University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin Basketball

The hammer has been dropped on the 2014 Horizon League champion; the NCAA has banned the men’s basketball team from postseason play next year due to academic issues:

The school announced Wednesday that it has been informed by the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance that it was denied its final appeal of a postseason ban for 2014-’15 because of cumulative Academic Performance Rate (APR) scores.

That means the Panthers won’t be allowed to compete in the Horizon League Tournament, which they unexpectedly won in March, or the NCAA Tournament, which they reached for the first time since 2006.

It’s unfortunate when this happens and it occurs all too often following a big year for a program. However, it must be noted that NCAA academic scoring is not strictly based on grades. There is a formula which also accounts or factors in players who leave before the end of the season, but is dependent on how long they were with the program. Just like everything the NCAA does, it’s possible for schools to do everything by the book and still run afoul of the rules, sometimes after the fact.

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Adam Silver NBA basketball

One thing is for certain; the debate over whether college athletes at high-revenue college programs should be paid is not going away. This, despite the NCAA’s best efforts to frame the conversation with rhetoric about ‘student-athletes’, a term they coined decades ago to justify not paying the players in their employ.

Now the NBA has decides to wade into the fray a bit more, with newly minted commissioner Adam Silver mulling over what they might be able to do for those athletes:

“Rather than focusing on a salary and thinking of them as employees, I would go to their basic necessities,” Silver said. “I think if [Connecticut Huskies guard] Shabazz Napier is saying he is going hungry, my God, it seems hard to believe, but there should be ample food for the players.”

To be clear, the NBA isn’t talking about outright payment of salaries to players but rather a subsidization of any gaps in college attendance. On one hand, it’s good the NBA is paying attention…while on the other, it’s hard to see these comments and wonder why the NBA owners were claiming massive losses during the recent labor agreements if they can offer possible subsidies for thousands of college players. The truth has to lie somewhere in the middle; either the NBA is talking about a limited program, or it’s just more rhetoric designed to give lip service to the issue.

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Tacko Fall basketball

They say you can’t teach height, so players who are over 7′ tall already come with basketball skills most of us will never have. At 7’5″, Tacko Fall, a 2015 Center playing at Lutheran South Academy in Texas, comes in as the current tallest high school basketball player. With interest from Baylor, Texas Southern and Houston, he’s no doubt got a lot of colleges interested in any player who can touch the rim without leaving the floor.

Naturally, just being tall isn’t enough to make you a superstar, but it’s a really good starting point. As a general rule, big men develop their game later than other positions, so it’s often difficult to tell how good a player will be at Tacko’s size.

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Joel Embiid Kansas basketball NBA draft

In a move that most expected after his solid year, Kansas’ Joel Embiid has declared for the NBA draft. At his news conference on Wednesday, Embiid shared his reasons for turning pro: “Looking at different scenarios and gathering info of what was best for me … either way was best for me. Talking to my mentor, it was best the choice.”

There was quite a bit of speculation leading up to this announcement that Embiid might have had a change of heart after it seemed a near certainty that he would make this move earlier in the season. Embiid suffered nagging injuries this season but still managed to average almost a double-double as a freshman. Many consider Embiid the number one pro prospect in this year’s draft with this announcement.

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Derrick Gordon UMass Gay

Derrick Gordon, a significant contributor to the UMass basketball program this past season, has announced to his team – and the rest of the world – that he is openly gay:

A minute later, the sophomore shooting guard stood and walked into the room, accompanied by University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg. Gordon faced his teammates, a group of guys he liked but had always kept at arm’s length.

That was about to change.

Kellogg spoke first. “We’re all here together, and we need to love each other for who we are,” he said. “One of your family members, your brother, wants to let you know something about himself.”

There was a pause. And then Kellogg, sensing that Gordon needed help, tried breaking the ice. “I wanted to let you all know I’m gay,” the coach said. His players all looked at him, stunned. What?

Gordon took his cue and spoke up.

“No, he’s not. But I am.”

ESPN reported this story and caught up with Gordon a few days after he told his family and teammates.

Shabazz Napier Championship NCAA

The NCAA has reached a deal with the NCAA to extend their current sponsorship through 2020. The deal involves both Turner and CBS Sports.

Under the agreement, which was signed on the eve of Connecticut’s 60-54 victory over Kentucky in the NCAA’s National Championship basketball game, Northwestern Mutual retains the marketing and promotional rights in the life insurance, wealth management and retirement planning services categories and will have exclusivity in the mutual fund category from 2015.

