Jon Lopez/Nike

Las Vegas Takeaways: Three things you need to know after the final live period in 2018

Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS — The final week of the July live evaluation period commenced with most of the top players ending up in Las Vegas. With over four events and multiple shoe-company circuits overlapping in final events, it made for some fun competition that we usually don’t see. Here are five takeaways from the week there.

1. Las Vegas is more important than the Peach Jam

This summer drew a ton of praise for Peach Jam since it looks like the summer college recruiting model could be changing. Peach Jam is a wonderful event. One of the most competitive events during the entire year. Las Vegas is better. It’s also more important for recruiting than Peach Jam.

Peach Jam gets so much hype and coverage because it’s grown in mythical proportions as Nike’s top event and championship. But Peach Jam is only a handful of Nike’s top teams playing in one small town. It also competes directly with important events, that are hours away, from Adidas and Under Armour.

Las Vegas has top teams from all shoe company circuits in one city. Which means all of the top college coaching staffs focus almost all of their energy on Vegas. It also means that coaching staffs have to make difficult selections when going to see players they are recruiting. And by the third week of the live period, players are noticing which schools are consistently at their games.

“Last week, the second live period there are so many events, so all the coaches can’t be everywhere. Everyone is in Las Vegas. It means a lot to see the coaches recruiting you at your games because you know they’re in Vegas. It just depends on if they’re going to your game, or someone else’s game,” Class of 2019 prospect Samuell Williamson said.

That quote hits Vegas on the head as an event.

Players are competing for the final time ever on the AAU circuit. The emotion of playing in one last tournament, while fighting for scholarships for one final time in front of college coaches, is a lot to deal with. When you also add in the overall excitement of Las Vegas as a city, the number of prominent NBA players in attendance at all Vegas events, and the hyped cross-shoe-company games and it makes for a tremendous week of basketball if properly planned.

Peach Jam is great. But Las Vegas is the most important week of the July recruiting calendar.

2. Jaden McDaniels is a talented but polarizing prospect 

There has already been a lot of talk this July about how there is a glaring lack of star power at the top of the Class of 2019. Some really good players are up there. But when it comes to the NBA talk and traditional “one-and-done” chatter,  there won’t be as much with the Class of 2019.

Which is part of the reason why Seattle native Jaden McDaniels has generated so much attention over the last several months. The younger brother of San Diego State forward Jalen McDaniels, Jaden is also a late-blooming forward who brings a lot of intriguing things to the table at 6-foot-10. McDaniels shoots an effortless-looking perimeter jumper. He can guard four or five positions. He’s long, rangy and athletic. Those traits have led to some scouts becoming enamored with McDaniels as he’s received some talk as the best long-term prospect in the class.

But there are others who aren’t so high on McDaniels. While McDaniels has a lot of intriguing tools at his disposal, he doesn’t always play hard, or put up the production, that you would like to see from a five-star talent. McDaniels is also a classic player who is good at a lot of things but not great at any one particular skill — quite yet.

These polarizing viewpoints among scouts also qualify within the college ranks. The west-coast schools are all over McDaniels, but he’s never really ascended into a national-level recruit. Duke and Kentucky haven’t shown serious interest. It means that McDaniels is going to be one of the most fascinating players to watch in this class. Some think he could be the guy while the best schools aren’t even all that interested. Something has to give on this one.

3. The Orlando area has some intriguing talent

The Orlando area isn’t exactly known as a high school basketball hotbed. But with North Carolina freshman Nassir Little hailing from the area, and Orlando having even more high-end talent in the Class of 2019, it is becoming an area to keep an eye on.

Forward C.J. Walker was one of the most interesting players to track in Las Vegas after a strong summer start that included positive play at Pangos and Peach Jam. The 6-foot-7 Walker didn’t disappoint with E1T1 at the Fab 48 as the high-motor Walker piled up points and rebounds while adding blocks and steals. Showing an improved perimeter game, Walker is the type of versatile, positionless player who could rocket up national rankings after his recent play. Arizona just jumped into the mix with a scholarship offer as Walker might become a national recruit. His ability to play up to four spots looks very attractive at the college level.

