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Takeaways from the UAA Challenge: Nico Mannion and Josh Green are must-see, Anthony Edwards tops 2020

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EMERSON, Ga. — Although the Peach Jam was huge focal point of the first evaluation period, Under Armour had themselves a solid event with the UAA Challenge just north of Atlanta. With plenty of signature matchups and five-star talents, there were a lot of things to watch during a brief stop there during the first live evaluation period.

Here are some things to watch with the UAA, when they’ll be the focal point during the third live evaluation week as they host the UAA Finals in Las Vegas next week.

NICO MANNION AND JOSH GREEN aRE THE BEST 1-2 PUNCH IN THE UAA

Over the last few years, the duo of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis have built a big reputation in the UAA. Deservedly so. But, over the next few weeks, the West Coast Elite duo of point guard Nico Mannion and Josh Green will be more fun to watch.

While the duo of Antoine and Lewis could end up being better long-term prospects (that’s a debate for another time), the duo of Mannion and Green have a unique chemistry playing with each other that Antoine and Lewis can lack at times since they play such similar positions.

Both Mannion and Green made major waves this weekend in the UAA Challenge.

Confirming to NBCSports.com that he intends to reclassify into the Class of 2019 from the Class of 2020, Mannion looked like he was ready to make the leap into college hoops. Second in the event in assists per game, Mannion had 38 of them over a six-game span (6.3 per game) and only had four turnovers in 164 minutes of action.

Also shooting 59 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line on his way to 15.8 points per contest, Mannion was incredibly efficient. He showed court savvy, athleticism and a solid perimeter jumper. Mannion has Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Oregon and USC hard after him as he will be an intriguing point guard to watch during July.

Green, a 6-foot-6 two-way wing, was also incredibly efficient as he shot 71 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range on his way to 18.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. With four or more assists in four games, Green has natural floor vision and passing ability to go along with his scoring prowess. After showcasing a shaky perimeter jumper at times in the past, Green has worked with a trainer the past few months to become more consistent from deep. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, USC and Villanova are some of the schools that Green mentioned to NBCSports.com as being in the mix.

Both Green and Mannion are already five-star prospects. It’ll just be interesting to see them close out the live period the next two weeks because they have a chance to make some major noise.

ANTHONY EDWARDS HAS A CHANCE TO BE 2020’S BEST

The Class of 2019 doesn’t have a lot of star power in terms of No. 1 quality players — my colleague Rob Dauster went over that yesterday — but there seem to be a few worthy contenders in the Class of 2020.

Among them includes 6-foot-5 shooting guard Anthony Edwards. The Atlanta native was one of the must-see players of the first evaluation period. Playing in a high-profile matchup against five-star 2020 guard Jaden Springer, Edwards displayed a natural scoring ability thanks to his ridiculous athleticism and acumen for putting the ball in the basket; he’s what hoopheads will call a “bucket-getter”.

Although his jumper wasn’t falling from three-point range (5-for-22), Edwards still shot 57 percent from the field while putting up 22.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the weekend.

Displaying more vision and passing ability with his Atlanta Xpress team than in the camp setting, Edwards looked like a more complete guard at the UAA Challenge. He also defended to the tune of an event-leading 2.4 steals per game as Edwards has long arms and a quick first step to jump into passing lanes.

There is plenty of competition for the top spot in 2020, but Edwards is going to be among the major contenders with his summer play.

JEREMIAH EARL-ROBINSON IS AS PRODUCTIVE AS ANYONE IN THE CLASS

This summer has seen Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produce everywhere he has played. The 6-foot-8 Class of 2019 forward helped the USA U18 team win a gold medal while also leading the UAA Challenge in rebounds the first week of July.

A double-double machine who is improving his perimeter skill, Robinson-Earl is a hard-playing and intriguing combo forward who should join a high-level college rotation immediately. He has great secondary leaping ability that enables him to be a menace on the offensive glass as he’s particularly adept at putbacks.

If Robinson-Early can show an improved perimeter jumper and an ability to attack off the dribble, then he’ll have a chance to be a top-ten player in the class. He has the motor and production to rise if he fixes his flaws and he’ll have plenty of time to be a showcase player at IMG Academy next season.

Kansas is a perceived favorite with Robinson-Earl, as Bill Self coached him on the U18 team over the past several weeks before the live period. North Carolina and Arizona are among some other schools also trying to stay in the mix for Robinson-Earl as they try to pry him away from the Midwest.

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

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Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

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Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Kentucky’s John Calipari gives take on potential NCAA live period changes

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With the NCAA potentially making monumental changes to the live evaluation periods as early as next summer, it has left the college basketball world asking a lot of questions about what summer recruiting could look like in the future.

The NCAA has talked about setting up youth development camps in collaboration with USA Basketball and the NBA. The groups will help identify which prospects might be allowed to speak to agents (about potentially going to the pros out of high school) while also setting up camps of prospective college prospects that college coaches would attend.

