Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Woods gets off easy in court

The legal results are in for Tony Woods.

Less than a month after Woods assaulted his girlfriend, which resulted in a fracture in the young woman's spine, the 6'11" junior appeared in court. Woods, who is scheduled to be Wake Forest's starting center, plead guilty to one misdemeanor (he was charged with three, carrying the potential for 20 years in prison) and received a 60 day suspended sentence, he must perform 100 hours of community service, and is required to go through an anger management course.

Tony Woods got off easy legally. What will Wake Forest do?
(photo credit: Washington Post)

From the Winston-Salem Journal:
Woods and [Courtney Lorel] Barbour were in the bedroom with their 8-month-old son when they started arguing, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin said. The mothers of Barbour and Woods were both in the living room at the time. Woods picked up his son and began to leave. Barbour tried to get the child back but Woods turned around and kicked her and pushed her away, Martin said. Barbour's mother told authorities that Woods had drawn back his fist as if to hit her again but didn't, Martin said.
The punishment seems light, but there may be a couple of explanations. Barbour told Martin that her injury could have occurred when she fell out of a bed a few days before the incident. She also told prosecutors that she didn't want Woods punished, she wanted him to be forced to get counseling and anger management. That could explain why the punishment Woods received was so light.

That said, it will be interesting to see what Jeff Bzdelik does to punish Woods. Tre'Von Willis went through a similar situation this summer, and he received a similar punishment. Willis was given, essentially, a one game suspension by head coach Lon Kruger, a punishment that was widely criticized.

What will Bzdelik do?

Fracturing a woman's spine is a serious, especially when done in the presence of the victim's mother, the attacker's mother, and the child of the victim and the attacker. But Woods is also the only big man on the Demon Deacon's roster with any kind of experience.

No doubt he is a very important piece to Wake's puzzle.

But teaching a lesson here may be even more important.
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Austin Rivers is a Dukie

This afternoon, Austin Rivers surprised just about every by committing to Duke.

The surprise, however, was in the timing of the commitment, not the end result. Rivers had stated that he was going to take his three official visits -- to North Carolina, Kansas, and Duke -- before making an announcement.

But seeing as he had already made his decision, what was the point?

"I didn't want to drag this thing out longer," Rivers told Evan Daniels, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "I didn't want it to grow where I was comparing Duke and North Carolina and Kansas. I just knew I wanted to go to Duke. I didn't see a point in dragging this out any longer."

No surprise, Austin Rivers is headed to Duke.
(photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)

Rivers, a Winter Park native, originally committed to his home-state school Florida as a freshman back in 2008, but has since wavered on that commitment. He reportedly fell in love with Duke last winter on an unofficial visit to the school, and just about everyone has believed this result was only a matter of time.

Nevertheless, this is a huge get for Coach K. Rivers in the consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2011. A combo guard, Rivers is a pure-bred scoring machine with NBA pedigree -- he is the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. He's 6'4", he has impressive athleticism, he can get to the rim and finish, and, most importantly, he is an absolutely deadly shooter with a killer instinct, in-the-gym range, and a knack for burying difficult jumpers.

Considering that Duke was able to land Kyrie Irving, who was regarded by many as the best point guard in a loaded class of 2010 back court players, this is a great sign for the direction of the Duke program, a program many thought was in trouble just a few short years ago.

Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler graduate this year, and there is a reasonable chance that both Irving and Mason Plumlee bolt for the NBA Draft after this season. Even if that is the case, Rivers will still be joining a back court that will have, at a minimum, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Tyler Thornton. Throw in the three talented freshmen (Michael Gbinje, Marshall Plumlee, Tyler Adams) joining a front court that should return Miles Plumlee, Josh Hairston, and Ryan Kelly, and Duke's future looks as bright as ever.

How bright?

I've already gotten a text from a Duke fan friend of mine saying "Three peat?"

To put the proverbial cherry on top, Rivers made his commitment just one day before he was supposed to head to Chapel Hill for an official visit with UNC.

I bet the Cameron Crazies are loving that.


As we always do, here are a couple of videos that should demonstrate just how good this young man is going to be:



How about this one, where Rivers crosses up John Wall, then rips him on the very next possession:



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BIAH Site Announcement: Webshow Coming in October

For the past three years BIAH has been nothing more than text, pictures, a couple of live-blogs and maybe the occasional YouTube video. Yes, the content and writing has been great, but after a while, words and pictures start to get, well, stale.

But that is all about to change.

Starting on Monday October 25th, Ballin' Is A Habit will be hosting an hour-long webshow on Hoops Talk Live twice a week (Mondays/Wednesday) from 7:00-8:00PM EST. The Ballin' Is A Habit Webshow will be your go-to source for insightful opinions, friendly banter, and all the breaking news, score updates and anything else involving college basketball.

The best part about the webshow is that you, the viewer, can be involved. All you need to do is go to Hoopstalklive.com while the show is airing and you can use a webcam to drop a question/comment or hop in on the debate.

The show will be hosted by Troy Machir and will feature numerous guest appearances from distinguished college basketball bloggers, writers and analysts.

The BIAH Web-show will be part of the first-ever basketball-only online radio station. Hoops Talk Live has a great lineup of shows featuring a number of prominent basketball writers, including Dick Weiss of the New York Daily Times, Sporting New's Ryan Fagan, Matt Norlander of College Hoops Journal, Chris DiSano of College Chalktalk, Raphielle Johnson of CollegeHoopsNet, and Ryan Feldman of The Hoops Report.

It has also been confirmed that Former New Mexico Star and current-Milwaukee Buck Darrington Hobson, will be hosting a show as well. Hobson was the 2010 Mountain West Player of the year, an Associated Press Third Team All-American, and was the 37th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2010 NBA draft.

BIAH will continue to produce outstanding articles and intellectual insight in text. The webshow will allow us (and you) to voice our (and your) opinions without the standard restraints of text. So join us as we take BIAH to the next level, starting on Monday, October 25th at 7:00PM EST.

For More information regarding the BIAH web-show, you can email ContactBIAH@gmail.com or hit us up on twitter at BIAHtheTrizzle. For information regarding Hoops Talk Live, you can contact Ryan Feldman at rfeldman@thehoopsreport.com.

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John Pelphrey has put together a great Class of 2011 recruits

John Pelphrey has had a rough go of it at Arkansas.

He's had trouble getting talent to head to Fayetteville, and the talent he does bring in never seems to be able to stay on the court. Suspensions, injuries, professional defections, you name it. Pelphrey hasn't won, and he hasn't run a program that can keep its name out of the police blotter.

That's a bad combination for a basketball coach.

But there is hope.

Yesterday, Rashad "Ky" Madden committed to Arkansas in a bit of a surprise move. (Most reports had him heading to Ole Miss.) According to our consensus top 100 rankings, Madden, an Arkansas native and an athletic, 6'5" combo guard, is the No. 34 recruit in the country. This commitment comes just three weeks after Pelphrey earned a commitment from BJ Young, a super talented point guard out of Indiana and the No. 18 recruit according to our rankings. Young's commitment came with Hunter Mickelson, a 6'10" center from Arkansas and the No. 75 recruit, and Aaron Ross, a 6'8" slasher who ranked No. 115, already committed to their home state school.

Put that together, and you have one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Its impressive.

And, as Gary Parrish points out, it ensures that Pelphrey, no matter how hot his seat gets, will have until at least the end of the 2011-2012 season to start winning.

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Thursday Morning Dump

- The must-read for this Thursday comes courtesy of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal's Dan Wolken, who wrote this excellent piece on Andre Hollins, a high-major recruit out of White Station High School in Memphis who is considering Harvard.

