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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.

Zion Williamson breaks Duke vertical leap record

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson is going to be one of the bigger stories in college basketball this season after the hype surrounding his high school career.

An extraordinary leaper and big-time athlete, Williamson set a new record at Duke for vertical leap during the team’s summer combine testing this week.

WilliamsonΒ cleared the rack during testing.Β Plenty of guys have been able to clear the rack during vertical testing. But not many are built like NFL defensive lineman.

The rack had to be elevated for Williamson to properly finish out his vertical testing. He’s also listed at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds on the Duke website.

Williamson cleared the rack so easily that teammate R.J. Barrett — one of the best players in the country — was laughing while marveling at his leaping ability. It’s going to be fun to watch Williamson play above the rim for the Blue Devils this season.

 

Duke’s R.J. Barrett could have big role on Canadian senior national team

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Duke incoming freshman R.J. Barrett has made a big impact on the Canadian senior national team during his first two exhibition games.

Considered by some to be the No. 1 incoming freshman in college basketball this season, the 6-foot-7 Barrett averaged 18.5 points per game during Canada’s two exhibition friendlies against the Chinese national team. Canada basketball is preparing for an important stretch as they play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifier next.

In the second win, Barrett had 21 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds as he was the team’s leading scorer. Considering that the Canadian senior national team features NBA players and other professionals, this is quite an accomplishment and something to keep an eye on over these next few weeks. Barrett has previously been a star for the Canadian national team, but it has come at the younger levels of FIBA play and not with the senior national team.

It’s one thing to dominant at the U19 level against a John Calipari-coached team of American high school and college stars. It’s another level when established pros are deferring to a player who is fresh out of high school.

Barrett’s development into a potential go-to player is not only intriguing for the future of Canadian men’s basketball, but it’s also important for Duke.Β Barrett has a chance to be a special talent next season.

With the Blue Devils having a very young team once again next season, they’ll ideally need someone like Barrett to take the burden of being the primary scorer. There isn’t a senior fallback option like Grayson Allen to rely on now that he’s moved on to the NBA. Duke is going to be one of the most talented teams in the country — on paper. But we still need to see how this extremely talented freshman class handles the expectations and the rigors of the ACC.

If Barrett shows an ability to take over games like he’s done with the Canadian senior national team, then it will be a good sign that he can be a dominant offensive player for the Blue Devils this season. It’s also interesting to note that Barrett will be the only member of Duke’s expected rotation who is not on campus with the team during the upcoming July 2nd summer session. Barrett is expected to join the team later this summer as the Blue Devils get an important overseas trip (and 10 extra practice days) to try to get the freshmen playing on the same page.

While Barrett has been the showstopper for the Canadians so far, Florida incoming freshman guard Andrew Nembhard will also be a player to watch with regards to the college ranks in this event. After going scoreless during the first Canadian exhibition win, Nembhard exploded for 18 points and three assists in the second win, as he went an impressive 6-for-7 behind the FIBA three-point line.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

Louisville adds Richmond grad transfer Khwan Fore

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Louisville pulled in an experienced guard commitment on Saturday as Richmond graduate transfer Khwan Fore pledged to the Cardinals.

The 6-foot-0 Fore was a double-figure scorer for the Spiders the past two seasons as he averaged 11.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during 2017-18.

With Louisville in desperate need of scholarship players, and experienced players, Fore is a quality pickup who should be able to provide some steady minutes in the Louisville backcourt. Fore was originally committed to Tennessee last month, but he opted to open up his recruitment, allowing Louisville to make a late move for him.

Although the Cardinals return sophomore guard Darius Perry, Fore’s commitment gives them much more depth and stability in the backcourt while also allowing for the possibility of some potential two-guard lineups.

Pitt continues rebuilding efforts with top-150 recruit

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When Jeff Capel took the Pitt head coaching job earlier this spring, the Panthers were reeling and the roster was practically gutted.

A program already lacking in talent after finishing last in the ACC, the Panthers were facing significant potential transfer losses and the lack of any sort of recruiting class. After a few months on the job, Capel and his staff have built a roster that is at least capable of remaining somewhat competitive next season while laying a potential foundation for the future.

Saturday’s commitment from top-150 guard Au’Diese Toney is yet another step in Pitt’s on-the-fly rebuild. A Class of 2019 prospect who is planning on reclassifying into the college basketball next season, the 6-foot-6 Toney is a versatile perimeter player who could wind up being used in multiple spots.

Toney is the third high school player Capel has landed in recent months to go along with four-star guard Trey McGowans and three-star guard Xavier Johnson. Considering the slim pickings of the spring recruiting cycle for unsigned seniors, and Pitt has done about as well as they could have hoped heading into next season when it comes to recruiting.

Since Capel was also able to convince a few players to stay, most notably leading scorer Jared Wilson-Frame, he’ll also have some ACC experience coming back. Nobody is expecting Pitt to make any kind of dent in the loaded ACC next season. They at least have a future that looks a lot brighter than before.

Capel and his staff haven’t even been able to recruit a class of high school players for a full year yet. And with Capel’s ability to help land top-flight talent during his assistant coaching tenure at Duke, it’ll be fascinating to see if four-star and five-star prospects start to take Pitt seriously as an option once again.

At the very least, Pitt won’t be a total pushover as they have some enticing pieces for the future.