Stanford replaces South Carolina atop women’s AP Top 25

Richard Brian-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Coach Tara VanDerveer and Stanford are the new No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll.

The Cardinal ascended to the top spot Monday after previous No. 1 South Carolina lost at home to then-No. 8 North Carolina State. Stanford received 24 of the 30 first-place votes from a national media panel.

The Cardinal moved up to No. 1 at nearly the same time last year and held on to that spot for three weeks, the team’s first appearance there in seven years.

VanDerveer downplayed the significance of her team moving to No. 1 in Week 3 of the season.

“Rankings are important in March,” she said. “Let’s hope we’re playing in March.”

Louisville moved up three spots to No. 2 – matching the highest ranking in school history – and received two first-place votes. UConn, which has yet to play a game because the Huskies were on pause due to coronavirus concerns, stayed at No. 3, also receiving two first-place votes.

The Wolfpack, who got the other two first-place ballots, jumped four places to No. 4 after the 54-46 victory over the Gamecocks. South Carolina fell to fifth.

Arizona, Baylor, Oregon, Kentucky and Texas A&M round out the top 10. No. 6 is the highest ranking in Arizona’s history.

VanDerveer is poised to make history of her own: With her next victory, she will tie Pat Summitt’s all-time record of 1,098 wins. Where and when that might happen, however, is still up in the air.

The Cardinal had to shift their Pac-12 opener over the weekend to Las Vegas due to Santa Clara County’s ban on sporting events and practices for three weeks. They were supposed to play Washington State on Tuesday in Las Vegas, but the Cougars don’t have enough scholarship players available due to coronavirus protocols.

The next game listed on the Cardinal’s schedule is Friday against UC Davis at home, then a game at Cal on Sunday.

“The pandemic, the situation we’re in, it really makes you appreciate each game,” VanDerveer said. “Each game is so precious, and we’re so excited to be playing. We’re here in Vegas, we don’t know what our schedule is. We’re working the phones, trying to get games.”

Here are other tidbits from this week’s poll.

WELCOME BACK

South Dakota State is ranked for the first time in 11 years, entering the Top 25 at No. 22 after topping then-No. 18 Gonzaga in overtime on Sunday. The Jackrabbits also had a victory over Iowa State when the Cyclones were 15th in the nation. It’s the team’s first appearance in the poll since 2009. The Jackrabbits will play Kansas State on Thursday. South Dakota State replaced Iowa State, which dropped out.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Besides South Carolina’s drop, Baylor slid three spots, UCLA fell two places to No. 11 and Mississippi State dropped six positions to 12th after losing to South Florida.

Arkansas climbed three spots to 13th after beating then-No. 4 Baylor and Michigan rose five places to No. 19.

KEEP AN EYE ON

South Florida is just outside the Top 25 after an overtime victory over Mississippi State. The Bulls went from 1 vote last week to 59 this week. Coach Jose Fernandez’s team also fell just short to Baylor, losing 67-62.

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 8 Oregon at No. 15 Oregon State. It’s rivalry week in the Pac-12 and the first matchup of these schools is Sunday. The two teams meet again on Feb. 28. These were two of the must-see games the last few years.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.