- Today's second must read comes from Paul Daugherty, who looks at the job Thad Matta has done recruiting to keep his Ohio State team relevant. Its an interesting contrast when compared to this column from Gary Parrish on John Pelphrey, who may have saved his job with his 2011 recruiting class.

- Pitt got a big time commitment from Canadian big man Khem Birch, a 6'8", 180 lb rebounding machine that ranks in the top 10 in the Class of 2012. Apparently, assistant coach Pat Skerry was a huge reason for Birch's commitment. Looks like that hiring is paying off already.

- Mike DeCourcy put together a very interesting column on the Big East and how many close the games are. Last season, 26% of the games during conference play were decided by one possession. That's a lot, especially when you consider that the Big XII had a number that was half of that. We made this point an infinite number of times last season, but there was no team more battle tested than Marquette, who played 12 games in the Big East that were decided by one possession. They didn't lose by more than nine until the Big East Tournament's semifinal against Georgetown.

- Offseason Dana O'Neil!!!! Her new faces, new places profile of Tod Kowalczyk.

- Andy Katz says that the Pac-12 is going to follow the Big Ten's new model for scheduling: two divisions for football, but only one in basketball. The league schedule will include one game against every team, a second game against a natural rival (USC vs. UCLA, Arizona vs. Arizona State, etc.), and six games randomly chosen. Each team in the conference will play four team just one, and the other seven will be home-and-homes.

- Good read from Fanhouse on a couple of Florida State hoopers.

- Leon Rice, the new head coach at Boise State is using the power of the Smurf Turf to haul in recruits. BSU just got a verbal commitment from Michael Thompson, a 6-foot-2 guard from Nevada. Over the summer, Joe Hanstad, a shooting guard from South Dakota committed to the Broncos as well. On top of that, coach Rice secured his first commitment from the class of 2012, forward Joe Nebeker.

- The Washington Huskies program has been busy in the off-season scooping up big-name recruits and staying in the public eye. Because of that, the Huskies have been rewarded with more than a handful of nationally-televised games this season.

- Steve Alford, the head coach at New Mexico and former Indiana Hoosier star, was listed 17th among the all-time icons in the Big-Ten.

Interesting behind the scenes look at Duke:



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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dee Bost is cleared, suspended by the NCAA

In a fairly shocking turn of events, the NCAA has reinstated Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost.

If you remember, Bost declared for the NBA Draft, withdrawing after the deadline. He was also unaware of a rule change that does not allow players to return to college if they go undrafted and don't sign with an agent.

Bost is currently academically ineligible. He will face a nine game suspension, starting once the fall semester is over, if he can get himself academically eligible for the spring, meaning that Bost will likely miss the start of SEC play.

Dee Bost will play this season
(photo credit: Life.com)

This is huge for the Bulldogs. Bost is one of the best point guards in the conference and has started all 72 games in his two years in Starksville. If he is back to himself for the stretch run, this team could make a run at a tournament bid, especially considering Renardo Sidney will be returning for their tenth game.

That's not necessarily the issue here. The issue here is that Bost declared for the NBA Draft, missed the deadline to withdraw from the draft, and made it seem like he was pretty intent on staying in*. When he didn't get drafted, he tried to return to school using a rule he didn't know was eliminated. To the outside observer, it look likes Bost played the NCAA like a violin.

*(From Kyle Veazey's blog at the Clarion Ledger: "Bost says he hasn't 'fully yet' hired an agent and also hasn't worked out for any NBA teams. 'Overseas is an option, but I'm going to bust my tail to do well in the workouts,' Bost said." Sounds like he wanted to go pro, does it not?)

The NCAA is setting a dangerous precedent here. What happens the next time a player that has declared for the draft applies for reinstatement saying they were unaware of a rule? Maybe that player claims he didn't know the limits on his relationship with an agent. Maybe he claims that he was under the assumption the deadline was the same as it was the year before. Whatever it ends up being, where does the NCAA draw the line? Can they really deny eligibility to the next Dee Bost?

A deadline is supposed to be a deadline. Ignorance of a rule is not supposed to be a defense. Neither is ignorance in general. Based on the facts, it does not seem like Bost should be allowed to continue to play college basketball.

The ironic part in all of this?

The rule that Bost broke -- keeping his name in the draft past the NCAA's May 8th deadline -- is an absolutely atrocious rule. This year, players had, more or less, a single weekend to schedule their workouts. Why would the NCAA force a kid to make possibly the most important decision of his life, whether or not to leave school, with out being able to gather all the facts?

Oh. That's right. Because the coaches -- the same coaches that make six and seven, and some even eight, figure salaries off of these amateur athletes -- did not want to continue to worry about filling a roster spot if a player left his name in the draft. Like I said. Atrocious.

But the rule is the rule and the deadline is the deadline, regardless of how absurd it is.

Everyone should have to follow it, not just the ones that can't come up with the best argument or find the biggest loophole.
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POSTERIZED: Jahii Carson has some serious hops

Jahii Carson is going to Arizona State.

Watch this video. Who is happier -- Herb Sendek or the Sun Devil fans that get to watch this kid play?



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Two Michigan State players accused of sexual assault

Michigan State has had an eventful offseason, and not necessarily the way Tom Izzo would have liked.

Things got much worse today, as the Michigan Messenger broke the news that two "high profile" Michigan State basketball players were accused of sexual assault late on August 29th and into the early hours of August 30 (a Sunday and Monday). The accusation is horrific, to say the least. From the Messenger:

The heavily redacted police report released by Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III alleges the two team members took turns assaulting an unidentified woman for nearly an hour in their Wonders Hall dormitory room. (Ed. Note: I'm not going to give the details here, but if you'd like to read them follow the link to the Messenger's article. Be forewarned, it is fairly graphic.)
When questioned by the police, one of the players declined comment but the other corroborated the accuser's story.
He told investigators that when it was clear from the victim's statements that she did not want to have sex, he stopped. However, the other player continued "despite her reluctance and statements that she did not want to continue." The victim confirms that player's account.
Making this matter all the more disturbing is that, despite one of the players confirming the girl's story as accurate and support from the police investigators, the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office declined to pursue charges against the players. According to Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, it was due to information not contained in the police report -- before any media had identified the alleged attackers as basketball players, Dunnings told the State News "After we reviewed the case, we could not convict." -- and the consent of the victim.

But the victim told the Messenger she did was to pursue charges.
"It's really hard to actually get a case to go through because there are twelve jurors and to get them all to see it from my point of view is hard," the victim says Bouck told her. "Then she said she was going to take a defense approach, she started asking me all these questions."

The victim says Bouck grilled her about whether or not it was possible the perpetrators thought the activity was consensual, why she didn't yell and scream and why she didn't run or try and fight her way out of the room. The victim was reduced to tears by the hypothetical interrogation.
There will not be a good outcome here. There is no silver lining. Regardless of the player's intent during this alleged incident, the end result is a young woman who has been traumatized and victimized. Making matters worse, if this woman truly was sexually assaulted, she no doubt feels let down by a justice system that allowed her attackers to get away with their crime. (Ed. Note: assuming the allegations, which were corroborated by one of the alleged attackers, are true.)

The only other thing I am going to say about this incident is that Tom Izzo needs to hand down a hefty punishment here. I argued the opposite this morning in regards to the Tre'Von Willis case, but the facts here are different. Not to downplay domestic violence, but sexual assault -- by two people at the same time -- is a much more serious offense. And in this instance, there isn't a dispute as to the facts. One of the alleged attackers corroborated the victim's account of events. This is not a case he-said, she-said. Its they-said.

