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Women’s Wednesday: Kobe Bryant’s impact on women’s basketball

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“His legacy will live on. You’ll feel Kobe Bryant.”

Dawn Staley’s words ring true as the world continues to mourn the untimely and tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, as well as his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.  

Staley, the head coach for the South Carolina women’s basketball team, is a Hall of Fame coach and player and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. She was also a friend of Kobe’s, growing up in Philadelphia and sharing a gym with him under the watch of the 76ers’ John Lucas. The two also participated in the Olympic games together. 

The Laker legend is known worldwide for his impact on the NBA, with five championship titles, two Finals MVPs, and more.

While his resume is endless, Staley also remembers “The Black Mamba” for the father he was to four daughters, and the impact he had on women’s basketball. 

“Kobe was like no other when it came to supporting women’s basketball,” Staley expressed.

“He single-handedly took women’s basketball to another level by showing up at the games, by giving interviews and expressing what he felt was in his heart about women’s basketball. Once you’re able to see women’s basketball in that light, it helps grow the game, especially when it’s someone as powerful as Kobe Bryant, and as thoughtful, as detailed, as he was.”

Staley stressed the impact that Gianna’s love of the game had on her father being a fierce advocate for women’s basketball, saying, “I think Kobe would have been like this in whatever his daughters chose to have a passion about.”

“He thought long term and expressed things that no other professional men’s basketball player would ever say, that there are players in the WNBA that could play in the NBA,” the Gamecocks coach explained. “Kobe saw what he was instilling in his daughter. He probably wanted to say those things about Gigi… that she could one day play in the NBA.” 

After his retirement, Kobe could be found sitting courtside with his daughter, affectionately nicknamed “Gigi,” but he could also be found coaching at Mamba Sports Academy, where he was the head coach for Gigi’s team, the Los Angeles Lady Mambas.

Gigi dreamed of playing for UConn, and frequently went to Husky games with her dad. The pair also championed other top women’s programs, such as Oregon. 

“If you look at every single player that he has touched — Sabrina Ionescu, or the entire Oregon women’s basketball team,” Staley said, with emotion evident in her voice. “You look at UConn. Gigi wanted to go to UConn, she was fascinated with what accomplishments and traditions UConn stood for. We feel [her loss], there is a big void.”

Kobe’s passion for basketball, paired with the love he had for Gigi, has left many thinking that he would have become more involved in the WNBA in years to come. 

“I think women’s basketball would’ve grown to the point where Kobe would’ve put more of his money into it, because I know he put money into the Mamba Academy,” Staley said. “I’m sure he eventually would’ve gotten around to maybe even buying a team or buying into the league in some form or fashion.”

The devastating helicopter crash that took nine lives — including two other young girls, GiGi’s teammates, taken far too early — reminds us all of the fragility of life, and how quickly it can be taken away from us. 

In the wake of this tragedy, people are turning towards love and one another. 

Timelines are flooded with stories and anecdotes about Kobe, his relationship with his wife, Vanessa, and four daughters. Buildings and memorials all over the country are lit up in purple and gold, while tributes for the all-star pour in from as far away as the Philippines. 

Kobe has left a lasting legacy, one that Staley won’t forget.

“I hope with several of the NBA players, when they speak on keeping Kobe’s legacy alive, they will bring the women’s game along with it.

“Because that’s what Kobe Bryant was doing.”

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

UConn faced off against the U.S. national team on Monday night, putting up impressive show but ultimately falling short of an upset in a 79-64 loss. Fiver former Huskies dressed for the national team’s exhibition game.

Alongside many NBA teams, UConn and Team USA took honorary shot clock violations to start the game as a tribute to Kobe Bryant. 

The Huskies set up a stunning memorial for the late Gianna Bryant, who dreamt of playing for UConn one day, on their bench:

– The top teams in the county took care of business this weekend, with not a single ranked team upset by a lower-ranked team on Saturday or Sunday. 

– South Carolina maintained its No. 1 spot atop the polls, with 26 first-place votes from the AP panel, after an 88-53 rout of Georgia on Sunday. Baylor is No. 2 once again as well. 

– The rest of the top-10 reflects the talent among the top teams, with UConn and Oregon swapping spots as Oregon notched two back-to-back wins over rival Oregon State to take No. 3 in the rankings from the Huskies. The Ducks beat the Beavers 76-64 on Friday, outscoring Oregon State 45-29 in the first half, and then again on Sunday, 66-57.

