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UConn president says Ollie committed serious violations

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — UConn President Susan Herbst told Kevin Ollie she was upholding his firing because the former men’s basketball coach had a pattern of breaking NCAA rules and committed serious violations, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The school released the June 19 letter from Herbst to Ollie on Monday in response to open records requests from the AP and other news organizations.

Ollie has asserted that the violations which led to his firing in March were minimal and isolated.

Herbst refutes that idea in the letter, writing that “eventually even a series of ‘isolated’ or ‘de mimimis’ violations can become a pattern of non-compliance, which is what occurred in the Men’s Basketball program under your leadership.”

She said the violations “are serious under any definition which may be applied and constitute just cause for your termination.”

Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said the minor issues cited by Herbst can’t be called a pattern “just by lumping them together and claiming a pattern exists.”

“The collective bargaining agreement requires ‘serious misconduct’ with each act to be viewed on its own merit in order to have just cause to terminate employment,” he said. “President Herbst’s letter claiming serious misconduct based on this alleged ‘pattern of non-compliance’ is just bootstrapping and nothing more than a desperate attempt to articulate a reason that sound legitimate in order to deny Coach Ollie the money he is owed by UConn.”

Ollie has been appealing the decision to fire him with cause, which would allow the school to forgo paying him the more than $10 million left on his contract with the school.

Michael Bailey, the director of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the employee union that represents Ollie has said the union plans to take the decision to arbitration.

The violations cited by Athletic Director David Benedict in firing Ollie and outlined in more than 1,300 pages of documents released last week include: Ollie shooting baskets with a recruit during an unofficial visit to the school last September; Ollie arranging a video call between a potential recruit and Ray Allen, the former NBA great who is now considered a school booster by the NCAA and Ollie arranging improper training sessions with a friend who is a personal trainer both on campus and during out of state trips that amounted to improper gifts.

Herbst said in her letter that Ollie’s failure to report any inadvertent violations constitutes either a knowing disregard for his compliance obligations or a “gross inability to satisfy them.”

Ollie was fired after a 14-18 season amid an NCAA investigation. He led UConn to a 127-79 record over six seasons, including the 2014 national title.

The NCAA has not released the results of its investigation.

The documents provided by UConn last week include transcripts of interviews by the school’s compliance staff and NCAA officials about alleged violations. That includes secondhand information provided by former UConn assistant coach Glenn Miller, who was fired by Ollie after the 2016-17 season, about an alleged $30,000 payment by Ollie to the mother of a player.

That was not cited by Benedict as one of the issues leading to Ollie’s firing and Parenteau has said it is untrue.

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.”