There needs to be a punishment with some substance.

I mentioned this earlier, but this offseason has to be, by far, the most tumultuous of Tom Izzo's career. He almost left the school to become the head coach of the Cavs. He had to kick Chris Allen off the team. Korie Lucious picked up a DUI (on the same night as alleged sexual assault) before having to undergo surgery on his knee. Kalin Lucas has been recovering from his torn achilles. Seldom used Dion Sims was allegedly a part of a scam to steal laptops.

I'm sure Izzo cannot wait for the season to start.

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The NCAA closes the book on Bledsoe

The NCAA will take no further action against Eric Bledsoe or the University of Kentucky regarding the Case of the Changed Transcript (that sounds like a Harry Potter movie).

Its not like they really had a choice.

While an independent law firm's investigation into Bledsoe's grade in Algebra III turned up information that made them believe the grade change was not credible, the Birmingham School District decided against making a change to his grade. And, in reality, they probably made the right decision. Is any good going to come from the change? The fact that this story has been making headlines for four months is enough of an indictment on the school district, and the only punishment that could have happened was Kentucky had their season vacated. Who wanted to see that happen again? (Other than the Calipari haters, of course.)

Let's move on.

Only three weeks until we can start talking about basketball again.

And while we are on this topic, go read this Dana O'Neil piece on the man that headed the investigation into Bledsoe. Seriously. Click here. Now. You won't regret it.

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Can we please get Gus Johnson to do a Final Four?

Nothing against Jim Nance -- he's the ultimate professional when it comes to play-by-play announcing -- but this is Gus Jeezy (who looks like he's trying to tap into his inner Young Jeezy in the video below) we are talking about! Imagine his call on this play, or this one.

Anyway, the reason we bring this up is an interview he did with DimeMag:



(h/t RTC)
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Wednesday Morning Dump

- Today's must-read comes from Hoops Weiss of the New York Daily Times. Weiss writes about the public perception of coach Calipari and the fact that despite being vindicated of many possible wrong-doings, coach Cal remains heavily scrutinized.

- Another must-read: Fanhouse has been pumping out some fantastic content lately, and this post is no different. They put together their all-second generation team.

- Gregg Doyel put together just about the best argument I have seen against college athletes getting paid. He makes the obvious points that it is extremely difficult to differentiate between a star and a bench warmer, or between players at a high-major and players at a low-major. But he also makes the excellent point that it is very easy for these kids to line their pockets with some of the money provided by their scholarship. It reminded me of this story by Seth Davis about St. John's. The Johnnies downfall happened to coincide with the construction of new dorms on campus. Once just a commuter school, these dorms greatly reduced the amount of money St. John's was allowed to give players for living expenses, which all could have been pocketed for kids that where New York natives.

- Yesterday we touched on the fact that Indiana had gotten a second verbal commitment from a high school freshman. Here are some updated news and notes on the youngster's game.

- Good read from Mike DeCourcey on Kawhi Leonard. I'll say this about Leonard: if he develops some perimeter skills -- better ballhandling, a mid-range jump shot, improved range -- this kid has 1st round pick written all over him. Also worth reading is Gary Parrish's column on John Henson. We definitely agree with Parrish's assessment that Henson, who will be playing inside this season, is primed for a big year. He's not ready for the league yet -- he needs the weight I've put on in the last year -- but he should be fine at this level.

- Andy Katz gives us his 50 players for the Wooden Award preseason watch list. Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish did as well. From a cursory glance at them, I'd say that Parrish's in the best. Katz left off E'Twaun Moore and Goodman left off Austin Freeman. How? Those guys could end up being all-americans.

- A couple of injuries to take note of: Michigan State's Korie Lucious will be out 2-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left knee yesterday afternoon; Stony Brook's Tommy Benton, a 6'5" rebounding machine and potential America East player of the year, dislocated his knee yesterday and could possibly miss the entire season; Duquense head coach Ron Everhart broke his toe when he fell at the Bob Huggins roast.

- Just because the Eric Bledsoe investigation is over doesn't mean we have to stop talking about it. Jerry Tipton, from the Lexington Hearld-Ledger states, amongst other things, that many of Bledsoe's grade books went missing. Coincidence? We'll let you decide.

- The expectations are high for Baylor freshman Perry Jones. But what should we really expect from him in his first year at Baylor?

- A couple recruiting notes: Dorian Finney-Smith is headed to Virginia Tech, while Ky Madden will be announcing his decision today.

- Xavier is getting a fresh set of uniforms and some new amenities at their home arena.

- St. Johns is looking to get back in the mix of potential contenders in the Big East Conference. With Steve Lavin at the helm, and nine seniors on the roster, the Johnnies could be back in the mix.

- A fantastic Q&A session with Northwestern legend Evan Eschmeyer.

- Great story.

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Tre'Von Willis dodged a bullet, but Lon Kruger didn't necessarily do anything wrong

We finally have word on what Tre'Von Willis' punishment will be.

If you remember, Willis was arrested back in June after a 28 year old Las Vegas woman accused him of choking her in her apartment. If the police report was to be believed, Willis looked like a real long shot to play this season -- it said he knocked the woman on her back and choked her for three minutes, using two hands and then his foreman, before stealing her phone.

But Willis had a much different story. He gave his side during a press conference at the Thomas & Mack Center this evening:

No choking took place. I originally agreed to go over to the young lady's house. She had promised me a little bit of money. We started to argue a little bit, and from then I grabbed her purse off of the nightstand. That's when she tried to grab the purse from me, and that's when I grabbed her hand. I knew it was wrong. From there I dumped the contents of the purse out onto the bed, and there was no money in it, and then I exited the apartment.
Tre'Von Willis got off easier than expected.
(photo credit: B/R)

Quite a bit different, right?

Willis was able to land plea deal. He received a suspended 90 day jail sentence pending a year of good behavior, must pay a $340 fine, do 100 hours of community service, and attend domestic battery counseling. Considering the accusations, a fine and some community service in exchange for a year of good behavior isn't much.

Neither is the punishment he got from head coach Lon Kruger.

Kruger said that Willis will be suspended for a minimum of 10% of UNLV's games this season, which means he will miss the first three games of the season. The catch? UNLV's two exhibition games count, which means that Willis could very well be eligible to play against Southeastern Louisiana in the Rebel's second game of the season and, more importantly, in UNLV's potential top 25 showdown with Wisconsin on November 20th in the third game of the year. Willis will also be able to practice with the team starting October 15th.

All in all, it seems like Willis dodged a bullet on this one.

This outcome likely won't sit right with a lot of people.

Every time a situation like this arises, I think back to Eric Devendorf. The former Cuse guard received a similar accusation against him during the 2008-2009 season, and Syracuse reacted by suspending from school for the rest of the year. Once the stories were untangled and the truth came out, he was reinstated after missing two games.

In a situation like the ones Willis and Devo found themselves in, can you really trust either side? Men that beat women are despicable, but there are also times where women exaggerate, or flat out lie, about an assault. Knowing this, if you are Lon Kruger, and one of your players -- who, presumably, you trust and have a strong relationship with -- steadfastly denies the accusation, isn't there a large part of you that believes him? Now, when that player gets off with a cushy plea bargain, doesn't that only reinforce your belief?

If this was your son, what would you do? He would get punished for using terrible judgement, getting himself into a bad situation, and committing an unacceptable act. Maybe you take away car privileges, ground him for a month, and implement a 9pm curfew, but you're not shipping him off to military school, right?

