Tre Jones, Jack White steal the show as No. 2 Duke knocks off No. 12 Texas Tech

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NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden was buzzing the way that only The Mecca does on Thursday night, as 19,812 people packed into the World’s Most Famous Arena to see No. 2 Duke and their traveling band of soon-to-be NBA superstars take on a Texas Tech team that was simultaneously ranked 12th in the country and totally anonymous in the city that couldn’t care less about them.

The crowd was 80-percent Duke fans — amongst them Jimmy Butler, who is close with Tre Jones because of his relationship with Tre’s older brother Tyus —  but it was the traveling Texas Tech support that made 80-percent of the noise as the Red Raiders controlled this game for the first 35 minutes.

Chris Beard’s team took Cam Reddish completely out of the game. He had one point with four minutes left, furthering the questions about what in the world is going on with the player some believe has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class. R.J. Barrett missed 14 of his first 17 shots from the floor. Zion Williamson, the show-stopper, picked up three charges going up against a Red Raider defense designed to do exactly that, fouling out with 3:51 left after playing just 23 foul-plagued minutes.

Texas Tech didn’t play a perfect basketball game, but it was damn close to it.

And Duke still managed to find a way to win. The final score was 69-58, covering the spread and leaving the box score watchers wondering if Texas Tech was ever actually in this game. Big shots and clutch plays from Barrett and Reddish made that happen.

But the credit for this win, the reason that Duke was in a position to be able to eke out a W like this against a team like that, belongs to the players whose names you may not have known until last night: Tre Jones and Jack White.

“They were huge,” assistant coach Jon Scheyer said. “Difference-makers for us.”

They are, at the same time, happy being anonymous and precisely what makes this Duke team so dangerous.


Jack White (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Jack White was an afterthought.

A 6-foot-7 forward from Australia and a junior that had spent his first two seasons in Durham keeping the seats on Duke’s bench heated for the likes of Jayson Tatum, Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, White seemed destined for another year’s worth of mop-up duty with this iteration of the Blue Devils.

They were bringing three wings into the mix that could all end up being top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a pair of junior centers — Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier — seemed destined to soak up whatever frontcourt minutes were leftover. White was just a guy, that line of thinking went, a player that was talented enough to give Duke’s relevant pieces a fight in practice while lighting it up on the scout team.

But nothing more, we thought.

At no point during the preseason did I — or anyone outside of the Duke program, really — think that White would end up being the piece that made Duke’s four star freshmen fit, but here we are. The best lineup that Duke can put on the floor features Traralgon, Victoria’s finest alongside Zion, R.J., Cam and Tre.

Yes, this is real life.

White is quick enough to switch onto point guards and tough enough to battle in the paint against centers. He was guarding Texas Tech star Jarrett Culver on key possessions down the stretch less than a month after he was guarding Gonzaga’s bigs during Duke’s comeback against the Zags in Maui. He can board, he can wall-up and protect the rim, he won’t get embarrassed if he’s left on an island defensively. That is the definition of defensive versatility, of position-less basketball.

Then there is what he provides offensively: He actually make threes on a consistent and trustworthy basis.

Never was that more apparent than on Thursday, when he hit two clutch second half threes on a night where the Blue Devils shot 3-for-20 from beyond the arc. Duke missed their first 15 threes. White made two in the final 12 minutes. The first tied game at 45. The second gave Duke a 56-55 lead they would never relinquish.

“When it’s not going well and Jack White hits that three, that’s a huge shot,” Mike Krzyzewski said.

He provides the spacing the Blue Devils so desperately need on the offensive end. Perhaps more importantly, on a roster full of ball-dominant talents, he doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands in order to be an effective weapon. No one else on Duke is able to provide the combination of skills that White can, and when slotted alongside those four freshmen, Duke’s ‘death lineup’ is complete.

“The beauty of Jack,” Scheyer said, “is he can plug in for anybody because of his defense versatility. On offense, he doesn’t need the ball. We have enough guys that can make plays. He brings every body together on both ends. He’s really the glue for us.”

