raphiellej

Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
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NBA sounds ready to move toward lowering draft age limit

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In recent years there’s been an increased amount of conversation regarding the NBA’s rules for draft entrants, with the requirements since the 2006 NBA Draft being that a player be at least 19 years of age (during the calendar year of the particular draft that they’ve entered) and stateside players also be one year removed from high school.

On Tuesday, both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts discussed the age limit during their respective press conferences. And by the sound of things, the league appears to still be headed in the direction of lowering the minimum age to 18. While neither provided a date as to when the change could go into effect, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post the minimum age to enter the draft could be lowered in time for the 2021 NBA Draft.

The 2021 timeframe doesn’t come as a surprise, as it’s been mentioned during multiple conversations regarding the NBA Draft age limit. The NBA has steadily made progress towards each team having its own NBA G-League affiliate, and it will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition by the year 2021.

Having a G-League affiliate allows NBA teams to use those franchise to help young players get the on-court reps they need to get used to the parent club’s system, especially if they aren’t getting many minutes in the NBA. And a “one-to-one” relationship would be key for the league if it’s to lower its minimum age requirement in the future.

As for how this impacts college basketball, while some have stated that the “one and done” era has hurt the sport, an argument can be made that it’s been more beneficial than harmful.

There are a number of elite players who during the current era would have never set foot on a college campus if there were no age limit. That season on campus also gives NBA teams the opportunity to further evaluate those talents before they become draft-eligible players. And from an academic standpoint, programs that land “one and done” talent consistently meet — or exceed — the NCAA’s requirements when it comes to Academic Progress Rate, whether or not one thinks that the APR is a sham.

It’s becoming more clear that the NBA is ready to make a change, and based upon Roberts’ quote a move could be announced in the very near future. While college coaches won’t have an impact on the final decision, they will have to be prepared for the trickle-down effect that’s likely to occur on the recruiting trail as a result of elite prospects not having to wait to enter the NBA draft.

Former UCLA player Billy Knight found dead in Phoenix

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For the second time in less than a week tragedy has struck the UCLA basketball family, as it was reported on Tuesday that the body of former player Billy Knight was found early Sunday morning in Phoenix.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Knight’s body was found by members of the Phoenix Fire Department and he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter by Phoenix Police. The cause of Knight’s death will be determined after the Maricopa County Medical Examiner runs a full autopsy.

Knight posted a video to his YouTube page that was published July 8, the same day his body was found, in which Knight discussed his struggles. (WARNING: The video is disturbing and could be triggering for people that have or are currently dealing with depression.)

Shortly after it was learned that Knight passed away members of the UCLA basketball family, including former teammates, friends and media members took to social media to send their condolences. Knight, who attended Westchester High School in Los Angeles, played at UCLA from 1997 to 2002.

On Friday it was reported that Tyler Honeycutt, who played two seasons at UCLA, was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, California home after a standoff with a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team.

Honeycutt’s death, which occurred after he barricaded himself in his home, is being investigated as a suicide.

Members of 2012, 2013 Louisville teams to file lawsuit against NCAA

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As part of the sanctions handed down to the University of Louisville men’s basketball program as a result of the escort scandal that came to light a couple years ago, the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced that the results of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 teams would be vacated from the record books.

That ruling means that the Cardinals’ trip to the Final Four in 2012 and national title the following season can no longer be acknowledged by the school. Members of those teams have refused to take the decision lying down, and on Tuesday it was announced via press release that a lawsuit will be filed against the NCAA.

The lawsuit was officially filed Wednesday morning in Commonwealth of Kentucky Jefferson Circuit Court.

“We’re here today to get back what was wrongfully taken,” attorney John Morgan said during a press conference Wednesday morning. “We’re here to reinstate ALL of those wins, not just some of those wins. But more than that — we are here today to get these players’ good names back.”

The act of vacating a team’s records is one that many have questioned over the years with regards to its effectiveness; it isn’t as if a Louisville fan will suddenly forget watching these teams play. But with the vacation of those records comes, for the school, a loss of revenue from those seasons.

And of even greater importance, especially for the athletes who played, no longer being officially acknowledged for what you and your teammates achieved is a big deal. Players such as 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock and guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith certainly won’t forget what they worked together to achieve, and the fans won’t forget cheering them on either.

But to walk into the KFC Yum! Center and not see the banners associated with those teams is a bitter pill to swallow for all involved.

Guardian of elite freshman added to Western Kentucky coaching staff

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Last month power forward Charles Bassey, originally considered to be one of the top prospects in the Class of 2019, announced that he would be moving into the 2018 class and joining the Western Kentucky basketball program. Tuesday afternoon the program made another move, with head coach Rick Stansbury announcing that Hennssy Auriantal, Bassey’s legal guardian, has been named an assistant coach.

Auriantal, who is also the legal guardian of another current Western Kentucky player in forward/center Moustapha Diagne, operated the Yes II Success program that in the past saw multiple players from foreign countries make the move to Division I college basketball.

