Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Monday Overreactions: Tennessee’s fine, P.J. Washington the GOAT, Texas Tech Big 12 champs?

1 Comment

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Cameron Young, Quinnipiac

It’s been a decade since someone in the college ranks has done what Cameron Young did on Sunday afternoon.

A senior guard from California, Young scored 55 points in a triple-overtime win on the road against Siena. He was 15-for-24 from the floor, shot 9-for-13 from three and made 16-of-20 free throws. It’s the first time since Dec. 12, 2008, that a Division I basketball player has gone for 55 points. The last time it was was when North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside had 60 against Stephen F. Austin, also in triple-overtime.

Young also added 10 rebounds in the game, making him the first player to do that in the last 20 seasons. In three games last week, Young averaged 36 points.

But that’s not the end of it.

Jalen Pickett, a freshman point guard for Siena, finished with 46 points and 13 assists in the loss. That’s the first time that a Division I player has posted at least 45 points and 10 assists since 2003, with LIU’s Antawn Dobie did it against St. Francis. The 101 combined points that they scored is the most by a pair of opposing players since 1996.

What a wild, wild basketball game.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: LSU Tigers

As wild as this sounds, the SEC regular season title is now LSU’s to lose.

On Saturday, the Tigers avoided a letdown by going into Athens and knocking off Georgia. It was their second road win of the week, as they went into Lexington and knocked off Kentucky on Tuesday evening. The Tigers are now 21-4 overall and 11-1 in the SEC. They’ve played five of their last seven games on the road and now head back to Baton Rouge for a three-game homestand.

And with six games left in the regular season, LSU’s SEC regular season title is in their control.

As things currently stand, the Tigers are tied for first in the conference with Tennessee, a game in front of Kentucky. LSU hosts the Vols next Saturday, meaning that if they find a way to win out, they will be the outright SEC regular season champions over a pair of top five teams and national title contenders.

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. TENNESSEE IS JUST FINE AFTER GETTING EMBARRASSED BY KENTUCKY

It feels weird that I need to say this after Tennessee had their 19-game winning streak snapped on the road against a top five team, but here we are.

As bad as Saturday night went for Tennessee, I’m convinced that this had as much to do with the situation and the matchup as anything. Tennessee’s offense runs through the paint and it runs through Grant Williams. The problem is that Williams — whose talent is his ability to use his strength, leverage and understanding of angles — rans into the one player that can nullify the things that he does best in Reid Travis, who may be, pound for pound, the strongest player in the country.

Once that happened, Tennessee didn’t really have an answer, not after Kyle Alexander got into foul trouble and the Vols were forced to play against what has arguably been the best frontline in the country the last month of the season without a player taller than 6-foot-6 on the floor.

And don’t forget, this game was played on Kentucky’s home floor just 96 hours after they suffered a disappointing, controversial loss against LSU with their chances of an SEC regular season title on the line.

Tennessee is still a top five team, one that’s good enough to put together six straight wins in March.

Sometimes even good teams get their tails kicked.

2. P.J. WASHINGTON WILL BE THE SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR AS OF TODAY

There has been no one in college basketball that has been better than P.J. Washington over the course of the last month, and it is what has turned Kentucky from a good team to one of the nation’s very best. Over the course of the last eight games, Washington is averaging 21.0 poits, 8.1 boards, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals. He was the best player on the court for the Wildcats in Saturday’s demolition of Tennessee, scoring at will in the post and leading Kentucky to an 86-69 win that they needed to get if they had any hope of winning an SEC regular season title.

Now, Grant Williams has been terrific all season for Tennessee, and it’s impossible to ignore what Tremont Waters means for LSU, but if Washington keeps up the pace that he has been playing at over the course of the final six regular season games on Kentucky’s schedule, I don’t know how you can come to any conclusion other than him being the best player in the conference.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. KANSAS IS GOING TO WIN THE BIG 12 AGAIN

Despite the fact that the Jayhawks have been playing without Marcus Garrett and Lagerald Vick to go along with the absence of Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa, and despite the fact that they are currently starting four freshmen, one of whom was supposed to redshirt this season, the Jayhawks are currently sitting one game out of first place in the Big 12, trailing a Kansas State team that is looking at a future potentially without Dean Wade on the floor.

The standings, as of today, look like this:

  • Kansas State (9-3)
  • Texas Tech (9-4)
  • Kansas (9-4)
  • Iowa State (8-4)

Kansas still has to play at Texas Tech next Saturday in the game that appears to be the most likely to keep Kansas from calling themselves Big 12 champions one again. The Jayhawks also host Kansas State while Texas Tech pays a visit to Iowa State on the last day of the regular season.