If I'm Kruger, and I'm in this exact situation, I'm not so sure I would have done anything different.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marvin Williams is a student too

The NBA's age restriction on who can enter the draft -- what we like to call the one-and-done rule -- has plenty of detractors.

The biggest reason, and perhaps the most logical, is the possibility for the athletes to make a sham of the term "student" athlete. Its not a secret that these kids don't have to go to class after the first semester, and its a pretty safe bet that a number of them take advantage of it.

But not every one.

Take Marvin Williams, for example. As a freshman, Williams was the sixth man on UNC's 2005 national title winning team. He left UNC after that season, becoming the 2nd pick in the NBA Draft. As he is about to enter his sixth season in the NBA, Williams is a wealthy man and about to get wealthier -- he stands to make $22 millions over the next three years. That doesn't mean he hasn't taken the time to better himself, and not just his bank account. Not only has Williams spent time in Senegal with the NBA's Basketball without Borders program, he has volunteered with the Special Olympics since he was a sophomore in high school, and recently hosted a bowling event for the program.

Oh, and how about this little diddy -- he's been returning to Chapel Hill during the summers to work his way towards a degree in African American Studies. He has just three summers to go before he earns his diploma.

And don't forget about Kevin Durant.

Durant spent this summer leading the United States to a gold medal in Turkey at the World Basketball Championships, but prior to this year, the former Longhorn would return to the University of Texas to work out with former teammates and (wait for it) take classes.

There are definitely kids out there that stop going to class once they enter the NBA Draft. I know two examples don't prove anything.

But before we assume that every talented basketball player looking to maximize their earning potential before their athletic ability goes away, remember that there are some kids that happen to be tall, athletic, and good shooters that do care about getting themselves educated as well.


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Mick Cronin is building a New York City pipeline

Cincinnati's Mick Cronin is starting to build himself a nice little pipeline between the Queen City and the City that never sleeps.

The most recent addition is Jermaine Sanders, a 6'5" wing from the Class of 2011 who surprised a lot of folks by committing to the Bearcats yesterday. A product of Rice High School, Sanders is a strong, left-handed* slasher with deep range and a knack for finding a way to score. He should do well filling in for the likes of Rashad Bishop and Darnell Wilks, two wing forwards that are seniors this year.

Jermaine Sanders is the last New York area kid to head to Cincinnati.
(photo credit: NY Post)

(*While I'm on the topic, I love the description that recruiting guru Tom Konchalski gave about lefties to Adam Zagoria: "He's got to work on his right hand. Most left-handers have trouble pledging allegiance with their right hand. He's profoundly left-handed.")

Sanders commitment came just days after Shaquille Thomas committed to Cincinnati. Thomas, the nephew of former Villanova Wildcat and current NBA forward Tim Thomas, is an athletic, 6'7" wing also in the Class of 2011 that hails from Montclair, NJ, and is a product of NIA Prep in Newark.

With the commitments of Thomas and Sanders, Cronin has now landed two players from the New York City area in two of the last three classes. In 2009, he brought in Sean Kilpatrick of White Plains and some kid named Lance Stephenson. And Bishop, a native of Paterson, NJ, is a senior this season.

There are worse places than New York City to establish a recruiting pipeline.

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The Only Conference Preview You Need To Read: The MVC

Summer officially ends on September 22nd, but for me, the end of summer always coincided with the end of August. Or when I had to go to school. (That first day was always the worst, wasn't it?) Anyway, school is right around the corner, which means that college basketball season is around the corner, down the street, through two lights, and on the left. Since we've all had a fight with our GPS at one time or another, we at BIAH will take this week to roll out our way-too-early, all-encompassing conference previews.

To browse through the other conferences, click here.



Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Toure' Murry, Wichita State, Jr.

The Shockers are going to be a very good team this season, especially considering the size they have in the front court in a league where bigs are at a premium. But WSU loses point guard Clevin Hannah, a kid that, for the last two seasons, has been so important to the Shockers. Murry isn't a point guard per se, but he is the most talented back court player on this roster. He showed flashes of serious potential last season, but was too inconsistent with his perimeter shooting (just 33% from deep) and couldn't put up big numbers on a nightly basis. Some of that blame should be credited to the defenses in the MVC, but Murry was up and down throughout the year. With Hannah gone, Murry's role will expand this season and he will be counted on for crunch time baskets and more consistent play. If that happens, Murry could end up being the best player on the league's best team.

Ed. Note: For those asking, leaving the Player of the Year off of the all-conference first-team was intentional. Maybe its because I grew up following the Big East (they always put six on the first team), but its the way I've always done it. Its not an oversight.


And a close second goes to: Kenny Lawson, Creighton, Sr.

You'll notice this is a common theme throughout this preview, but big men are at a premium in the Missouri Valley. Athletic 6'9" centers that can score in the paint, knock down a jumper, and block a shot are unheard of. That's why I am expecting big things out of Lawson as a senior. He's already a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches thanks to his size and strength on the block, but if he can expand on the perimeter game that he started to show flashes of late in the season, Lawson would be unstoppable at this level. The only reason I'm not picking hm a conference player of the year is that I think the addition of Gregory Echenique could cut into his touches.

Breakout Star: Jake Koch, Northern Iowa, So.

Picking a "breakout" star in this league is tough. Generally speaking, players never seem to break out in the Valley as much as they continue to develop throughout their careers. That said, there may be a perfect set of circumstances for Koch to have a big year. For starters, UNI loses quite a bit of talent this offseason, including the two guys starting in front of Jake -- Adam Koch (his big brother and last season's conference player of the year) and Jordan Egleseder. This will be Jake's third year in the program -- he redshirted as a freshman, meaning that he knows what to expect in league play and will understand Ben Jacobson's system. Most importantly, he seems to have the talent to be potentially become an all-conference player, evidenced by some impressive performances down the stretch of the season.


All-Conference First Team

  • G - Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa, Sr.
  • G - Sam Maniscalco, Bradley, Sr.
  • G - Colt Ryan, Evansville, So.
  • F - Kyle Weems, Missouri State, Jr.
  • C - Kenny Lawson, Creighton, Sr.
All-Conference Second Team
  • G - Adam Leonard, Missouri State, Sr.
  • G - Dwayne Lathan, Indiana State, Jr.
  • F - Taylor Brown, Bradley, Jr.
  • F - JT Durley, Wichita State, Sr.
  • F - Jake Koch, Northern Iowa, So.
Newcomer of the Year: Gregory Echenique, Creighton, So.

Echenique was supposed to join forces with Mike Rosario to turn Rutgers into a legitimate basketball program again, but the 6'9", 260 lb Venezuelan never was able to get on the same page as Fred Hill. So after suffering a detached retina that cost him last season -- a season in which he was averaging 12.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg -- Echenique is headed to Creighton where he will become eligible after the first semester. The combination of Echenique and Lawson will be tough for Valley opponents to handle.


What Happened?:
  • Northern Iowa kept making news: Just because the season ended and Ali Farokhmanesh graduated didn't mean that Northern Iowa was going to stop showing up in my reader. It started with head coach Ben Jacobson, who signed a ten-year contract extension with the school. Jacobson also saw a significant bump in his salary, as he will be getting paid in the $500,000 range for the bulk of the contract.

    The problem with that? Northern Iowa is broke. They already had to cut their baseball program, and even though their basketball team brought a bunch of new interest to the school with the impressive tournament run, they may be on the chopping block as well.

