Most cold-shooting big men won't deign to dabble with attempting free throws underhand because they're fearful of being ridiculed for it.

Credit Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku for daring to be different.

Onuaku, a 46.7 percent free throw shooter this past season, is experimenting with the Rick Barry-esque granny stroke this summer at the suggestion of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The 6-foot-10 sophomore showed off his new approach in the U-19 World Championships over the weekend, sinking 2 of 4 foul shots in the U.S. team's opening victory over Iran.

Onuaku logged 17.8 minutes per game for Louisville as a freshman, averaging 3.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and making an impact defensively with his ability to block shots. He is expected to play a greater role for the Cardinals next season with Montrezl Harrell off to the NBA.

In two games for the U.S. U-19 team, Onuaku has made a limited impact off the bench. He had four points and four rebounds against Croatia and two points and five rebounds against Iran.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 29, 2015, 4:05 pm

In the first 11 NBA drafts since Rivals.com began ranking high school basketball prospects, ex-Tennessee wing Scotty Hopson had been the only top-five recruit to go unselected.

Hopson finally has company on that not-so-illustrious list.

Sixty prospects heard their names called during Thursday night's NBA draft, however, former Kansas big man Cliff Alexander wasn't one of them. The consensus top-five recruit ranked ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell only a year ago will now have to try to latch on with an NBA franchise as an undrafted free agent and win a roster spot in training camp.

Alexander's draft night tumble comes on the heels of an underwhelming freshman season at Kansas.

Hailed as an elite power forward capable of overpowering defenders in the paint and dominating the glass, Alexander flashed only occasional glimpses of that potential. A foot injury last summer and a chest ailment during the season hampered Alexander, as did the playing time he lost with his inconsistent production and effort. 

Things only got worse for Alexander when his season ended amid an NCAA investigation after his mother, Latillia, accepted improper benefits from a third party. Alexander averaged a modest 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, yet he had little choice but to leave Kansas since he was unlikely to be eligible to play right away the following season.

Many mock drafts still projected Alexander as a late first-round pick when he entered in April, but some red flags began emerging. He measured at just over 6-foot-7 without shoes, he suffered a knee injury that hampered him during workouts and he failed to prove to skeptical scouts that he had good enough footwork, outside shooting or athleticism to make up for being undersized.

While that certainly explains why no NBA team used a first-round pick on Alexander, it's still shocking that none of them bothered to take a second-round flier on him. This is a kid that many compared favorably with Towns and Jahlil Okafor as recently as a year or two ago.

Give Alexander credit for his positive attitude after what had to be one of the most disappointing nights of his life.

Started from the bottom before #motivation

— Cliff Alexander (@CAlexander) June 26, 2015

Alexander has plenty of company on the bottom Thursday night as he is one of 18 underclassmen who entered the draft early but were not among the 60 players selected. Here's a look at the most high-profile early-entry candidates to go undrafted.

1. Cliff Alexander, F, Kansas

Comment: The culmination of a stunning fall for a top-five recruit frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns as recently as a year ago.

2. Christian Wood, F, UNLV

Comment: The 6-foot-11 forward is a tantalizing combination of size and length, but his maturity and work ethic are both lacking.

3. Robert Upshaw, C, Washington

Comment: Even though Upshaw is the best shot blocker in this draft, concerns about his off-court issues and his heart problems kept him from being selected. 

4. Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky

Comment: Had Harrison been selected on Thursday, Kentucky would have been the first school to have seven draft picks in one year.

5. Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona

Comment: The one-time highly touted recruit has a nice pick-and-pop jump shot but no other elite skills to set him apart from other prospects.

6. Trevor Lacey, G, N.C. State

Comment: Lacey's decision to leave school a year early made sense because of his age even though he was not selected. He'll make a lucrative salary overseas if he doesn't make an NBA roster.

7. Chris Walker, F, Florida

Comment: An NBA-caliber athlete who still looks like he doesn't know how to play basketball, Walker had no business leaving school early.

8. Michael Qualls, G, Arkansas

Comment: An ill-timed knee injury during workouts wrecked Qualls' hopes of being selected in the second round.

Related NBA draft video from Yahoo Sports:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 26, 2015, 6:18 am

Three months after Jim Boeheim revealed his intent to retire in three years, Syracuse also clarified its succession plan.

Chancellor Kent Syverud announced Thursday that assistant coach Mike Hopkins has been formally named Syracuse's head coach-designate and will replace Boeheim following the 2017-18 men's basketball season.

"For more than 25 years, Mike Hopkins has demonstrated the true meaning of Orange pride and loyalty," Syverud said in a statement. "He has contributed so much to the success of the Syracuse basketball program. I know Mike is ready to lead the program into the future and carry forward the success that has occurred under Coach Boeheim."

The timing of the decision is significant because Syracuse just introduced a new athletic director on Monday. Even though the announcement technically came from Svyerud, it's safe to assume Hopkins also has Mark Croyle's support as the right choice to oversee the transition into the post-Boeheim era. 

The revelation of Syracuse's succession plan provides some stability to a proud program rocked by NCAA sanctions earlier this year. In addition to last season's postseason ban, the NCAA vacated more than 100 of Boeheim's victories, suspended him for nine games next season and handed down crippling scholarship and recruiting restrictions.

Setting the succession plan in stone is a smart move by Syracuse because it eases uncertainty among both fans and prospective recruits. Hopkins had been unofficially acknowledged as Boeheim's eventual successor for years, but he also interviewed for the USC job and several others during that period, raising the question of whether he would remain long enough to inherit the job.

Now that there's a finite time table in place and he has the public support of his administration, Hopkins has less incentive to look elsewhere. That's crucial for a Syracuse program that would not be in an ideal position to hire from the outside while still dealing with scholarship restrictions in 2018.

A prominent candidate from outside the program might not want to step into that mess. Hopkins, however, apparently has no such fear.

"I'm honored, humbled and grateful for this special opportunity," Hopkins said in a statement. "Very few people are afforded the privilege to coach at their alma mater. I want to thank Chancellor Syverud, the Board of Trustees and Jim Boeheim for entrusting me with this great program."

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 25, 2015, 7:48 pm

When Oregon forward Elgin Cook tweeted Jamal Murray last week congratulating him on his commitment and welcoming him to the Ducks, it raised an obvious question.

Did Cook have inside information that the last uncommitted five-star recruit in the class of 2015 was going to choose Oregon?

Turns out Cook's since-deleted tweet was erroneous since Murray did not choose the Ducks. The highly touted Canadian point guard instead announced Wednesday evening that he is headed to Kentucky, a huge coup for a program that must replace seven members of its rotation from this past season's 38-1 Final Four team.

Originally a member of the class of 2016, Murray began strongly considering reclassifying after earning MVP honors for his 30-point, five-assist masterpiece of a performance at April's Nike Hoop Summit. The 6-foot-5 Murray thrives with the ball in his hands but is big enough to guard opposing wings, which will be crucial for a Kentucky team that will also feature returning point guard Tyler Ulis and high-scoring incoming combo guard Isaiah Briscoe. 

Murray became a critical recruit for Kentucky when John Calipari uncharacteristically swung and missed in his pursuit of a handful of top recruits this spring. Jaylen Brown (Cal), Ivan Rabb (Cal), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Cheick Diallo (Kansas) all spurned the Wildcats, leaving Calipari in jeopardy of taking thinner roster than usual into next season.

The addition of Murray alleviates much of that concern.

With him, Ulis, Briscoe in the backcourt, Calipari has a trio of guards who should thrive in a dribble-drive offense and potential capable backups in freshman Charles Matthews and veteran Dominique Hawkins. Highly touted freshman Skal Labissiere and returners Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee should serve as mainstays in the frontcourt.

It's foolish to ever count out Kentucky in a recruitment, but it's mildly surprising that Murray became the prospect who ended the Wildcats' string of spring misses. Oregon appeared to have the strongest connection between the presence of an assistant coach (Mike Mennenga) who was once co-director of Murray's grassroots program and the addition of Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis, Murray's former teammate on the AAU circuit.

Alas, it was not to be for Oregon, which knows the pain of finishing second in the pursuit of a five-star prospect all too well. The Ducks have been the runner-ups in the recruitment of Anthony Bennett, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon, among others.

Elgin Cook's tweet gave Ducks fans hope this time might be different. Instead Murray altered next season's college basketball landscape by choosing Kentucky instead.

Rivals.com Video of Jamal Murray

 

For more Kentucky news, visit CatsIllustrated.com

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 25, 2015, 12:05 am

A reserve guard on the Wofford basketball team drowned early Monday morning after apparently diving off a bridge into a South Carolina lake.

Nineteen-year-old Jeremiah Tate and a fellow counselor at Camp Thunderbird reportedly jumped off the Buster Boyd Bridge into Lake Wylie at around 2 a.m. The other counselor survived the 30-foot plunge. Tate did not resurface until divers pulled his body from the water about two hours later. 

Tate was a rising junior at Wofford who was majoring in accounting and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Pre-Law Society. He played sparingly his first two seasons for Wofford, appearing in 10 games as a freshman and three as a sophomore and averaging less than a point per game.

"The entire Wofford College family is devastated and saddened today by the loss of Jeremiah Tate," Wofford athletic director Richard Johnson said in a statement from the school.

"Jeremiah was such a dedicated, loved and respected member of the men's basketball team. He had a wonderful personality and had many friends on campus extending outside of the athletic department. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with his family. He will truly be missed."

Tate's Wofford teammates also reflected on his death via Twitter.

Still in shock that I lost a brother #RipTate

— Justin Gordon (@J_Gore24) June 22, 2015

It's an honor to have been able to call you my teammate, but more importantly a friend and a brother. Rest easy Tate. pic.twitter.com/RPeOLnvGQB

— Ryan Sawvell (@SAWDADDY_) June 22, 2015

I'm really going to miss the "old man" jokes coming from him #RIPJeremiah @Jay_Tate1 pic.twitter.com/SzUVsLyJdt

— Ryan Sawvell (@SAWDADDY_) June 22, 2015

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 22, 2015, 5:33 pm

The last time Michigan State secured a commitment from an elite prospect, center Caleb Swanigan changed his mind soon afterward and eventually signed with Purdue.

The Spartans are hoping their latest commitment yields a better outcome. 

Josh Langford, a 6-foot-6 guard from Madison, Ala., committed to Michigan State on Monday after  taking an official visit to the school over the weekend. Langord, Rivals.com's No. 17 prospect in the class of 2016, chose the Spartans over the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Duke, among others. 

The addition of Langford will help Michigan State replenish a perimeter corps that lost leading scorer Travis Trice this spring and will lose seniors-to-be Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes next year. Langford could play alongside promising West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, pass-first point guard LouRawls Nairn and deadly shooter Matt McQuaid if all three opt to remain in East Lansing beyond the 2015-16 season.

What Langford will bring to Michigan State is the versatility to score in multiple ways. He has the size, athleticism and skill to attack the rim off the dribble or score in the post and he has improved the range and consistency of his jump shot too in recent months.

Langford's decisiion is a punch to the gut for rival Michigan because the Wolverines had a realistic chance to land the wing before accepting a commitment from fellow five-star guard Tyus Battle earlier this year. Battle decommitted over the weekend, leaving the Wolverines no time to get back in the race for Langford. 

With Langford and fellow top 100 prospect Nick Ward both having committed already, Michigan State could be poised to assemble a special 2016 class. They're also in contention for a pair of top in-state prospects, point guard Cassius Winston and forward Miles Bridges.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 22, 2015, 4:06 pm

One of college basketball's most creative haircuts belongs to one of the sport's better point guards.

Bronson Koenig, a key player on the past two Wisconsin teams that have reached the Final Four, posted a photo of himself Tuesday night with a fresh haircut honoring his Native American heritage. The signature element of the haircut is a feather deftly carved into the side of his head.

The only instructions Koenig apparently gave his barber was to give him a haircut that would reflect his Native American pride. Koenig has spoken previously about his desire to learn more about his heritage and become a source of inspiration to young Native Americans.

"I'm always curious because I didn't know all that much, and in history classes we'd only talk about it a little bit," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February. "But I would be really interested because that is my people and we don't learn much about them."

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 17, 2015, 8:33 pm

The timing of Minnesota's decision not to medically clear incoming freshman Jarvis Johnson did not sit well with the point guard's family.

Curtis Johnson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his son felt blindsided when university officials shared the news earlier this month.

“We felt a little misguided in the way the recruitment went, and then the sudden decision last week," the elder Johnson said. “Under the circumstances, time didn’t allow us to make an educated decision even. We felt pressured by it.”

Jarvis Johnson had an internal defibrillator installed in eighth grade after his heart stopped during a practice and he was diagnosed with hydropathic cardiomyopathy. Doctors cleared him to play thereafter, enabling him to emerge as one of the state of Minnesota's top recruits and lead powerful DeLaSalle High School to four consecutive state championships.

It's totally understandable Minnesota would want to protect itself legally by having its own doctors decide whether to clear him to play, but it's a shame that there appears to have been a communication breakdown between the school and the family.

Johnson's family ought to have been aware this was a prerequisite for Jarvis to be able to play for the Gophers. Perhaps there also might have been a way to accelerate the process so that Jarvis might have time to find other options for the 2015-16 school year.

Ultimately, if Jarvis Johnson decides to leave Minnesota and seek another program willing to medically clear him to play, there is a precedent for such a move. 

Virginia Tech wouldn't clear forward Allan Chaney to play as a result of a heart condition, so he resurfaced at High Point in 2012 and played for parts of two seasons until another medical scare forced him to give up basketball in Dec. 2013. A similar second scare ended the career of former top 100 recruit Emmanuel Negedu soon after he transferred from Tennessee to New Mexico because the Lobos agreed to clear him to play. 

Other similar cases ended without incident. Pepperdine wouldn't clear Will Kimble to play after he collapsed in practice, so he transferred to UTEP, playing the 2004-05  and 05-06 seasons with a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest.

"Everyone in my circle was comfortable and we had no reservations about it at all," Kimble told Yahoo Sports in 2010. "I believe that this condition is something that can be monitored, and if you have a good crew of doctors looking after you, I believe it's something you can play with. My understanding was my defibrillator is going to protect me. More so, the risk was what is going to be the after effect of the defibrillator kicking in."

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 17, 2015, 4:52 pm

Meet Danielle Green, one of the most relentless women in sports. Green played for the Notre Dame basketball team from 1995-2000, and then joined the Army in Iraq, where she lost her left arm during an attack.

Green, a natural lefty, re-taught herself everyday tasks and simultaneously went back to earn her masters degree in counseling. After earning her degree, Green became a readjustment therapist at the South Bend Veterans Center in Indiana.

Green’s ability to give back to a community is the reason why she is the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award this year.

Congrats to our alum and @USArmy veteran Danielle Green, who'll receive @ESPYS Pat Tillman Award. http://t.co/UCzoKFupQG

— NOTRE DAME WBB (@ndwbb) June 16, 2015

Green will be recognized at the ESPY’s in July, marking her the second recipient of the award.

A @ndwbb alum, @USArmy vet, purple heart recipient & now an #ESPYS Pat Tillman award winner. Congrats, Danielle Green http://t.co/D1XmCuPCEZ

— ESPYS (@ESPYS) June 16, 2015

"She’s incredibly driven to make a difference for local veterans of all generations and genders," Pat Tillman Foundation spokeswoman Michelle McCarthy said in an email to Yahoo Sports. "She sees a real problem on the ground level, and she’s standing up to lead others in the effort to improve access to VA care and resources."

The Pat Tillman Foundation was founded in 2004 and gives scholarships to military veterans and their spouses. The foundation gives its Pat Tillman Award for Service, which honors “an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes Pat’s legacy.”

Tillman was a former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger who died in 2003 serving in Afghanistan.