When asked about her mentor and friend Kobe Bryant after the game, Sabrina Ionescu replied that “this season’s for him”:

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu continued on her record-breaking rampage, toppling Gary Payton’s passing record as the all-time leader for Pac-12’s men and women’s assists. She is now No. 7 on the women’s career assists list.

– In another in-state rivalry, then-No. 18 Arizona secured the 59-53 upset over then-No. 16 Arizona State. The Wildcats jumped up to No. 16 while the Sun Devils dropped to 19.

– No. 7 N.C. State continues to impress with a 76-68 win over rival North Carolina. 

– And in the Play Of The Week: Anna Makurat goes behind the back to Christyn Williams for the layup in STYLE:

Duke’s Justin Robinson discusses lost season, becoming a leader

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Justin Robinson was starting to figure things out.

The Duke senior forward saw his role increase as the postseason approached. Against rival North Carolina, Robinson made key plays on both ends of the floor. Robinson finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three assists in 25 minutes. The ACC tournament was next on the schedule for Duke.

Then, the college basketball season was cut short. Robinson and his Duke teammates were among a large group of teams with seasons that would never get completed.

Robinson sat down with his brother Corey to discuss how he and his teammates handled season being canceled, his favorite tournament memories and how he grew into his role with the Blue Devils.

Report: MSU basketball player accused of sexual assault

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) A woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a Michigan State basketball player is asking the Michigan attorney general’s office to investigate, according to a published report.

ESPN, citing a police report and emails obtained through a public records request, reported that Michigan State University police told prosecutors they had probable cause that sophomore guard Brock Washington raped the woman on Jan. 19 while she was too intoxicated to consent. Police referred the case to county prosecutors, who declined to file charges this month.

An MSU police spokesman said that the attorney general’s office requested the case file and the department was cooperating.

After a loss at Indiana on Jan. 23, coach Tom Izzo told reporters that Washington had been suspended. He did not elaborate.

Washington did not play again this season. He played a total of 19 minutes this season before the suspension.

A team spokesman did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday. The AP also left messages with the MSU police.

ESPN said it attempted to reach Washington and his current attorney. A previous attorney, Peter Samouris, said he wasn’t familiar with this case but that he spoke with Washington and Washington’s father last week.

“It’s my understanding he’s not going to be charged, and he doesn’t wish to speak,” Samouris told ESPN. “He’s maintained his innocence 100% of the time.”

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon said in a statement to ESPN that she did not charge Washington because the case “does not meet the burden of proof that we must present to a jury.”

The woman told ESPN she met with an assistant prosecutor earlier this month and was told that she had been “too intoxicated to prove that it (sexual contact) was forced.”

“That was the whole point of the charge, that I was too drunk to consent to what happened,” the woman said. “The prosecutor failed me completely.”

The woman told ESPN she requested that the AG’s office investigate her case.

ESPN, citing police records and an unidentified source, said Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2018 – under a provision allowing offenders to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction. A female student reported that Washington forcibly groped her on Aug. 29, 2017, according to ESPN.

Michigan State has been at the center of several high-profile sexual assault claims in recent years. The school was rocked by the sexual abuse scandal involving sports doctor Larry Nassar, and several basketball and football players have been accused of misconduct as well.

More AP college basketball:

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NBA draft process remains uncertain for college stars

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Uncertainty in the NBA draft process means a chaotic next few months for college basketball’s stars.

The COVID-19 outbreak stalled the NBA season. The future of the regular season hasn’t been determined. The postseason with it. The 2020 NBA Draft still remains a complete mystery.

Through it all, college basketball’s best players have deadlines for pro decisions coming up. Changing times have made for a more difficult NBA draft process than normal. It also might have ramifications for future college eligibility for certain players.

Before the 2019 NBA Draft process, the NCAA revised its former policy. Student-athletes could sign agents and retain college eligibility last summer. That process helped players like Kansas’ Devon Dotson and Louisville’s Jordan Nwora test the 2019 NBA Draft waters before returning to school this season.

The sport’s top agents largely ignored the new NCAA certification process for 2020. Only 23 agents have even been certified so far. As noted by Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, that list of NCAA-approved agents don’t come from bigger firms. So college players have been given a small group of agents to help them navigate the process. At least if they wish to keep college open as an option.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony also noted that many agents are more focused on their current NBA players and the surrounding chaos in the NBA than they are 2020 draft prospects.