    Perhaps the most shocking turn of events during the off-season happened to Lucas O'Rear. O'Rear, who resembles a surly Irish bouncer more than he does an athlete, was also a member of the UNI baseball team that was cut prior to the 2010 season. Despite not playing baseball for the year, he still managed to get scooped up in the 13th round of this year's MLB draft.

    O'Rear isn't the only Panther with a potential professional career. The Sultan of Swish is headed to Switzerland.

  • Creighton had their own issues: UNI wasn't the only team to make headlines this offseason. Creighton did as well, although they weren't all for good reasons. Dana Altman finally pulled the trigger, leaving Creighton for the opening at Oregon. It didn't take long for Creighton to find a replacement, however. In one of the more unique moves you'll come across, Gregg McDermott decided to leave a Big XII job for an opening in the MVC. To be fair, many would argue that Creighton is at least as good, if not better, than the Iowa State job. They have a very big and passionate fan base, it is a school with basketball tradition, and they actually have a chance to compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

    Gregg wasn't the only McDermott making a move. His son, Doug, who originally had signed with (you guessed it) UNI was released from his LOI by Ben Jacobson. The elder McDermott was Jacobson's predecessor at Northern Iowa, and the two remain close.

  • Altman steals a Sycamore: Kevin McKenna finally looked like he was building a program at Indiana State heading into his fourth season. But after coaching for nine years under Altman, McKenna couldn't pass up on the opportunity to join Altman's staff in Oregon. ISU replaced him with associate head coach Greg Lansing.

  • Talented players leaving school: P'Allen Stinnett had a ton of talent, but his attitude and off-the-court problems never allowed him to fulfill his potential. He was suspended for the end of last season by Dana Altman for a myriad of reasons, and McDermott would not allow him back on the team. Stinnett will play out his final season at Missouri Western, a D-II school.

    Southern Illinois had it worse. Kevin Dillard left for Dayton while Anthony Booker headed to Iowa State. Those two were supposed to be members of the 2008 recruiting class that put Chris Lowery's program over the top.


What's Next?:
  • Who becomes this season's darling?: Early last season, it was Missouri State. Then Wichita State got hot before Northern Iowa steamrolled to the Sweet 16. Can Creighton get back into the mix this season?

  • Balance: The Valley plays tough, competitive, defensive basketball, but one of the biggest problems with the league is actually its strength and its balance. The bottom of the league is not that far from the top of the league -- Southern Illinois had as much talent as anyone last season, while Evansville beat the top two teams in the league -- and every road game is a potential loss regardless of your opponent. While that competitiveness can prepare Valley teams for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament, it also takes a toll on them. Missouri State and Wichita State were good teams last season, but their inability to win close games and/or road games cost them dearly.

  • Multiple bids?: The way I see it, four, possibly five, teams in this league have a puncher's chance at making the dance. Like I said, there is some good basketball played in the Valley. If there is going to be two or three (or more) bids that come out of this league, however, the Valley is going to have to play very well and spring some upsets in the non-conference portion of their schedule. Like I said, league play is brutal -- they are one of the leagues that play a true, 18 game round robin schedule -- and you can count on the top teams beating each other up all year long.

  • A good way to start?: By winning the MVC-MWC Challenge Series next season. The two best games? BYU heads to Creighton while San Diego State hosts Wichita State.

Power Rankings
  1. Wichita State: The Shockers look like they will be the early favorite to win the Missouri Valley. They only lose one senior and bring back a roster loaded with talent, size, and experience. In the Missouri Valley, it tends to be the front court that determines who wins the league, and Wichita State has one of, if not the best. Senior JT Durley is probably the Shockers most dangerous scorer in the front court, and if seven-footer Garrett Stutz can regain the form he had late in the season, he'll be force inside as a junior. Aaron Ellis and Gabe Blair are athletic live-bodies that will provide defense and rebounding, while redshirt freshman Jerome Hamilton and seven-foot sophomore Ehimen Orukpe could also see minutes. The biggest question for the Shockers is going to be how they replace point guard Clevin Hannah, their best scorer and the leader of this club the past two seasons. Sophomore Demetric Williams got better as the season progressed, and JuCo transfer Joe Ragland should also be able to fight for minutes at the point. The guy that Gregg Marshall will be looking for more consistency out of will be two-guard Toure' Murry. A tough defender, Murry is a bit streaky on the offensive end, although he is capable of going for 20. Senior Graham Hatch is a glue guy through and through that can also knock down a three, while junior David Kyles will see a bigger role this year as well. The Shockers will, once again, be a tough defensive team with a lot of size on the inside. The Valley is always tough and full of close, competitive, physical basketball games. If Wichita State can figure out how to win some of those on the road, this looks like a team that could win the league.

  2. Creighton: It will be awkward seeing the Bluejays play for someone other than Dana Altman, but Gregg McDermott could have walked into a much worse situation than this. Creighton will add Rutgers transfer Gregory Echinique after the first semester, and once he is on the floor with Kenny Lawson, Creighton's leading scorer and rebounder last season, the Bluejays will have the best front court in the conference. Playing behind those two will be senior Wayne Runnels, who never quite lived up to his 16 point, 9 rebound performance against Dayton in his first game in a Creighton jersey, and 6'11" freshman Will Artino. Junior Antoine Young, who showed a bit of a scoring punch for Creighton down the stretch, will likely be running the point again this season. How good the Bluejays end up being is going to be determined by who shows up on the wings this year. Ethan Wragge, a 6'7" sharpshooting small forward, looks like he will be an excellent weapon to help the Bluejays spread the floor. Kaleb Korver lost his confidence this season, shooting under 32% from three (unheard of for a Korver), as did Darryl Ashford, a JuCo transfer that never regained his rhythm after missing a January game against Drake. Sophomore Josh Jones looked impressive moving into the starting lineup late in the season, and the late addition of Doug McDermott should also help with depth. There is a lot of talent on this roster, and there may not be a team that can compete with Creighton inside. The Bluejays should be in the thick of the race in the MVC in February.

  3. Northern Iowa: The Panthers had a magical season in 2009-2010, making the Sweet 16 with two memorable wins, including one over Kansas, and two memorable shots by Ali Farokhmanesh. But they also lose quite a bit from that team. Jordan Egleseder and Adam Koch, the MVC player of the year, formed the best front line in the conference, while Farokhmanesh spread the floor with his shooting ability. The good news is that the Panthers run a system where the emphasis is team success, starting with their defense. Jake Koch showed flashes late in the season of being able to fill his brother's shoes. Lucas O'Rear has won back-to-back sixth man awards for his scrappy, defensive-minded play. Jonny Moran, who struggled to find a rhythm shooting the ball last year, and Marc Sonnen should be able to fill the void left by Farokhmanesh, while Kerwin Dunham is a 6'6" senior guard that defends well and doesn't make mistakes. But the key to this team is going to be Kwadzo Ahelegbe. Ahelegbe is a strong, possession point guard that can score when he needs to. He will need to this season, as he will be the only player on this roster that has proven the ability to create his own shot. There are still some pieces on this team, and while UNI has never been a team that needed to score a lot to win, points will really be at a premium this season.