“A decade after his death, this award is another incredible way to honor Pat’s spirit of service by empowering individuals like Danielle” McCarthy said.

 

Author: Celia Balf
Posted: June 17, 2015, 12:25 am

At a time when most Bay Area basketball fans were distraught over the Golden State Warriors' 2-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, dozens of patrons at one Walnut Creek bar couldn't stop smiling.

The Saint Mary's coaches, staff and alumni who filled this particular bar had just watched a beloved former Gaels star make a big splash on basketball's grandest stage for the second consecutive June.

Exactly 359 days after ex-Saint Mary's guard Patty Mills erupted for 17 points in 18 minutes off the bench in the decisive game of San Antonio's NBA Finals victory over Miami, it was fellow Aussie Matthew Dellavedova's turn to thrive in the spotlight. The former undrafted free agent again filled in admirably for injured point guard Kyrie Irving, hounding league MVP Stephen Curry into a poor shooting night, hurling his body across the floor to chase down numerous loose balls and even mixing in 20 points for a depleted Cleveland team in dire need of secondary scorers.

Dellavedova's spirited effort was one of the biggest reasons a Cavs team written off after Irving's season-ending knee injury now stands two victories from vanquishing the favored Warriors. While LeBron James has averaged 41 points so far in the series and continues to carry Cleveland on his back, it was Dellavedova who sank Tuesday night's biggest basket, a late off-balance bank shot with Curry draped all over him after Golden State had rallied to within one in the final three minutes.

"We had an alumni event for the game, and it was tremendous," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett. "There were a lot of Warriors fans there, there were a lot of Delly fans there and then there were some that were torn. There were people there who were Warriors fans for years and years, but they like Delly so much they couldn't help but be happy for him"

If Dellavedova's impact on this series has come as a shock to most viewers, Bennett is far less surprised by his former point guard's achievements. The longtime Saint Mary's coach learned never to underestimate Dellavedova after he earned all-league honors three straight seasons, reached the NCAA tournament three times and finished as the school's all-time leader in scoring, assists, free throw percentage and 3-point shots.

Even though Dellavedova went undrafted because he lacks the size and athleticism of a prototypical NBA guard, Bennett saw signs during the Aussie guard's Saint Mary's career that he could be a productive role player. Dellavedova worked as hard as any player Bennett has coached to improve his defense, transforming himself from a liability as a freshman to a pest who has held his own against the league's best shooter today.

Dellavedova also consistently coaxed the best out of his teammates with his mixture of relentless effort, contagious enthusiasm and leadership skills. Whether it was scouring autobiographies written by Phil Jackson, Andre Agassi or John Wooden or perusing books analyzing patterns to how greatness is achieved in any field, Dellavedova actually researched leadership during college and took tidbits from everything he read.

"Here at Saint Mary's, we kind of knew all this stuff about Matt being around him, but it's kind of fun to see everyone else in the country learn about him," Bennett said. "Everyone's seeing how hard he plays and how tough he is. We knew it, but now everyone else is recognizing it too."

Dellavedova and Mills are both part of an Australian pipeline to Saint Mary's that Bennett established almost by accident nearly 15 years ago.

Bennett inherited a two-win team lacking backcourt depth in 2001, so he made a late offer to Adam Caporn, a guard from the Australian Institute of Sport that he'd only seen in a few highlight reels. Caporn had a good enough experience at Saint Mary's that he recruited AIS teammate Daniel Kickert, a forward who went on to star for the Gaels and play professionally overseas afterward.

The success of Kickert convinced Bennett that recruiting Australia could be a way for Saint Mary's to attract elite talent without having to go head-to-head with higher-profile programs. Bennett has made sure his staff has at least one coach with Australian ties every year for the past decade, a decision that has helped him land about a dozen Aussie standouts including the highly regarded Mills and the less heralded Dellavedova.

"We can still get some of the best players over there, so it would be stupid for us not to recruit those kids," Bennett said. "There's a comfort level for those kids with us. And with Patty and Delly doing what they've been doing recently, it would be silly for us not to recruit Australia hard."

Saint Mary's hasn't made the NCAA tournament or posed as great a threat to league rival Gonzaga in the two years since Dellavedova graduated, but Bennett is hopeful that slight step backward is only temporary. He believes the success of Dellavedova and Mills in the NBA Finals can only help showcase Saint Mary's to recruits in Australia and the United States.

"What Delly and Patty have done the past two years, there's not much marketing-wise you can do better than that," Bennett said. "We're really proud of those guys and what they've done."

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 10, 2015, 9:10 pm

Whether it's Mark Gottfried, Billy Kennedy or Steve Prohm, coaching at Murray State has proven to be an ideal springboard to a high-profile job.

Matt McMahon will be the next to attempt to have enough success to make a similar jump. 

One day after Prohm left to become the next coach at Iowa State, Murray State announced Tuesday that McMahon will be his successor. McMahon spent the previous four seasons at Murray State as an assistant to Prohm before leaving last month to join longtime friend Eric Konkol's staff at Louisiana Tech.

The immediacy of the McMahon hire suggests Murray State officials had a plan in place for a while in case Prohm departed. Prohm has been linked to a few jobs the past few years including his alma mater Alabama, which ultimately chose to hire Avery Johnson instead of him earlier this spring. 

The allure of McMahon for Murray State is surely that the first-time head coach played an integral role in the program's success the past four years.

The Racers amassed a sparkling 104-29 record during that span, taking an undefeated record into February in 2012 and reeling off 25 consecutive victories at one point this past season. They also won an NCAA tournament game in 2012, captured league titles in 2012 and 2015 and produced two NBA-caliber guards, Isaiah Canaan of the Philadelphia 76ers and likely 2015 first-round draft pick Cameron Payne.

McMahon will undoubtedly follow a similar blueprint to the one that proved successful for Prohm the past few years. The Racers will play at a fast pace just as they did last year when they were eighth nationally in points per game at 79.0.  

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 9, 2015, 10:21 pm

The major rules changes designed to make college basketball less of a slog are now official.

The NCAA on Monday approved a series of recommendations made by college basketball's rule committee last month including shortening the shot clock, reducing the number of timeouts allotted to each team and increasing the freedom of movement for offensive players.

The most significant change is the implementation of a 30-second shot clock after two decades of offenses having 35 ticks to attempt a shot.

Proponents will note the shorter shot clock should lead to more possessions per game, which should result in more points. Opponents will question whether the change will achieve its goal of a more watchable sport since a shorter shot clock favors defenses and could result in a decrease in shooting percentages.

The other issue with a reduced shot clock is that it's a move toward homogeneity in a sport that is at its best when there's a contrast in styles among opponents.

Whereas most NBA teams rely on man-to-man defense and pick-and-roll offense, college teams play favor many different styles, from Virginia's pack-line man-to-man and patient motion offense, to VCU's fast-paced offense and frenetic full-court pressure defense, to everything in between. A 30-second shot clock wouldn't force every team to dramatically alter its style, but it represents an erosion in the level of contrast.

There's also a chance a shorter shot clock will damage one of the best postseasons in American sports. The popularity of the NCAA tournament is built on the possibility of a high seed falling in the early rounds, but more possessions per game increase the likelihood of the expected outcome because the lesser talented team will have to outperform its opponent more trips down the floor.

The other changes have been almost universally lauded — and with good reason. They address the trends that have inspired concern among high-ranking officials in the sport.

Each team will have four timeouts instead of five and will only be allowed to carry three into the second half. Team timeouts that come within 30 seconds prior of scheduled TV timeouts will become TV timeouts with the exception of the first team timeout of the second half.

Defensive rules will also be tweaked with a wider restricted area underneath the basket and greater freedom of movement for cutters and players driving with the ball. The rules prohibiting clutching, grabbing and arm bars on defense should go a long way toward increasing scoring and shooting percentages if referees actually enforce them.

The push to improve the sport coincides with concern over the decrease in scoring in college basketball.

Scoring in Division I plunging to 67.5 points per game for the 2012-13 season, the lowest in the 3-point era. An emphasis on freedom of movement during the 2013-14 season led to an uptick, but that evaporated quickly and scoring plunged back to 67.7 points per game this past season. 

The changes implemented represent the recognition that reform is needed despite an NCAA tournament that produced great games and high ratings.

College basketball's postseason is still as intriguing and action-packed as ever, but its flawed regular season is in need of improvement.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 8, 2015, 8:57 pm

Steve Prohm probably feels much better today that his alma mater Alabama hired Avery Johnson instead of him earlier this spring.

Being snubbed by the Crimson Tide two months ago enabled Prohm to land a better job Monday.

Instead of beginning a rebuilding job in Tuscaloosa, Prohm will inherit a top 10-caliber roster at Iowa State. The Cyclones have announced they've hired the highly successful former Murray State coach as the successor to Fred Hoiberg.

Prohm's challenge will be making sure that Iowa State's recent resurgence doesn't end with the departure of its beloved head coach. Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls last week after transforming the Cyclones into a perennial Big 12 contender during his five-year tenure, leading them to four NCAA tournament bids and back-to-back conference tournament titles.

What surely made Prohm attractive to Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard is the success he enjoyed in four seasons at Murray State.

He compiled an impressive 104-29 record, nearly leading the Racers to an unbeaten regular season in 2012 and developing NBA guards Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne during his tenure. He also favored a similar up-tempo, free-flowing yet efficient system to what Hoiberg has run at Iowa State the past few years. 

Enough talent returns from last season's 25-win team at Iowa State that Prohm should enjoy instant success if he can handle the pressure of following a revered coach and design a scheme to capitalize on what he has coming back. From there, the key will be whether he can find a way to recruit to a school that traditionally hasn't attracted elite prospects.

The state of Iowa is not an especially fertile recruiting ground, nor do its schools even typically land its best in-state prospects. The last two Iowa-born McDonald's All-Americans, Marcus Paige and Harrison Barnes, both went to North Carolina, while fellow Iowa products Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Raef LaFrenz all starred at Kansas in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The way in which Hoiberg circumvented that problem was by turning Iowa State into a popular destination for talented transfers in need of a second chance, from Chris Allen, to Royce White, to Will Clyburn, to DeAndre Kane, to Jameel McKay. More recently, Hoiberg also pursued impact recruits out of high school as well because the Cyclones had grown in stature enough to land some of them.

It will be interesting to see if Prohm can follow the same formula.

From Mick Cronin, to Billy Kennedy, to Mark Gottfried, Murray State has produced some highly successful coaches in recent years. Iowa State will have to hope that Prohm is the next. 

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 8, 2015, 4:53 pm

The rebuilding job Chris Mullin inherited at St. John's became a little bit more difficult Friday when one of his best players announced he will not return next season.

Rysheed Jordan, the Big East's ninth-leading scorer this past season, will forgo his remaining two years of college eligibility and pursue a professional career. The 6-foot-4 guard is ineligible for the NBA draft until 2016 because he missed last month's early-entry deadline, but he could play overseas next season or in the D-League.

"Playing professional basketball has always been a goal of mine. I believe I am ready to take the next step in my basketball career and plan to work hard to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA," Jordan said in a statement released by the school. "I am thankful for the opportunities and support St. John's University has provided to me. This decision was made with my family's best interests in mind."

The unusual timing of Jordan's announcement stems from the academic issues that he encountered during spring semester.

The New York Post reported that Jordan is academically ineligible to play for St. John's next fall. He could have rejoined the team in December if he passed his summer and fall semester classes, but he opted to turn pro instead. 

"We support Rysheed and wish him well in his professional endeavors," Mullin said. "He has the potential to play at the highest level of our sport."

A former top 50 recruit, Jordan has the potential to get an NBA look someday if he can perform with more consistency than he did at St. John's. He averaged 14.1 points and 3.1 assists to help St. John's reach the NCAA tournament last season, but his off-the-court issues were a constant source of distraction for the Johnnies.

The loss of Jordan makes it all the more important that Mullin was able to land talented freshman point guard Marcus LoVett Jr. earlier this spring. It will be LoVett who will likely inherit a larger-than-expected role as a freshman with Jordan no longer available to serve as a lead guard and primary ball handler.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 5, 2015, 8:51 pm

For a program that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2011 and returns only three scholarship players from last season's team, Washington should enter the summer feeling at least somewhat optimistic about its future.

The Huskies will welcome an eight-man recruiting class that could be formidable enough to one day get the program back to competing for Pac-12 titles the way it did at the apex of Lorenzo Romar's tenure.

The latest addition is former Florida signee Noah Dickerson, a 6-foot-8 forward Rivals.com ranks No. 81 in the class of 2015. Dickerson chose Washington over Pac-12 rival Cal on Thursday after reopening his recruitment earlier this spring when Billy Donovan left Florida for the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

I've finally found my home. I'm a Washington Husky 🐺🐺 pic.twitter.com/cqGYVPKQw7

— Noah Dickerson (@NDickerson41) June 5, 2015

For Dickerson, the appeal of Washington surely stemmed from the available playing time in the frontcourt. The Huskies don't return a single frontcourt player from last season, having lost Shawn Kemp Jr. and Gilles Dierickx to graduation, Robert Upshaw to dismissal and Jernard Jerreau via transfer.

Dickerson will join a recruiting class that includes fellow Rivals 150 prospects Dejounte Murray, Matisse Thybulle and Marquese Chriss. The other newcomers eligible next season are guards David Crisp and Dominic Green, forward Devenir Duruisseau and junior-college center Malik Dime.

Enthusiasm for that recruiting class should at temper some of Washington's disappointment over how its once-promising 2014-15 season ended. A Huskies team in contention for an NCAA tournament bid for a while collapsed after dismissing Upshaw and then lost top guard Nigel Williams-Goss via a transfer to in-state rival Gonzaga.

It's unlikely the combination of standout guard Andrew Andrews, returning role players Quevyn Winters and Donaven Dorsey and an eight-man recruiting class will get Washington back to the NCAA tournament next season, but the Huskies can at least build a foundation for future success.

They've endured a rough patch the past few years. Next season could be a new beginning.

For more Washington news, visit The Dawg Report

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 5, 2015, 4:20 pm

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt addresses the media following meeting in May. (AP)Almost two weeks after it confirmed it had received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, the University of North Carolina finally revealed the contents of that 59-page document on Thursday afternoon.

The Notice of Allegations hit the Tar Heels with a lack of institutional control charge and four other potentially serious violations in the wake of the NCAA's lengthy investigation into the academic fraud that took place at the school.

The first two allegations state that North Carolina student-athletes received impermissible benefits unavailable to the rest of the student body when their academic counselors obtained special assistance and privileges for them. The next two allegations target African American Studies department officials Deborah Crowder and Dr. Julius Nyang’oro for their failure to cooperate in the NCAA's investigation.

The final allegation is the most serious one, the charge of lack of institutional control. It asserts that the athletic department failed to properly monitor the actions of members of its academic support staff and cast a blind eye to why so many athletes were enrolled in courses in the African American Studies department.

"Although the general student body also had access to the anomalous AFRI/AFAM courses," the Notice of Allegations reads, "student-athletes received preferential access to these anomalous courses, enrolled in these anomalous courses at a disproportionate rate to that of the general student body and received other impermissible benefits not available to the general student body in connection with these courses."

The Notice of Allegations arrived nearly a year after the NCAA decided to reopen its investigation into sham classes offered at North Carolina in the African American Studies department. Federal prosecutor Kenneth Wanstein subsequently uncovered new information pertaining to the scandal, revealing last October that more than 3,100 students were enrolled in the classes in question over an 18-year period and that student-athletes accounted for nearly half the course enrollments.

North Carolina must respond within 90 days to the Notice of Allegations, which it received May 21. School officials will then meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis and await a ruling on what the penalties will be, a decision that history suggests likely won't come until sometime early next year.