Kai Jones is another forward who played in the Orlando area having a solid summer. After leading Orlando Christian Prep to a state title last season, the 6-foot-10 Jones earned double-digit high-major scholarship offers as he’s quickly getting a feel for American basketball. A native of the Bahamas, Jones can make plays around the basket using his athleticism as he is quick off of his feet. He eventually plans to transition as a wing forward who is expanding his game to the perimeter.

But because Jones is the biggest guy on his guard-heavy grassroots team, he has to play inside.

“I’m getting more and more comfortable every time I play,” Jones said. “I feel like I’ve expanded my game, and being comfortable with the ball and knowing when to attack and when not to attack. Making the right reads. This is the first chance I’ve gotten to showcase my perimeter game. The more and more I play for this team, I’m getting more comfortable.”

So why does the Orlando connection matter? Last year, Little went from being a back-end five-star player the beginning of July and ascending into a top-five national talent by the end of senior season. Orlando players don’t get the national spotlight of other areas. Their players can be slept on. Will this be the case with Jones and Walker?

Jones and Walker are two of a handful of really good players coming from the Orlando area. It seems as though Florida in general and Orlando has a lot going on when it comes to developing basketball talent as Jones and Walker are two under-the-radar guys to watch.

Ivy League calls off fall sports due to outbreak

Getty Images
2 Comments

The Ivy League on Wednesday became the first Division I conference to say it will not play sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The league left open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the outbreak is better controlled by then.

The decision was described to the AP by a person speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official announcement.

Although the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports. Football players in the Power Five conferences have already begun workouts for a season that starts on Aug. 29, even as their schools weigh whether to open their campuses to students or continue classes remotely.

The Ivy decision affects not just football but everything before Jan. 1, including soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country, as well as the nonconference portion of the basketball season.

Power Five conferences told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they were still considering their options. But it was the Ivy League’s March 10 decision to scuttle its postseason basketball tournament that preceded a cascade of cancellations that eventually enveloped all major college and professional sports.

“What’s happening in other conferences is clearly a reflection of what’s happening nationally and any decisions are made within that context,” said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s infectious disease task force, adding that there is no “hard deadline” for a decision.

“Clearly, regardless of what happens in the fall, sports are coming back eventually,” he said. “So we want to make sure that whenever that time (is) right to return to competition, that we have the infrastructure and the recommendations in place to be able to do so safely for the student-athletes, staff, coaches, fans, students.”

Ivy League schools are spread across seven Northeastern states that, as of mid-July, have seen some success at controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. But most of those states still ban large gatherings; under the Massachusetts reopening plan, Harvard would not be allowed to have fans in the stands until a vaccine is developed.

Harvard has already announced that all classes for both semesters will be held virtually; dorms will be open only to freshmen and seniors. Yale said it would limit its dorms to 60% capacity and said most classes would be conducted remotely. Princeton will also do most of its teaching online, with dorms at half capacity.

Coaches 4 Change: Siena’s Carmen Maciariello spearheads social justice initiative

Coaches 4 Change
Leave a comment

Carmen Maciariello found himself in the same place so many of us did in the days after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Devastated by what he was seeing. Motivated to find a way to use his platform as the head coach at Siena College to enact change. Struggling with how, as he puts it, “a white head coach from privilege at a school in New York,” can have real, honest, open dialogue with his majority-Black roster.

So he picked up the phone. He called Louis Orr, his former college coach and now an assistant coach at Georgetown. He called his closest friends in the coaching business. He called his advisor, Brad Konerman, an entrepreneur who connected him with a couple of talented website designers. By early June, 25 like-minded people from all walks of life were on a zoom call.

“I’ve never been pulled over and feared for my life for not using my blinker,” Maciariello, who is white, told me. “We had those conversations. How are we talking to our teams about that? What are we doing with the police? How can we help our young people navigate through these tough times?”

That’s how Coaches 4 Change was born.

Maciariello has grand plans for the organization. On a zoom call with nearly all of the 43 coaches that have committed to the group to date, he said he wants “to try to change the world. Let’s not think small, we’ve gotta think big with this.” He is not lacking for ambition.

But Maciariello also understands that something like this has to start small and it has to start locally. It’s why he limited the first group of invitees to coaches that are “doing this for the right reasons.”

“I didn’t want to have a donate link and bring in coaches that felt like, ‘I donated money, I did my part supporting it,” he said. “It was about the time commitment and the vision. We have to focus on one thing first.”

That first thing?

Voting.