Of course, prospects can also risk navigating the NBA draft process alone. An agent, even from a “smaller” firm, has NBA connections. Agents help give feedback to potential clients who test the waters. A player going through the process alone doesn’t get that benefit. With limited NCAA-approved agents, some players could opt to do things themselves the next several months.

Top players who intend to stay in the draft will still sign with the sport’s top agents. That part will stay the same. But during a unique draft process, players being limited to only 23 agents to retain eligibility is not what the NCAA should be looking for. Workouts have practically been eliminated. The draft might be pushed back. And the NCAA isn’t helping its own student-athletes by placing so many restrictions that limit returning eligibility.

Tarleton State’s decision to hire Billy Gillispie is shameful

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Billy Gillispie is the new head coach at Tarleton State.

But the truth is that Billy Gillispie, the former UTEP, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kentucky coach, should never again be allowed to coach basketball at any level, which is what makes Tarleton State’s decision to hire him to lead the program into the Division I ranks next season all the more shameful.

He’s abusive, he’s manipulative, he treats the people in his program horrifically and you can never be quite sure when his next drunk driving arrest is going to happen. He’s had at least three since his coaching career began. When he was the head coach at the University of Kentucky, he had a driver because the school could not trust that he would not get behind the wheel while hammered. Case in point: exactly five months after Kentucky fired him — when he no longer had a driver supplied to him by the school — he was pulled over at 2:47 a.m. in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, for DUI. He plead guilty two months later despite refusing a breathalyzer.

Every stop that he has been along the way, there are stories about the way that he treats players, his assistant coaches and the people he interacts with around the program every day. There was the time at Kentucky he made Josh Harrellson sit in a bathroom stall during halftime because he was “playing like s***,” or the time he made Harrellson ride home from a road game in a van with the team managers. There was the time at Texas A&M that he made a player break up with the girl he was dating — a booster’s daughter — on the charter flight home from a game, in front of the girl’s family.

Then there was Texas Tech.

As Jeff Goodman, then of CBS Sports, reported at the time, Gillispie’s treatment of the players was just horrific. He had his team practicing for four hours a day — including one day where they went for eight hours — just obliterating the NCAA’s limit of 20 hours per week. It left one player on the team with stress fractures in both legs that he was forced to play through. He lied to players about scholarship offers, stringing them along until he had someone better to give the scholarship to. He did the same thing with coaches trying to get a spot on his coaching staff. According to Goodman’s reporting at the time, former Indiana guard Tom Coverdale quit his job as a Junior College coach to be an assistant on Gillispie’s staff only to get to Lubbock and be told that he was going to be an assistant strength coach that paid half as much. He would force everyone with the program — including radio and TV broadcasters — participate in layup lines at the start of practice. Anyone that missed a shot at to run the stadium stairs.

“It was mental warfare,” said a source that has worked with Gillispie in the past. “Everyone had to have a clear understanding. He was the ruler. He has a major complex with making sure everyone knows he’s in charge. For no reason, just to flex. Meeting at all times of the night, meeting on Christmas Eve, just to see if anyone says, ‘can’t coach, wife said no.’ Then he’d overcompensate with gifts for the family, for the kids.”

Like any abusive relationship, he breaks down people he has control over, builds them back up by showering them with compliments and promises that it will never happen again only to repeat the process all over.

And then there was the incident with Chris Beard.

Fed up with the way that he treated people in the program — as many as 30 people left Texas Tech, from players to secretaries, in the 18 months that Gillispie was in charge — Beard confronted Gillispie about it in a meeting with Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt. Things got heated. The two had to be physically separated. Beard was paid a hefty chunk of money to be quiet about it, and he was sent on his way, taking a job in the ABA before ending up back in Lubbock.

Those are just the stories that I feel comfortable enough to publish.

Tarleton State knows exactly what they’re doing in hiring Billy Gillispie. None of his issues are a secret. Things haven’t changed since he took over at Ranger College, a JuCo in Texas, three years ago. But the new president at the University wanted to make a splash. He wanted to transition to Division I, and he wanted to win as soon as he got there. The WAC is hardly a powerhouse, and if there is one thing that Billy Clyde Gillispie can do, it’s win basketball games.

He did so at UTEP and he did so at Texas A&M. Odds are good Billy Gillispie will also win at Tarleton State.

And in the process, he’ll treat everyone that he deems beneath him — student-athletes, staff members, whoever — terribly.

