Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

UCLA basketball lands 6-7 Abramo Canka of Italy

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LOS ANGELES — UCLA has added 6-foot-7 Abramo Canka of Italy to its basketball roster for the upcoming season.

Canka (ZAHN-kuh) signed a grant-in-aid and will enroll as a freshman this fall, the school said Wednesday.

The NCAA cleared Canka to join UCLA after he recently played with Lokomotiv Kuban, a professional team in Russia. He averaged 10.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in the Russian Superleague. The guard-forward has also played on Italy’s national team at various age levels.

Canka averaged 9.4 points and 2.1 rebounds for Italy at the FIBA Under-20 European Championship last month.

“We are really excited to add Abramo to our program this season,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said. “Playing in Europe, Abramo is a versatile player who can shoot the ball, rebound and pass. At 6-foot-7, we like his size and his defensive ability, especially with his length and athleticism.”

Canka joins an incoming freshman class of guards Dylan Andrews, Amari Bailey and Jack Seidler and forwards Adem Bona and Evan Manjikian.

Arkansas to open against Louisville in Maui Invitational

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LAHAINA, Hawaii — Arkansas will face Louisville in the opening round of a loaded 2022 Maui Invitational bracket.

The eight-team bracket announced for the November event will include six teams that went to the 2022 NCAA Tournament, including three that reached the Sweet 16.

Arizona faces Cincinnati in the opening round after reaching the Sweet 16 in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season. Texas Tech, another Sweet 16 team last season, plays Creighton and San Diego State faces Ohio State in the tournament’s return to the Lahaina Civic Center on Nov. 21-23.

The 2020 tournament was held in Asheville, North Carolina, and last year’s was played in Las Vegas.

Arkansas has reached the Elite Eight the past two seasons under coach Eric Musselman.

Newsom wants explanation from UCLA about move to Big Ten

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LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is demanding an explanation from UCLA officials about their move to the Big Ten Conference.

Newsom attended Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco. The closed-door meeting was the first since UCLA and Southern California announced on June 30 that the schools would be leaving the Pac-12 Conference for the Big Ten in 2024. USC is a private institution and not part of the UC system.

Newsom – an ex officio member of the Board of Regents – is among others asking how the move will benefit all student-athletes, as well as how to mitigate the financial effects it will cause to UC Berkeley, California’s other public university in the Pac 12.

UCLA and UC Berkeley have played each other in football since 1923.

“The first duty of every public university is to the people – especially students,” Newsom said in a statement. “UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”

The UC Board of Regents cannot force UCLA to reverse the decision. In 1991, campus chancellors were delegated authority by the UC Office of the President to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements.

The regents though could require UCLA pay UC Berkeley an exit fee for leaving the Pac-12 or share TV revenues they will gain from a move to the Big Ten.

UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on June 30 that changes to the landscape of collegiate athletics prompted the move. UCLA’s athletic department, which sponsors 23 sports, is facing a $102.8-million deficit with most of that coming the past couple years.

“They’re gonna compete at the highest level in a major elite conference in different time zones, UCLA is always national. But now we have the ability for student athletes to showcase their talent across the country,” Jarmond said. “I appreciate the Pac-12. That said, my, my focus first and foremost is our student athletes, and what is best for our student athletes. And when you look at the landscape and how dynamic is changing, the Big Ten was the right move at the right time for us.”

Duke, Arizona agree to basketball series for 2023 and 2024

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DURHAM, N.C. — Duke and Arizona have agreed to a home-and-home men’s basketball series for 2023 and 2024.

The schools announced the agreement Monday. The first meeting comes in November 2023 with the Wildcats visiting the Blue Devils’ famously hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke travels west to Tucson the following November.

In statements, new Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd – named The Associated Press men’s college basketball national coach of the year in April after his debut season – said their teams will benefit from the marquee non-conference matchups.

The teams haven’t met since November 2013 and have played just nine times, including Duke’s win in the 2001 NCAA title game. The Wildcats lost their only trip to Cameron in February 1990, while the Blue Devils lost both trips to Arizona’s McKale Center in December 1987 and February 1991.

 

Former Beavers Gary Payton, Drew Eubanks reunited with Trail Blazers

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PORTLAND, Ore.– A little more than six years ago, guard Gary Payton II and forward Drew Eubanks were teammates at Oregon State, leading the Beavers to an NCAA Tournament appearance after a 26-year drought.

Now they’re teammates once more – and back in Oregon – with the Portland Trail Blazers.

“It’s really cool, especially coming back to Portland, being in Oregon and everything. I saw him yesterday and it was like we never even left,” Eubanks said. “We did something special in Corvallis, we went back to the tournament for the first time in a long time, and trying to do something special here too.”

Payton, son of former Oregon State and Seattle SuperSonics star Gary Payton, won an NBA title with the Warriors last month before signing a three-year, $28 million deal with the Blazers as a free agent.

He emerged last season as a defensive stopper for Golden State, returning from a broken elbow to contribute in the NBA Finals against Boston. He averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds over a career-high 71 games, his first season playing regularly.

“That was just an incredible run, just from the beginning of the season, finding my way on that team everything that came out of that. It’s been a great, great learning experience,” Payton said. “Just to bring everything I’ve learned over there and try to apply it here and build this team chemistry, I think that’s gonna be probably one of the biggest pieces.”

Eubanks signed four 10-day contracts with the Blazers last season, stepping into a key role when big man Jusuf Nurkic was injured. Eventually, Portland signed him for the rest of the season and awarded him with a one-year contract going into this season.

“I thought Drew came here and earned it,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said.

When the Beavers went to the NCAA Tournament to cap the 2015-16 season, Eubanks was a freshman from Troutdale, Oregon. He later signed with San Antonio in 2018 as an undrafted free agent and spent time with both the Spurs and their G-League affiliate in Austin.

Payton played two seasons for the Beavers. After going undrafted, he had stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards, while also spending time in the G-League. He was even on Portland’s training camp roster in 2018, but eventually waived. He landed with the Warriors in 2021.

Billups praised Payton as the kind of player he can put anywhere.

“He’s just my kind of guy,” Billups said. “He’s just a Swiss Army knife, proved his value and his worth all year long. He’s done something that a lot of people never do in this league – and I’m not just talking about winning a championship. He grinded all the way up, a guy that was on the minimum for a long time and fighting for himself, fighting to get into the league, he’s proven to be a very, very valuable asset.”