Lance Thomas Case Ends With A Whimper – Don’t Act Surprised

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 1st, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Recent high-profile enforcement foibles have done nothing to enhance the NCAA’s reputation as an objective arbiter of student-athlete compliance. From the perceived power trip smack down leveled at Penn State in the wake of last year’s Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal to the organization’s admitted screw-up in the Nevin Shapiro case and president Mark Emmert’s long-winded obfuscating filibuster at his annual Final Four news conference – the NCAA ‘s reputation has been tossed through the public relations grinder more often than ever in the past year or so. Anything short of a leadership change or, more likely, a complete overhaul of the amateurism-based economic model, the ethical verbal take downs will pile on each and every time the slightest bit of controversy creeps up.

An uneventful closed-door  on the Lance Thomas case promises even more NCAA scrutiny (US Presswire).

An uneventful closed-door on the Lance Thomas case promises even more NCAA scrutiny (US Presswire).

Tuesday’s news offered another critical entry point. If fans and media were already skeptical of the NCAA’s enforcement imperatives, the sneaking suspicions that certain distinguished programs are given more leeway in how their violations are monitored, the completely inconclusive resolution of former Duke forward Lance Thomas’ jewelry case adds more kerosene to the proverbial skepticism hype machine.

At the start, everything appeared to be lining up for a textbook impermissible benefits  smack down. Thomas, a forward on Duke’s 2010 national championship team, reportedly made a $30,000 down payment in December 2009 during a non-conference road trip at glitzy New York Jeweler Rafaello & Co., and was simultaneously extended a $70,000 line of credit to pay off the rest of his almost $100,000 bling spree. There were questions to be asked – where, exactly, does a college senior get 30 grand of spending money? Did Thomas use his influence as a Duke basketball player to secure financial assistance? How on earth did a reputable New York jeweler agree to spot the better part of ¾ of Thomas’ nearly six-figure swag money-drop with no obvious recourse to get to the bottom of them/ Those questions were answered Tuesday, and that answer, via a statement released by university officials to The News & Observer, was a big collective sigh of Blue Devils relief: no sanctions, no recruiting wrist slaps, no anything. Guilt-free.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 05.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the problems with the NCAA is its stark lack of investigative power. Sometimes what is obvious to everyone cannot be properly investigated and proven because the organization is a private entity, and as such, does not possess subpoena power. In short, they can’t make people do much of anything that would help punish wrongdoers. They pretty much have to depend on folks stepping forward of their own volition or some kind of whistleblower situation where they are provided clear evidence of illicit activity. Enter Duke and Lance Thomas. Even though it is abundantly clear that Thomas received a loan for jewelry where it was unclear how he could pay for it while still enrolled at Duke, the NCAA was unable to get anybody — Thomas, the jeweler, his dog — to talk about the situation. No proof equals no violation, and if you follow it out to its logical conclusion, that means no negative consequences for Duke — especially for the 2010 national championship team (of which Thomas was a starter). Is it fair that such a clear NCAA violation is unprovable? At what point is it acceptable to apply a standard of strict liability where the preponderance of the evidence is greater than what can be proven? These are the kinds of questions that the NCAA really needs to clarify if it ever wants to be taken seriously by the media and public at large when it comes to these situations. Until then, people will continue to assume an agenda-driven basis for how it metes out punishment, and that’s never a good thing.
  2. The NBA Draft deadline was Sunday night and we here at RTC found time to release our post-deadline Top 25 yesterday. We weren’t the only ones. SI.com‘s Luke Winn came up with his post-deadline Power Rankings, and go figure, but our top four is exactly the same as his. Of course, the big difference is that you’ll learn more about TJ McConnell, Shabazz Napier, and Luke Hancock than you ever knew was possible. As we start to hit the long, dry desert of college basketball news from now until October, make sure you read this one as one of your jumping-off points into the summer.
  3. While on the subject of next season, ESPN.com‘s Fran Fraschilla gives us his take on what some of the more prominent returnees can improve their overall effectiveness next season. From probable preseaseon NPOY Doug McDermott to All-America candidates Jahii Carson, Glenn Robinson III, and Gary Harris, the ex-coach evaluates what these players need to do to maximize their collegiate careers. If you said that Carson needs to figure out his left hand, Robinson should understand screens better, and Harris needs to work on ball control, then you’re well on your way to working for the WWL someday.
  4. The last time a prominent player headed south from Rutgers to Florida, it worked out pretty well for the Gators. Mike Rosario headed to Gainesville two summers ago, and in the interim, he learned the difference between scoring and shooting, found that the game works a little better when he passes the ball on occasion, and became a much more effective and efficient all-around player in fewer minutes per game. Can lightning strike twice from New Jersey to Gainesville? Rutgers’ Eli Carter announced on Tuesday that he too was transferring to Florida, and the current Scarlet Knights gunner (14.9 PPG on 31.0% usage) is hoping to find the same uptick in his game after the transfer. Carter will face a similar backlog in backcourt talent but Billy Donovan has shown that he’s more than willing to give players like him a chance to succeed.
  5. And then there’s this from Lexingtonia. Ships passing, man; ships passing. Next year is going to be some kind of awesome.
Hmmm...

