‘Rich Paul Rules’: NCAA criteria for agents of NBA draft hopefuls poorly thought out

Rich Paul next to LeBron (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The NCAA sent a memo to agents on Monday that detailed a new certification process and a series of requirements that will be necessary in order to represent players as they test the NBA draft waters.

The memo, which was obtained by NBC Sports, states that the NCAA will require applicants to have “a bachelor’s degree, be in good standing with the NBPA, have been NBPA certified for a minimum of three consecutive years and maintain professional liability insurance.” The agents will also be required to submit to a background check, pay a non-refundable $250 fee and complete an in-person exam on Wednesday, November 6th, at the NCAA’s offices in Indianapolis.

Within the application itself, sources told NBC Sports, is language stating that applicants will not be certified unless they agree to cooperate will all NCAA investigations regardless of whether or not they involve that specific agent’s certification.

The NCAA opted to allow players testing the waters to have access to representation as part of the changes that were enacted by Condoleeza Rice’s Commission on College Basketball. The players that test the waters are only allowed to return to school with eligibility intact if they accept “permissible agent services from NCAA certified agents with a signed agent agreement.”

It’s worth noting here that one of the most powerful agents in basketball, Rich Paul, does not have a bachelor’s degree. Paul represented Darius Bazley, who initially committed to Syracuse before withdrawing and, after flirting with playing a year in the G League, decided to sit out this past season. He was paid $1 million for an internship with New Balance before getting selected with the 23rd pick in the 2019 draft. There are ways to get around the bachelor degree loophole – like, for instance, hiring an agent with a degree to get a player under that agency’s umbrella – but the NCAA isn’t targeting Paul of Klutch Sports with this rule. They’re targeting the next Rich Paul.

College players that are making the decision of what they want to do with their future need to advice and representation of people that are qualified. That’s obvious. But it is worth noting that the ability to obtain a degree in this day and age has much to do with privilege, economic status and the family you were born into as it does your ability to think critically, understand the NBA’s CBA or be able to negotiate a contract. If anything, Rich Paul proved that.

Hell, the NBPA doesn’t even require a bachelor’s degree for certification. They have minimum degree requirements, but they also have a work-around in their rules if an applicant can prove that they have enough work and real life experience to justify certification. There is even an FAQ on the NBPA’s site about this very subject.

And the truth is that the NCAA shouldn’t have requirements that are more strict than the NBA’s. Hell, the NCAA probably shouldn’t be in the game of approving whether or not an agent is qualified. That’s not what they are designed to do. The NBA Players’ Association is, and certification with the NBPA should be enough.

The truth is this: Agents should have to apply with the NCAA so the NCAA has a record of who is representing players. They should also have to fill out some kind of form or questionnaire to prove that they – or, at the very least, someone in their office – understand what the specific NCAA bylaws are. If the NCAA thinks that’s worth charging a $250 processing fee, I can even get on board with that, too.

But by putting together a list of criteria this strict is only going to make NBA agents laugh at the idea of getting NCAA certified. One agent that NBC Sports reached out to simply deleted the memo as soon as he received it. “It’s gone,” he said.

And if agents aren’t going to take the certification process seriously, underclassmen are just going to be told to leave early without actually testing the waters. That, in turn, will make the early entry drain on college basketball’s talent level just that much quicker.

But hey, at least those television contracts are guaranteed, am I right?

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.