Since the allegations against North Carolina are so broad rather than sport-specific, it's unclear how the school's football and men's basketball programs will be affected. There's no pertinent case for the NCAA's committee on infractions to use as a model as it determines penalties, so it could come down to a gut feeling from members of the committee.

The sport mentioned most frequently in the notice is actually North Carolina's women's basketball program. That's because the notice alleges that women's basketball counselor Jan Boxill committed major violations in the form of improper academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players.

As part of North Carolina's statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham and Chancellor Carol L. Folt acknowledged previous mistakes but also noted the efforts of the university to address them. Here's the full statment:

“We take the allegations the NCAA made about past conduct very seriously. This is the next step in a defined process, and we are a long way from reaching a conclusion. We will respond to the notice using facts and evidence to present a full picture of our case. Although we may identify some instances in the NCAA’s notice where we agree and others where we do not, we are committed to continue pursuing a fair and just outcome for Carolina.

“We believe the University has done everything possible to address the academic irregularities that ended in 2011 and prevent them from recurring. We have implemented more than 70 reforms and initiatives to ensure and enhance academic integrity. We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of those measures and, wherever needed, put additional safeguards in place.”

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 4, 2015, 5:26 pm

The dismissal of Hanner Mosquera-Perea earlier this spring left Indiana scrambling for another big man to play behind highly touted incoming freshman Thomas Bryant.

The Hoosiers solved that problem Tuesday night by adding a player very familiar with the rigors of a Big Ten schedule.

Former Michigan big man Max Bielfeldt committed to Indiana, selecting the Hoosiers over Nebraska and Iowa State. The 6-foot-8 graduate transfer will have one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play immediately.

A career backup at Michigan, Bielfeldt earned playing time with all-out hustle and solid defense last season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game. He chose to transfer when John Beilein could not guarantee him a scholarship for a post-graduate season because the Wolverines were saving it for elite prospect Jaylen Brown or several other potential recruiting targets. 

Transfer haven Iowa State was thought to be a strong contender to land Bielfeldt before coach Fred Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls. That left Indiana in the driver's seat as Nebraska could offer more playing time but is not in a position to contend for an upper-tier Big Ten finish next season.

Bielfeldt will likely compete with rising sophomore Emmitt Holt to be the first big man off the bench for the frontcourt-bereft Hoosiers next season. Indiana will undoubtedly start three guards again with perimeter standout Troy Williams seeing a lot of time at power forward.

It will be interesting to see the reaction Bielfeldt receives when Indiana plays at Michigan next season. He gave his all for the Wolverines for four years, but now he'll be wearing rival colors. 

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 3, 2015, 2:08 pm

If saying goodbye to the university where he has become an icon feels at all bittersweet to newly hired Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, at least he can take solace in the health of the program he is leaving behind.

Iowa State basketball has grown strong enough under Hoiberg that its golden era doesn't have to end with the departure of its golden boy.

Whoever Iowa State's new coach is will take over a program that has progressed remarkably quickly since 2010 when athletic director Jamie Pollard risked the future of a success-starved program on a beloved alum who had never coached at any level before. Hoiberg transformed the Cyclones into a perennial Big 12 contender, leading them to four NCAA tournament bids and back-to-back conference tournament titles the past two years.

Enough talent returns from last season's 25-win team that Iowa State will begin next year in the top 10 in the polls regardless of who its new coach is. The Cyclones also have strong brand recognition among recruits because of their free-flowing style of play and an enthusiastic fan base that has helped Hilton Coliseum regain its reputation as a house of horrors for opposing teams.

Of the many candidates to succeed Hoiberg, his top assistant T.J. Otzelberger might be the most obvious choice. Otzelberger is a proven recruiter who returned to Iowa State this spring after spending a couple years on Washington coach Lorenzo Romar's staff.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd and Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek are two other coaches with Iowa State ties who could draw interest from Pollard. He could also make a run at established mid-major coaches like Murray State's Steve Prohm or Stephen F. Austin's Brad Underwood should he decide that a connection to Iowa State is unimportant to him.

The best choice will be a coach who can handle the pressure of following a revered coach, design a scheme to capitalize on the current talent-laden roster and find a way to recruit to a school that traditionally hasn't attracted elite prospects.

The state of Iowa is not an especially fertile recruiting ground, nor do its schools even typically land its best in-state prospects. The last two Iowa-born McDonald's All-Americans, Marcus Paige and Harrison Barnes, both went to North Carolina, while fellow Iowa products Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Raef LaFrenz all starred at Kansas in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The way in which Hoiberg circumvented that problem was by turning Iowa State into a popular destination for talented transfers in need of a second chance, from Chris Allen, to Royce White, to Will Clyburn, to DeAndre Kane, to Jameel McKay. More recently, Hoiberg also pursued impact recruits out of high school as well because the Cyclones had grown in stature enough to land some of them.

The new coach would be wise to maintain that formula. It has produced one of the best runs in Iowa State basketball history, one that doesn't have to end even with Hoiberg on his way to Chicago.

When Pollard gambled by hiring Hoiberg in 2010, he had only a downtrodden program in search of its first winning season in five years to pitch. Now he can sell prospective coaches on a top 10-caliber roster and program with a proven formula for winning.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 1, 2015, 11:55 pm

When Kelly Olynyk emerged from a redshirt year two years ago with a stronger upper body and a revamped post-up game, the ex-Gonzaga forward did more than just develop into a first-team All-American and a first-round draft pick the following year.  

His success also paved the way for Gonzaga to become a destination for elite transfers hoping to make a similar transformation while sitting out a year.

Kyle Wiltjer transferred from Kentucky in 2013, became one of the nation's most versatile scorers this past season and is considered a potential national player of the year candidate next year. Highly touted former Washington point guard Nigel Williams-Goss chose the Zags earlier this spring and will sit out this coming season. And this past weekend Gonzaga landed another prized transfer, outdueling Georgetown and SMU for former Missouri forward Johnathan Williams III. 

The addition of Williams goes a long way toward solidifying Gonzaga's frontcourt after next season. The Zags will definitely lose Wiltjer and mammoth center Przemek Karnowski to graduation and could also lose rising sophomore Domantas Sabonis to the NBA draft. 

Williams should give Mark Few a frontcourt piece around which to build for the 2016-17 season. The 6-foot-9 former consensus top 75 recruit was one of the few bright spots for a dismal 23-loss Missouri team as a sophomore, averaging a team-high 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks and showcasing the ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter.

Where a redshirt year could help Williams is if he is able to further diversify his offensive repertoire. He sank 34 percent of his 3-point shots as a sophomore, but he could get more consistent with his jump shot and improve putting the ball on the floor.

With Williams and Ryan Edwards in the frontcourt, Gonzaga should be in good shape even if Sabonis leaves for the NBA next spring. That group will join a backcourt that should also include Williams-Goss, former top 100 recruit Josh Perkins and several capable wings.

So Gonzaga is well-positioned to be nationally relevant not just next season but the year after. And they owe some of that roster building success to the precedent Olynyk set while sitting out two years ago. 

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 1, 2015, 3:08 pm

Former Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison worked out for the Indiana Pacers this week and said NBA teams have taken particular interest in two issues when evaluating him. 

First, they want to know how Harrison feels about the prospect of being separated from twin brother, Aaron, this summer when both will either be drafted or signed as free agents, presumably with different teams. The Harrison brothers helped Kentucky reach the Final Four each of the past two seasons but couldn't bring a national title back to Lexington in either year. They decided to turn pro following their sophomore season. 

"They know we're probably not going to go to the same team and they didn't want that to be a problem," Andrew Harrison told the Indianapoils Star after his workout with the Pacers. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to being an individual and we both can show the world what we can do without each other."

Teams also have asked Harrison about his notorious press conference blunder following Kentucky's Final Four loss to Wisconsin. A reporter asked Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns about the difficulty in defending Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky. Sitting at the podium, Harrison appeared to mutter "F--- that N----" under his breath in reference to Kaminsky. 

He later apologized but nearly two months later, it's still of interest to teams considering using a draft pick on the 6-foot-5 guard. Harrison told the Star it is a non-issue at this point. He called Kaminsky 'my boy.' The two players share the same agent. 

Andrew Harrison is seen as a late-first, or early second-round pick by most mock drafts. Aaron Harrison is viewed as a second-round pick at best and possibly an undrafted free agent. 

 

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Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: May 29, 2015, 8:28 pm

University of Indianapolis guard Dai-Jon Parker, known for his smile and outgoing personality, drowned Thursday in a boating accident at Morse Reservoir, officials said. 

The news stunned numerous college and professional players who competed with and against Parker in the past. 

Parker was a senior on last season's team after transferring from Vanderbilt where he played three years. He grew up in Baton Rouge, La., but played his high school basketball in Milton, Ga., at Milton High School. He was part of a state championship team in 2010. 

The Indianapolis Star reported Parker and another man were being pulled on an inner-tube behind a pontoon boat when they hit a large wave that knocked them both into the water. Parker never resurfaced according to witnesses, who called 911 for help. He was not wearing a life jacket. 

Parker was  found at the bottom of an 11-foot deep portion of the lake two hours after he went missing. First responders used sonar technology to help locate him.  

The University of Indianapolis issued a statement on Parker's death after it was confirmed. 

“The entire University of Indianapolis community mourns the loss of Dai-Jon Parker, a senior student-athlete with a vibrant personality who had a great future ahead,” the statement said. “This is a tragic situation for everyone involved, and UIndy is offering counseling and support to the people closest to him. Please keep Dai-Jon’s family, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.”

Lost one of my brothers today. We all are going to miss you. Rest in peace Dai

— Shannon Scott (@3SScott) May 29, 2015

Can't believe it. Never saw Dai without a smile on his face. You'll be missed by anyone who ever met you pic.twitter.com/ttpJzmygyu

— Evan Nolte (@EvanNolte) May 29, 2015

Man RIP Dai Jon Parker can't believe it good dude since i met him in high school, prayers to his family!

— Jabari Brown (@Bari_BrownIDF) May 29, 2015

Man in the words of my big bro @bambam2068 #liveeachdaylikeitsyourlast !! Appreciate life and all that it entails. RIP Dai Jon Parker

— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) May 29, 2015

Dangg man it's crazy the stuff that happens... RIP Dai Jon Parker

— Roosevelt Jones (@rozayyjones21) May 29, 2015

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings also issued a statement. 

"We are extremely saddened with the news of Dai-Jon's death," Stallings said. "Everyone who watched him play basketball knew what kind of athlete he was. But, to those of us who knew him and loved him, he was as good and happy of a person as you would ever meet. He always had a smile on his face and I will always remember him for that smile and the positive spirit he had. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to his family, friends, and others who were lucky enough to have met him. The Vanderbilt basketball family will miss him."

 

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Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: May 29, 2015, 6:44 pm

The hatred Michigan State coach Tom Izzo already has for Twitter undoubtedly intensified Wednesday as a result of an alcohol-fueled rant by one of his former players.

Garrick Sherman, an ex-Spartans big man who later finished his career at Notre Dame, unleashed a memorable series of tweets about his two years in East Lansing. Among the subjects the 6-foot-10 center touched on included his poor relationship with Izzo, rampant marijuana use among his Michigan State teammates and the time he urinated in a condom to help an ex-Spartans wing pass a drug test.

(And, warning, some of Sherman's language was NSFW)

At the final four izzo told me “not to fucking embarrass myself in front of a crowd bigger than my home town” after I air balled a shot 😂😂😂

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

I pissed in a condom and gave it to Durrell summers to pass a drug test. Suck it #NCAA #stillwenttothefinalfour #suckstobeyou

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

If that last tweet doesn’t make me twitter famous I give up

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Besides, What is the ncaa gonna do?! Give my final four ring to Utah state, the next relevant university who didn’t bend the rules behind us

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Izzo might actually hate me more ( if that’s possible) when he loses scholarships cause I drunkenly spilled half his team smoked weed 😂😂😂

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

The timing of Sherman's tweet coincided with the end of his professional team's season in the country of Georgia. It was well past 2 a.m. in Georgia when Sherman began tweeting and he acknowledged that he had been drinking for quite a while. 

Yes I know my tweets have been more risqué than usual. Our season ended today so I may or may not have consumed some alcohol.

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Over/under 100 followers I lose on this drunken rampage

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Why would Sherman reveal things that paint the Michigan State program in a bad light? He insists it was to spotlight the ineffectiveness of the NCAA rather than to embarrass Izzo or the Spartans. 

If nothing else gets accomplished. Let this Twitter rant show the inability of the ncaa to do anything at all of substance

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

You guys miss the entire point lol every team in NCAA smokes. My point is NCAA is a joke. I still cheer for MSU. I have no resentment at all

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015

Last time, I don’t dislike msu. I like them. Honestly!! I liked my teammates!!! I just think the NCAA is a joke. But do as you wish Twitter

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015

Such an epic rant wouldn't be complete without a couple more cheap shots, and Sherman definitely did not disappoint.

First target: Kentucky

Honestly,though if the ncaa is concerned about my helping out a teammate through being sober,Kentucky players salary should be more concern

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Next up: Doug Gottlieb, whom Sherman had feuded with previously over a crack the CBS analyst made about his beard.

Where’s my boy Gottlieb? I wanna go at his bitch ass one more time lol

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015

Sherman was a role player at Michigan State who blossomed into a quality starter his final season at Notre Dame. He averaged 13.5 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds for an Irish team that collapsed in the second half of the season after losing star Jerian Grant.

So Sherman had a few nice moments as a college player. None are quite as memorable, however, as Wednesday's Twitter rant.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 28, 2015, 3:51 am

The NCAA's annual release of the newest Academic Progress Rate data will once again have minimal impact on the upcoming college basketball season.

None of the teams penalized for substandard scores hail from major conferences or even quality mid-major leagues.

Alcorn State, Florida A&M, Stetson and Central Arkansas are the only four teams that received postseason bans for the upcoming season. Alcorn State, Central Arkansas and Savannah State also face practice time restrictions, while Florida A&M faces that and other potential penalties including scholarship reductions, coach-specific punishment and contest restrictions.

To avoid a potential postseason ban, teams must achieve a multi-year APR score of at least 930. The power-conference programs with the least margin for error are Texas Tech (935), TCU (937), Mississippi State (938) and Washington State (938).

The NCAA used the release of APR scores to issue a press release trumpeting that the overall four-year APR scores had increased by two points nationwide and that the boost was fueled in part by football and men's basketball. Average scores for men’s basketball players increased four points to 961 and for football players increased five points to 956.

“More college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom, and I applaud their commitment to academic achievement. We are pleased and proud of their accomplishments," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the release. "Our goal always has been to encourage students to achieve academically and earn their degrees. Every year, Division I students prove that both academic and athletic success are achievable.”

How much stock should be placed in the APR formula is certainly debatable, but the high scores across all sports should serve as a reminder of the lunacy of the freshman ineligibility proposals from the Big Ten and other conferences earlier this year. 

If "more college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom" under the current model, then the idea of adopting a decades-old rule that would force all freshmen to sit out a year seems only more unnecessary and implausible.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 27, 2015, 6:28 pm

Thanks to an annual salary that has ballooned to nearly $8 million per year, John Calipari has priced himself out of the market for many NBA gigs because all but the most lucrative ones would require him accepting a pay cut.

Now the Kentucky coach's top assistant is in a similar position in terms of landing a head coaching job at the college level.

Kenny Payne has signed a three-year deal worth a total of $2.1 million, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday. His average annual salary of $700,000 is higher than at least 22 of last season's NCAA tournament head coaches, according to USA Today's annual study, and more than twice as high as at least 14 of them.  

What that means is Payne probably won't leave Kentucky until a power-conference program offers him a head coaching job — or at least not until a deep-pocketed mid-major comes along. Payne would have to take a significant pay cut to coach at even the most successful small-conference programs.