Hmmm…

Share this story

From Punching Bag to Prize Fighter: Mason Plumlee’s Journey to the NBA

Posted by mpatton on April 24th, 2013

When he arrived at Duke, Mason Plumlee – despite his obvious upside — was actually ranked below teammate Ryan Kelly, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Kelly was ranked #14 in the class, while Plumlee was #18. Even more fascinating to look back at are Plumlee’s Draft Express archives. Coming out of his first season at Duke, the scouting service looked for Plumlee to continue to develop as a stretch four! To be fair, he did hit 21 threes in 38 games in his prep senior season (unfortunately his shooting percentage is unavailable), but Plumlee’s transformation from a flat-shooting, athletic, potential-stretch four to one of the premier post players in college basketball is a compelling story.

Miles Plumlee (AP Photo)

Mason Plumlee underwent a compelling transformation at Duke (AP Photo).

During his freshman year Plumlee was buried behind Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and older brother Miles Plumlee. He still contributed significant minutes to the 2010 national championship team, but he was raw in the purest sense of the word. His sophomore efficiency profile, with two glaring exceptions, actually started looking a lot like the NPOY candidate we saw this year. The two massive improvements Plumlee made since that season were in terms of volume and taking care of the basketball. But obviously, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Mason Plumlee was a very different player as a senior than he was as a sophomore.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

New NCAA Penalty Enforcement: Any Impact on ACC Programs?

Posted by mpatton on October 30th, 2012

It’s no secret the ACC has more than a few outstanding NCAA issues right now:

  • There’s Miami and renegade booster Nevin Shapiro who allegedly ran wild, taking recruits to strip clubs, throwing private parties on his yacht and generally supplying impermissible benefits wherever possible.
  • There’s North Carolina and its academic fraud situation that grows by the week, as the Raleigh News & Observer and Dan Kane weed through the evidence alongside an internal audit (that should soon release its findings to the public).
  • And there’s Duke’s Lance Thomas and his $100,000 jewelry purchase during the team’s national championship season in 2010.

Nevin Shapiro’s Alleged Violations At Miami Are Still Unresolved (credit: David Adame / AP)

This isn’t to say all three ACC cases will be affected by the new guidelines the NCAA hopes will deter cheating by holding head coaches more accountable. Essentially the NCAA got tired of head coaches skating by on violations while letting their assistant coaches fall on the sword. Now head coaches will be presumed guilty until they provide tangible evidence that they made every attempt to run their program within NCAA rules. A skeptic would say that this just means head coaches will create a second email account, using the first to promote NCAA compliance and the second to monitor the seedy happenings in recruiting. The true cynic probably thinks this is already the case.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Court of Public Opinion Has Reached A Consensus On Nerlens Noel and Lance Thomas

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 2nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

In today’s college hoops landscape, where impermissible benefits scandals are widespread and recruiting at elite programs is synonymous with agents, boosters and other money-wielding nefarious third parties, first impressions are the only ones that matter. The smallest hint of violation or prohibited activity spawns a massive rush to judgment, and a public consensus is reached before the alleged ever has a chance to prove their innocence. There’s a confirmation bias at work here, one borne of the outwardly seedy atmosphere hovering over the sport of late. Players are deemed outlaws, whether fairly or otherwise, before administrative procedures run their course. It’s not at all fair, or just, but until the NCAA or some other higher power steps in to clean up recruiting tactics and minimize the influence of illicit financial intermediaries – or at least imposes stricter policies that work towards those ends – suspicion and rapidly-conceived conclusions will remain the norm. It’s gotten to the point where procedural due process has lost credibility: The culture surrounding college basketball, not the actual terms of violation (or lack thereof), or the players themselves, has produced a general skepticism and mistrust about the behind-the-scenes work that keeps elite programs afloat.