  4. Missouri State: The Bears got out to a great start last season, winning their first ten games, but the turnover on their roster did them in as they couldn't win close games and struggled away from home. That said, this team returns basically everyone from last season, which should make them an early favorite to finish near the top of the league. The guy to watch on this team will be 6'6" junior Kyle Weems, a talented forward that proved to be dangerous on the perimeter. Sharp shooter Adam Leonard also returns for the Bears, as does Jermaine Mallett, a feisty, 6'3" senior that will contribute on both ends of the floor. JuCo transfer Nafis Ricks really came on strong down the stretch, starting at the point by the end of the season. With sophomore Keith Pickens back, and four freshmen back court players joining the team, the Bears perimeter attack will be one of the best in the league. The question will be up front, where Cuonzo Martin only has four players taller than 6'4", including Weems. Caleb Patterson, a 6'11" transfer from Colorado, has had moments but struggled with consistency. The same can be said for Will Creekmore, a 6'8" transfer from Boston University. Isaiah Rhine also returns up front. Missouri State will be good, but how good will depend on the big men. Right now, this is a team that will rely too much on perimeter shooting.

  5. Bradley: Bradley was maddeningly inconsistent last season. They started out the year well, including a win over Illinois, but proceeded to lose seven of their next ten games and finish the year just 9-9 in the Missouri Valley. The Braves do, however, return a good amount of talent and experience, especially on the perimeter where they will be starting three seniors. Sam Maniscalco has developed into an all-conference caliber point guard, Andrew Warren returned from an injury to become Bradley's leading scorer, and Dodie Dunson, who broke his arm after just two games last season, is also back. Junior forward Taylor Brown is back. Brown, who averaged 13.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg, has a ton of talent, but he cannot stay out of the doghouse, getting suspended for four games over the course of last season. Sophomores Jake Eastman and Dyricus Simms-Edwards, along with freshman Walter Lemon, will provide perimeter depth for the Braves. The question mark for the Braves is going to be on the inside. Will Egolf is really the only semblance of a proven post presence on the roster, but outside of a nine game stretch last season that saw the 6'9" Alaskan score in double figures seven times, Egolf has had a thoroughly mediocre career. Beyond Egolf, it will be a battle for playing time. Junior Anthony Thompson, sophomore Minos Knezevic, and freshmen Jordan Prosser and Andrew Davis will likely battle for minutes. This is the year for the Braves if they are going to make a run at the Valley title.

  6. Indiana State: The Sycamores had their best season in recent memory in 2009-2010 as they finished .500 in the league and advanced to a post season tournament, neither of which they had accomplished since 2001. The bad news, however, is that Indiana State will be losing point guard Harry Marshall, their emotional leader and the conference's leading scorer in MVC play last season. Indiana State also loses Rashad Reed, another back court scorer, but with the athletic Dwayne Lathan, a 6'3" junior transfer from Louisiana Tech, returning along with a healthy Jake Kelly (he only played 12 games last season), who should be able to pick up the slack left by Reed and Marshall. Aaron Carter, Jordan Printy, and redshirt freshman Jake Odum should also compete for playing time in the back court. The Sycamores should have a solid back court, but the question mark will be up front. Junior Carl Richard in undersized, but is tough and led the Sycamores in rebounding last season. Isiah Martin and Koang Doluony are both back as well, but it may end up being three newcomers that win most of the minutes up front. Jake Kitchell was a fairly highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, and should be able to contribute immediately. Redshirt freshmen RJ Mahurin and JuCo transfer Myles Carter will both also be counted on to provide quality minutes inside.

  7. Illinois State: The Redbirds seemingly lose a couple of key seniors every season, finding a way to fight through it and remain competitive. It may be tougher than ever this year, as Osiris Eldridge, Dinma Odiakosa, and Lloyd Phillips all graduate. There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, however. Jackie McMichael has the look of a potential MVC all-conference player. A 6'9", 240 lb athletic sophomore, McMichael needs some polish but he had a couple of big games. Seniors Tony Lewis, a 6'7" forward, and Austin Hill, a tough, defensive-minded 6'1" guard, should be counted on for expanded roles as well. A big season should also be expected from Justin Clark, a 6'4" sophomore scorer that never found his rhythm last season. The biggest question mark for this team may be at the point. With Phillips gone, it looks like two sophomore JuCo transfers, Kenyon Smith and Anthony Cousin, are going to be battling it out for the starting spot. The rest of the Redbirds rotation will be newcomers. Jordan Threloff, a freshman, and John Wilkins, a sophomore JuCo transfer, are bigs that had some high-major interest. Redshirt freshmen John Ekey and Zeke Upshaw could find their way into the rotation as well. A guy to watch may be Fordham transfer Trey Blue, who averaged 8.2 ppg with the Rams before transferring due to the death of a friend.

  8. Drake: The Bulldogs were inexperienced last season, with 11 new players on the roster, and it showed, as they lost eight games by four points or less, including three league games in the final two seconds. And while this season will be the first where head coach Mark Phelps won't feel like he is coaching an entirely new team, the Bulldogs do lose three of their top five players, including starters Adam Templeton and Josh Young, Drake's career leader in points. Its not all bad news, however. 6'11" center Seth VanDeest had some big games as a freshman and should be ready, and capable, of becoming the focal point of the Drake attack. Ben Simons, a 6'8" sophomore, will join VanDeest along the front line, with Vermont transfer Jordan Clarke and sophomores Aaron Hawley and Reece Uhlenhopp providing depth. The back court will be more of a question mark, as the Bulldogs lost Young and Craig Stanley. Freshman Karl Madison and junior Frank Wiseler will likely be competing for the starting point guard spot, while Ryan Wedel seems a safe bet to be Drake's shooting guard again this season. After that, there are a lot of question marks, as the back court will once again be newcomers. Rayvonte Rice and David Smith and both freshmen that should see minutes, as should JuCo transfer Kurt Alexander and freshman Jeremy Jeffers. Drake is fairly unproven, but there are enough pieces here that a .500 finish in the league isn't out of the question.

  9. Southern Illinois: Things are not looking good in Carbondale these days. Gone are Kevin Dillard, who transferred to Dayton, and Anthony Booker, who transferred to Iowa State. Nick Evans left the team midway through the season, transferring to Southern Indiana. Tony Freeman graduated, leaving Chris Lowery without four of his top seven players. There are some players on this team. Sophomore Gene Teague really came on down the stretch, developing into a solid option in the post. Carlton Fay, who is a more perimeter oriented 6'8" forward, should complement him nicely. Justin Bocot has developed into a solid weapon on the wing, while John Freeman really played well down the stretch of the season, even getting a couple of starts in the back court. Kendal Brown-Surles was a solid replacement for Dillard late in the season. Lowery also brings in five newcomers, four of which went the JuCo route while Davante Drinkard is a 6'8" freshman from Georgia. Last year, the issue never seemed to be talent for the Salukis, it was attitude and chemistry. That may be improved with Dillard, Booker, and Evans gone, but there is certainly no longer enough talent on this roster to compete for a league title.

  10. Evansville: Evansville had a tough 2009-2010 season. Finding a positive is tough when you finish the year at 9-21 with a 14 games losing streak sandwiched in. The good news, however, is that the Aces finished the year with a 3-4 stretch, which included wins over Northern Iowa and Wichita State, the two best teams in the league. They also return two of their top three scorers. The MVC freshman of the year Colt Ryan, a 6'5" shooting guard that has a bright future, became the go-to player early on in the season. Denver Holmes, a junior guard, also showed flashes of becoming a weapon for the Aces. Kavon Lacey, Ned Cox, and Troy Taylor are all back as well, giving Evansville a solid back court. James Haarsma and Bryan Bouchie, arguably the team's two best big men, have both left the program, which is very bad news for a club that already was thin up front. Clint Hopf should be back after injuring his knee last season. Hopf had reached double figures in scoring in five of the six games before getting hurt. Pieter von Tongeron will likely be counted on for a bigger role, and the addition of Matt Peeler should help provide some depth. Don't be surprised if Jordan Jahr and Kenny Harris have to play out of position on the front line as well. There are some players on this team, but not enough size or talent to expect much of an improvement from last season.

