College basketball’s top available graduate transfers

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Graduate transfers are a huge part of college basketball recruiting.

Grabbing a college-ready player who can come in and be productive right away is a common practice for some teams. And with recruiting getting hectic this offseason thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, graduate transfers look like an even safer option since college coaches can easily watch last season’s game film as other recruits can’t visit campus.

Here’s a look at the top ten available graduate transfers left this offseason. All ten of these players should be able to come in and contribute right away next season.

Matt Haarms, Purdue

The 7-foot-3 center surprised many with his decision to transfer. Haarms became one of the most coveted graduate transfers in college hoops. The main reason? The past three years, Haarms averaged at least two blocks per game. He’s a two-year starter in the middle for a successful Big Ten program. Finding immediate help with rim protection isn’t common on the graduate transfer market. Particularly from a big man who also averaged around nine points per game and shot above 52 percent the past two seasons. Over 20 schools have already reached out to Haarms since he entered the transfer portal. It’ll be fascinating to see Haarms in a new situation.

Bryce Aiken, Harvard

Aiken will close out his injury-plagued career at the highest level. This comes after a successful stint at Harvard where Aiken was a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection. As a junior last season, Aiken put up 22.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. This season, Aiken missed all but seven games due to a foot injury. Health will be a factor for Aiken. Across the past three college seasons he’s only played 39 total games. But Aiken’s a former consensus top-100 recruit and a dynamic playmaker at lead guard. He should be able to step in and become an impact player right away. Aiken has been linked to Iowa State, Maryland, Michigan and Seton Hall.

Justin Turner, Bowling Green

A two-time first-team All-MAC selection, Turner is the best pure scorer among graduate transfers. Turner put up 18.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season. He’s a 36 percent three-point shooter who can create shots on his own. The 6-foot-4 guard should be able to handle high-major competition right away. Turner had a 26-point outburst on LSU early in the season. Iowa State, Marquette and Missouri are the three schools left on Turner’s list. Returning to Bowling Green is also an option.

Jordan Bruner, Yale

Bruner is down to Alabama, Baylor and Maryland. The 6-foot-9 big man was a double-double threat every game the past two seasons. Bruner made first-team All-Ivy status by putting up 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season. The junior had an impressive three-game double-double stretch mid-season against UMass, Clemson and North Carolina. Bruner also shows intriguing skill at 32 percent from three-point range and 3.8 assists per game.

Jalen Tate, Northern Kentucky

The 6-foot-6 Tate is the premier two-way wing left among grad transfers. He’s reigning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. Tate improved on offense enough the past two seasons to also become a consistent double-figure scoring threat. Tate put up 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season. High-majors have shown interest in Tate, including Arkansas, Cincinnati (where former coach John Brennan is now head coach), Penn State, Virginia Tech and Wichita State.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 14: Davion Mintz #1 of the Creighton Bluejays is defended by Kyle Castlin #2 of the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the Quarterfinals of the 2019 Big East men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Davion Mintz, Creighton

Mintz sat out this past season with injury. He likely fell out of the starting picture following breakthrough Creighton’s Big East title season. Starting 79 games his first three seasons, Mintz is a consistent backcourt rotation piece at the high-major level. As a junior, the 6-foot-3 Mintz averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. Mintz only announced his transfer four days ago, so a recruiting list hasn’t become available yet. Expect Mintz to hear from a large number of suitors.

Amauri Hardy, UNLV

Consistent scoring is what the 6-foot-2 Hardy brings to the table. A double-figure bucket-getter for the Runnin’ Rebels the past two seasons, Hardy can fill it up. As a junior, Hardy scored 14.5 points and dished out 3.3 assists per game as a third-team all-league selection. Hardy can play both backcourt spots and that’s part of his appeal. But Hardy could seek a situation where he plays with the ball in his hands. Hardy maintains a large list of high-major suitors at this point in the process as he hasn’t cut a list.

Mike Smith, Columbia

Leading the Ivy League in scoring last season, Smith is one of the top microwave scoring graduate transfers. Smith put up 22.8 points, 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds last season for the Lions. Smith had to do it all on a very bad team. That didn’t slow him down from big games against tough competition. Smith tallied double-figures against Wake Forest, Virginia and St. John’s in non-conference play. He averaged 36 points per game in two contests against Harvard and dropped 37 on Yale the final time he played them. Smith will struggle to adapt defensively thanks to his generously-listed 5-foot-11 size. But he’s capable of putting up points or running an offense. Michigan, Northwestern and Seton Hall remain seriously involved.

Rapolas Ivanauskas, Colgate

This former Patriot League Player of the Year is a hot recent name to enter the transfer portal. Ivanauskas just entered a few days ago. According to Brian Snow of 247 Sports, Cincinnati, Dayton, Georgetown and Maryland have all reached out. A former Northwestern recruit who thrived at Colgate, the 6-foot-10 Ivanauskas put up 13.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Ivanauskas shot 43 percent from three-point range two seasons ago and brings a solid perimeter-shooting element to his game.

Charles Minlend, San Francisco

A known scorer, Minlend leaves the Dons after leading the team in points this past season. Averaging 14.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, the 6-foot-4 Minlend can do tons of damage off the dribble. Minlend scored in double-figures in all three games against Gonzaga last season (twice scoring 20-plus) while also going for double-figures in all three games against Pac-12 competition. Minlend has a long list of high-major schools in pursuit.

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.

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.