Since he’s known so much for his recruiting prowess and ability to land high-level players, Kentucky head coach John Calipari gave his take on the potential live evaluation period changes during an appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio on Wednesday.

Calipari seems to believe that dealing with agents, as a college coach trying to recruit student-athletes, could be the most troublesome new development in the potential rule changes as he elaborated on some of those difficulties.

“How do you decide who are the high school guys that should put their names in [the draft] and come out? How do you decide that? Do you want 1,000 tenth graders thinking they’re coming right out? Don’t care about academics? Who now can’t even get into a university? Who’s going to take care of those kids, society wise?” Calipari said. “Are we all just going to say, “Yeah, they were taught, it’s up to them’? They’re 16, 15-years-old. They can’t make logical decisions at that age. They’re all going to be thinking they’re going. How do we make a decision, which 10 or 12 go directly to the league? How do we make that decision? That’s my concern.”

Calipari also voiced his potential displeasure if players were allowed to come back to the school after the draft. Since Kentucky has so many players leaving early for the pros every offseason, this issue directly deals with the Wildcats more than most of the schools in college hoops.

“We’re talking about letting kids go through the draft and then come back to college. Well, what if there’s no scholarships for them when they come back after the draft? Can they go wherever they want? There’s some issues we’ve got to deal with if we’re doing it,” Calipari said.

Despite some of his concerns, Calipari seems ready for the next step in the recruiting world as he’s always been a coach who is a few steps ahead of many of his competitors when it comes to landing top-notch talent. Calipari might have some misgivings about the future, but there is no doubt that he’ll be prepared to adapt once the NCAA decides to make a move. Only time will tell what those moves might be and how Calipari and Kentucky reacts to them.

Former Louisville players file suit against NCAA over vacated 2013 national title

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A group of former Louisville men’s basketball players have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the organization’s vacation of the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four.

John Morgan, one of several attorneys representing former Cardinals captain Luke Hancock, the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and four teammates from that title team, said a lawsuit had been filed and described the NCAA as “a morally bankrupt organization” that exploits student-athletes during a Wednesday news conference.

The suit filed Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court does not specify monetary damages. It states the NCAA cast the plaintiffs in a false light and seeks declaration that it wrongfully vacated the plaintiffs’ wins, honors and awards.

Morgan added, “If all we get is this championship back for Louisville, and the players, and the city, and Luke’s MVP back, that’s going to be plenty pay for us.”

The attorney also mentioned former Louisville players Gorgui Dieng, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese and Mike Marra as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The NCAA stripped Louisville of the title as part of sanctions for violations discovered during an escort scandal investigation .

Hancock stressed that his title ring “is not coming off” and said the embarrassing scandal continues to dog him despite not being involved.

“It’s been five years and I can’t tell you two days where I’ve gone without having someone come to me and ask me if I had strippers or prostitutes in the dorm,” he said.

“I’m excited that Morgan & Morgan has partnered with us and is going to represent us because enough is enough.”

The governing body in February denied the school’s appeal and vacated 123 victories, including their third NCAA title, following an escort’s book allegations in October 2015 that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers for sex parties. Louisville removed the championship banner from its home arena soon afterward.

“We are used to fighting giants,” Morgan said. “In the sports world, I don’t think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA. The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is a morally bankrupt organization that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged young people throughout our country.

“They answer to nobody but are bad for everybody.”

The liability attorney did not mention former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has denied knowledge of the activities alleged by Katina Powell in her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”

Hancock said he frequently talks with Pitino but did not specifically ask if he wanted to be involved.

Several investigations soon followed after Powell’s allegations, including ones by the school and the NCAA. Louisville’s own investigation found that violations did occur and imposed penalties including sitting out the 2016 postseason in an effort to mitigate NCAA penalties.

The organization in June 2017 ordered Louisville to vacate victories that included the championship and Final Four appearance for activities it described as “repugnant” in its decision. Pitino was suspended for five games for failing to monitor McGee and vowed to fight the penalties. The school and the coach vowed then to fight the penalties.

As the appeals process unfolded, the Hall of Fame coach was suspended and eventually fired after 16 seasons last fall following Louisville’s acknowledgment of its involvement in a federal corruption of college basketball.

Pitino is not named in the federal complaint and has denied knowledge of any payments made to the family of former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen. The coach is suing the school along with sportswear maker Adidas, which dropped him after his firing.

New Mexico adds talented transfer guard from Towson

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New Mexico landed one of the better available transfer guards on the market as Towson’s Zane Martin pledged to the Lobos on Friday.

The 6-foot-4 Martin was a second-team All-CAA selection last season for the Tigers as he blossomed into a big-time scorer as a sophomore. Putting up 19.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, Martin shot 45 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three-point range.

Martin will have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer regulations as he has two more seasons left of eligibility after his redshirt year.

This is a quality grab for the Lobos as Martin has a chance to develop into a solid rotation player and potential starter. Martin put in the work to go from role player to all-conference selection in one season, so it’ll be interesting to see how much his game develops during his redshirt season.