Auriantal, who served as an assistant at Jackson State from 2014 to 2016, spent time at St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio during Bassey’s sophomore season (2016-17) and Aspire Academy in Louisville last season after being fired from his position at St. Anthony.

Auriantal’s departure from St. Anthony came in the aftermath of a San Antonio Express-News story detailing Bassey’s arrival from Nigeria, and the forward was one of five international players declared ineligible prior to the 2016-17 season by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. In April the Kentucky Center for Investigational Reporting published a story about Aspire Academy, which included questions of how the school landed international talents such as Bassey and Auriantal’s connection to Aspire.

The hiring or Auriantal will certainly draw its fair share of complaints, but it’s important to note that per NCAA rules a person connected to a prospect can be hired so long as it’s for an assistant coaching position and not a support staff role. If a head coach wants to use a spot on his coaching staff for this purpose, regardless of that person’s level of experience, that’s their right.

This is the second consecutive summer in which Stansbury has added a five-star prospect to his WKU program, but the circumstances surrounding Bassey’s commitment are far different than those of Mitchell Robinson last year and Tuesday’s announcement is further evidence of that.

Robinson, who originally committed to Texas A&M while Stansbury was an assistant there, would go on to commit to WKU before ultimately withdrawing from school last summer and deciding to use the year to prepare fo the 2018 NBA Draft. Robinson was selected in the second round of last month’s draft by the Knicks, and not playing anywhere last season impacted the draft prospects of a big man with lottery-level talent.

South Carolina lands highly regarded Canadian prospect

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South Carolina made another addition to its roster Tuesday evening, as one of the top prospects from Canada announced that he will be joining Frank Martin’s program ahead of the 2018-19 season. Highly athletic 6-foot-7 wing A.J. Lawson announced that he will be a Gamecock, and in addition to that he is moving up in classes from 2019 to 2018.

Lawson was considered to be one of Canada’s top 2019 prospects ahead of his decision to commit, picking South Carolina over Creighton and Tulane. Lawson joins a team that returns four of its top six scorers from last season, most notably the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year in rising senior Chris Silva.

Silva led the Gamecocks in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots last season and tested the NBA draft process before withdrawing his name ahead of the NCAA deadline last month.

Lawson’s pledge gives South Carolina five incoming freshmen, including four-star guard T.J. Moss, and the program is also adding two transfers in guards Tre Campbell and Jair Bolden. Campbell, who previously played at Georgetown, will be eligible this upcoming season as a graduate student.

Bolden, who averaged 11.2 points, 3.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game at George Washington last season, will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2018-19 season per NCAA transfer rules

Wendell Carter Jr.’s parents felt son’s role didn’t match recruiting pitch

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Heading into the 2017-18 season Duke was set to have a very talented recruiting class, with Wendell Carter Jr. expected to serve as the focal point in the front court. Things changed in mid-August however, as Marvin Bagley III announced that he would be moving back into the Class of 2017 and joining the Duke program. While adding another talented piece, especially one of Bagley’s caliber, was seen as a huge addition for the Blue Devils not everyone was thrilled with what the move would mean for how Mike Krzyzewski’s team played.

Parents Wendell Sr. and Kylia Carter saw a shift in how their son would be used at Duke, and in a story written by NBC Sports Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill, it’s clear that there are still some lingering bad feelings about the situation.

“I tell people. People make promises they can’t keep. It didn’t bother me,” Wendell Sr. told Goodwill. “I was concerned because I felt like we were lied to. ‘Oh, Wendell’s gonna be the man’ and then the rug was pulled from under us.”

As for Mrs. Carter, she says that there’s still the need for a conversation between herself and Krzyzewski when it comes to Wendell Jr.’s role not exactly matching up with what he was told during the recruiting process.

“We have not had our conversation but we will. We almost went there with him when we did our exit interview,” she told Goodwill. “But he’ll come around to a Bulls game and I’ll get the chance.”

It’s important to note here that there was no animosity between Carter Jr. and Bagley, with the former saying in the piece that their practice battles were more about making each other better, an “iron sharpens iron” approach. Carter did have to adjust his game in the aftermath of Bagley’s arrival. And after some early struggles, the 6-foot-10 big man averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game and finished the season with the highest individual defensive rating (92.8) of any of Duke’s regulars. Bagley (97.4) also completed the season with a defensive rating below 100.0.

Despite having to augment his style of play, Carter still landed in the lottery, with the Chicago Bulls selecting him with the seventh overall pick in last week’s NBA draft.

Whether or not promises were kept or broken is something that the Carter family and Krzyzewski will discuss at some point; Kylia Carter made that much clear in Goodwill’s story. And the on-court scenario not exactly matching up with what a recruit and his family are told during the recruiting process happens quite often.

That being said, the Carters still saw their son land in the lottery after his lone season at Duke. The situation could have been far worse, as some one-and-done players have learned the hard way since the NBA put its age limit rules in place.