It's unclear where Payne ranks among the highest paid assistants in the country because private schools like Duke aren't legally obligated to report salaries, but there's a good chance he's very near the top of the list. SMU assistant Tim Jankovich reportedly received a contract worth $700,000 a year in 2012 when he left his job as Illinois State's head coach to become the coach-in-waiting for the Mustangs whenever Larry Brown decides to step down.

Payne's new contract represents a $200,000 annual bump in pay over his previous one, a reward for a 38-1 season in which Kentucky fell two wins shy of becoming the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to win the national title with an undefeated record. Fellow Kentucky assistants John Robic and Tony Barbee both signed one-year contracts this offseason, Robic's worth $415,000 and Barbee's worth $375,000.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 26, 2015, 2:47 pm

Three weeks after he left to become the new coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former Florida coach Billy Donovan found a unique way to express how much his two decades in Gainesville meant to him.

He and his wife took out a full-page ad in Sunday's Gainesville Sun to say goodbye to Gators fans and thank them for their understanding and support.

BillyD & wife Christine say goodbye to #Gators via full-page ad in Gainesville Sun. Class act. Hardly a surprise. pic.twitter.com/mx1O80gwZD

— Chris Harry (@GatorZoneChris) May 24, 2015

One reason saying goodbye was tough for Donovan is because he has so many good memories from his Florida tenure. He built a program that had previously only been to five NCAA tournaments into a national power, winning two national titles, reaching four Final Fours and advancing to the Elite Eight seven times.

Credit Donovan for a great gesture that will surely further solidify the affection Florida fans have for him. Here's the full text of the message from Donovan and his wife:

“GOODBYE” is so difficult, especially after having spent two decades in this community. (And as you’ve seen before, leaving you all has never been easy for us!)

"The University of Florida and Gainesville embraced us from the day we arrived so long ago, and we have grown to love not only this local community that has so loved us, but all of Gator Nation — from Crescent Beach to Cedar Key, from Miami to New York, from Jacksonville to San Fransisco, to all over the nation and globe.

"We are so grateful to Jeremy Foley, staff and leaders at the University of Florida, along with scores of players and coaches who have become part of our family. And, of course, the Rowdy Reptiles.

We leave with hearts full of love and cherished memories of euphoria and heartbreak — on and off the court — shared at every step with our Gator family.

We are excited for all that Mike White brings as he puts his own unique mark on Florida basketball…Fannnnntastic!

And so, rather than goodbye, …until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

— Billy and Christine Donovan

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 24, 2015, 4:51 pm

North Carolina coach Roy Williams insists he was not involved in any academic impropriety. (AP)In a wide-ranging interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times earlier this week, North Carolina coach Roy Williams explained his greatest frustration with the NCAA's investigation into the academic fraud that took place at the school.

"It would help if the NCAA would just tell us what the allegations are," Williams said.

Williams apparently got his wish soon afterward. North Carolina announced Friday it has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, but chancellor Carol L. Folt and athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school will not release the details of the report until a later date.

“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” Folt and Cunningham said in a joint statement. “The University will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible.

"The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law. When that review for redactions is complete, the University will post the notice on the Carolina Commitment website and notify the news media. When we respond to the NCAA’s allegations, we will follow this same release process."

The NCAA announced last June that it was reopening its investigation into academic irregularities at North Carolina when some people of interest who previously wouldn't speak with investigators agreed to cooperate. Enforcement staffers cannot force anyone to speak with them since they do not have subpoena power. 

The decision to reopen the investigation came soon after Kenneth Wainstein uncovered new information about the irregularities in North Carolina's African-American Studies department. His report revealed that more than 3,100 students were involved during an 18-year span and that student-athletes accounted for nearly half the course enrollments.

Another factor in the NCAA's decision to reopen its investigation was surely the explosive allegations made by Rashad McCants, a member of North Carolina's 2005 national championship team. McCants alleged that his academic advisers at North Carolina steered him to take sham classes in the school's African-American Studies department in order to ensure that he remained eligible. He also accused tutors of writing some of his term papers and said he passed classes in which he only seldom showed up.

Both North Carolina coach Roy Williams and many former Tar Heels players have since refuted McCants' allegations. In a statement released last June, the other members of the 2005 national title team insisted they "attended class and did our own academic work."

"We want to state that our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims," they said in a statement. "We know that Coach Williams did not have any knowledge of any academic impropriety."

It's difficult to predict the severity of North Carolina's punishment without knowing the details of the Notice of Allegations, but anything from a postseason ban, to scholarship reductions, to the vacating of past wins is certainly possible.

That uncertainty has hurt North Carolina on the recruiting trail already. Negative recruiting by rival coaches has contributed to the Tar Heels swinging and missing on a handful of recent high-profile recruits including Class of 2015 stars Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 22, 2015, 4:29 pm

The departure of seven key players from last year's 38-win juggernaut didn't cause John Calipari to scale back his non-conference schedule for next season.

(via UK Athletics)The Kentucky coach has assembled a non-league slate loaded with marquee games against name-brand opponents.

A Champions Classic matchup against reigning national champion Duke will provide the first test of how good next year's Wildcats will be. The Blue Devils lost four starters from their title team, but they'll reload behind returning standouts Matt Jones and Grayson Allen and the nation's most decorated recruiting class. 

Among the challenging games Kentucky will play in December include a visit to UCLA, a neutral-court matchup with Ohio State in Brooklyn and a home game against rival Louisville. The Bruins should be highly motivated after the Wildcats embarrassed them in an 83-44 rout last December and the Cardinals should again have a Top 25 caliber team despite the loss of stars Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier. 

Perhaps the most challenging non-league game of all for Kentucky will come Jan. 30 at Kansas as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The likely preseason top-five Jayhawks return much of their perimeter talent from last year's Big 12 championship team and bolster their frontcourt with the arrival of top recruits Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg.  

"Putting a schedule together, especially one like this, is fun," Calipari said in a school-released statement. "Having to play those games is a different story. To understate it, this will obviously be a challenging schedule for a young team like ours, which lost more than 85 percent of its scoring and nearly 80 percent of its rebounding. We're excited for the challenge."

Kentucky indeed will enter next season with more questions than usual thanks to an uncharacteristic string of recruiting misses this spring. Elite prospects Ivan Rabb, Malik Newman, Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown and Stephen Zimmerman all turned down offers from the Wildcats, leaving them with far less depth than they had last season.  

Opening the season in the top five is still a possibility for Kentucky thanks to the return of standout point guard Tyler Ulis, breakout candidate Marcus Lee and a now healthy Alex Poythress. They'll join a recruiting that class that will definitely include Rivals No. 1 overall prospect Skal Labissiere, wing Charles Matthews and high-scoring combo guard Isaiah Briscoe.

There's also still a chance Kentucky could add highly touted Canadian point guard Jamal Murray if he opts to sign with the Wildcats and reclassify from the Class of 2016. That would certainly help Kentucky navigate a schedule that should again be one of the nation's toughest.  

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 22, 2015, 2:36 pm

At a time when the NCAA is fighting the perception it profits from the images and likenesses of its unpaid athletes, one of its member schools has launched an advertising campaign that will only further weaken that already shaky argument.

LSU's Ben Simmons-themed ad campaign (via LSUSports.net)LSU is using highly touted incoming freshman basketball player Ben Simmons as the centerpiece of a 2015-16 season ticket promotional blitz that will include billboards and print and social media advertising. The "25 is Coming" campaign is such a blatant reference to Simmons' jersey number that the school didn't even bother to pretend otherwise in the release it sent out Wednesday.

"This year’s campaign will focus on the arrival of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ben Simmons, and his chosen jersey number '25,'" the release stated. Through this '25' campaign, fans wishing to become season ticket holders will have the opportunity to lock in their season tickets for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center."

Did LSU have concerns about whether its Simmons-heavy ad campaign was appropriate at the height of a nationwide debate over whether college athletes are being exploited? An athletic department spokesman did not immediately return an email from Yahoo Sports seeking comment, but a subsequent report from ESPN.com's Darren Rovell may shed light on why the Tigers felt comfortable with their approach. 

A New Era: LSU official tells me it had permission from Ben Simmons to market him like this, compliance approved it pic.twitter.com/xdaZ6BzSD4

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 21, 2015

A tweet Simmons sent Wednesday evening corroborates the notion that he was aware of the campaign and he is on board with it.

Can't wait to throw on the Number 25 this season for #LSU

— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) May 21, 2015

LSU is certainly not the first program to try to monetize the arrival of a top incoming recruit without explicitly using his name and likeness in advertising.

In 2007, Memphis put up a season ticket sales billboard that featured a picture of a red rose and the slogan "Witness a Rare Fall Bloom," a thinly veiled reference to incoming freshman phenom Derrick Rose. In 2012, UCLA trumpeted the arrival of highly touted freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson with a splash page on its website the day after signing day announcing in all caps, "The Future Is Here." Below were pictures of each freshman and information on how to order season tickets.

What makes LSU's ad campaign more notable is that the climate of college sports is different now.

Ex-UCLA forward Ed O'Bannon won a highly publicized lawsuit against the NCAA last year challenging the organization's use of names, images and likenesses of athletes for commercial purposes. The Northwestern football team exerted further pressure for change last spring when it voted whether to unionize.

In 2013, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas goaded the NCAA into leaving the jersey sales business by exposing that typing the name of a high-profile college player into NCAA site's search function produced that athlete's jersey for sale. The NCAA has long insisted that jerseys hawked by its member schools aren't connected to specific players because they only have numbers on the back and not names.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise that LSU would try to include Simmons in its marketing efforts simply because it would be a missed business opportunity not to do so.

The 6-foot-8 Australia native is Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2015, a projected top-five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and the most anticipated prospect LSU has signed since Shaquille O'Neal. He's part of a promising LSU recruiting class that also includes high-scoring guard Antonio Blakeney and Louisiana Mr. Basketball Brandon Sampson.

It makes sense LSU would market the arrival of Simmons and that class. It just further pokes holes in the NCAA's antiquated concept of amateurism that the Tigers have chosen such a blatant approach.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 21, 2015, 5:02 pm

John Calipari's "Players First" recruiting philosophy and the Kentucky fan base's thirst for championships clashed again Wednesday when the Wildcats coach addressed a crowd of 3,000 business executives after receiving a humanitarian award at Rupp Arena.

Most of the 15-minute speech consisted of Calipari describing the qualities a good leader should have and explaining how he gets his players to come together in pursuit of a common goal. The only potential surprise was what Calipari insisted Kentucky's primary objective last season was.

"Last year we started the season with a goal," Calipari said. "You may think it was to win a national title or win all the games, [but] it was to get eight players drafted. Well, how can you be about your team if you're worried about getting players drafted? We kind of work it the other way. What are your dreams? What are you looking for? What are you trying to get out of life? How can we help you with that?

"For me, the mission for me is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams, to be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on. Now in our state, they want my mission to be, 'win national titles, win national titles.' My mission is bigger than that."

Wednesday's speech certainly isn't the first time Calipari has made headlines by seemingly prioritizing draft picks over championship rings.

When Kentucky had five players selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, Calipari riled longtime fans and former players by proclaiming it "the biggest day in the history of Kentucky's program." When Kentucky became the first college program to produce the No. 1 and 2 picks in the draft two years later, a beaming Calipari told reporters, "Somebody told me they are going to call it the Blue Room instead of the Green Room."

It's understandable that many Kentucky fans chafe at the idea of Calipari valuing individual achievements more than team accomplishments, but those people should consider the purpose of such comments. In reality, Calipari is using the media to speak directly to recruits, many of whom care more about identifying the best platform to reach the NBA than selecting a program where they can win a national title.

Does Calipari care deeply about winning championships at Kentucky? Yes. His disappointment after last month's Final Four loss to Wisconsin was proof of that.

Does Calipari care more about producing draft picks than winning titles? Doubtful. Both are surely important to him, but he recognizes that attracting elite prospects is the best way to contend for championships every season.

Do fans have a right to be irritated whenever Calipari insists championships are secondary to him? Probably, but they should also understand why he says that stuff too. It's a calculated recruiting tactic — nothing more and nothing less.

Ultimately, Kentucky will fall at least one shy of Calipari's goal of eight draft picks since Alex Poythress suffered a season-ending injury in December and opted to return to school. The Wildcats could still get seven players drafted next month, an impressive enough accomplishment that Calipari should once again get plenty of face time on draft night.

Maybe this time he'll stop short of calling it the biggest night in Kentucky basketball history, but you can bet he'll still find another way to sell his program to recruits.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 20, 2015, 10:54 pm

The past two years, Virginia's modest non-conference slate didn't reflect its sudden emergence as a national power.

That will change next season when the two-time ACC champions will play a non-league schedule worthy of their newfound elite status. 

The marquee non-league game on Virginia's schedule next season will be a potential top 10 clash against reigning Big East champion Villanova. The Cavaliers will host the Wildcats next December and play a return game in Philadelphia the following season, CBSSports.com reported Tuesday.

In addition to that intriguing matchup, Virginia will also host a loaded Cal team expected to crack the top 20 in the preseason polls next year. The Cavaliers will also visit Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, face Big 12 power West Virginia on a neutral floor in the Jimmy V Classic and travel to George Washington in a return game of a home-and-home series that began last season.

The rest of Virginia's non-league schedule won't be known until the Cavaliers release it, but that quintet of games is a major improvement. Only Maryland's surprise emergence as a Big Ten power and Davidson's unexpected rise to Atlantic 10 contention made last year's slate respectable. 

Virginia should have enough returning talent to thrive despite its upgraded schedule.

Leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon, starting point guard London Perrantes and frontcourt standouts Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey all return. The Cavaliers will count on rising sophomore wing Marial Shayok to enjoy a breakout season and help replace the departed Justin Anderson.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 20, 2015, 2:55 pm

When Wake Forest invited comedian Stephen Colbert to deliver its commencement address on Saturday, athletic director Ron Wellman had to know a joke at his department's expense was surely going to be part of the speech.

The Demon Deacons endured a dismal 2014-15 school year in the major sports, finishing with a 3-9 record in football, a 13-19 record in men's basketball and a 13-20 record in women's basketball.

Sure enough, Colbert didn't disappoint. He mocked the state of the Wake Forest athletic department with a joke that referenced the student body's longtime tradition of toilet-papering the trees in the quad after memorable victories.

"Still, while Wake has been a trailblazer, this is a school that respects tradition," Colbert said. "Traditions like rolling the Quad with toilet paper after big wins. And this is actually an eco-friendly tradition because, looking at this season’s win-loss record, you guys saved a lot of paper."

To be fair to the 2015 Wake Forest graduating class, they did find reason to roll the quad in spite of the school's lack of athletic success during their four years in Winston Salem. In March 2014, they celebrated the resignation of basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik by toilet-papering the trees.

Colbert's joke received more chuckles than boos but immediately afterward he found a way to get even the most ardent defenders of Wake Forest sports back on his side.

"Let me win you back," he said. "Duke sucks."

(Thanks, FTW)

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2015, 8:54 pm

Purdue will certainly be bigger after landing a McDonald's All-American for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday afternoon.

Whether the Boilermakers will also be drastically better will depend on Matt Painter's ability to turn a logjam at center into a strength rather than a weakness.

Five-star prospect Caleb Swanigan is a strong, sure-handed low-post scorer who is most comfortable in the paint on both ends of the floor. He joins a frontcourt that already possesses a pair of centers with similar skill sets — 7 footers A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.

For that arrangement to work, Swanigan is probably going to have to spend the majority of his time at power forward.

The upside will be that Purdue will frequently have two dominant rebounders and low-post threats on the floor, which should create mismatches against smaller opponents who play only one true big man at a time. The downside will be that Swanigan will have to prove on defense that he can stay in front of more nimble Big Ten forwards like Indiana's Troy Williams, Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes and Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff.

