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Auburn gives basketball coach Bruce Pearl 5-year extension

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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn has given basketball coach Bruce Pearl a five-year contract extension after the program’s best season in years.

Pearl led the Tigers to a share of their first Southeastern Conference regular season title since 1999 last season despite having two top players ineligible. The extension announced Monday runs through the 2022-2023 season.

“It was a historic season for Auburn basketball and one that was matched by excellence in the classroom as well,” athletic director Allen Greene said.

Auburn went 26-8 and snapped a 15-year NCAA Tournament drought, beating College of Charleston in the first round. Only the 1998-99 team won more games.

Pearl is set to make $2.6 million this year with a $100,000 annual raise. The five-year total not counting bonuses will be $14 million.

Pearl faced questions about his job security all season despite the on-court success. Before the season, Auburn fired associate head coach Chuck Person, who is facing federal charges as part of a probe into corruption in college basketball. The NCAA ruled center Austin Wiley and forward Danjel Purifoy ineligible last season after their families allegedly accepted money funneled through Person to steer them toward a financial advisory after they turned pro.

Pearl is poised to have another strong team next season.

Wiley is eligible while Purifoy must sit out part of the season. Wiley and guards Jared Harper and Bryce Brown all opted to return after exploring their NBA draft status.

Second-team All-SEC guard Mustapha Heron also withdrew from the draft. But St. John’s announced Monday that Heron is transferring to play for the Red Storm. The school said Heron plans to apply for a hardship waiver to be eligible next season.

Investigation clears Josh Pastner of sexual assault allegations

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An investigation that was commissioned by Georgia Tech has found that “none” of the sexual assault allegations levied against Josh Pastner were credible, according to an investigation report released by a lawyer the university hired.

The report also found that it is “highly likely” the allegations made against Paster were “concocted by [Ron] Bell, made in bad faith and asserted only after various other attempts to damage and/or extort Pastner failed.”

The allegations were made by Bell and his girlfriend in February, coming after a months-long drama that ensnared the Yellow Jacket head coach and two of his players. In November, Bell provided CBS Sports with text messages, receipts and photos as evidence to back up a claim that he provided impermissible benefits to two Georgia Tech basketball players, Josh Okogie and Tardic Jackson. Okogie and Jackson were eventually suspended for six and three games, respectively, by the NCAA. After Pastner sued Bell and his girlfriend in January, Bell went public with the sexual assault allegations.

Prior to their falling out, Bell — an ex-con and recovering drug addict — and Pastner were close friends dating back to Pastner’s days at Arizona.

“I am disgusted and devastated by the actions of these two individuals to whom I showed compassion,’’ Pastner said in a statement released by his attorney in January. “My family and I are victims of fraud and extortion and the extent to which these individuals have gone to harm us is truly unfathomable.’’

VIDEO: Marvin Bagley III NBA Draft Prospect Profile

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Over the weekend, Pro Basketball Talk released the second in our NBA Draft Prospect Profile series, an in-depth breakdown of Duke star Marvin Bagley III.

In an era where versatility is king, the ‘tweeners’ of the world have become the most valuable and sought-after players in the NBA. Marvin Bagley III, however, is what a ‘tweener’ has become in the modern NBA. As the saying goes, you are the position you can guard, so what happens when a kid with superstar talent is a five on one end of the floor and a four on the other?

The video below is a full NBA Draft scouting report on Bagley, who will not fall out of the top four of June’s draft, and you can read our work over at PBT as well.

OTHER PROFILES

DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona
MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke

NC Central receives NCAA probation for eligibility errors

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has placed North Carolina Central on probation for two years because of certification errors that allowed ineligible athletes to compete.

N.C. Central disclosed the penalties Wednesday, saying the NCAA determined the errors involved 22 athletes in seven sports — including football and men’s basketball — from 2012-15.

The school says it must vacate victories in the sports in which ineligible athletes participated, including men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s cross country and baseball.

N.C. Central’s basketball team played in the NCAA tournament in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

“The improper certifications came from a single, but repeated, error of counting foundational courses toward student-athletes’ percentage-of-degree completion,” the NCAA’s infractions decision read. “Outdated degree auditing and academic advising systems were another factor that contributed to the violations. Additionally, the academic support and certification groups did not have enough staff to oversee the certification process. Because of the improper certifications, 22 student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university also did not withhold six of the student-athletes from competition before they were reinstated.”

School officials did not say how many wins would be vacated but say they plan to appeal.

The school said administrative errors in the certification process made the athletes ineligible, and the violations were determined to be unintentional.

