NCAA VP for hoops Gavitt meeting with coaches about reform

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
0 Comments

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president of men’s basketball, will be making the rounds this month, bouncing from conference meeting to conference meeting, talking with coaches and athletic directors about reforming college hoops.

On Tuesday at a posh hotel with a poolside view of the McDowell Mountains in Arizona, Gavitt spent time with the Big 12 and Pac-12. Gavitt also worked in a call with USA Basketball to discuss what to do with the summer youth circuit. A week after Condoleezza Rice presented the Commission on College Basketball’s report on how to fix the sport, part of the work that needs to be done is figure out what exactly it all means.

“There’s a lot to do to make that happen because the recommendations are really sound, but there’s an awful lot of interpretation, I think, that has to go into what exactly the recommendation is and how we put it into practice,” said Gavitt, the son of the late Dave Gavitt, who helped found the Big East.

The Rice Commission made proposals ranging from changing NBA draft rules to hitting NCAA rule-breakers with harsher penalties. Dan Gavitt will lead the reformation of summer recruiting events, with a goal of giving college basketball coaches NCAA-run events where they can connect with high school players outside of the AAU circuit.

“We want to achieve what the recommendations are meant to achieve, but it’s a very unorganized and unregulated space, much of which will continue to exist,” Gavitt said.

At the heart of an FBI investigation of college basketball was the convergence of apparel companies, agents, AAU basketball and college coaches. Whether the Rice Commission can remedy the issues that led to the indictments of 10 people, including several assistant coaches, remains to be seen.

“I think those are a very complex issue,” Gavitt said. “I hope they help to address that. I think time will tell. There’s an awful lot there and some of the things that we might be able to get at very specifically, the root cause of all that, may be out of the purview of what we can do and thus weren’t part of the recommendations. But what the recommendations were I think can help and we’re committed to making them happen.”

The Rice Commission also recommended the NCAA and USA Basketball, with some help from the NBA, establish an evaluation system for youth players to put the best 100 or so on a path to playing for the national team and maybe jumping straight to the pros, while others would be categorized as having pro potential but not necessarily from high school. And still others would be categorized as having Division I scholarship potential.

“We need to figure out if those are the right numbers,” he said. “If those are the right levels. How is each level different in terms of how we set up for July? That’s the kind of level of detail that we’ve already started digging into.”

Kansas coach Bill Self’s program was mentioned in the most recent updated indictment to come from New York prosecutors, though no one related to the program is known to be in trouble with the law and Self has claimed no wrongdoing by Kansas. Self is also a member of the NCAA’s basketball oversight committee. He said the oversight committee will play a role in making some of the interpretations Gavitt believes are necessary to turn the recommendations into NCAA legislation.

“What the committee is designed to do is look out for the best interest of the game, and it has been decided that this is in the best interest of the game,” Self said. “We will work to try to look into intended consequences and unintended consequences.”

The commission recommended increasing penalties for the most severe NCAA violations to five-year postseason bans and lifetime bans for coaches.

“I don’t know if I have an opinion on all those things yet,” Self said. “In theory, I think they’re positive. In theory, but you have to be able to dissect it and get into all those things. I haven’t studied it. I’ve read (the report) like everybody else has. And certainly from what I read, I read more positive than negative.”

The NCAA will need cooperation from the NBA, powerful shoe and apparel companies such as Nike and Adidas and player agents to accomplish a good chunk of what the commission recommended. Within what the NCAA controls, there will be a need for consensus building among member schools with a wide-range of priorities. Compromise will likely be needed. But any differences should not be significant enough to stop implementation of the Rice Commission’s recommendations, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

“I don’t see anything that we have control over,” Delany said, “that has an insurmountable political problem associated with it.”

Follow Ralph D. Russo on Twitter @ralphDrussoAP

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.