Spacing on offense also could become an issue since Haas, Hammons and Swanigan are each most effective within six feet of the basket. Neither Hammons nor Haas have a single 3-pointer in their Purdue careers, while Swanigan hasn't had a reason to develop a consistent jump shot to this point because he has always been able to overpower opponents around the rim.

The other concern for Purdue is the lack of a proven point guard to get the ball to those low-post weapons in spots where they like to score. The Boilermakers hope that Texas-Arlington transfer Johnny Hill can be as steady as Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus turned out to be this past season, but Hill played in a weaker conference than Octeus and didn't post as impressive numbers.

All those issues may diminish Swanigan's immediate impact for Purdue, but his addition is still a plus for a Boilermakers program that had to work hard to land him. Swanigan initially committed to Michigan State last month before backing out of his initial pledge two weeks ago.

Once Swanigan cooled on the Spartans, he considered two other options besides Purdue. He could have joined close friends and fellow elite recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb as part of the most anticipated recruiting class Cal has signed in decades. Or he could have capitalized on late interest from Kentucky and helped fill the void created by the departure of seven key players from last year's Final Four team.

Purdue out-dueled the Bears and the Wildcats because Swanigan is from just up the road in Fort Wayne and because it had been recruiting him the longest. Matt Painter also had a natural advantage in the form of Roosevelt Barnes, Swanigan's guardian and a former Purdue linebacker.

Excellent depth at wing and in the frontcourt gives Purdue hope of beginning the year in the top 25, but the Boilermakers may still be hard-pressed to contend in the Big Ten even with Swanigan. Preseason top-five Maryland and fellow top teams Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin will each be formidable competition.

Some have already said that Swanigan's decision could give Purdue one of the nation's top frontcourts, but that also might be a bit premature.

Skilled forward Kyle Wiltjer, mammoth center Przemek Karnowski and elite prospect Domantas Sabonis all fit together perfectly at Gonzaga. Perry Ellis and top recruit Cheick Diallo could form a great tandem at Kansas. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson also have good chemistry at North Carolina.

For Painter, building an elite frontcourt could be more challenging. One option is developing Swanigan's perimeter skills this summer. Another is utilzing more zone to enable his big men to stay around the rim.  

It's a good problem for Purdue to have, but Painter will have to be creative to solve it.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2015, 4:29 pm

At a time when the Illinois football program is already under investigation for alleged mistreatment of players, the school's women's basketball coaches also face similar accusations.

Parents of three of the four Illinois players who have left the program since the end of the 2014-15 season sent letters to university officials alleging misconduct by head coach Matt Bollant and associate coach Mike Divilbiss. The Champaign News-Gazette published copies of the letters, which accuse Bollant and Divilbiss of creating racial tension on the team, emotionally and verbally abusing players and jeopardizing their health by forcing them to play through major injuries.

Many of the issues appear to stem from alleged favoritism shown by Bollant and his staff toward players he recruited as opposed to holdovers as he tried to establish a new culture within a program that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003. Bollant attempted to instill toughness in his players after replacing Jolette Law in 2012, but the families of former players Jacqui Grant, Taylor Tuck and Taylor Gleason believe that he went too far.

Gleason's father alleged that the coaches referred to Law's former players as "crabs" and would threaten to leave them on the sidelines throughout practice so they wouldn't "infect" the rest of the team. Many of the black players on the team were recruited by Law.

"The code word for racial issues and tensions on the team was the word "culture" and the need to separate Jolette Law's players from the current recruits," Grant's father wrote. "Jolette Law's players were referred to as "the dog pound". At one point, there was an idea to hold separate practices for the African American players in an effort to get them to quit."

The families also described an atmosphere in which coaches belittled players about personal issues and threatened to pull scholarships without sufficient cause. They allege that Tuck was forced to play with a high ankle sprain, Gleason was forced to play with TurfToe that was later diagnosed with a broken foot and Grant was forced to play with an enlarged spleen while suffering from mononucleosis.

“As a lifelong resident of the State of Illinois, this is nothing less than shameful,” Grant's father wrote. “Matt Bollant is the orchestrator. Mike Divilbiss is the muscle. The balance of the coaching staff are spectators. The results are both embarrassing and intolerable to anyone with an ounce of common sense and morals.”

In the wake of the allegations first published in the Daily Illini, Divilbiss has resigned as associate head coach and LaKale Malone has been promoted as his replacement. An Illinois spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that Bollant is not facing disciplinary action at this time after an internal investigation that began in late April found that no violation of NCAA rules or university policy had occurred.

Bollant took Illinois to the WNIT in his debut season in Champaign before enduring losing seasons both of the past two years. Before coaching the Illini, he enjoyed a tremendous five-year run as Green Bay head coach, taking the Phoenix to four straight NCAA tournaments including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in 2011 and 2012.

Grant, a two-year starter for Illinois, intends to transfer to DePaul, as will guard Amarah Coleman. Gleason is transferring to Oakland and Tuck will graduate this spring.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2015, 2:42 pm

Michael White's first big victory at Florida arrived months before he'll coach the Gators in a game for the first time.

The former Louisiana Tech coach persuaded highly touted shooting guard prospect KeVaughn Allen to honor his pledge to Florida.

Allen, Rivals.com's No. 67 prospect in the class of 2015, had been wavering since Billy Donovan jumped to the NBA to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder. His stepfather John Curry told Arkansas radio host Bo Mattingly a couple weeks ago that Allen intended to seek a release from his letter of intent, but White was able to gain Allen's trust on Monday after meeting with him in person.

Allen's decision to attend Florida ensures that White will retain three out of the four members of Donovan's final recruiting class. Forward Keith Stone and forward Kevarrius Hayes will join Allen in Florida's 2015 class, but forward Noah Dickerson received his release from his letter of intent last week.

Of the four signees, Allen could be the most critical next season. The high-scoring 6-foot-2 Arkansas native will likely have a chance to play immediately at wing with Michael Frazier declaring for the NBA draft and fellow starter Eli Carter opting to transfer. 

It would give Florida more hope of a bounce-back season in year one under White if Allen proves capable of handling a big role as a freshman. He'll join a nucleus that includes returning starters Kasey Hill and Dorian Finney-Smith and capable reserve forwards Devin Robinson and Alex Murphy.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2015, 7:41 pm

One thing is clear after watching the above video of Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams reading mean tweets about himself.

He doesn't take himself too seriously.

Williams laughs at himself constantly while borrowing an always funny bit from the Jimmy Kimmel Show. He chuckles at someone insisting he has the "fattest neck" they've ever seen. He howls when someone says his hoarse voice sounds like he gargled with barbed wire. He even smiles when someone compares one of his ties to a Super 8 bedspread.

The only other takeaway from the video: How does Williams not know who actor Channing Tatum is? Take a couple hours off from recruiting this summer, Buzz, and go watch 21 Jump Street.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2015, 5:21 pm

The outlook for UConn improved dramatically over the weekend when the Huskies landed maybe the most accomplished graduate transfer to change schools this spring.

Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall's leading scorer this past season, announced he has chosen UConn over Ohio State, Pittsburgh and a handful of other top suitors.

The addition of Gibbs, fellow graduate transfer Shonn Miller and a pair of top 100 recruits gives UConn hope of bouncing back from a 20-15 campaign last season that ended with an opening-round NIT loss. The Huskies have enough talent to potentially crack the preseason top 25 despite the graduation of star guard Ryan Boatright.

There's no bigger reason for optimism than Gibbs, who should replace Boatright as UConn's main perimeter threat to score himself or create for others. The 6-foot-2 rising senior averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists and shot 43.6 percent from behind the arc this past season for a Seton Hall team that ascended into the top 25 in early January but crumbled amid injuries and internal dissension thereafter. 

Playing alongside Gibbs in the backcourt will be returning wings Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis, both promising double-digit scorers who struggled with consistency this past season. Sometimes Hamilton and Purvis would perform like the scoring threats UConn needed alongside Boatright last season. Other times Hamilton would struggle with shot selection and Purvis would all but disappear, leaving Boatright to attempt to carry the offense by himself. 

The other insurance policy against that this season is the arrival of high-scoring guard Jalen Adams, Rivals.com's No. 23 recruit in the Class of 2015. He'll likely begin the season as Gibbs' primary backup at lead guard but also should see plenty of playing time alongside the Seton Hall transfer when coach Kevin Ollie opts to go to a lineup with multiple ball handlers who can attack the rim.

UConn appears to be in solid shape in the frontcourt as well with defensive anchor Amida Brimah returning and Miller and promising freshman Steve Enoch joining the fold. Brimah is an elite shot blocker who is blossoming into a threat to score around the rim, while Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season at Cornell and should help cover up Brimah's weaknesses on the glass.

The quality of that supporting cast is a big reason Gibbs selected UConn over the other programs who were pursuing him. He needed to be sure he was making a good decision after previous stops at Texas and Seton Hall did not go how he planned. 

At Texas, Gibbs was a lightly used freshman on an NCAA tournament team, unsatisfied with his playing time and unsure if he could carve out a bigger role with fellow guards Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo set to return the following season. At Seton Hall, Gibbs had all the playing time he wanted but it was for a team in disarray and a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2006.

At UConn, Gibbs hopes to have the best of both worlds. He'll have the chance to showcase his ability for a team that has a chance to return to the NCAA tournament and do some damage after the disappointment of sitting home this past March.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2015, 2:43 pm

At a time when Drew Summerlin felt the lowest, the 11-year-old with Asperger's received a morale boost from his favorite basketball team.

University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams sent Summerlin an autographed team picture and a heartfelt letter last week encouraging him to remain strong despite months of torment from bullies at his school.

The team photo Williams sent Summerlin (via Facebook)The envelope from Williams arrived about two weeks after a group of boys attacked Summerlin during lunch at Iroquois Middle School in Rochester, N.Y. Summerlin sustained a concussion severe enough that he had to stay home from school the next few days.

"I'm so sorry and upset with what you have been going through," Williams wrote. "Someday those kids will realize how terribly they acted and will be ashamed.

"Drew, I want you to know that I am so proud for how you have handled things and know you are a kind person and anyone would be lucky to be your friend. Although life is not always easy, don't ever give up and continue to be the person that you are."

The Summerlin family initially had no idea how Williams learned of their son's plight, but they have since discovered they have a childhood friend of Drew's father to thank. A North Carolina spokesman said a man named Derek Nipper sent Williams video of Drew discussing the attack clad in a North Carolina T-shirt and told the coach that the boy was a huge Tar Heels fan.

Drew Summerlin indeed watches almost every Tar Heels basketball game with his father, a North Carolina native and lifelong fan. The autographed photo and letter from Williams was such a touching gesture to Summerlin that his parents intend to frame them and hang them in his room.

"Oh my goodness, he was so excited," his mother Jaime Summerlin said. "He kept saying, 'Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?' It was really cute. We're trying to take a negative thing that happened in our son's life and turn it into a positive. The Tar Heels definitely helped with that."

Seeing their son happy was special for his parents because Summerlin had endured a rough couple months at school.

Summerlin's mother said the bullying began when one boy in his class made up a "you have cooties" game called 'The Drew Touch.' Whenever one of Summerlin's classmates would touch him, someone would yell, "You've got The Drew Touch." If that child touched another classmate, they would yell, "Drew Touch, can't touch back."

The letter Roy Williams sent Summerlin (via Facebook)The teasing escalated when the same boy began harassing Summerlin on Instagram. His mom said the boy called Summerlin profane names, made fun of his disability and even went so far as to say, "I f---ing pray for his death every night."

"My husband and I were struggling to figure out just what to do about this situation, the right thing to do," Jaime Summerlin said. "I had been calling and emailing the principal. They tried a few times having the boys get together and talking but when they get out of the office, the picking on him started right up."

For Summerlin's parents, last month's attack was the final straw.

Unsatisfied with the school's response, Jaime Summerlin asked her son how he'd feel about sharing his story with several local TV stations. He agreed in hopes his anti-bullying message would help prevent other kids from going through what he has endured.

The publicity helped grow an anti-bullying Facebook group known as #DrewTouch. Many of the group's 2,800 members wore blue for Drew last Friday or posted pictures of themselves holding up signs with the hashtag #DrewTouch written on them.

Of all the support Drew has received, the letter from Williams is still among the most meaningful to him.

"Our whole family is big Tar Heels fans," Jaime Summerlin said. "The Tar Heels play and our lives stop. Everyone watches. For them to take the time to do that was an amazing gesture."

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 14, 2015, 3:48 pm

The Big Ten-ACC challenge will again provide maybe college basketball's most anticipated non-league game next season.

It will be Maryland at North Carolina on Dec. 1 in a potential preseason No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. 

The Tar Heels are a strong candidate to begin the season atop the polls thanks to the return of four starters from a 26-win Sweet 16 team. All-American candidate Marcus Paige, potential breakout star Justin Jackson and talented big men Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks each might have been selected in this year's NBA draft had they opted to declare.

Maryland also is a contender for preseason No. 1 if its returning standouts mesh with some promising new arrivals. High-scoring point Melo Trimble and versatile forward Jake Layman return from last year's breakout season, while elite freshman center Diamond Stone, talented former Georgia Tech power forward Robert Carter and ex-Duke shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon are the best of the crop of newcomers.

Great as the North Carolina-Maryland game could be, there will be some disappointment that the Terps were not pitted against former ACC rival Duke. The storylines for that matchup of likely top 10 teams would have been especially compelling with Sulaimon facing his former team and Krzyzewski facing the program he vowed never to schedule again after the Terps left the ACC for the Big Ten.

Instead Duke will host Indiana, not a bad consolation prize considering it's a battle of blue bloods and likely preseason top 20 teams. The reigning national champs will reload behind the nation's best freshman class, while the Hoosiers return the core of last year's high-scoring NCAA tournament team and add freshman big man Thomas Bryant to shore up their frontcourt.

The Duke-Indiana matchup is probably the best of an intriguing slate of second-tier games that also includes Louisville at Michigan State, Virginia at Ohio State, Wisconsin at Syracuse and Michigan at NC State. Heck, even Purdue at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame at Illinois and Florida State at Iowa all pit potential NCAA tournament contenders against each other.

Credit organizers for again putting together a slate replete with plenty of must-see games. The ACC leads the series 10-4-2, but the Big Ten won last year's event.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 13, 2015, 9:01 pm

Three months after the passing of one of college basketball's coaching icons, the man who worked by his side for three decades has also died.

Bill Guthridge, former North Carolina coach Dean Smith's longtime assistant and eventual successor, died Tuesday night at age 77. North Carolina confirmed the news Wednesday morning.  

Guthridge and Smith were nearly lifelong friends who grew up 90 minutes apart from one another in Kansas. Their coaching careers took them to different places for awhile until 1967 when Smith asked Guthridge to leave his alma mater Kansas State and come work for him as an assistant coach at North Carolina.

Over the next 30 years, Guthridge remained by Smith's side, turning down head coaching opportunities at Arkansas and Penn State to stay at North Carolina. He helped Smith lead the Tar Heels to 30 seasons of 20 or more wins, 11 Final Fours and two national championships, the first in 1982 and the second in 1993.

When Smith retired unexpectedly in 1997, he pushed for North Carolina to reward Guthridge for his loyalty and promote him to head coach. Guthridge coached the Tar Heels for three seasons before stepping aside, earning Naismith coach of the year honors in 1998 and leading North Carolina to Final Four appearances in 1998 and 2000.

One of Guthridge's most significant feats as an assistant coach was discovering a skinny shooting guard from Wilmington named Mike Jordan. Guthridge discovered Jordan before any other ACC program thanks to a tip from the athletic director in his county.