N.C. Central’s probation runs through May 2020.

Mississippi officer fired after excessive force complaint by Utah State commit

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi police officer has been fired after being accused of using excessive force against a 19-year-old basketball player.

Interim Jackson Police Chief Anthony Moore said officer Vincent Lampkin was fired after an “extensive investigation,” and asked citizens not to judge the entire department by “one bad actor.”

John Knight III told authorities that the officer pulled him over in May and attacked him as he got out of his vehicle. He said the officer handcuffed and punched him, put a gun to his head, threw his phone into the grass when he asked to call his father, and then ultimately let him go without charges.

Knight, a standout point guard, was pulled over and beaten only a week after Utah State signed him to a scholarship.

Arizona has plenty of offseason work after tumultuous season

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona went through one of the program’s most tumultuous seasons in 2017-18.

The Wildcats were ensnared in an FBI probe into recruiting before the season started, had a key player go down for a long stretch and were linked to the federal probe a second time late in the year.

Arizona still managed to win the Pac-12 tournament but the culmination of setbacks and distractions took a toll on the Wildcats once the NCAA Tournament started, leading to a surprising first-round exit.

Three players from that team were lost to graduation and three more are headed to the NBA, leaving the Wildcats with plenty of work to do this offseason if they’re going to remain among college basketball’s elite.

“Coming through this period of time isn’t always easy, but coming out on the other side, becoming bigger, stronger and better than ever, learning things and building our program. That’s what you talk about,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said Thursday. “It isn’t just pressing a reset button and doing things completely different. There’s a lot of things we’re very proud of that we wouldn’t change. There are a lot of things we have to improve on and that’s obviously on the leadership.”

Arizona’s last season hit a snag before it started. Assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was among 10 people arrested in September in a federal probe into shady recruiting practices, casting a dark cloud over the Wildcats.

Then Rawle Alkins broke his foot during preseason workouts and missed the first nine games. After an ugly trip to the Bahamas, the Wildcats pulled together and started winning games, remaining in the AP Top 25 most of the season.

Another bombshell dropped just before the Pac-12 tournament, when reports surfaced that Miller had been caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to lure a recruit to the school. Miller denied the report, kept his job and Arizona marched through the conference tournament, looking like one of the nation’s top teams headed into the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, the Wildcats stumbled in Boise, Idaho, succumbing to a barrage of baskets by Buffalo to lose in the first round.

“The totality of the season, beginning in the fall and getting to the Pac-12 Tournament took a toll on all of us,” Miller said. “I don’t know if we necessarily entered this year’s NCAA Tournament the most excited, eager, ready, happy as we could as a group.”

Dusan Ristic, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Keanu Pinder graduated, then Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Alkins opted to leave early for the NBA.

Arizona appeared to be headed to a rebuilding season with the losses and a recruiting class that fell apart due to the FBI investigation.

The Wildcats lost top point guard Jahvon Quinerly shortly after Richardson’s arrest and Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef, announced he was withdrawing his commitment to Arizona after the second round of allegations hit. Highly touted point guard Brandon Williams followed suit not long after, leaving the Wildcats’ recruiting cupboard bare.

Slowly, Miller started to rebuild his recruiting class, starting with Southern California guard Devonaire Doutrive. Belgian forward Omar Thielemans followed and Williams gave the class a big boost by recommitting to Arizona.

Arizona also will have Duke transfer Chase Jeter, an athletic 6-foot-10 forward who sat out last season, with graduate transfers Justin Coleman (Samford) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh).

They’ll join a roster that includes six returning players, led by Dylan Smith, Ira Lee, Brandon Randolph and Emmanuel Akot.

“Most of the teams we’ve had, the younger incoming talent is very important. Many of those guys came in the door ready to go,” Miller said. “Most of the time, the success starts with the returners. They improve from one year to the next, they’re the most experienced, they lead and create our culture for the guys who have never been here before.”

Arizona will have a different look next season from years past. With Kaleb Tarczewski, Ristic and Ayton, the Wildcats featured a big body in the middle to anchor their talented wing players.

In 2018-19, Miller plans to follow the mold created by Villanova coach Jay Wright the past few years by filling his roster with multi-talented, multi-dimensional wing players and guards. Villanova has won two of the past three national championships with a sort of positionless basketball and Arizona will have a similar style.

“The way of playing moving forward for us is to have more wings and guards on the court at the same time, to have more spacing and quick movement,” Miller said. “As you play with more skill and the ball moves and you spread out a little more, you can’t lose that second part, the rebounding.”