Those are the games that will decide the Big 12 regular season title. For what it’s worth, KenPom is currently projecting that all four of those teams will finish the season at 12-6 in Big 12 play.

Is anyone really going to bet against Kansas finding a way to get it done and keep the streak alive?

4. BUT DON’T SLEEP ON TEXAS TECH

The Red Raiders are currently the highest-ranked team in the Big 12 on KenPom, and that’s because they’ve started steam-rolling Big 12 competition. They’ve won their last four games by an average of 24 points, and in their last three games, they are shooting 34-for-76 (44.7 percent), and in the process have gone from being ranked 106th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric to 65th.

This is a team that is starting to hit their stride, and with the nation’s best defense, they don’t really need to do much more.

But the reason that it’s important to keep an eye on this team is because of who they have left on their schedule. They play Kansas at home. They play at Iowa State. A win in both of those games puts them a game up on them in the standings, and with just three other games on their schedule — Oklahoma State, at TCU, Texas — seeing them win out would not be too unrealistic.

Then all it would take for the Red Raiders to win the outright regular season title is for Kansas State to lose one game other than at Kansas with a banged up Dean Wade.

It could happen …

5. MICHIGAN STATE CAN BE TAKEN OUT OF THE TITLE CONVERSATION WITHOUT NICK WARD

This probably isn’t even an overreaction.

This is mostly just the truth.

The Spartans entered the season as a team that didn’t have all that much high-end talent on the roster, and now they are down their second and third best players with Josh Langford done for the year and Nick Ward dealing with a hairline fracture in his left (shooting) hand. Without Ward finding a way to get healthy before the tournaments start, we can take Michigan State out of the discussion as a title contender.

Cassius Winston is really, really good, but what he does best is pass. Now, without those two, the players he’s going to be passing to are Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins and Aaron Henry? Goins is a former walk-on that wears six knee braces and four shoulder braces every game. Henry is a promising freshman that is a year or two away from being something more than a role player. McQuaid is one of the most improved players in the country and a vital cog to what Michigan State wants to do, but if he’s your second-best weapon offensively you are going to struggle to score.

There appears to be a chance that Ward is back before the season comes to an end.

Michigan State better hope that proves to be true.

Kara Lawson hired as new Duke head coach

Getty Images
1 Comment

Duke announced on Saturday that Kara Lawson, a former Tennessee guard and ESPN commentator, has been hired as the new head coach of the school’s women’s basketball team.

Lawson, 39, had been an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics before accepting the job at Duke, where she will be replacing Joanne McCallie. McCallie announced earlier this month that she would not be returning to the program.

Lawson is the first Black head coach in the program’s history, the second Black head coach hired by an ACC school this offseason and the third Black woman coaching an ACC women’s team. In total, there are five Black head coaches in the league on the women’s side.

Zion’s attorneys: Court filing claiming $400K payment contains fraudulent information

zion williamson lawsuit
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Attorneys representing Zion Williamson in a lawsuit filed by former his marketing agent Gina Ford have claimed that the allegations set forth in her latest court filing are “fraudulent” and “a desperate and irresponsible attempt to smear Mr. Williamson.”

Ford claimed to have obtain “newly-discovered evidence” regarding her lawsuit against Zion, specifically that the player and his stepfather accepted $400,000 from a marketing agent named Slavko Duric in October of 2018. Zion signed a contract with Ford and her company, Prime Sports Marketing, on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of the case hinges on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers are arguing that this made the contract itself invalid. Ford’s attorneys, on the other hand, are attempting to prove that Zion was actually ineligible at the time, meaning that he was not protected by UAAA, and this evidence is their latest attempt to do it.

Except, according to the attorneys representing Zion Williamson’s family, all of the evidence in the latest filing in this lawsuit is fake.

Included in the exhibits attached to the motion filed by Ford’s lawyers is a statement from a man named Donald Kreiss, who claims that he invested in a company owned by Duric called Maximum Management Group. MMG purportedly had an exclusive marketing agreement with Williamson, the proof being an agreement that was allegedly signed by Williamson, a letter of declaration to repay the $400,000 that was paid in 2018 and a copy of Zion’s driver’s license.

“The alleged ‘agreements’ and driver’s license attached to these papers are fraudulent,” read a statement from Jeffery Klein, Zion’s attorney and obtained by Daniel Wallach of The Athletic. “Neither Mr. Williamson nor his family know these individuals nor had any dealing with them. We had previously alerted Ms. Ford’s lawyers to both this fact and that we had previously reported the documents to law enforcement as forgeries, but they chose to go ahead with another frivolous filing anyway.”

Here is a photo, courtesy of Wallach’s twitter feed, of Zion’s license.