"When I first saw him, he jumped out at me because of his athleticism and competitiveness," then-North Guthridge told Yahoo Sports in 2012. "I thought we should recruit him, but I didn't know how good he would be."

Jordan soon became North Carolina's top priority after he dominated Smith's basketball camp the summer before his senior year. Guthridge and Smith out-recruited the likes of Maryland, South Carolina, Duke and NC State after other schools became aware of Jordan's talent when he emerged as the best player at the prestigious Five-Star Camp in Pittsburgh later that summer.

Though Jordan earned ACC freshman of the year honors and sank the game-winning shot in the national championship game his first season with the Tar Heels, it wasn't until the start of his second season that Guthridge realized he might be coaching one of the best ever.

"We couldn't believe how good he was as a sophomore," Guthridge recalled. "We ran a drill in practice where players went one-on-one against each other. There was nobody who could stop Michael and Michael could stop everyone. That was really something then."

Guthridge kept a small office next to Smith's at the Smith Center in retirement and was a regular at North Carolina games until health problems began to take a toll. His wife told the Raleigh News & Observer earlier this year that her husband had been diagnosed with a heart condition five or six years earlier and that his memory was rapidly fading. 

Perhaps it's fitting that Guthridge's death came so soon after Smith's. They were inseparable for decades at North Carolina, so now Guthridge is following Smith once more.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 13, 2015, 3:40 pm

It's probably no coincidence that word of John Calipari's imminent contract extension at Kentucky leaked out Tuesday evening hours after a potentially attractive NBA gig opened up.

This was likely a strategic move from the Wildcats aimed at quashing the Calipari-to-the-NBA speculation that pops up every spring.

Many of the beat writers covering Kentucky reported within minutes of one another Tuesday that school officials were close to finalizing a one-year, $8 million contract extension with Calipari that would run his deal through 2022. Like previous contracts, this one also includes a $1.6 million bonus if Calipari is still the coach of Kentucky on July 1, an extra incentive for him to remain in Lexington.

Whereas Calipari's previous extensions have been formally announced once they became official, word of this one came the same day as the New Orleans Pelicans fired coach Monty Williams despite 45 wins and a playoff appearance. That gig could be intriguing to Calipari if New Orleans shows interest due to the presence of two of his former players, blossoming superstar Anthony Davis and ex-University of Memphis guard Tyreke Evans.

The New Orleans job is one of several potential jobs with players with ties to Calipari that could become available this spring. A divorce between Tom Thibodeau and Chicago appears imminent barring a deep playoff run from the Bulls, while David Blatt's longevity in Cleveland could also be determined by how the Cavs fare the next few weeks.

Calipari has turned down overtures from NBA franchises before during his Kentucky tenure, but seldom have they boasted a playoff-caliber roster and a potential future league MVP entering his prime. Though Calipari was one of a handful of elite college coaches who passed on the Cleveland job last spring, that was well before anyone was certain LeBron James would return there.

There's no guarantee New Orleans will have any interest in Calipari or any of the other jobs will open, but the contract extension with Kentucky won't prevent him from talking to an NBA team if he wants. He's clearly content in Lexington, yet he's also still free to pursue his dream job should it become available.

In reality, this contract extension merely serves as a preemptive strike against annual speculation Calipari could return to the NBA, something that creates uncertainty among prospective recruits and whips Kentucky's fan base into a frenzy.

It doesn't change the fact he could still leave, but it certainly sweetens the pot for him to stay.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 13, 2015, 2:49 pm

Having failed in its bid to land Alabama graduate transfer Ricky Tarrant this spring, Clemson missed its best chance to address its lack of perimeter scoring in time for next season. 

Instead the Tigers will have to settle for adding a fellow transfer who won't be eligible to play for them until the 2016-17 season.

Ex-Robert Morris guard Marcquise Reed, last year's Northeast Conference freshman of the year, announced Monday that he will transfer to Clemson. Reed had also reportedly visited USC, UMass and Tulsa before deciding on the Tigers.

The addition of Reed should eventually help shore up Clemson's biggest weaknesses — its inability to score efficiently and its lack of perimeter shooting.

The 6-foot-1 Reed averaged 15.1 points per game and shot 41.3 percent from behind the arc for a Robert Morris team that lost to Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. He was at his best against the toughest teams he faced too, lighting up the Blue Devils for 22 points, erupting for 24 against North Carolina and scoring 21 against the very same Clemson team he now will join. 

Clemson has lacked many perimeter scorers of that caliber during Brad Brownell's tenure. For the past four seasons, the Tigers have remained competitive in the rugged ACC because of their formidable half-court defense, but they have finished an average of 211th nationally in points per possession.

Reed will help just like Tarrant would have had he not chosen Memphis. The upside is Clemson gets Reed for up to three seasons. The downside is the Tigers will have to wait a year for him to be eligible to contribute.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 12, 2015, 4:18 pm

Sixteen years after Lute Olson vowed Arizona would never schedule regional rival New Mexico again, the Wildcats' boycott is over. 

The two schools announced Monday they will begin a two-year series during the 2016-17 season with the Lobos visiting Tucson on Dec. 17, 2016 and the Wildcats heading to Albuquerque on Dec. 16, 2017.

“It’s exciting to add big games like this to our upcoming schedule,” New Mexico coach Craig Neal said in a school-released statement. “I am very appreciative of Coach Miller and Arizona Director of Athletics Greg Byrne for scheduling this series and agreeing to come play us on our home court. These will be great games for our fans, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to play a program like Arizona."

Arizona's decision to revive the series reflects the fact that tension between the two programs has eased since Olson's retirement. Olson originally vowed to "unequivocally" discontinue the series in 1999 after a controversial finish to New Mexico's 79-78 upset victory over the eighth-ranked Wildcats in Albuquerque.

New Mexico trailed by one point with 4.6 seconds left, but Lobos point guard John Robinson II found time to take the inbound pass, zoom downcourt and feed teammate Damion Walker under the basket for the game-clinching shot. Olson was irate afterward because replays showed that the clock may have started a fraction of a second late, giving New Mexico more time to get the ball down the court.

The two teams played once more the following season in Tucson — the last game of a four-game series — before Olson's boycott went into effect. Arizona has scheduled home-and-home series against Mountain West powers UNLV and San Diego State under Sean Miller, but only now are they doing the same for New Mexico.

The timing of the scheduling agreement could be better for a New Mexico program that endured an injury-plagued 15-16 season this past year after three consecutive seasons that ended with NCAA tournament bids. Neal will have 20 months to replenish his roster and get the Lobos ready for their first matchup with Arizona in 17 years.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 12, 2015, 12:08 am

Only a small percentage of players are athletic enough to pull off the dunk Louisville signee Donovan Mitchell attempted while messing around over the weekend.

Even fewer have the creativity to conceive of it.

Mitchell, a highly touted guard from Connecticut, began by sinking a 3-pointer from the wing. Then as the ball fall is falling through the net, he sprints to the rim, catches it in midair and throws down a ridiculous windmill slam.

Video of Mitchell's dunk spread quickly on social media and cracked SportsCenter's top 10 plays. It even surpassed the soaring off-the-wall dunk that earned him perfect scores last month at the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Night of Future Stars.

Of course, Mitchell's dunking ability is only one reason Louisville fans are eager to see him in action next season. The dynamic 6-foot-2 guard will team with point guard Quentin Snider and Drexel transfer Damion Lee to help replace the perimeter scoring the Cardinals lost when Terry Rozier turned pro, Chris Jones got dismissed and Wayne Blackshear graduated.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 11, 2015, 11:40 pm

When Duke captured its fifth national title last month in Indianapolis, dismissed Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon had to watch the celebration from home on television.

Next spring, Sulaimon may have the chance to experience the joy his former teammates felt albeit while wearing a different uniform.

Maryland announced Monday that it has landed Sulaimon, bolstering a roster that was already one of the five strongest in the nation. The 6-foot-5 Houston native will be eligible to play his final collegiate season right away assuming he is able to earn his sociology degree at Duke this summer as expected.

Sulaimon is a high-risk, high-reward addition for Maryland because of the way his once-promising Duke career ended. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski dismissed him in January, explaining in a terse statement that Sulaimon had been "unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program."

One month after Sulaimon's dismissal, the Duke Chronicle reported that two female students had accused him of sexual assault during the 2013-14 school year, but neither formally reported the incidents to the police or Duke's Office of Student Conduct. Sulaimon has since denied those allegations and insisted that his dismissal was a result of his poor attitude as his playing time dwindled.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon felt comfortable offering Sulaimon a second chance since he has known the former Duke guard since he was in seventh grade. Turgeon recruited Sulaimon heavily while coaching at Texas A&M before losing him to the Blue Devils. 

“He was a very polite and poised young man and I recruited him while I was at Texas A&M because of his commitment to both academics and athletics," Turgeon said Monday in a school-released statement. "We competed against Rasheed on multiple occasions in the ACC and I was reminded of his dynamic playmaking ability. During our conversations with Rasheed and his parents, Kenny and Angela, Rasheed expressed the importance of proving that he is committed to being a great student-athlete and a selfless teammate. I have full confidence that Rasheed will embrace this opportunity at the University of Maryland."

If Sulaimon can avoid further off-court trouble, he could be the final piece Maryland needs to contend for a championship next season.

They have an elite point guard in rising sophomore Melo Trimble, a skilled combo forward in NBA prospect Jake Layman and a pair of good big men in coveted freshman Diamond Stone and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter. The only potential hole was at shooting guard, where the Terps would have counted on reserves Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens to replace Dez Wells had they not found help on the transfer market.

Sulaimon projects as the heir apparent to Wells because of his knack for creating off the dribble and his ability to defend the opposing team's best perimeter scorer.

A former McDonald's All-American who averaged 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman at Duke, Sulaimon might have been a first-round draft pick had he left school the following spring. His playing time and production diminished the following two years as other talented wings eclipsed him in Duke's rotation, leading to issues behind the scenes.

Now Sulaimon has a second chance to salvage his career and compete for a championship.

"I am extremely grateful to the University of Maryland and Coach Turgeon for this opportunity to further my education and continue to play the game I love," Sulaimon said in a statement. "I’m looking forward to starting this next chapter at Maryland."

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 11, 2015, 6:16 pm

The simplest move Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley could have made in the wake of the departure of Billy Donovan would have been to wave $4 million a year at Dayton's Archie Miller, Xavier's Chris Mack or another established coaching star.

Needless to say, Foley chose not to play it safe.

In an offseason in which Mississippi State and Tennessee both hired veteran coaches who have reached the Final Four and Alabama hired a former NBA coach of the year, Foley risked the future of the Florida program on a man who has never made the NCAA tournament. He quickly zeroed in on Lousiana Tech coach Michael White, a hire that surely sent all but the most basketball-savvy Gators fans scrambling to Wikipedia once it was announced on Thursday night.

Not bothering to interview other splashier candidates exposes Foley to criticism if the hire turns out to be a bust, but passing on bigger names in favor of White may turn out to be a shrewd gamble. The 38-year-old son of well-respected Duke athletic director Kevin White is an energetic, ambitious up-and-comer who embodies much of what Florida sought in a coach even if he doesn't have NCAA tournament appearances to offer as validation.

White's youth belies his experience because his childhood groomed him for a career in college athletics. Dinners with coaches, administrators and donors were regular occurrences throughout his youth as his dad jumped from athletic director gigs at Maine, Tulane, Arizona State and Notre Dame before arriving at Duke in 2008.

The jump to the SEC also shouldn't faze White, a former four-year starter at point guard for Ole Miss who later spent seven years as an assistant with the Rebels on Andy Kennedy's staff. White has longstanding recruiting ties throughout the Southeast and has been particularly successful mining the state of Florida for talent during his Louisiana Tech tenure.

Hired in spring 2011 to resuscitate a long-struggling Louisiana Tech program coming off a 2-14 season in the WAC, White engineered a turnaround in startlingly speedy fashion. He won 18 games his debut season and 27 or more games each of his next three, capturing at least a share of three Conference USA regular season titles with players few Division I programs even bothered to recruit.

Guard Raheem Appleby, Louisiana Tech's leading scorer last season, weighed less than 140 pounds in high school and only received scholarship offers from the Bulldogs and a Division II college in his native Arkansas. Center Michale Kyser, the team's top shot-blocker and rebounder, signed with White only after backing out of his letter of intent to Lamar when the school fired its coach. And Florida native Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, who was fifth in the nation in assists last season, had zero Division I offers when White fell in love with his passing ability while watching YouTube clips of him late in his senior season.

White will obviously need to do more than uncover below-the-radar recruits to win at Florida, but his style of play should make for a smooth transition. Whether or not he sticks with the full-court pressure he favored at Louisiana Tech, he's likely to play an aggressive, up-tempo style that mirrors how Donovan's teams won at Florida. 

The challenge for White will be proving Florida's recent emergence as a basketball juggernaut is a product of the caliber of its program and not merely the caliber of its former coach. Before Donovan willed the Gators to two national titles, four Final Fours and seven Elite Eights, they had only been to the NCAA tournament five times in program history.

Donovan left White with a brand-name program but not with a loaded roster. The Gators failed to reach the postseason this past March and their second-leading scorer Michael Frazier declared for the draft, their third-leading scorer Eli Carter is transferring and their top recruit KeVaughn Allen intends to seek a release from his letter of intent.

Nonetheless, Florida remains a top 20 job nationally because the school has the resources and recruiting base to provide the right coach a platform to contend for Final Fours and national championships.

White clearly gambled wisely when he turned down opportunities at Missouri and Tennessee last spring in hopes of landing a better job in the near future. Now we'll see whether Foley too took a shrewd risk targeting a coach with zero NCAA tournament appearances rather than one with a more proven track record.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 8, 2015, 3:20 pm

Only a week after telling the Lansing State Journal he remained "100 percent" committed to Michigan State, five-star big man Caleb Swanigan has apparently changed his mind.

The 6-foot-8 Fort Wayne, Ind., native has backed out of his commitment to the Spartans less than a month after he gave it, ESPN.com and other outlets reported Thursday.

Swanigan's decision can't be viewed as a complete shock considering his initial commitment to Michigan State was a mild surprise. He also chose not to sign either a letter of intent or grant in aid document that would have made his verbal commitment binding.

Rivals affiliate GoldAndBlack.com reported Thursday that Swanigan is "likely headed to Purdue," which is a short drive from his home and recruited him heavily. Another possible destination is Cal, which appeared to be on the verge of landing him before he chose Michigan State and has a highly touted recruiting class that includes fellow five star recruits Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown.

Why would Swanigan change his mind so abruptly? It's probably a safe guess that the influence of his guardian Roosevelt Barnes was a factor. Barnes is a former Purdue linebacker and has a longtime friendship with Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, a former Purdue basketball player and assistant coach.

The loss of Swanigan is a blow to Michigan State's depth next season but it won't drastically alter the outlook for the Spartans. They still could begin next season in the top 10 in preseason polls thanks to the potent wing tandem of Denzel Valentine and Eron Harris and a deep frontcourt that will feature potential breakout candidate Marvin Clark Jr., returners Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling and promising 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American Deyonta Davis.

Swanigan's impact actually could be potentially greater at either Purdue or Cal.

At Purdue, he'd likely slide to power forward, enabling him to play most of his minutes alongside either senior A.J. Hammons or 7-foot rising sophomore Isaac Haas. At Cal, he'd address the team's lack of depth in the frontcourt. He'd either start alongside Rabb if the Bears opted for two big men or become the first big man off the bench if Cal started four perimeter players.

Whatever Swanigan chooses, it probably won't be Michigan State.

Seven days ago, he was "100 percent" committed. Now he's back on the market.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 7, 2015, 9:34 pm

A Kentucky gubernatorial debate on live radio turned vicious on Wednesday when one candidate called a rival the most loathsome name imaginable to hoops fans in the state.