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Confusion over Dee Bost and his return to Mississippi State

Last year, the NCAA dragged its feet with their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Renardo Sidney's amateur eligibility.

This season, the NCAA is once again looking into a Mississippi State player's eligibility.

Dee Bost had a solid, if unspectacular, sophomore campaign with the Bulldogs, averaging about 13 points and 5 assists per game. He, along with back court mate Ravern Johnson, decided to enter to NBA Draft this offseason.

Only time will tell is Dee Bost can get eligible at Mississippi State.
(photo credit: B/R)

This is were the story gets a bit murky. You see, most have believed that Bost tried to remove his name from the draft after the May 8th deadline had passed. His argument? He didn't know the rule had changed, which is far from a valid excuse.

But according to Andy Katz, that isn't exactly true. Apparently, the rule Bost claims he didn't understand was that undrafted players that don't sign with agents can no longer return to school. If you remember, Randolph Morris did just that a few years back, returning to Kentucky after going undrafted, then getting signed by the Knicks just days after his final season ended.

This story is a bit more believable, but -- as you should expect in cases like this -- there is more. From the Katz story:
According to a source with knowledge of the case, the NCAA has questions about who paid for Bost to work out in Las Vegas for a three-week period while he was supposedly prepping for the draft. The NCAA has asked for phone records and check receipts from Bost to see how the trip was paid for.
That would, obviously, be a bigger problem and more than just an honest mistake.

If Bost was allowed to return, he would immediately make the Bulldogs the favorite in the weak SEC West, combining with Johnson and big men Sidney, Kodi Augustus, and John Riek to form a team with an outside shot of making a run at a tournament bid.
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Blue Ribbon releases their all-american lists

Blue Ribbon -- which is set to be released on October 10th, meaning October 11th will be incredibly unproductive for yours truly -- has released their list of the all-american teams, all the way through a 4th team.

The first team looks like this:

  • G - Jacob Pullen, Kansas State
  • G - Jimmer Fredette, BYU
  • G - LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
  • F - Kyle Singler, Duke
  • F - Marcus Morris, Kansas
That's a tough team to argue with.

Personally, I would put Nolan Smith on the first team and drop Fredette to the second team. Smith may not be the leading scorer for the Blue Devils this season, and he may end up being the second best guard, but he is going to be a senior leader for a squad and big time playmaker for a team that has a chance to win a lot of games.

That said, Fredette could very well average 25 ppg this year, which would make it tough to leave him off the first team.

As you look through those rosters, think about how many good guards -- specifically point guards -- there are across the country this season. Ashton Gibbs, Kemba Walker, and Shelvin Mack are all third teamers. Kevin Anderson, Kalin Lucas, Demetri McCamey, Corey Fisher, and Randy Culpepper didn't even sniff the list. It also doesn't include talented freshmen like Brandon Knight, Kyrie Irving, Cory Joseph, Josh Selby, or Joe Jackson. There is a lot of back court talent aroung the country this season, and I, for one, love a battle between point guards.

We are still putting together our all-americans lists. I'm sure you are on the edge of your seating waiting for them.

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Tuesday Morning Dump

- SI's Seth Davis provides us with our first must-read of the day, catching up with Butler head coach Brad Stevens.

- Then there is this profile of Nolan Smith by Fanhouse's David Steele. Hate Duke if you will, but Smith is quickly becoming one of the most likeable players in the country.

- Not to be outdone, Steele's Fanhouse colleague Graham Watson has this look at the "mid-majors". He better be careful who he labels a mid-major, however. I don't think Memphis fans appreciate it.

- And finally, there is Jeff Goodman, who provides this look at Steve Donahue and the job he has to do at BC.

- A couple of big-name coaches will head to Capitol Hill to lobby for improving and increasing federal funding for cancer research. The college hoops world has always been a strong promoter for cancer research, with the Jimmy V foundation and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. BYU head coach, and former cancer-survivor Dave Rose, will lead the campaign to raise awareness and improve support.

- A first look at some potential candidates for Big-10 Rookie of the Year. There are a handful of potential first-year players who could vie for the award, but even before the season begins, tOSU freshman Jared Sullinger is clearly the front-runner to win in what could be his only season in Columbus.

- Jeff Goodman reported that Kyle Singler made his return to the court yesterday; Goodman also lists the best assistant coaches in the ACC.

- Matt Norlander details the path taken by Wofford standout Noah Dahlman. The younger brother of former-Spartan Isaiah Dahlman, Noah was not recruited nearly as much as his brother, but has had a much more successful individual career (Isiah did go to back-to-back Final Fours with MSU, but had a limited role.)

- Kelly Mehrtens, the Athletic Director at UNC-Wilmington resigned on Monday afternoon. She denied that her resignation had anything to do with the news that was leaked last week about the unethical treatment of an injured women's basketball player by her assistant coaches. She also received criticism for the painfully-long 79-day search for a new men's head basketball coach this past summer. Merhtens arrived at UNCW in 2007 after serving as the Associate Athletic Director at Kansas. Her resignation is ironic because the man she served under at Kansas, AD Lew Perkins, retired a couple weeks ago, a year earlier than expected ,amidst tons of speculation involving illegal practices on the part of the Kansas athletic department.

- Sure, why not? Another list of players who could have breakout seasons.

- Creighton University has decided to host a "Midnight Madness" event for the first time in school history. On October 15th, the Greg McDermott era will begin in front of capacity crowd at the on-campus Ryan Center. The Blue Jays have held inter-squad scrimmages for season ticket-holders before, but never have they put on a full-fledged "Midnight Madness" spectacular. With the crowds the Bluejays get at home game, we expect insanity for "Midnight Madness".

- The Seattle Times had a great Q&A session with Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar.

- Louisville freshman Russ Smith will be out 8-12 weeks with a broken foot.

- Dorian Finney-Smith, a small forward listed by Rivals.com as a top-50 recruit in the class of 2011, will make his college decision today.

- A look at the off-season workouts of the Old Dominion Monarchs, one of the favorites to win the every-improving Colonial Athletic Conference.

- Basketball Prospectus takes a look at a couple of southern story lines: Coach K's busy summer, Tennessee's off-court drama, and the high hopes of a young Memphis squad.

Which one of these guys is the 7'2" Tuba player that is walking on at LSU?



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Monday, September 27, 2010

Indiana gets another commitment from a high school freshmen

For the second time this month, Indiana head coach Tom Crean was able to secure a commitment from one of the top players in the state of Indiana.

The problem?

Neither of those kids have even set foot on the court for a high school game yet.

Trey Lyles is a 6'9", 14 year old freshman at Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis. Over the weekend, after an unofficial visit to the Bloomington campus, Lyles told his parents and IU head coach Tom Crean that he had made the decision to commit to the Hoosiers. This comes just three weeks after James Blackmon, a 6'2" freshman at Fort Wayne Leurs High School, committed to Indiana after the Hoosiers season opening football game.

A lot of people are going to rip this decision, and they aren't wrong (more on that in a minute). But before you lump Crean in with the cretins that take advantage of precocious 14 year old athletes, think about this a bit harder. Blackmon and Lyles are both Indiana natives, and if you know anything about Indiana natives, you know they live and breath Hoosier basketball. Now pretend you are a 14 year old kid from Indiana, and the Hoosier basketball coach invites you to campus to talk, get a tour, see a football game, meet the players, etc. Would this not be a dream come true you?

"The Hoosiers?!?! And they want me?!?!" What do you expect to happen?