Via @WALLACHLegal

Speaking as someone that bartended on a college campus for a decade, I would not accept this ID. The ‘E’ at the end of LICENSE is not in bold. The last three digits of his zip code are a different font than the first two. There is no shadow behind his ears in the picture, which is the first thing I was taught to look for on an ID I thought was fake. Most conspicuous? His weight is listed as a height and his height is listed as a weight.

Furthermore, Zion’s attorneys claim that Duric is the same man that tried to run a similar scam on Luka Doncic.

“A simple Google search reveals that Slavko Duric, whose ostensible sports marketing entity has no online presence, purportedly attempted to defraud Luka Doncic … using a scheme in which he forged Doncic’s and his mother’s signatures on a contract,” read a letter, obtained by Wallach. that Williamson’s attorney sent to Ford’s attorney before the motion was filed.

The intrigue into Zion Williamson’s lawsuit is about smearing Duke basketball’s image

zion williamson lawsuit
Getty Images
2 Comments

This column was originally published on May 11th of 2020.

The public intrigue into Zion Williamson’s current lawsuit and legal battle has nothing to do with Zion Williamson himself and everything to do with smearing the glossy veneer of the Duke basketball program.

That’s the truth.

The numbers involved in this litigation — reportedly up to $200 million is at stake — will certainly raise some eyebrows, but contract disputes are rarely interesting for anyone that isn’t in law school. That’s what this is. Zion signed a contract with Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of this civil case is going to hinge on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers will argue that this made the contract itself invalid.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

(And no, I don’t, for a second, think that Zion was ever returning to Duke. Neither does Ford, or anyone with any common sense. It’s why I wrote this “column” last May, when the rumors of Zion returning to school started rolling through the basketball world. That said, if I was a cynic, I would take a close look at that timeline. Rumors of Zion returning to school just happened to start circulating right around the time that he was trying to find a way out of a marketing contract to sign with a bigger agency? Hmm. Interesting. But I’m not a cynic, so I certainly won’t suggest that it was nothing other than a well-orchestrated PR ploy knowing that this would inevitably end up in the court system one day. Wouldn’t dream of insinuating anything like it.)

Which brings us to Mother’s Day.

That’s when Daniel Wallach of The Athletic first published snippets of the latest Zion Williamson lawsuit that was filed by Ford and her attorneys. Among them were requests for admission that Zion and his family received all kinds of money, benefits and gifts to play at Duke and to induce him to wear Nike and Adidas at different points during his high school career. The legal ploy is simple, really: If Zion or his parents are forced, under oath, to admit that they accepted illegal benefits at any point during his recruitment or while on the roster at Duke, it would mean that he was retroactively ineligible. If he was actually ineligible during his one season in Durham, then the UAAA wouldn’t be relevant. The contract, which, according to Ford’s lawsuit, could only be terminated with cause, would stand and Zion would be on the hook for a lot of money.

At this point, it does not appear that there is much evidence proving that Zion accepted illegal benefits. When asked by Dana O’Neil of The Athletic if they have any proof of wrongdoing, Ford’s attorney said, “We have ideas, opinions and some leads of our own. We are looking for information to support our case. This is what we want to know.” Requests for admission are, essentially, fact-finding missions during discovery in civil cases. Put another way, at this point, these requests are nothing more than proof that Ford’s lawyers have heard the same rumors and read the same court docs that people in basketball circles and on college basketball message boards have.

But no one actually cares about the legalese here, because if they did, they’d realize that Zion is under no obligation to answer, and even if he is somehow forced to, nothing will come of this for a long, long time.

The people that care this case care about catching Coach K in a lie. They care about proving that the holier-than-thou way that Duke carries itself is fraudulent. They care about finding a way to get something — anything — to stick to the program that recruits better than anyone else in an era where recruiting is the Wild, Wild West.

Do you remember when Lance Thomas dropped $30,000 in cash as a down payment for $67,800 in jewelry a year before Thomas and Duke won the 2010 national title? Nothing came of it. Remember when Corey Maggette admitted to receiving payments from Myron Piggie before becoming a member of the team that made it to the 1999 national title game? Nothing came of that, either. Nothing happened when Wendell Carter’s name popped up on expense reports submitted by Christian Dawkins. Nothing happened when Michael Avenatti alleged that Nike paid Marvin Bagley’s family.

All told, there are 13 high-major programs that are dealing with the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball: Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, TCU and USC.

Duke, despite a cloud of smoke surrounding Zion that would make Seth Rogen envious, has been hit with … nada.

The public is looking for their pound of flesh, and nothing would satiate that bloodlust quite like an admission from Zion Williamson in this lawsuit that he was paid to go to Duke.

Ivy League calls off fall sports due to outbreak

Getty Images
3 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.”