James Comer described fellow Republican candidate Hal Heiner as "the Christian Laettner of Kentucky politics."

The jab was the culmination of verbal sparring between the two candidates over an article that appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday alleging that Comer had assaulted a woman he dated while the two were enrolled at Western Kentucky in the 1990s. Comer flatly denied the accusations and accused the Heiner campaign of being behind them.

The Laettner reference was timely since the debate aired on Kentucky Sports Radio, a popular statewide show with a heavy emphasis on Kentucky basketball.

Laettner became one of the most hated men in the state of Kentucky during the 1992 East Regional finals when his iconic buzzer-beating jump shot enabled Duke to oust a beloved Wildcats team. Big Blue Nation hasn't forgotten Laettner's 31 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the field and the free-throw line, nor has it forgiven the way he intentionally stepped on the chest of Aminu Timberlake underneath the basket during that game.

Word of Comer's zinger reached Laettner on social media, but the former Duke star had a clever retort of his own.

Does that mean he'll win? #teasing https://t.co/Su34gWS76V

— Christian Laettner (@laettnerbball) May 6, 2015

Well done, Christian, but it's probably good Heiner didn't respond with that one liner during the debate. A generation of Kentucky fans may never have forgiven him. 

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 7, 2015, 8:17 pm

The success Oregon has enjoyed in the past with graduate transfers helped the Ducks land another one.

They won a month-long recruiting battle with Baylor and Illinois on Wednesday when former Villanova guard Dylan Ennis committed. 

Ennis started all 36 games for Villanova last season and averaged 9.9 points and 3.7 rebounds for the Big East champions, but the fifth-year senior chose to transfer because he wanted the chance to play point guard in his final college season. Incumbent starter Ryan Arcidiacono is returning to Villanova next season and top recruit Jaylen Brunson also plays point guard.

With Pac-12 player of the year Joseph Young graduating this spring, Oregon had an opening at point guard. Ennis should compete with reserves Ahmaad Rorie and Casey Benson and incoming freshman Kendall Small for playing time at point guard. He could also play alongside Rorie or Benson too since Dana Altman has often used two ball handlers at one time in years past.

Baylor and Illinois both had playing time available at point guard, but Oregon's history suggests it's easy for transfers to thrive quickly. Young, Devoe Joseph, Arsalan Kazemi and Jason Calliste all became impact players immediately with the Ducks despite only having a few months to pick up a new system.

The arrival of Ennis further solidifies Oregon as an NCAA tournament team with a chance to contend in a wide open Pac-12 next season. The Ducks return almost every key player besides Young from a team that won 25 games, surged late in the season and pushed eventual national runner-up Wisconsin into the final minutes before falling in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament.

The only question with Ennis' commitment is whether it hurts Oregon's chances of also landing five-star Canadian guard Jamal Murray should he opt to reclassify to the 2015 class. The Ducks are considered one of the favorites to land him, though numerous other high-major programs are also in pursuit.

Regardless, the addition of Ennis is a valuable one. It provides Oregon a veteran option at a position in which the Ducks were in need of one.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 7, 2015, 4:54 pm

In the past six weeks, Florida has lost its head coach to the NBA, its second-leading scorer to the draft and its third-leading scorer to a transfer.

Now the Gators may also have to wave goodbye to their top recruit too.

Shooting guard KeVaughn Allen, Rivals.com's No. 67 prospect in the class of 2015, will seek a release from his letter of intent, his stepfather John Curry told Arkansas radio host Bo Mattingly on Tuesday. Curry said that Allen could still end up at Florida depending on who the Gators hire to replace Billy Donovan, but he also wants to consider other schools.

"I guess the best way to put it is he's going to keep his options open," Curry said.

“His whole draw to Florida, besides a beautiful university, [was] the coaches. And that goes for a lot of high school kids. They go to a coach, that’s who they go to.”

What could hurt Florida's chances of retaining Allen is that athletic director Jeremy Foley appears to be taking his time making a new hire. Foley told reporters at his news conference Monday afternoon that his goal is to make the hire "sometime in June" so that the new coach is in place in time to recruit during the July evaluation period.

If Florida loses Allen, that would be a major blow to its chances of bouncing back quickly after missing the NCAA tournament last season. The high-scoring 6-foot-2 Arkansas native would likely have a chance to play immediately at wing with Michael Frazier declaring for the NBA draft and fellow starter Eli Carter opting to transfer. 

Numerous schools will undoubtedly express interest in Allen if he gets his release from Florida, but in-state Arkansas could have the best chance to land him. Arizona, Baylor, UConn, Tennessee and Memphis were also among the programs initially involved in his recruitment.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 6, 2015, 1:58 pm

Even though a historic freshman class propelled Duke to its fifth championship last month, the unsung hero for the Blue Devils was their lone senior.

Quinn Cook set the tone for the season when he ceded the starting point guard job to Tyus Jones without complaint, thrived despite moving off ball and evolved into the veteran leader such a young team needed.

An emotional Cook reflected on his journey at Duke's end-of-the-year banquet in the video above. He began by sharing the story of the nadir of his Duke career, a 2011 Maui Invitational matchup with Michigan in which he went scoreless and barely played.

"My team's doing well, and we're playing great," Cook recalled. "Every time someone made a shot, the bench goes crazy, but you see little Quinn not cheering at all. I wouldn't get up, nothing, because I was embarrassed I wasn't playing.

"The next day, Coach K tells me he has some clips to show me. I'm thinking, 'What are they about to show? I didn't play.' They showed me not cheering, me not doing anything. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I felt me and coach Capel had a great relationship, and he told me, 'You should take that jersey off and go home.' From there, I changed."

Cook became a productive player for Duke the next two years, but Mike Krzyzewski needed more from him as a senior. The Duke coach had a heart-to-heart chat with Cook last offseason that the senior guard says has stuck with him ever since.

"You called me and my mom into a meeting and you were brutally honest, but you gave me confidence I could lead these guys," Cook said to Krzyzewski. "From that day on, I didn't want to let you down. I made it my agenda to be the first one at practice and the last one to leave."

It helped Cook that he had teammates eager to be led. He cited numerous examples, from Jahlil Okafor texting after last year's opening-round NCAA tournament loss to Mercer say that won't happen again, to Justise Winslow asking for guidance and tough love before he even got to campus, to Tyus Jones comparing he and Cook to Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright the night of last year's national title game.

"I get all this credit for being a great leader, but you guys were so easy to lead, especially the young guys," Cook said. "I can remember us getting in a group chat the day UConn played UK last year and saying that was going to be us next year." 

That prediction came true for Duke. And self-deprecating as Cook is, he was a big part of it.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 5, 2015, 8:09 pm

If the perception before this spring had been that John Calipari can land whichever recruits he wants, that changed in a hurry the past few weeks. 

All five of Calipari's primary targets during the spring signing period selected other schools over Kentucky, forcing the Wildcats to scramble to identify second-tier options.

The sting of losing a series of recruiting battles for the first time in his Kentucky tenure led Calipari to write a blog post Monday morning in which he seemed to speak directly to potential targets in future classes. Calipari hinted that the platoon system he implemented this past season hurt Kentucky with prospects this spring and repeatedly insisted it was a one-time experiment.

In his zeal to emphasize that future recruits should expect to have the chance to play 30-plus minutes per game, Calipari even exaggerated how short his rotations have been in the past. He wrote that his 1996 Final Four team at UMass used only five players when sixth man Tyrone Weeks averaged 18.5 minutes per game and fellow reserves Charlton Clarke and Inus Norville both played nearly 10 apiece.

In all my coaching career, I’ve always played six, seven or eight guys. As a matter of fact, at UMass in 1996 I played five – the sixth man played single-digit minutes. My guards played 39 minutes a game. I’ve done this all kinds of ways, playing as many as eight or nine guys, which I thought was a bit much, but never have I ever tried to play 10 until this year.

Now, the question became, why would you have that many players where you felt you had to play everybody? Well, Willie, Alex and the twins decided to come back to be better prepared to chase their dreams. .... The only way I could figure out for all of them to eat was to platoon. I didn’t feel comfortable trying to sub 10 guys in and out. I thought it would hurt every player if I did that. I needed a way for every player to help themselves, their team and their teammates.

If you ask me if I’m ever going to platoon again, my answer is NO. Last season was an absolute outlier. It’s just not the way I like to coach. I would rather play seven or eight guys because I believe that gives us the best chance to win. I think we wrote the book on platooning this year, but I hope we stick it on the shelf and never have to use it again.

It's telling that Calipari had to pledge never to run a system that propelled Kentucky to a historically successful 2014-15 season. The Wildcats won their first 38 games and reached the Final Four playing nine or 10 players per game, yet what many recruits noticed is that no Wildcats averaged more than 25.9 minutes or scored more than 11.0 points per game. 

The one mistake Calipari did make is not penning this blog post a month sooner.

Opposing coaches would have found ammunition for negative recruiting whether he played 10 guys reduced minutes or left a couple former McDonald's All-Americans to languish on the bench, but Calipari should have had the foresight to address it immediately after the Final Four. At that point, 10 of the top 20 prospects in the Rivals 150 were still undecided on their college destination.

It's impossible to say whether writing this blog post a month earlier would have helped Kentucky land one or two of its spring targets, but it certainly couldn't have hurt. The Wildcats instead lost elite wings Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Jaylen Brown (Cal) and lost coveted big men Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV) and Cheick Diallo (Kansas).

None of Kentucky's opponents will take pity on the Wildcats considering they return former McDonald's All-Americans Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress and add highly touted November signees Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe. At the same time, it was unusual to see Calipari trying to fill out next season's roster by signing a junior college prospect and offering a scholarship to a three-star forward who had just committed to N.C. State.

The closest Calipari came to acknowledging the platoon system may have played a role in that recruiting futility was a line late in his blog post. Wrote the Kentucky coach, "It’s amazing people could try to use that against us, but I guess you have to come up with something."

Calipari was wise to address the negative recruiting ploy before it impacts Kentucky with its class of 2016 targets.

In the wake of a disappointing spring recruiting period, however, you have to wonder if he wishes he had done it sooner.

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 5, 2015, 4:39 pm

So much for the idea that one-and-done players aren't interested in a college education. 

Former Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns returned to his New Jersey high school over the weekend to sign autographs. He also spoke with reporters and revealed that while he is no longer enrolled in spring semester classes at Kentucky, he is determined to eventually earn his degree from the school. 

Towns said he has already enrolled in online classes for next fall and he intends to continue taking classes online even while playing in the NBA. Former Duke star Jabari Parker, a top pick last year, also vowed to earn his college degree while playing professional basketball. 

"I’ll be taking them with any NBA organization I will be with, I will be taking them online," Towns told NJ.com. "Let it be one class, two classes maybe three. Still gets me steps closer to having that degree in my hand.”

Towns is considered the likely No. 1 overall selection in next month's NBA draft after playing one year for coach John Calipari at Kentucky. 

Each year critics howl about a small handful of players who come out of high school to play only one year of college basketball before moving on to the NBA. Players do so because of an NBA rule that prevents them from joining the league straight out of high school. The critics complain that the one-and-done player makes a mockery of the idea of college basketball being both about the sport and education. 

The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences have proposed making freshmen ineligible in some sports, in part, to combat the one-and-done phenomenon. That short-sighted approach is unlikely to take hold

 

 

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: May 5, 2015, 2:34 am

No longer will Willie Cauley-Stein merely be known as the most versatile defender in this year's NBA draft.

Now the former Kentucky 7 footer also is receiving attention for an unusual name change.

Cauley-Stein has filed an order to legally change his middle name to "Trill," his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday. Marlene Stein told the newspaper that her son's full name now is Willie "Trill" Cauley-Stein because "Trill" is the "nickname his 'boys' call him."

Cauley-Stein was actually born "Willie Durmond Cauley Jr." but his father fell out of his life when he was young. He has gone by Willie Cauley-Stein since enrolling at Kentucky in order to honor his mother, but he hadn't filled out the paperwork to legally change his name until now.

The name change is fitting for a player with a reputation for being a free spirit. Cauley-Stein still has room for growth offensively, but his ability to finish at the rim, attack the glass and defend multiple positions gives him a good chance to be a lottery pick next month.

The only downside to Cauley-Stein's new name is that he didn't go all the way with it. How great would it be to hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver introduce him as "Trill Cauley-Stein" when he gets drafted?

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 4, 2015, 10:39 pm

They've printed the phrase "Havoc Lives Here" everywhere at VCU the last five years, from billboards, to T-shirts, to giant banners in the student section.

The slogan still rings true even though the coach who coined it left for Texas a month ago.

Texas has withdrawn its attempt to federally register variations of the “Havoc” trademark, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Monday. The same day Smart was hired as the next coach of the Longhorns last month, Texas officials applied to register the marks “HORNS HAVOC” and “HOUSE OF HAVOC” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Retaining the "Havoc" slogan is momentous for VCU because it is central to the program's marketing and branding efforts.

The Rams' style of play has been known as "Havoc" since Smart used the phrase while describing his vision for the aggressive, swarming full-court press he intended to install. That slogan gained greater significance as VCU rose to national prominence, making a stunning Final Four run in 2011 and advancing to four more NCAA tournaments the past four years.

VCU has already trademarked "Havoc" with the State Corporation Commission of Virginia, which would have given the Rams a good chance to win a legal battle had Texas opted to go that route. The strongest argument the Longhorns could have made was that their variations on "Havoc" were sufficiently different not to be confusing.   

It's especially important to VCU to still be known as the home of "Havoc" because the coach hired by the Rams will continue to use that defensive model. Will Wade is a former assistant under Smart who had the wisdom to rename his style of play "Chaos" when he left to coach Tennessee-Chattanooga the previous two years.

Ultimately, it makes sense for Texas to back off not only because of the likelihood it would lose a legal battle but also because the Longhorns may not even adopt the "Havoc" model under Smart.

He has said Texas will play fast and aggressively, but he has also said he won't necessarily press from start to finish the way he often did at VCU.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 4, 2015, 7:21 pm

It's difficult for Tim Floyd to lure top-tier talent to UTEP, so the Miners coach took a risk others may not have to secure a former top 50 prospect.

He has signed former Oregon standout Dominic Artis just over a year after the standout point guard and two teammates were at the center of a sexual assault investigation.

Oregon dismissed Artis, fellow starter Damyean Dotson and Providence transfer Brandon Austin last year after a female student accused them of raping her the night of the Ducks' March 8 victory over third-ranked Arizona. Investigators concluded there was "no doubt the incidents occurred," but authorities declined to charge the three players, citing conflicting statements and actions by the alleged victim.

"We did extensive research on Dominic's history and character through people who have known him since he was a child, and throughout his high school and college career," Floyd said in a statement. "Based on our due diligence, meeting with Dominic and his parents, and the endorsement of Matt Willms who played with Dominic in prep school, we feel comfortable adding him to our team.

"I understand where some may be concerned. I have a daughter of my own. This was not a quick decision. A lot of research and conversation occurred before we chose to move forward. Dominic made a poor decision, and as a result has learned a tough life lesson. But I believe he is a good person and is worthy of a second chance."

UTEP's decision to take a chance on Artis underscores the risks some programs are willing to take to raise their stature in college basketball. The Miners have averaged 20.6 wins per season during Floyd's five-year tenure, but they have finished no higher than tied for second in Conference USA and they have neither made the NCAA tournament nor won a postseason game in the NIT or CBI.

What Artis will bring UTEP is a pure point guard the likes of which the Miners haven't had in a while.

The 6-foot-1 California native started 25 games as a freshman, averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 assists and helping propel the Ducks to a 28-win season and a Sweet 16 berth with his ability to create off the dribble and his fierce on-ball defense. He tailed off a bit as a sophomore as he lost his starting job while serving a nine-game suspension for selling school-provided shoes and never regained the consistency he showed during his freshman season. 