Is that really worth it?

2020 NBA Draft Early Entry Tracker

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Here is CBT’s full 2020 NBA Draft early entry tracker. You’ll find a full breakdown of what players are deciding. We’ll track signing with agents, testing the waters and returning to school here. 

Underclassmen have until Sunday, April 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST to declare for the 2020 NBA Draft.

A deadline of Monday, June 15th at 5 p.m. EST is set for underclassmen to withdraw and retain college eligibility.

Of course, these dates are subject to change given the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation.

Here is the full list of the underclassmen who have declared for the 2020 NBA Draft. You can also find a list of the biggest names we’re waiting on.

NBA DRAFT EARLY ENTRY

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

NBA DRAFT TESTING THE WATERS

  • SADDIQ BEY, Villanova
  • TYLER BEY, Colorado
  • JERMAINE BISHOP, Norfolk State
  • JORDAN BRUNER, Yale
  • MARCUS CARR, Minnesota
  • JALEN CRUTCHER, Dayton
  • RYAN DALY, St. Joseph’s
  • DEVON DANIELS, N.C. State
  • KENDRIC DAVIS, SMU
  • L.J. FIGUEROA, St. John’s
  • D.J. FUNDERBURK, N.C. State
  • ALONZO GAFFNEY, Ohio State
  • JIMMA GATWECH, Huntington Prep (WV)
  • JAYVON GRAVES, Buffalo
  • RAYSHAUN HAMMONDS, Georgia
  • ELIJAH HUGHES, Syracuse
  • FERON HUNT, SMU
  • HERB JONES, Alabama
  • MASON JONES, Arkansas
  • KAMERON LANGLEY, North Carolina A&T
  • SABEN LEE, Vanderbilt
  • KIRA LEWIS, Alabama
  • ISAIAH LIVERS, Michigan
  • CAM MACK, Nebraska
  • SANDRO MAMUKELASHVILI, Seton Hall
  • NAJI MARSHALL, Xavier
  • KENYON MARTIN JR., IMG Academy (FL)
  • REMY MARTIN, Arizona State
  • MAC MCCLUNG, Georgetown
  • ELIJAH OLANIYI, Stony Brook
  • JOHN PETTY JR., Alabama
  • NATE PIERRE-LOUIS, Temple
  • JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL, Villanova
  • JAY SCRUBB, Louisville
  • PARKER STEWART, UT Martin
  • MACIO TEAGUE, Baylor
  • XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State
  • JORDAN TUCKER, Butler
  • KEITH WILLIAMS, Cincinnati
  • MCKINLEY WRIGHT, Colorado

NOTABLES RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • DEREK CULVER, West Virginia
  • OSCAR TSHIEBWE, West Virginia

NOTABLES YET TO ANNOUNCE

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
DERRICK ALSTON, Boise State
COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina
BRYAN ANTOINE, Villanova
JOEL AYAYI, Gonzaga
JARED BUTLER, Baylor
VERNON CAREY, Duke
AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State
LUKA GARZA, Iowa
JOSH GREEN, Arizona
ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
AARON HENRY, Michigan State
MATTHEW HURT, Duke
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, Indiana
ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas
DAVID JOHNSON, Louisville
A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
SCOTTIE LEWIS, Florida
TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky
JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington
WENDELL MOORE, Duke
JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
YVES PONS, Tennessee
NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
IMMANUEL QUICKLEY, Kentucky
JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech
NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
JALEN SMITH, Maryland
CASSIUS STANLEY, Duke
ISAIAH STEWART, Washington
TYRELL TERRY, Stanford
TRENDON WATFORD, LSU
ROMEO WEEMS, DePaul
KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
KAHLIL WHITNEY, Kentucky
ROBERT WOODWARD, Mississippi State

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | NBA Draft Early Entry (link)

WHEN IS THE 2020 NBA DRAFT?

The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to take place on June 25th, 2020, but that date is up in the air due to the spread of COVID-19. At the very least, the league is preparing as if the pre-draft process is going to be drastically different than it has been in past seasons.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE FOR AN EARLY ENTRY TO DECLARE FOR THE 2020 NBA DRAFT?

Underclassmen have under April 26th to declare for the draft. Those that don’t sign with an agent have until June 15th to pull their name out of the draft and return to school.

WHERE CAN I FIND A 2020 MOCK DRAFT?

Right here, thanks for asking.