can make free throws) and proves that he’s more versatile defensively than he was his year, then he could move up into the first round in a weaker 2019 draft.

It’s a risk for him, financially, to leave after this year if he doesn’t get that first round guarantee. It’s also a risk to return to school, where the best-case scenario isn’t always what happens.

I don’t envy the decision he has to make, but I am glad that Washington will have every chance in the world to be informed about the decision.