Nonetheless, Artis projects as an impact player in Conference USA if he can avoid further off-court trouble. His presence should allow rising sophomore combo guard Omega Harris to play off ball where he is most comfortable. Artis' ability to create for himself and others also will help the Miners find ways to score despite the early departure of leading scorer Vince Hunter to the NBA draft.

"I am grateful to Coach Floyd for giving me another opportunity, a second chance," Artis said in a statement. "I made a mistake and used poor judgment, but I have learned from this. I am excited about this opportunity at UTEP."

Artis is the second of the three Oregon players who have received a second chance. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson signed Dotson last month in hopes that the talented wing can help accelerate the Cougars' bid to become competitive in the American Athletic Conference.

Ultimately, how Floyd's gamble is regarded will come down to how Artis plays and how he behaves.

Artis is capable of becoming a standout point guard for UTEP, but another off-court misstep could bring a torrent of negative publicity for him and the school and raise questions regarding whether Floyd and his staff vetted the Oregon transfer's past sufficiently.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 4, 2015, 3:32 pm

The last time a point guard transferred from Washington to Gonzaga, Dan Dickau became the WCC player of the year and a first-team All-American. 

The Zags can only hope history repeats itself. 

Gonzaga landed another former Washington point guard Sunday when ex-Huskies star Nigel Williams-Goss committed to the Zags. Williams-Goss, one of the most coveted transfers on the market, will sit out next season and have two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2016-17 season.

The addition of Williams-Goss should help keep Gonzaga nationally relevant after next season when it will lose Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer to graduation and could see NBA prospect Domantas Sabonis declare for the draft. Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists as a sophomore at Washington and is a pass-first point guard who makes his teammates better.

Williams-Goss will join a backcourt that should also include former top 100 recruit Josh Perkins, but having two point guards on the floor shouldn't be an issue for the Zags. Gonzaga coach Mark Few has successfully played multiple point guards at the same time before and at 6-foot-3, Perkins and Williams-Goss are both big enough to defend opposing wings.

What made Gonzaga attractive to Williams-Goss besides its perennial success as a program was its ball screen-heavy offense and its recent history of developing players who have to sit out a year.

Two years ago, Kelly Olynyk emerged from a redshirt year with a stronger upper body and a revamped post-up game, enabling him to go from bench warmer to first-round draft pick the following year. Last year, Wiltjer showcased superior athleticism and a more well-rounded offensive game compared to his days as a pick-and-pop specialist at Kentucky. 

Williams-Goss' decision to opt to go that route was a mature one. He didn't feel he was improving rapidly enough at Washington and he wasn't projected as a first-round pick in the NBA draft, so he opted to remain patient and transfer even if it meant sitting out a year.

Of course, Williams-Goss' destination probably won't sit well with Gonzaga-hating Huskies fans, but they'll have a chance to express their displeasure in person. 

Gonzaga and Washington will end a 10-year non-conference scheduling hiatus during the 2016-17 season, which is the first year Williams-Goss will be eligible for the Zags. 

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 3, 2015, 7:20 pm

When sweet-shooting wing Kenny Williams committed to North Carolina on Saturday, it was a potential coup for the Tar Heels for two reasons.

It provides North Carolina a pure shooter who could crack the rotation as soon as next season if he spreads the floor with his 3-point prowess and proves to be a competent defender. It also prevents fellow ACC and national title contender Virginia from adding a recruit who could have addressed its biggest weakness.

Outside shooting is a concern for both the Tar Heels and Cavaliers entering a season in which both should begin in the top 10 in the polls.

North Carolina lacked any consistent shooters around Marcus Paige two years ago and still finished 256th in the nation in 3-pointers made last season despite the emergence of Justin Jackson and Nate Britt as threats from the perimeter. Virginia tailed off dramatically from behind the arc after Justin Anderson went down with a fractured pinkie in February and then the Cavaliers lost Anderson to the NBA draft last month. 

Given their need for a perimeter shooter, Williams was an appealing option for both the Tar Heels and Cavs after he asked to be released from his letter of intent at VCU last month when coach Shaka Smart left for Texas. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is Rivals.com's No. 89 recruit in the class of 2015 and shot the ball so well for his AAU team that veteran coach Boo Williams said J.J. Redick is the only player he's coached with a better jumper.

Williams visited both Chapel Hill and Charlottesville before selecting North Carolina on Saturday, calling it his dream school. He'll battle the likes of Britt, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II for playing time alongside Paige in the backcourt. Virginia meanwhile will have to hope that Marial Shayock develops enough to replicate some of Anderson's production at wing and Evan Nolte rediscovers the jump shot that abandoned him last season and emerges as a capable perimeter threat off the bench.   

A commitment from a borderline top 100 recruit isn't typically cause for wild celebration at North Carolina, but forgive the Tar Heels for feeling good about this one. The threat of potential looming sanctions from the school's academic fraud scandal has made North Carolina an easy target for negative recruiting and has prevented Roy Williams from landing the elite prospects he pursued for this class.

Nonetheless, North Carolina remains loaded for next season, and the addition of Williams only adds to that. He provides the outside shooting the Tar Heels need and prevents a rival from addressing a weakness.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 3, 2015, 2:38 pm

One of the schools on Jaylen Brown's list has been to the Final Four four of the past five seasons. Another played for the national championship two years ago. A third has captured the title twice in the past decade and could start next season atop the polls. 

Brown didn't select any of them late Friday night. To the surprise of fans from Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina, the nation's best small forward prospect chose California instead.

The stunning commitment from Brown was a fitting way to end a high-drama recruitment that kept even the coaching staffs involved guessing until the very end. At different points over the past year, UCLA, Kentucky and Michigan were perceived as the favorites to land Rivals.com's No. 3 overall prospect. None of them got him in the end.    

Cal wasn't even perceived as a threat to land Brown until six weeks ago when he unexpectedly visted the Bears unofficially. Brown's relationship with head coach Cuonzo Martin and assistant Tracy Webster was undoubtedly a selling point, as was the fact the Bears could be every bit as good next season as all of the other marquee programs recruiting him.

Next season already had the chance to be Cal's most anticipated since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray when elite big man Ivan Rabb chose the Bears over Kentucky and Arizona and point guard Tyrone Wallace opted to return to school after flirting with declaring for the draft. Add Brown to that mix, and the Bears have a realistic chance to go from missing the NCAA tournament in Cuonzo Martin's debut season to cracking the preseason top 10 entering his second year.

Cal is loaded on the perimeter and light on frontcourt depth behind Rabb, so there's a good chance the 6-foot-7 Brown will see substantial playing time at power forward in a similar role to what Justise Winslow filled at Duke late last season. He has the size and muscle to defend opposing power forwards at one end and the quickness and strength to attack them off the dribble at the other.

The mismatches that would create make that potentially Brown's best position in college even if he projects as a small forward in the NBA. It would also allow Wallace, former McDonald's All-American wing Jabari Bird and high-scoring guard Jordan Mathews to join Brown in the starting lineup, ensuring Cal has its five best players on the floor at the start and end of games. 

That quintet is among the most talented starting fives in the nation. With Arizona replacing four starters and Utah trying to overcome the loss of do-it-all star Delon Wright, Cal should be considered no worse than the co-favorites to win the Pac-12 next season. 

Brown's decision to choose Cal was also noteworthy because it marked the fifth time this spring that an elite recruit has passed on an offer from Kentucky. The Wildcats have also lost out on coveted five-star prospects Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Cheick Diallo (Kansas) and Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), forcing them to scramble to fill out their roster with some second-tier options.

In this case, John Calipari's loss is Martin's gain. In a Cal-versus-Cal recruiting battle, Brown apparently preferred the school to the coach. 

Rivals.com video of Jaylen Brown:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 2, 2015, 3:06 pm

The top unsigned prospect in the class of 2015 has narrowed his list of prospective schools to four.

Six-foot-7 forward Jaylen Brown, Rivals.com's No. 3 prospect, eliminated Kansas on Thursday, leaving only Cal, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina in contention.

Wherever Brown chooses, his decision will have a profound impact both on that school's prospects next season and on the national landscape. Here's a look at how Brown fits in at each of his four remaining schools and which one needs the Georgia native most:

CALIFORNIA

If Cuonzo Martin were to add Jaylen Brown to a recruiting class that already includes elite big man Ivan Rabb, then next season might be Cal's most anticipated since the days of Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray. The Bears conservatively would crack the top 15 in preseason polls thanks to the return of perimeter standouts Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews and the arrival of Rabb, Brown and slashing wing Tyson Jolly.

Cal's connection to Brown is the friendship between him and Rabb and the relationship Martin and his staff have established during the past year. Is that enough for the Bears to win a head-to-head recruiting battle with some of the nation's elite programs? It's a long shot, but don't count Martin and his staff out because they've made it farther than anyone would have guessed already.

Cal is loaded on the perimeter and light in the frontcourt, so there's a good chance Brown would see substantial playing time at power forward in a similar role to what Justise Winslow filled at Duke late last season. The mismatches that would create make that potentially his best position in college even if he projects as a small forward in the NBA. 

KENTUCKY

Whereas Kentucky has won most of the recruiting battles it has entered the past few years, the Wildcats have endured some body blows this spring. They've lost out on coveted five-star prospects Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Cheick Diallo (Kansas) and Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), forcing them to scramble to fill out their roster with some second-tier options. 

Brown represents maybe Kentucky's final chance to add another elite recruit to their 2015 class, though Thon Maker remains a possibility too if he opts to play college basketball next season and is able to gain eligibility. Brown would likely play mostly small forward at Kentucky, adding size and strength to a perimeter corps that includes undersized point guard Tyler Ulis and 6-foot-3 combo guard Isaiah Briscoe. 

Add Brown to a roster that includes elite incoming freshmen Skal Labissiere and Briscoe and returners Ulis, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee, and the Wildcats are a lock for the preseason top five and a contender for the No. 1 slot. Subtract Brown from that roster, and while nobody is crying for poor talent-starved Kentucky, the Wildcats would enter the new season with more questions than usual. 

MICHIGAN

One of the Big Ten's best collection of wings might evolve into the nation's best if Brown were to join the Wolverines. He'd be part of a group that includes projected 2016 first-round pick Caris LeVert, high-scoring Zak Irvin, rapidly blossoming Aubrey Dawkins and intriguing transfer Duncan Robinson.

Like at Cal, Brown would probably spend a lot of time as an undersized power forward were he to commit to Michigan. It's a position that would help mask Michigan's weakness in the frontcourt, get the Wolverines' best players onto the floor together and allow Brown to exploit mismatches.

It's difficult to get any semblance of a read on Brown's recruitment, but the consensus is the Wolverines are a very strong contender. They benefit from Brown having a lot of family in Michigan, from being the only Adidas-affiliated school he's still considering and from potentially jumping into the preseason top 10 if they were able to land him.

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina is already a strong candidate to be preseason No. 1 thanks to the return of all but one key player from last year's 26-win Sweet 16 team. Add Jaylen Brown to a roster that already includes All-ACC guard Marcus Paige, potential breakout star Justin Jackson and standout big men Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, and it would only cement the Tar Heels as the preseason favorite.

Though North Carolina is the closest remaining school to Brown's Georgia home, it doesn't appear proximity is a big factor considering he already lopped Georgia and Georgia Tech from the schools he is considering. The Tar Heels also would have to overcome the possibility that NCAA sanctions from their academic fraud scandal could jeopardize their ability to compete in the postseason next year, which has made them vulnerable to negative recruiting.

If Brown were to look past that the way fellow top 10 recruit Brandon Ingram could not, he'd fill the starting spot vacated by J.P. Tokoto's surprise decision to turn pro. Brown would likely play either wing spot for the Tar Heels and would add perimeter scoring and a defensive presence.

Rivals.com video of Jaylen Brown:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 1, 2015, 3:35 pm

As Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley begins his search to find a replacement for Billy Donovan, this is the challenge he faces.

He must identify someone capable of proving that the school's recent emergence as a basketball juggernaut is a product of the caliber of its program and not merely the caliber of its former coach.

Though Florida made a surprise Sweet 16 appearance in 1987 under Norm Sloan and an unexpected Final Four run in 1994 under Lon Kruger, the Gators were hardly a perennial national power before Donovan. They had only made the NCAA tournament five times in program history until Donovan arrived 19 years ago and willed Florida to two national titles, four Final Fours and seven Elite Eight appearances.

What will aid Foley in his search is that he's pitching a top 20 college basketball job that should be attractive to plenty of potential candidates.

Florida has a big-budget athletic department that can afford to spare no expense on facilities, recruiting or salaries for assistant coaches. The school is also located in a state that is rich with talent, meaning the next coach can afford to build the program with mostly in-state prospects while venturing to Atlanta or elsewhere to win an occasional national recruiting battle.

The fact that Florida remains a football school despite Donovan's success is something most coaches will see as an advantage too. There will always be more pressure to win on the Gators football coach than his basketball counterpart even if Donovan has raised the bar to the point where merely making the NCAA tournament every year is no longer the benchmark for success.

Foley's history in coaching searches suggests he'll target an up-and-coming head coach from a program outside the power conferences. That's what he did when he plucked Donovan from Marshall in 1996, Urban Meyer from Utah in 2005 and current football coach Jim McElwain from Colorado State this year.

If Foley opts to go that route again, his first phone call should be to Archie Miller. 

The 36-year-old Dayton coach would be a home run hire because he possesses the pedigree, demeanor and skill as a recruiter and tactician to enjoy success at a name-brand program. He led the Flyers to the Elite Eight in 2014 and arguably did an even better job this past season when they won 27 games and reached the round of 32 despite only having six healthy scholarship players and none taller than 6-foot-6.

Miller could opt to stay at Dayton and wait for an even better power-conference job to open the next few years, so Foley either needs to make him a lucrative offer he can't refuse or identify some backup plans.

Two pie-in-the-sky options are Gregg Marshall and Bruce Pearl, but the Wichita State coach probably isn't leaving after signing an extension worth more than $3 million a year and the Auburn coach is only entering his second year with the Tigers and probably isn't ready to leave. The more realistic alternatives to Miller are guys like Xavier's Chris Mack, Minnesota's Richard Pitino, Murray State's Steve Prohm and Louisiana Tech's Michael White.

Of that group, Mack is probably the most accomplished and most attractive candidate. Pitino has coached under Donovan in the past and would certainly receive Donovan's endorsement, but his two years with the Gophers haven't proven he's ready for the Florida job. Prohm and White have enjoyed  success in smaller conferences, but it's a huge leap from where they are to one of the SEC's flagship programs.

Should Foley opt to go with an assistant, he could hire Anthony Grant or John Pelphrey from Donovan's staff, though both of their middling track records as head coaches could make that an unpopular decision with the Florida fan base. Foley could also try to lure Jeff Capel from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's staff if he's undeterred by the former Oklahoma coach's checkered history of NCAA violations.  

Whoever the new coach is won't step into an easy situation.

Donovan went an uncharacteristic 16-17 in his final season at Florida and leaves behind a roster riddled with question marks. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith and point guard Kasey Hill are the only two of the Gators' five leading scorers expected back next season, though a recruiting class featuring four Rivals 150 prospects should offer a boost.

Ultimately, this coaching search should offer a litmus test for what caliber of program Florida is and what caliber of program it wants to be.

A few years ago, Arizona appeared to be in jeopardy of slipping from among the nation's elite after Lute Olson's retirement until it hired Sean Miller and quickly reemerged as the West's premier program. Florida needs to find its Miller, a coach who can maintain what Donovan built and show Florida's recent success is sustainable. 

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: April 30, 2015, 7:27 pm

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