The nine most influential transfer waivers we are waiting on

Getty Images
0 Comments

With the 2020 NBA Draft bearing down on us, the biggest question marks heading into the 2020-21 season are the players that have yet to decide if they are going to pull their name out of the NBA draft.

But there are also a number of transfers that are still considering applying for, or are already waiting on, immediately eligibility waivers.

These are the biggest names.

For the most impactful stay-or-go decisions, click here.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft 3.0 | Early Entry Tracker

1. OLIVIER SARR, Kentucky

Sarr is easily the most impactful transfer currently waiting on a waiver. As we have come to expect out of Lexington, Kentucky is turning their roster over completely, with a brand new crop of freshmen ready to carry the torch.

Brandon Boston is expected to be the best of the bunch. Terrence Clarke isn’t all that far behind. Devin Askew, as well as Creighton grad transfer Davion Mintz, should be able to handle point guard duties well enough. Throw in Keion Brooks, who is back for his sophomore season, as well as Cam’Ron Fletcher, that’s a pretty good place for Kentucky to start.

The problem is up front. E.J. Montgomery went pro despite having almost no chance of playing in the NBA in the near future. Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware are both highly-regarded, four-star big men heading to Kentucky, but neither of them are the kind of impact player that John Calipari needs at the five to be able to thrive. Sarr, however, is. He was a third-team all-ACC player a season ago, averaging 13.7 points and 9.0 boards. He put up 30 points and 17 boards on Notre Dame. He had 25 points against Duke. He went for 21 points and 13 boards against Arizona. He’s really good.

But he also has said publicly that he left Wake Forest because of a coaching change that occurred this offseason as well as the chance to improve his basketball life. Historically, the NCAA has not given out waivers to players that are transferring because of a coaching change. There have been players that transferred after a coaching change and got a waiver, but there was a reason beyond just a different staff that allowed them to get the waiver.

We’ll see what Kentucky cooks up.

Because with Sarr, they are a top ten team. Without him, the Wildcats are more of a back-end top 25 team.

2. LANDERS NOLLEY and DEANDRE WILLIAMS, Memphis

There were three dominoes that the Memphis basketball program has been waiting on.

The first fell last night, as Moussa Cisse committed to play his college ball for Penny Hardaway. Waivers for Nolley and Williams are the other two.

For my money, Cisse was the most important piece here. I detailed why in this column. Nolley, however, is almost as important. A 6-foot-7, 230 pound forward, Nolley averaged 15.5 points for Virginia Tech this past season as a redshirt freshman. He’s a really good shooter that was one of the best players in the conference before tailing off down the stretch of the season. Given the current roster makeup of Memphis, he’s also a perfect fit for a program that has a defensive anchor, a ton of guards and not all that much in between that can bring it all together. With Nolley and D.J. Jeffries on the wings, Cisse in the middle and the likes of Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax and Damian Baugh handling backcourt duties, the Tigers would be a top 20 team that could compete with Houston for an AAC title.

Williams, who averaged 15.2 points and 6.9 boards in 18 games for Evansville last year, is more of a big than he is a perimeter weapon, but he can still contribute in that role. Williams will be 24 years old by the time the season rolls around.

3. L.J. FIGUEROA, Oregon

Finding impact scorers on the transfer market has become something of a specialty for Dana Altman’s program, and Figueroa is no different. He averaged 14.5 points last season for the Johnnies, and he should be a really good fit in Altman’s offense. With a roster that already includes the likes of Will Richardson, Chris Duarte, Amauri Hardy, Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams, it may be tough for Figueroa to crack into the starting lineup, but getting a player like this eligible immediately is only going to help.

Figueroa appears to have a shot at getting the waiver due to the coronavirus pandemic. When Figueroa left, New York City was still the hardest hit place in the country.

4. MAC MCCLUNG, Texas Tech

McClung is a YouTube sensation known for his highlight reel dunks and ability to put up points in a hurry. He broke Allen Iverson’s record for points scored in Virginia high school basketball history. If there’s one thing that he can do on a basketball court, it’s get buckets.

McClung cannot, however, guard. Anyone. He’s a really, really, really bad defender. If there’s one thing that Chris Beard will not stand for at Texas Tech, it’s someone not playing defense. And if there is one thing that this Tech program desperately needed last season, it’s someone that could get a bucket.

Now, this all assumes that McClung is going to buy in defensively, Beard is going to put in the effort to develop him defensively and that the combination of those two things will allow McClung to beat out some of the more talented pieces on this roster — Kyler Edwards, Nimari Burnett, Kevin McCullar, Terrence Shannon — for playing time. But he is unquestionable a useful piece that Beard should be able to get the most out of, and I’m not sure there is a better place for McClung to be if he wants to fix the flaws in his game.

McClung may have a real shot at getting a waiver as well. Georgetown’s program went through quite a bit of drama in the last eight months, including a nagging foot injury that McClung just couldn’t seem to shake.

5. CHAUNDEE BROWN, Michigan

Brown is a powerful, athletic wing that averaged 12.1 points this past season at Wake Forest. He left the program after his junior season, entering the NBA draft and the NCAA’s transfer portal on the same day. That was more than two weeks before head coach Danny Manning was fired by Wake Forest. If Brown does receive a waiver, he would be a nice compliment to Isaiah Livers, who is still weighing whether or not to remain in the NBA draft.

6. BOTH GACH and LIAM ROBBINS, Minnesota

The Golden Gophers have quite a bit left up in the air at the moment — they are also waiting on Marcus Carr to decide whether or not he is going to pull his name out of the draft — but Gach and Robbins have a big impact as well. Robbins is a 7-foot center that averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 boards as a sophomore at Drake last season, while Both Gach is a talented wing that transferred back to Minnesota, where he played his high school ball, after averaging 10.7 points as a sophomore.

7. JAVON FREEMAN-LIBERTY, DePaul

I know it’s hard to get too excited about anyone that is going to be playing for DePaul, but Freeman-Liberty has a chance to be really good. He’s coming off of a sophomore season where he averaged 19 points for Valparaiso, and at 6-foot-4, is the kind of explosive guard that will draw the attention of NBA scouts.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

ncaa
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
2 Comments

The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
2 Comments

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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.