DeAndre Jordan

Under Armour Elite 24 features some must-see stars

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The newly re-branded Elite 24 all-star game tips at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPNU) and is sponsored by Under Armour, having taken the game’s reins from Boost Mobile. The contest is unique in that August is usually a quiet month for high school stars, having been put through a grueling July evaluation period. The first year of Under Armour at the helm of the game is notable for a great crop of incoming senior and underclass stars, as well as NBA player coaching staffs.

The game has been a high-flying, dunk-filled affair in the past, and this year’s edition is expected to be no different, despite the late scratch from the game of Baltimore star Aquille Carr, due to his recent arrest. As always, with a game featuring young players on national television, defense will be at a minimum. This event is also a measuring stick for selection to the McDonald’s All-American game, as it should be accessible for all voters to view.

The Raymond Lewis team, coached by young NBA stars Brandon Jennings and Derrick Williams, has a devastating quartet from Texas as its headline players. With three of the top five seniors in guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison and power forward Julius Randle, as well as elite junior point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Jennings has some terrific Lone Star State talent at his disposal. Keep an eye on glue guy Rondae Jefferson, and another high-flying Texas forward Justise Winslow. Also, expect hometown SoCal talents guard Isaac Hamilton and center Marcus Lee to put on a show for local fans.

Kemba Walker and DeAndre Jordan’s Marques Johnson squad took a hit in losing Carr, and doesn’t have the top to bottom star power that Jennings’ team has. Still, the land’s best high school basketball player, Andrew Wiggins, will have the opportunity to put on a show in front of a nationwide audience, and top 5 senior talent Aaron Gordon will have his chance to prove that he has completed his transition to small forward, and shaken off the effects of a spring injury. Keep an eye on mismatch forward Kuran Iverson, who was solid during the summer, and junior Chris Paul-clone Tyus Jones could demonstrate he is the best pure point guard nationally.

The festivities start on Thursday with what should be an at least entertaining dunk contest, with the participants still to be announced. ESPN’s selection team put together two very talented an intriguing rosters, who should have the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable talents against some big names.

Fans of Kansas (Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene), Syracuse (Tyler Ennis), Washington (Nigel Williams-Goss) and North Carolina (Nate Britt) can get a glimpse into their futures, as they have players that have made non-binding verbal commitments participating in the game. Also, expect UCLA and possibly other programs to benefit from the game’s location with unofficial visits by some of the game’s participants.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Former Memphis Tiger Will Barton signs endorsement deal with Under Armour

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Former Memphis Tiger Will Barton has signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armour, he announced via his Twitter page Wednesday.

Barton, who averaged 18 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this past season for the Tigers on his way to winning Conference USA Player of the Year, was drafted 40th overall by the Portland Trailblazers in this year’s NBA draft.

Under Armour is a Baltimore-based company that has strong ties to the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, meaning Barton’s signing digs those roots in further.

Barton is a native of Baltimore who starred for Lake Clifton (Md.) before moving to Brewster Academy (N.H.) for his senior season.

Barton is added to an Under Armour lineup that is headlined by Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, along with Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker, and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams.

Greivis Vasquez, a former guard at Maryland, is also under the UA umbrella, as is his alma mater. Under Armour has made in-roads on the grassroots basketball scene, as well, with their logo adorning the jerseys of prominent AAU teams that include DC Assault, UA Baltimore’s Finest, and Sports U (N.J.).

Outside of the basketball court, the company has signed a deal with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who also hails from Baltimore.

As for Barton, he signed a three-year deal with the Blazers on July 18 and played well for the team during Summer League competition.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

The Morning Mix

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Before we begin, take a moment of silence for the passing of Louisiana Tech bulldog mascot “Tech XX”. After being labeled “missing” for two days, animal care workers came forward and  revealed that the dog had been mistakenly left outside for too long, and died of  heat stroke.

Bulldogs are way too damn cute to pass away.

– Your must-read of the day is from Eric Prisbell of The USA Today. It’s about recruiting and improper benefits. You’ll want to make sure you read this. Apparently a former Big-XII recruit who was drafted in the second round a recent NBA draft got paid six figures (I’d go with Tiny Gallon, but all the evidence points towards DeAndre Jordan)

– Ken Pomeroy thinks there are three specific players that could have breakout seasons due to an expanded role  (Insiders Only)

– Central Florida head coach Donnie Jones is optimistic about the Golden Knight’s future despite their one-year postseason ban

– Ken Caldwell, the runner at the focus of the UCF violations, took to a webcam to “speak the truth”. Gary Parrish reviewed the video. It’s hilarious

– Gary Parrish also ripped in to the sleazy side of recruiting. Reads like this never get old

– This is what our US Olympic basketball teams would have looked like if it was open to college players only

– Jeff Goodman takes a gander at what the 2016 Olympic Team might end up looking like

– The Hustle Belt is one of the best conference-specific blogs out there. They showed why with a great list of all the NCAA violations in MAC history. Quality stuff, gents

Fran Fraschilla details the list of schools that need to bolster their rosters with a strong 2013 recruiting class (Insiders Only)

– Both Laurence Bowers and Jio Fontan have been cleared to participate following extended time off due to ACL tears. Bowers should stake his claim again as one of the best dunkers in the country. Fontan is going to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for USC this season

– Andy Glockner explains why some improved luck will help schools like Memphis St. Joseph’s, and USC

Here are the five keys to success for Ben Howland at UCLA this season

– A list of the top student sections in Philadelphia

A preview about Robert Morris with only one sentence about Velton Jones? Homeboy deserves more than one sentence. Dude is a wrecking machine

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

So which Big 12 recruit got paid “six figures”?

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My favorite part of Eric Prisbell’s article from USA Today was a quote from former Houston head coach Tom Penders:

In six seasons as head coach at Houston, Penders estimated, an AAU coach or his agent asked Penders for money in return for the commitment of a prospect at least 25 times. On one occasion, an AAU coach and his agent visited Penders’ office with two offers: Pay tens of thousands of dollars in return for a player’s commitment, or place an AAU coach on his staff to establish a pipeline.

“I threw him out of my office,” Penders said.

Penders said the player, whom the coach declined to identify, spent one season at a Big 12 school before being drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Penders said the AAU coach collected “six figures” from the Big 12 school that chose to engage in the scheme.

Penders was at Houston from 2004-2010.

In those six years, there were only three players that went to a Big 12 school, left after their freshman season and eventually got picked in the second round of the NBA Draft: Texas A&M’s DeAndre Jordan, Oklahoma’s Tiny Gallon and Kansas State’s Bill Walker.

Jordan is a Houston native. Gallon admitted to taking $3,000 from a financial advisor in Florida. Walker was OJ Mayo’s high school teammate. Anyone want to take a guess at who it was?

(Doing this research, I have to point out here that Jordan signed with Billy Gillispie at A&M. That’s the same Billy Gillispie whose Kentucky recruits wound up playing at Appalachian State, Sam Houston State, Asbury (NAIA), New Mexico State, Florida International, WKU and Sonoma State (D-II). Wow.)

Photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.