Pitt ready for reboot as Capel takes charge

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jared Wilson Frame needed to reboot both his body and his mind. The proof came in the aftermath of a forgettable season for the Pittsburgh guard and the rest of the Panthers, one in which the once-formidable program slogged through an interminable winter that included a winless record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The 19th and final conference loss — a three-point setback to Notre Dame in the opening round of the ACC Tournament — was still fresh in Wilson Frame’s mind when he walked into the training room in March and saw teammates Malik Ellison and Kene Chukwuka in the middle of draining workouts. Both were drenched in sweat. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Wilson Frame glanced in the mirror and understood he needed to change.

“All the things that reminded me of the past, I kind of told myself I had to get rid of that stuff,” Wilson Frame said.

So he has. And in a way, so have the Panthers.

Wilson Frame trimmed 25 pounds from his frame during the offseason, buoyed by both the idea of starting over and the energy brought to the program by new coach Jeff Capel, hired on March 27 after the Panthers parted ways with Kevin Stallings following two disastrous years.

“Definitely a little more excitement just around the city period,” Wilson Frame said. “You know, you see on social media and you hear it when you’re walking down the street. It’s definitely just a little more excitement all the way around.”

For a program with nowhere to go but up, it’s a start.

Capel, a former head coach at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma who spent the last six years as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, is intent on getting the Panthers to play faster. The former point guard is practicing what he preaches. He was right in the middle of nearly every drill as Pitt opened practice on Tuesday, offering a word of advice here, a teaching point there and even throwing up a jumper on occasion.

Asked what he expects over the next six months, Capel is more fixated on a mindset than any sort of win total.

“To get to a point where we’ve earned the right to be good,” he said. “That’s a process. It’s not something that’s just given. You have to earn it. You have to fight for it every day.”

Capel has made it a point to avoid referencing last year when possible. The players lived through it. There’s no need to remind them, even the ones that didn’t play. Junior guard Malik Ellison was forced to sit out last winter after transferring from St. John’s. Watching the weeks go by and the losses pile up wasn’t easy, even if he had nothing to do with the outcomes.

“It was very difficult, especially when you know you could help a lot,” Ellison said. “Just being there every day in practice, seeing how the energy was low every day because we were losing, going from 0-12 to 0-16, 0-18, it was a very tough year for me individually and just for the whole organization and also the school, the fans, they lost faith in us.”

Capel’s arrival signals a sea change of sorts in both temperament and approach. Nearly everything in Tuesday’s practice focused on tempo. Capel wants the Panthers to go. They’re only too happy to oblige.

“If you watch anybody play in this new age, this new era, that’s kind of the game now, running and gunning and getting out, playing intense, playing hard and fast,” Wilson Frame said. “It’s definitely an enjoyable system.”

One that might produce optimism before results, at least in the short term. The growing pains may be plentiful, but they’re ones Capel believes his group is ready to embrace.

“They’re a group of guys hungry to be good,” Capel said. “I think they understand that it’s a process to take the necessary steps to make that happen and we have to go through that process and going through that process is difficult, it’s challenging.”

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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
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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

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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

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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

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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.