Kansas moves on without Quentin Grimes

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CHICAGO — NBA Draft deadline week concluded in dramatic fashion for Kansas on Wednesday, as freshman guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes both withdrew from the draft’s testing process to return to school.

But, in a late twist that will split the two five-star freshmen apart, Dotson will be the lone ball-dominant guard returning to the Jayhawks next season. Grimes is still coming back to college, but instead of returning to Kansas, he opted to put his name into the transfer portal. The experiment of the two playing in the same Kansas backcourt — with only one ball — is likely over.

Although Grimes came into Lawrence as the higher rated of the two five-star guards last season, it was Dotson who clearly had the better year. Perhaps most importantly in this scenario, Dotson also had the ball in his hands the majority of the time.

Earlier this month at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, both Dotson and Grimes spoke to NBCSports.com about the unique two-guard situation that played out last season. With the way Grimes spoke about his Kansas experience to the media, the writing was on the wall that he was likely done playing for the Jayhawks — as long as another ball-dominant guard like Dotson was coming back.

“Yeah it was definitely just a different kind of experience. I had to get adjusted to that Kansas lifestyle and that system and stuff. I feel like I only kind of showed about 50 percent of what I was capable of at Kansas,” Grimes said at the combine. “I feel like I showed a lot more in my first game here at the NBA Combine. So I feel like just getting here, getting into the flow, having the ball in my hands a lot more. I’m showing what I can really be doing out there, hopefully for an NBA team.”

We now know that Grimes will be returning to school and not turning pro. But the sentiment of having the ball in his hands is what matters most here. It was the recurring topic that Grimes kept bringing up in different answers when he was asked what he was trying to show for teams the next level.

“Just going out there and playing how I play. I didn’t really get to show my full capabilities at Kansas,” Grimes said. “So I’m out here playing point guard and trying to do everything I do. Score the ball and just trying to get my teammates involved and make plays.”

The loss of Grimes is certainly newsworthy. Highly-touted McDonald’s All-Americans rarely transfer — particularly from a blueblood like Kansas.

But this is probably the best move for all parties involved.

In college football we see situations where talented backup quarterbacks transfer after losing the quarterback battle in order to gain control of their own offense at a new school. This might be the closest thing we have to that situation in college basketball.

If Grimes is true to his combine word, he can seek a spot where a coach will put the ball in his hands so he can run his own offense. And Kansas can move on and try to erase the memories of falling short of last season’s Big 12 regular season title coupled with an early tournament exit at the hands of Auburn.

Grimes gets a fresh start after sitting out a year in order to re-boost his faltering pro stock. Kansas can solely put the ball in the hands of Dotson while playing through a deep-and-talented interior that is returning next season.

With Dotson back in the fold, Kansas has its floor general to get the ball inside to big man Udoka Azuibuke and forward Silvio de Sousa — returning from NCAA suspension after missing all of last season. On the bench, big man David McCormack and senior forward Mitch Lightfoot help form what might be the deepest frontcourt in the country.

And to replace Grimes, Kansas can turn to rapidly-emerging guard Ochai Agbaji or defensive-minded veteran Marcus Garrett. Even with the loss of Grimes, Kansas is still very much in the Big 12 and Final Four conversation — even with a lackluster recruiting class (by Bill Self standards) that doesn’t include a five-star prospect for the first time since 2011.

“I feel like the roster will be strong,” Dotson said at the combine. “Doke, Uchai back. Mitch, Marcus Garrett. Great guys. I feel like we’ll be strong.”

In an ideal world, Kansas fans would have loved the additional reinforcement of having a talented guard like Grimes back for another season. And after R.J. Hampton spurned college (and the Jayhawks) to turn pro in New Zealand, it means a lot of pressure will be on Dotson to perform as the sole point guard.

But the awkward situation and ill-fated experiment of Dotson and Grimes trying to play the same role for the same team is over.

And for both Kansas and Grimes himself, it is probably for the better.

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.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.