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Battey returns to court for Colorado after suffering stroke

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BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Just the other day, the 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman quietly slipped on his Colorado basketball jersey for a photo shoot.

Instant tears. A simple task he doesn’t take for granted .

Last December, Evan Battey was playing hoops with his buddies when his right leg went numb. Then, his right arm. He tried to speak but couldn’t. Battey suffered a stroke that day along with two seizures.

Nearly 11 months later, the 20-year-old forward from California will make his Buffaloes debut — with feeling back and his speech constantly improving.

“I’m thankful to be out here,” said Battey, whose team opens the season next Tuesday against Drake. “I’m thankful just to be alive today.”

Looking back, there were signs for Battey, who redshirted last season due to NCAA eligibility requirements. Like how two months before his stroke he was unable to pronounce words following a weightlifting session. He texted his mom, Rosalind Lewis, that he felt funny.

But his speech soon returned. He pushed the episode from his mind, because “I was in the best shape of my life at the time,” Battey explained .

The day after Christmas, Battey and his buddies were playing basketball at a Los Angeles gym when he experienced numbness from head-to-toe. His friends called his mom, who happened to be a few minutes away and quickly drove over. By the time she arrived, he was walking on his own but his speech appeared weakened. She took him to the emergency room where doctors performed a scan and discovered a blood clot. He was given a drug to break up the clot and transported to another facility specializing in strokes. While in the ambulance, Battey suffered a seizure. At the facility, he had another.

After four days in the hospital going through a battery of neurological and cardiology exams, the doctors had no explanation for what caused his stroke. It remains unknown.

“The good news was the tests came back as, ‘Hey, we don’t feel like there’s going to be long-term effects,'” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said.

At first, Battey’s balance was off. He struggled to make a fist with his right hand. His smile was uneven. But everything gradually returned through physical therapy. His speech remains a work in progress.

Two weeks after his stroke, the Buffaloes were playing at Southern California and Battey attended morning practice. For the first time — and with his right arm still feeling weak — he shot a few 3-pointers.

He made one. Then another. And another.

“I was feeling it,” he said. “I was making them all from muscle memory. It was a good sign for my teammates to see that I’m shooting again.”

Battey returned to Boulder in time for January classes, diligently going through physical rehab (he struggled to write) and speech therapy (he recited song lyrics to progress enunciation). He attended home games to cheer on his teammates.

“It was hard, because I couldn’t be that vocal guy on the sideline,” he said. “Because when you have a stroke, you know what you want to say, you just can’t articulate it.”

By early May, he had most of the feeling back on his right side and returned to practice. At first, he was a little hesitant: What if it happened again?

Take his time. No rush. That was Boyle’s message. It’s been his message.

Boyle had a conversation with Battey soon after his stroke: His scholarship was good even if he didn’t play a minute with the Buffaloes. All he wanted was Battey to be healthy.

But his desire to play was burning. He hadn’t played for a school team in quite a while.

Battey missed his senior season at Villa Park High School in Orange County because of an eligibility rule stemming from him repeating the ninth grade. Instead, the affable Battey served as a coach for the big men and the team’s JV squad that season.

His academic issues followed him to Boulder with the NCAA ruling him out since he did not meet the initial eligibility requirement of graduation from high school in four years.

Steadily, he’s getting back into a rhythm again.

“I sometimes think about my health when I’m sitting in class or lying in bed, but not when I’m on the floor,” said Battey , who played 27 minutes and had seven points in an exhibition game against Colorado School of Mines over the weekend. “I just love the game so much.”

At practice, Battey wears a heart monitor (the entire team does). If his soars too high, he rests. He will be closely monitored in games by the Colorado training staff.

“We know what’s normal and when things become abnormal, we’ll be quick to shut him down,” Boyle said. “Up to this point, he’s been fine.”

This summer went a long way toward alleviating any lingering doubt. He traveled with the USA East Coast team on a four-game trip to Italy. Along for the excursion were his mom and sister.

“I needed to be there,” his mom said, “to see how he was doing and see him in that environment. It was wonderful.”

Last week, Battey stayed after practice to hone the foot work on his jumper.

On the far end, Boyle just watched.

“I’m not sure I’ve had as much respect for a player I’ve coached, in terms of what they’ve been through off the court, as I have been for Evan Battey,” Boyle said. “My expectation level of Evan is so high, because I think he has an opportunity to be such a good player.”

For Battey, the excitement is already building for opening night. His mom will be there. Same with his dad, Earl.

“I don’t know how I’m going to control my emotions,” Battey said. “But I’m ready. I’m ready.”

___

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Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.