South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.

Baylor, Gonzaga players to get paid for promoting rematch

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Baylor and Gonzaga will meet in a men’s basketball game in South Dakota on Dec. 2 and organizers will pay players on both teams who agree to help promote the game.

Complete Sports Management and Range Sports announced this week that it would put on the game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.

Baylor and Gonzaga will meet for the seventh time, and first since the Bears beat the Bulldogs in the 2021 national championship game.

The game is an opportunity for players to cash in on their celebrity under name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. Matt Haberman, a spokesman for the organizers, said players would be paid for participating in “tune-in to the game” promotions on the network that televises the game.

Haberman said he couldn’t disclose the amount of payment each player would receive. Organizers were still seeking a television partner Thursday.

“We’re working to find a media partner who believes in providing this generation of student-athletes more opportunities as well as align with iconic powerhouse basketball brands Baylor and Gonzaga,” Range Sports president Will Funk said. “Engaging the players to help activate the game broadcast sponsors is the future of college athletics.”

Gonzaga, Michigan State to play on carrier deck

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SAN DIEGO — They’re going to try to play college basketball on an aircraft carrier again, and nautical veteran Tom Izzo and Michigan State will get a return trip to San Diego Bay to face Gonzaga on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on Veteran’s Day.

The game will be shown in prime time on Nov. 11 as part of ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic from the flat top moored at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, across the bay from downtown San Diego. The Abraham Lincoln is on deployment and is due back in port later this summer.

Izzo’s Spartans lost to No. 1 North Carolina 67-55 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011, in the first college basketball game on an active carrier. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watched from courtside. The Carl Vinson conducted Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama six months earlier.

This will be the first aircraft carrier game since 2012, when only two of four games scheduled that fall were played, including one in San Diego that had to be pushed back two days because of rain rather than moving it indoors.

While the 2011 Carrier Classic was played in a spectacular setting, it ended less than an hour before rain drenched the court, just one of the hazards organizers face in staging carrier hoops games. Organizers said there would be a backup court on the hangar deck as a contingency, but that court was never set up.

Izzo welcomed the chance to play in another carrier game.

“The experience we had in 2011 when we played North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was one of the most humbling experiences of my career,” Izzo said in a statement. “Obviously, we wanted to win and any game against a program like that is very special, but to me, the game was about so much more than just a win or a loss.

“This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of men and women who serve in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line is an experience that is going to mean something to the young men who will play in the game for a long, long time,” Izzo added. “I said it last time and I’ll say it again, we’re going to play one of the best teams in the country and we’re going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few echoed Izzo’s thoughts.

“This is a special opportunity for our program to support those who fight for our country in our own small way. We’re excited to face an incredible program in Michigan State and a great colleague in Coach Izzo. I’m sure this will be a great memory for all of us,” the Zags coach said in a statement.

The aircraft carrier craze went away after 2012, when Mother Nature played some serious lockdown defense, at least on the East Coast.

In a scheduled Carrier Classic doubleheader aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, on Nov. 9, 2012, Notre Dame beat Ohio State in a women’s game that started in the afternoon. But a men’s game between Ohio State and Marquette scheduled for the evening never started because of condensation on the court.

That same night, a game against Georgetown and Florida aboard the active-duty USS Bataan in Gainesville, Florida, was called off after the first half because of condensation.

In San Diego, a game between Syracuse and San Diego State scheduled for the evening of Nov. 9 aboard the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego side of the bay was pushed back two days because of rain. When it was played in brilliant sunshine on the afternoon of Nov. 11, a brisk wind blowing across the bay contributed to the host Aztecs making just 1 of 18 3-point shots in a 62-49 loss to the taller Orange and its zone defense.

Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, said all parties will consider contingencies in case of bad weather or world events that would make the aircraft carrier unavailable.

He said returning to an aircraft carrier game was “just an option that presented itself. There was no grand plan with it. It was something that was made available in terms of a discussion and we explored it and found it to be viable. More importantly, we found teams who wanted to engage in that experience and were very understanding of the logistical challenges that could be presented.

“There has always been an intrigue from coaches and participating institutions to provide a thank you back to the men and women of the military,” Overby said. “The number of teams that have lined up to play in these events, whether they be overseas or even domestically, that’s been, in our minds, very well-received by the intercollegiate basketball community. So, we’re excited about that.”

Malachi Smith, one of nation’s top transfers, joins Gonzaga

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Malachi Smith, one of the top players available in the transfer portal, signed Thursday with Gonzaga.

Smith’s decision followed news this week that Gonzaga starters Drew Timme, Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton have all decided to return to play another season with the Zags.

Smith was the Southern Conference player of the year and averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year at Chattanooga.

The 6-foot-4 guard will be a junior next season.

“Malachi is going to be a great addition to our program,” coach Mark Few said. “He does a lot of really good things on the floor, but his experience and leadership will also be huge.”

Smith joins a Bulldogs squad that advanced to its seventh straight Sweet 16 last season, the longest active streak in the nation.

BYU forward Lohner transferring to Baylor in his home state

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WACO, Texas — BYU forward Caleb Lohner is transferring to Baylor, a return to his home state after two seasons with the Cougars.

Baylor coach Scott Drew said Monday that the 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward had signed a financial-aid contract with the Big 12 Conference school. Lohner put his name in the transfer portal last month.

Lohner averaged 7.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in his 62 games (44 starts) with the Cougars. He shot 43.9% (167 of 380) from the field.

“We’ve known Caleb and his family since he was a sophomore in high school,” Drew said. “We have always known he would be a great fit in our program because of the type of teammate and player he is. He’s an outstanding student-athlete that our fans are really going to enjoy cheering for.”

Lohner played at Flower Mound High School in the Dallas area as a freshman and sophomore before going to Wasatch Academy in Utah from 2018-20.

BYU is moving to the Big 12 after next season.

Bolton fifth Gonzaga starter to declare for NBA draft

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SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton has become the fifth starter to declare for the NBA draft.

“To Zag Nation and the Spokane Community, I love you guys! I appreciate the love and support you all had for us as a team and for welcoming me with open arms, I am forever grateful!” Bolton wrote on social media. “With that being said, playing in the NBA has been a dream of mine since I first picked up the ball.”

It was unclear whether Bolton has signed with an NCAA-certified agent, which would leave the door open for a return to Gonzaga next season. Bolton, who played one season at Penn State and two more at Iowa State before moving to Spokane, is eligible for a second season at Gonzaga due to a COVID-19 waiver granted to all players who competed in 2020-21.

Four other Gonzaga players have submitted their names to the draft, including projected first-round pick Chet Holmgren, forward Drew Timme, wing Julian Strawther and point guard Andrew Nembhard.

The 6-foot-3 Bolton of Petersburg, Virginia, was an All-West Coast Conference honorable mention after starting all 32 games and averaging 11.2 points per game this season. Bolton led the Bulldogs with 64 3-pointers, shooting 46% from 3-point range.