The assumption of guilt exists with Noel and his recruitment, an opinion fueled by college hoops’ overhanging stigma of scandal and violations (Photo credit: US Presswire).

This nearsighted logic is applied without restraint to the recruitment of one-and-done high school players. Kentucky’s John Calipari, clean recruiting track record aside, has assumed an air of suspicion in regards to his prospect-hunting tactics. Whether it’s the annual success he’s established and sustained on the recruiting trail – it’s almost a surprise when Calipari doesn’t reel in the top class in the country – or the overwhelming hatred of the NBA age limit, the one-and-done system and the way Calipari has maneuvered it to perfection, or a simple jealous aversion to the regional and national dominance of Kentucky during his tenure, Calipari’s recruiting exploits (and the fruits thereof) are received with trepidation. It’s not just fans. The perception exists among an overwhelming majority of college coaches, too. Calipari’s latest recruiting gem, 2012 big man Nerlens Noel, provided some perspective over the weekend on the pervasive angst opposing coaches harbor against the Kentucky coach’s top prospects. Sports Illustrated got some insight from Noel, along with a handful of other elite recruits (such as 2013 forward Julius Randle and Kansas commit Brannen Greene), about the oft-discussed topic of negative recruiting, whereby coaches bad-mouth competing programs in an attempt to dissuade their target from attending those programs. It’s foul, indecent and a clear low-blow. But it’s out there. And coaches, particularly desperate ones, use the gambit to strengthen their case while blasting their competitors. But for Noel, the ruse backfired. When one anonymous coach implied Noel’s recruiting process was financially-intertwined, the Tilton (NH) product was downright insulted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 10.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2012

  1. Monday was Media Day around the NBA, and why would anyone here give a whit about what professional basketball players have to say? One clear reason is that former Duke forward Lance Thomas is a second-year member of the New Orleans Hornets, and his recent agreement with a New York City jeweler involving a $67,800 loan while he was a senior was bound to come up. First, despite a confidentiality agreement in place, Thomas said he didn’t believe he was involved in an NCAA violation regarding the transaction; he then added, “There’s more to it, but I’m not going to comment on it right now. Everything will unfold once everything is taken care of the right way.” He went on to say that he would eventually speak to both Duke and the NCAA about the incident, but kept referring to doing things “the right way.” What is Thomas talking about here? The settlement is already in place, and we’ve been told that it includes a confidentiality agreement. What does he anticipate will change that would allow him to comment on this matter, and why would he expose himself or his beloved alma mater by talking anyway? Thomas’ comments here make very little sense, but then again, very little about this entire incident does.
  2. DePaul basketball has to go back a long way to find its glory days, as the program in the last two decades has largely been an unmitigated disaster (one NCAA win since 1990). Still, with a deep and rich local prep talent pool and no real collegiate rival within the Chicago metropolitan area (Northwestern, of course, has zero NCAA wins to match its number of historical appearances), the school continues to believe that better days are ahead. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday what many supporters of the program have been thinking for years — one of the school’s biggest negatives is that its home court is located in suburban Rosemont, some 15 traffic-clogged miles from DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus on the north side. A new arena near campus or even regular games at the United Center near downtown might help Chicagoans start to feel like DePaul is their college basketball team. With this idea, we’re totally in favor — to really develop great fan and student support, most campus gyms should be right on campus or as near to it as possible.
  3. It appears that either dad or kids have won out in the continuing saga over the biggest package deal in college basketball since the goofy Lopez twins showed up at Stanford in the fall of 2006. After months of hemming and hawing about their announcement date (most recently: late October) and various reports suggesting that the players and father were at odds of their preference of school, it appears that someone in the (Andrew and Aaron) Harrison family has made a final decision. The top-rated point guard and shooting guard will without question infuse a backcourt with talent in much the same way that UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson are expected to do this year. Whether their choice will be Kentucky or Maryland is still anybody’s guess, but ESPNU will televise their decision on Thursday afternoon at 5 PM on its “Recruiting Nation” show.
  4. Just yesterday we mentioned that Louisville’s Mike Marra had torn his ACL for the second time in under a year, ending his senior season before it got started, and effectively, his college basketball career. That disappointing news was followed up by the report that Utah center David Foster had broken his right foot, also for the second time in under a year, ending his season before it got started, and effectively, his college basketball career. Ugh. Like Marra, Foster was of limited usefulness offensively, but the 7’3″ big man averaged 3.5 blocks per game in his three-year career, ultimately rejecting 219 total shots and leaving the program as its all-time blocked shots leader. His return from injury for Larry Krystkowiak’s 2012-13 squad was anticipated to provide some defensive help for a team that gave up a putrid 51.3% on shots within the arc last season; Foster’s loss now leaves that up to the more offensively-oriented Jason Washburn (11/6/1.4 BPG).
  5. The more we read about Kevin Ollie‘s tryout season as the head coach of Connecticut with his former coach, mentor and legend Jim Calhoun poking around the program he built, the more we believe that the interim coach may not get a fair shot there. According to this AP report about Ollie and Calhoun’s adjustment period, Calhoun seems to be having a little too much fun staying involved. What happens when the inevitable losing streak happens and reporters start asking for the venerable ex-coach’s opinions? At what point do the envelopes full of sand turn into stocking full of coal? It’s just a weird position for Ollie to suffer, and this is especially true because Calhoun knows he will need considerable help.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2012