When an agreement like this is reached, it allows the sponsor to use official logos, names, teams, and similar items. Northwestern began the relationship with the NCAA in 2012.

It’s ironic that this deal was put together on the same day that UConn guard Shabazz Napier made waves nationally with comments about the disparity between the profits that the NCAA rakes in and the lack of pay for players. Napier, always outspoken, may have unintentionally created more revenue for the NCAA by increasing ratings for future deals.

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Shaquille Cleare Maryland

The offseason in college basketball should be re-dubbed ‘Transfer Season’. It’s become an annual event where waves of players decide to switch schools, something that used to rarely occur and is almost certainly a symptom of two major factors: AAU and the NLI that players have to sign once they commit. The latest players to announce their intentions to transfer sent shockwaves into the Maryland Terrapins, with freshman Roddy Peters, sophomore Shaquille Clear and junior Nick Faust announcing that they had requested and been released from UM:

Peters, a 6-foot-3 guard from District Heights who averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 assists while playing 15.1 minutes per game, departs after one uneven season at Maryland. Playing an unexpectedly large role with sophomore Seth Allen sidelined by injury for the first 12 games, he started often and averaged more than 20 minutes per game. But he struggled in the second half, playing more than 15 minutes once and making eight of 33 shots during the final 15 games.

Head coach Mark Turgeon has confirmed the transfers.

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TJ Warren NC State NBA draft

By Marcus Shockley

Well, it’s official. T.J. Warren has declared for the NBA draft:

North Carolina State University sophomore forward T.J. Warren announced Tuesday that he will forgo his remaining college eligibility and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

Warren, the ACC Player of the Year in 2013-14, averaged 24.9 points per game and shot 52.5 percent for the Wolfpack. He set school records for points in a single season (871) and games with 20 or more points in a season (31).

I remember watching T.J. as a high school junior and thinking that teams were sleeping on him and that his scoring ability reminded me a lot of Paul Pierce. By the time TJ was a senior, he’d gathered offers from several major schools, and decided on NC State. Just a few days before he announced his decision, he talked to me in this video interview about his current thinking.

T.J. will be a solid pro player. Scouts and coaches have been doubting his ability since he was in high school, but his ability to score has been proven repeatedly. The one nagging thing that he’ll have to work on at this point is his foul trouble. But that will come, in time.

Best of luck to T.J. at the pro level.

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John Calipari to the Lakers?

John Calipari Lakers

Rex Chapman has never been a quiet guy. When he played, he was a flambouyant dunkaholic both as a Kentucky Wildcat and in the NBA. He hasn’t shied away from controversy in retirement, and just before tip-off in the NCAA national title game, he lit a fuse:

So reaction from the Big Blue Nation has been mixed, if not meteoric…some giving Rex a big ‘ho hum’ reaction, while others accepting his declaration as pure fact. One thing is for sure, Chapman has laid out a scenario where he will either be considered completely credible if Calipari does jump to L.A. and be considered a flake if it doesn’t happen.

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Shabazz Napier Going Hungry?

Shabazz Napier basketball hungry

The Twitter universe erupted in last minute controversy just before the NCAA national title game, and one of the more incendiary stories came from guard Shabazz Napier, who was quoted as saying “There are hungry nights that I go to bed…starving…I’m not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities”.

This of course created a reaction but Napier’s comments were taken a bit out of context from the original story.

“We as student athletes get utilized for what we do so well. We are definitely blessed to get a scholarship to our universities, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t cover everything. We do have hungry nights that we don’t have enough money to get food and sometimes money is needed,” the senior told reporters. “I think, you know, Northwestern has an idea, and we’ll see where it goes.”

So Napier’s comments were more along the lines that as a basketball player at a high revenue program, he and other players feel as though their talents are making some people rich while they get none of the money. This is an ongoing debate, and many UConn students jumped on Reddit to comment about the sensationalist headline, such as whether it’s actually true that college athletes at Connecticut are going hungry. Some students state that due to the athletes’ schedule, there isn’t anywhere for them to get the food from their meal plans. Other students claim that the athletes should be able to get as much food as they want, but they have better student housing located farther from where the food is available. You can read the whole debate here.

This comes on the back of comments by NCAA president Mark Emmert, who claimed that ‘converting’ student-athletes to unionized employees was something that nobody wanted (In reality, they are already employees, using the word ‘convert’ does not change the law. But that’s for another time).

However, Emmert and the NCAA can’t be happy that Napier was able to use the platform of the national title game to draw even more attention and sympathy to the issue surrounding paying the athletes that bring in billions of dollars to their coffers.

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