C4C developed a sleek, interactive website to help educate young people about social injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, things as basic as the difference between systemic and systematic racism and Jackie Robinson’s impact on sports. But the site also provides users with all of the information necessary to vote in this year’s elections, information on what makes voting so important in a democracy and — most importantly — a tutorial for how a person in every state can register to vote, where their polling stations are and whether or not they are eligible for mail-in voting. Their website also has a ‘Keep Learning‘ page that links to all documentaries, podcasts, audiobooks and literary resources available on all streaming platforms, including content for children.

C4C has partnered with Vote.org with a goal of “100 percent voter registration for all college athletes” regardless of the sport they play, Maciariello said.

Currently, the only coaches involved with C4C are men’s college basketball coaches, but that will change. They are in the process of reaching out to counterparts on the women’s side, and will eventually invite staff members from other sports as well. One of the barriers to entry to become a member will be ensuring that every player on a coach’s team is registered to vote.

Eventually, Maciariello envisions C4C developing community outreach initiatives. He wants the members of C4C to connect with their campus communities and put together voter registration drives for students. He wants to eventually connect with lawmakers and work on changing legislation that helps systemic racism continue to exist.

No one ever said he wasn’t ambitious.

But he knows he has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is this platform.

“I want to engage people in issues,” he said. “Educate them, empower them to change, encourage them to grow and evolve.”

CBT Podcast: Pat Chambers, moving the season up, Running Back Buddy Hield’s 46 points at Kansas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the latest edition of the Run It Back podcast, Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan recap Buddy Hield’s memorable 46-point outburst in a three-overtime loss to Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 1 back in 2016. The game was unbelievable. Before they dive into the game itself, the boys talk through Pat Chambers’ noose comments to Rasir Bolton and the potential for the college basketball season to get moved up.

Michael Jordan, Roy Williams among UNC greats to condemn systemic racism

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Roy Williams and Michael Jordan joined numerous North Carolina luminaries in condemning systemic racism and voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a video that was released by the school on Monday.

“Systematic racism has to stop now,” Jordan said in the video. “We must take the time to listen and educate our family, our friends, our children on social injustice and racial inequality. Black Lives Matter more now than ever before. We have to get this right, so please take time to educate yourself and improve the lives of many people, many Black people. Thank you.”

James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Maye and Sean May were among the former players that appeared in the video.

Williams led by discussing Charlie Scott, who was the first Black scholarship athlete in UNC’s history.

“Some of the greatest to play our game have been Black players, but here we are more than 50 years later and our country is still fighting systemic racism and police brutality against Black men and women,” Williams said. “The North Carolina basketball program, our family, our current and former players believe Black lives matter, and it’s critically important that we don’t just believe it. We must stand together and loudly and clearly demand that we as a country and the world embrace the fundamental human right that Black lives matter.”

Former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton left program after coach Pat Chambers made noose comment

pat chambers rasir bolton noose
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Penn State point guard Rasir Bolton has accused of Pat Chambers of making racially insensitive remarks, including a reference to a noose.

According to Bolton, who tweeted about the incident on Monday morning, midway through his freshman season in 2018-19 with the Nittany Lions, Chambers made a reference to a “noose” about Bolton’s neck.  Bolton described the encounter in an interview with the Undefeated, and said that the phrase was a result of Chambers talking about easing the pressure on his freshman’s shoulders. “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck,” Bolton recalled.

Bolton also alleged that after his parents went to the Athletic Director with their concerns about this statement, Chambers told him during an exit interview that he was impressed by how “well-spoken” and “organized” his parents are. Remarks like this are considered racially-insensitive because they are based on the underlying assumption that Black people are not expected to be either organized or articulate.

Chambers, to his credit, admitted his wrong in making the noose comment.

Mock Draft | Preseason Top 25

“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Rasir and the Bolton family for what I said,” Chambers’ statement read. “I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I make was hurtful, insensitive and unacceptable I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever.”

Bolton left Penn State after his freshman season and transferred to Iowa State. He was given immediately eligibility with the Cyclones after mentioning the noose comment when applying for a waiver. He averaged 14.7 points this past season with Iowa State. He also alleged that after he came to the Penn State athletic department with this claim, they offered him a meeting with a sports psychologist who told him how to “deal with Coach Chambers’ personality type.”