James Blackmon, above, committed to Indiana earlier this month.
(photo credit: Indy Star)

Anyone watching this process can bitch and moan and rip Crean all they want, but the bottom line is that he is trying to rebuild the Indiana program. The best way to do that is to recruit the hell out of Indiana. There is a lot of basketball talent produced in that state. Like it or not, recruitment can be a four year process, and sometimes the best way to land a kid down the road is to be the first to contact him.

And that is exactly what Crean did here. He invited some of the best young talent in Indiana to visit the school. Was he expecting them to commit? That, I don't know. But when Blackmon and Lyles to Crean they had made a decision and wanted to commit to his program, what is he supposed to say? No?

Would you? Would you risk offending these families? Would you risk ticking off the Indiana High School basketball scene?

Believe me, I understand the risks involved here. There are so many question marks when it comes to the development of players at that age. How much more is he going to grow? Is he successful at this age because he happened to hit his growth spurt first? Will he develop the work ethic he needs to reach his full potential when everything at this age comes so easily? Will committing as a high school freshman make him lackadaisacal, convincing him he has already "made it"? Can a high school freshman handle the mental pressure that comes from being committed to a school like Indiana? What kind of long term emotional damage will be done if that kid never ends up going to Indiana? At this point, its not even a guarantee that Crean will still be at Indiana in 2014.

14 year olds are still children. They are still very much works in progress, both mentally and physically. No matter how much natural talent a player has at that age, it is developing the ability to work hard that will determine how close a player will come to reaching their potential.

There are so many stories out there about the hyped middle schoolers that never quite make it. Andre Allen went from being the best eighth grader in the country to being Derrick Rose's back up as a senior at Memphis and getting suspended from the Final Four. Demetrius Walker had an SI article written about him, labeling him the next LeBron James, in 2005, and just transferred out of Arizona State. Taylor King committed to UCLA as a freshman in high school, and now is playing at Concordia, an NAIA school in California. Hell, even Derrick Caracter, who was recently taken in the second round by the Lakers, needed to get kicked out of Louisville to figure out that he needed to a work ethic if he wanted to make it.

Accepting a commitment from a player this age feels wrong. In fact, I would agree with anyone that argued against this practice.

And while it may seem like I am justifying the practice, I find it difficult to fault Crean in this situation. Blame the rules, not the man taking advantage of them.
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"Free Enes" gets a theme song

Two weeks ago, Pete Thamel published an article in the New York Times with quotes from the General Manager of Fenerbahce Ulker saying that he paid Enes Kanter six figures during the Kentucky freshman's time with the team.

Spawned by this tweet from DeMarcus Cousins, the Big Blue Nation turned Free Enes into their rallying cry. Whether its signs hanging on the highway or the t-shirts that are being sold, everyone is buying in.

Even Rich Breezy.

Who is Rich Breezy?

A rapper from Kentucky that has given the "Free Enes" its theme song. The wildest part? Its actually not terrible.



This isn't the first time a member of the Kentucky basketball program has had a rap written about them. First there was Scoupe, who was excited enough about the Calipari signing that he put together a remix to "Halle Berry". Then there was Cash, who told us to Bang on 'em, Flex on 'em, do the John Wall.

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Monday Morning Dump

- The big news from over the weekend was that the Birmingham School District announced that they would not be changing Eric Bledsoe's grade despite an independent law firm conducting the investigation determining that Bledsoe's grade change was not credible. Reactions varied. Gary Parrish says that the determination that the grade change was no credible should, in and of itself, be reason enough to render Bledsoe ineligible. Tom Arenberg of the Birmingham News thinks the school system needs to look deeper into the situation. Some Kentucky fans are questioning whether or not the sports journalists of the world will go after one another, while the rest are busy celebrating. Me? I'm just glad its over with. Retroactively determining a player to be ineligible, and then vacating a season as a result, has got to be the stupidest punishment of all time.

- On Thursday, a Jay Bilas article went up on ESPN's Insider, and it created quite a bit of discussion. Essentially, Bilas was arguing that the NCAA does not need to get involved with the eligibility process, that a school is perfectly capable of determining who they allow into school. If they want to disregard their normal academic requirements in order to get a kid that can play a sport into school, who is the NCAA to stop them?

The argument against Bilas' theory is that school's already can determine who they let into school. Stanford and Alabama probably don't have the same requirements when it comes to their athletes. The NCAA is simply there to set the baseline. Bilas responded to the dissenters with another post over the weekend.

- Cal will begin the season even more shorthanded, as 7'3" center Max Zhang will not be coming back to school until the spring semester. Zhang played with the Chinese National Team at the FIBA World Championships, and he is going to play with them at the Asian Games in November.

- Kansas got some bad news as well, as 7'0" center Jeff Withey broke a bone in his foot and will miss 4-6 weeks.

- Pitt redshirt freshman Lamar Patterson is ok after crashing through a building over the weekend.

- One of the storylines that I can guarantee you get sick of hearing about over the next six months is the redemption of North Carolina

- Kevin O'Neil bought a $2 million mansion near LA's Skid Row. So many questions ... why is this news? There are $2 million homes next to LA's Skid Row? O'Neil has the money to buy  $2 million house?

- Two notable commitments -- Norman Powell to UCLA and Mike Taylor to Rutgers.

- Magic's college teammate pleads guilty to two charges related to an internet scam that earned his $2 million.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Josh Selby update

Josh Selby has been cleared by the NCAA to be on scholarship, to attend class, and to participate in practice, but he has not yet been cleared to play in games.

According to Jeff Goodman, the NCAA is looking into both academic and amateurism issues with Selby. With the growing speculation that Kansas will never be able allow Selby to suit up, Bill Self released a statement yesterday:

We have had numerous inquiries about the status of Josh Selby. The NCAA has cleared Josh to be on scholarship, attend class and practice, but he has not yet been cleared for participation. That process is ongoing. It is not uncommon for these cases to take time, as we have seen in many other cases. Of course we would prefer that this be behind us, but we respect the process and will not comment further until it is complete.

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Eric Bledsoe investigation is over

Eric Bledsoe's ordeal, if you can call it that, is over.

But that doesn't mean it has to make sense.

Friday evening, a Birmingham, AL, law firm published a report from a three month investigation into Eric Bledsoe's grades during his time in high school. The outcome? The law firm found that the teacher's reasoning for changing Bledsoe's Algebra III grade was "not credible" (read the entire report here), but the firm couldn't find enough evidence of wrong doing. The Birmingham school board decided that the findings were not sufficient, and thus Bledsoe's grade will remain an A and his eligibility will remain intact.

In other words, the law firm believed the teacher was lying, but no one could prove it. Kentucky's Elite 8 in 2010 will live on. Kentucky fans celebrate!!!

For the rest of the college basketball world, it looks like the Wildcats -- and John Calipari -- once again got off on a technicality. And while that may be true, the issue isn't the technicality. As anyone that has seen an episode of Law And Order knows, its not about what you know, its about what you can prove. Did Bledsoe get his grades changed? Yes. Is there reason to suspect that the change was less than kosher? Yes.

But grades get changed all the time in high school. I once talked a teacher out of giving me a C in a class by agreeing to write a paper late in the year. Who is to say that Bledsoe didn't do something similar?

The bottom line is this: Eric Bledsoe was originally cleared by the NCAA. He played in the games last season. And, personally, I would rather have Bledsoe's questionable grades hold up than see Kentucky punished by having a season vacated, which has to be the dumbest punishment in the history of sports.

Now that this saga is over with, we are one step closer to being able to talk about actual basketball. REJOICE!


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