“That’s literally what we call him,” Barrett chuckled, sitting in Alonzo Trier’s locker in the Knicks locker room after the game. “The Glue.”



Tre Jones was bred to be a defender.

Four years younger than Tyus, Tre spent his entire life playing up. Soft wasn’t an option, not if he wanted to be on the same court as the player that was a legend in his city and his state before he had a learner’s permit.

Tre couldn’t afford to back down from anyone or anything.

“My whole life I played up,” he said. “I was always the smallest kid on the court.”

Tre is the youngest of three brothers. Everyone knows about Tyus, who is four years his senior. Fewer know about Jadee, who is 14 years older than Tre and has spent a decade working as a trainer for his younger brothers. Jadee is a former Division I player in his own right, and started working out daily with Tyus when Tyus was heading into high school. Tre was in fourth grade, and like every youngest brother in every family on the planet, he wanted nothing more than to be included.

When Tyus worked out with Jadee, Tre would go, too. When Tyus would work on improving his body, Tre would be right there, too. And the way that Jadee sees it, these are the days that molded Tre into the player that he is today. He’s a better athlete than Tyus because he started developing that athleticism at a younger age. He takes pride in his defense because he was the nine-year old that had to earn respect working out with his older brother, the star eighth-grader on a high school basketball team.

Tyus has always been something of a basketball savant, a player whose understanding of the game allows him to outperform physical gifts that, by an NBA standard, are lacking.

Tre’s different.

“Tre goes at being a point guard with a lot of fire,” Jadee told NBC Sports last year. “With his feet, the things you can see, the hustle plays, the defense, the rebounding, taking charges, scoring in transition.”

And on a night where defense was king, Thursday was Tre’s coming out party. He finished the night with six steals, forced twice as many turnovers and staked his claim to the title of best defender in college basketball this season. He did it all while committing just one of the 43 turnovers by both teams on Thursday night.

“Tre plays like that every game,” Barrett said. “That’s what he does every day.”

The oft-forgotten member of Duke’s freshmen class and the younger brother of a Duke Final Four MOP, Tre embodies every point guard cliché in the book. He’s tough, both physically and mentally. He couldn’t care less about what stats show up in the box score as long as his team has more points than the other team. He’s unselfish. He’s a leader. He “makes winning plays.” In a way, he couldn’t be more perfect to play the point at Duke; he’s Wojo with NBA pedigree.

“He’s a great leader, but he leads by action,” Barrett said. “He talks, but his action speaks louder than his words.”

When asked for an example, Barrett said that on Thursday night there was a timeout in the second half, when Texas Tech was on a run, “and after we came out the huddle, he told us we have to play with heart. He’s going to give it everything he has and we just have to follow him.”

And that’s precisely what he did.

Anyone that watched this game could see the impact that Jones had on it defensively. He was credited with six steals, which was probably half the number of turnovers that he forced and in no way comes close to signifying the impact that he had on Texas Tech’s offense.

“He’s as good on the ball (defensively) as we’ve had — Amaker, Wojo, Hurley. He’s in the class with all those guys,” Mike Krzyzewski said, adding that Jones is the best Duke defender since Chris Duhon. “He can make reads like LeBron or Chris Paul did when I was coaching Team USA. There aren’t many freshmen who can do that.”


Tre Jones (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Duke is going to go as far as Zion, R.J. and Cam will carry them this season.

No one can, with a straight face, say otherwise.

That’s the Big Three and it’s always going to be the Big Three.

But that is also beside the point: There are going to be nights where those three struggle to get things going. There are going to be nights where Duke runs into a team that can stagnate their dribble-drive offense. There are going to be nights where they need to find a spark elsewhere.

If there is one thing that we learned on Thursday, it’s that Tre Jones and Jack White can be that spark when they need to be.

And the result, in the end, is that Duke landed their best win of the season.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.