Gonzaga, Baylor dominate AP All-America teams

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Gonzaga and Baylor spent almost the entire season holding down the top two spots in the Top 25.

Makes sense they’d hold down a bunch of spots on The Associated Press All-America teams.

The Bulldogs’ Corey Kispert and the Bears’ Jared Butler led the way with first-team nods Tuesday from the national panel of 63 media members that vote each week in the AP Top 25 poll. They were joined by unanimous pick Luka Garza of Iowa, a two-time selection, along with Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois and Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State.

Kispert and Butler had plenty of company, though.

The Bulldogs also landed big man Drew Timme and freshman sensation Jalen Suggs on the second team while Joel Ayayi was an honorable mention pick. The Bears had Davion Mitchell on the third team and MaCio Teague as an honorable mention.

“Thinking about me as a freshman coming to Baylor and not knowing what I’m getting myself into, having no expectations for how well I’m going to be or how good I’m going to be – it means a lot to come full circle,” said Butler, the Big 12 player of the year and a third-team All-American last season.

It is the first time Baylor, which earned a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, has had a first-team All-American.

“These awards are just team awards,” said Butler, who withdrew from the NBA draft to return for his junior year. “I wouldn’t be here without my teammates just playing with me and giving me confidence. It’s been nice.”

Kispert also withdrew from the draft and also led his team to a No. 1 overall seed, along with helping the Bulldogs finish a perfect regular season. He joined Dan Dickau, Adam Morrison and Kelly Olynyk as first-team All-Americans from Gonzaga.

“He’s the epitome of a college athlete. He’s a poster child for the term student-athlete, great student, great ambassador for the program, our school and college athletics in general,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It’s all been because of the work, the time he’s put in, and his growth physically and mentally. He’s just an unbelievable guy.”

So is Garza, the brilliant big man from Iowa, who came up two votes of being a unanimous choice last season. In fact, he’s been so dominant that the school’s career scoring leader will have his No. 55 jersey retired at the end of the season.

“He’s the focal point of every defense every time we take the floor. The more tape that’s on him, the tougher that gets for him,” Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said. “So I just have been really impressed with his relentlessness to continue to improve and to handle anything that comes his way.”

Like the Hawkeyes, the Fighting Illini had never had a first-team pick until Dosunmu came along. The two-time All-Big Ten guard led them to the conference tournament title last weekend and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney.

Joining those veterans – seniors Garza and Kispert, juniors Butler and Dosunmu – is Cunningham, the favorite to be chosen first overall in the NBA draft. The calm freshman forward helped engineer an upset of Baylor in the Big 12 tourney and will lead the fourth-seeded Cowboys into the NCAA Tournament.

“Oklahoma State, last year wasn’t the year that they were proud of,” Cunningham said, “but I know there’s a bunch of guys that wanted to win and were going to do everything that it took to win. So having a group of guys like that, with the coach we have and staff we have, that’s what I want to surround myself with.”

SECOND TEAM

While the first team was full of upperclassmen, the second team belonged to college basketball’s youth.

There was Suggs, the freshman who led Gonzaga to high-profile wins over Kansas and Iowa early in the season, and Timme, the sophomore who went from key reserve to crucial starter for the West Coast Conference champs.

Joining them were a trio of post players: Kofi Cockburn of Illinois, Hunter Dickinson of Michigan and Evan Mobley of USC.

“Very proud of Evan, his development,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield. “He’s really improved as a player throughout the season and we are going to need him to play at a high level starting the end of this week.”

THIRD TEAM

Baylor’s Mitchell was joined on the third team by Quentin Grimes, the high-scoring guard from Houston; Herb Jones of Alabama; Cameron Krutwig of mid-major darling Loyola Chicago; and Chris Duarte of Oregon.

Just like the first- and second-team All-Americans, their teams also will be playing in the NCAA Tournament this week.

“You never want to take winning for granted,” said Krutwig, a member of the Ramblers team that reached the Final Four in 2018. “We put a lot of hard work into it. But we were sitting there saying, `There’s so much more to go.”‘

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.