  1. Andy Katz reported on Friday that the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball program is currently under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations of an as-yet unknown variety. Few additional details were forthcoming over the weekend, but what little smoke that there appears to exist is surrounding former assistant coach David Patrick (currently an assistant at LSU), an Australian who was instrumental in recruiting former star guard Patty Mills to the campus. The tiny school that is coached by Randy Bennett has become one of the pre-eminent mid-major programs in America in large part due to its Australian talent pipeline — defending WCC POY and Olympian Matthew Dellavedova is only the latest and greatest Gael product of Oz — it makes you wonder if the attraction to Moraga, California, involved incentives beyond a beautiful campus surrounded by verdant hills. We’ll have more on this topic later this morning.
  2. Now that the Billy Gillispie era has officially ended at Texas Tech, the university is left picking up the pieces of its reputation and trying to figure out what to do next. It’s not like there’s a lot of tradition or much fan support for the basketball program anyway, but the danger of making a poor decision now is that it could realistically embed the program at the bottom of the Big 12 for the next half-decade. Nevertheless, the school hopes to name an interim head coach for the upcoming season within the next two weeks, and assistant head coach Chris Walker by virtue of his association with Gillispie’s antics may not be the choice for the permanent job. Andy Katz suggested three viable candidates last week — Rob Evans, Doc Sadler, and Reggie Theus — all of whom have significant and successful head coaching experience along with ties to the region that would help the program transition to a new, and hopefully, better era.
  3. Oregon received great news over the weekend as Dana Altman’s program reportedly has received a transfer commitment from former Rice star Arsalan Kazemi, a double-double machine who will apply for a hardship waiver to play immediately. Kazemi is notable as the first Iranian to play Division I NCAA basketball, but the “Beast of the Middle East” is certainly more than a demographic footnote — the 6’7″, 220-pounder consistently pounds the glass as one of the best defensive rebounders in America, and his free throw rate is annually one of the best in the nation. We’re not sure the basis for Kazemi’s waiver request to play this season, but if approved, an all-senior front line of Tony Woods, EJ Singler, and Kazemi would be one of the best in the Pac-12, if not the nation.
  4. It’s not very often that you’ll read a piece from a national columnist encouraging his readers to rise up as one and not let an issue drop out of the collective consciousness. And yet, that’s exactly what CBSSports.com‘s Gregg Doyel does when he outlines what he calls the “hypocrisy of the NCAA” in predicting that absolutely nothing will happen to Duke as a result of the Lance Thomas jewelry loan situation. Doyel is a flashpoint writer — pretty much every major fan base thinks he has a specific beef with them, when in reality being critical is his style — but he has the status to make something his crusade if he chooses to do so. We’re guessing that many of the enemies he’s made over the years would turn on a dime and become his biggest fans if he actually was capable of nailing the Blue Devil program on this one.
  5. We’re willing to root for Northwestern to finally make the NCAA Tournament as much as the next guy, but the storyline gets a little tiresome when every piece of news surrounding the program is viewed through that particular prism. Still, the weekend news that junior guard JerShon Cobb has been suspended for the entire 2012-13 season because of a violation of team policy has to be disconcerting to Wildcat fans. Cobb has been a part-time starter who offers solid offensive production (career 7.3 PPG) in around 20 minutes per contest; his removal from the lineup changes the complexion of a team already anticipating the replacement of the offense of its former star, John Shurna. In a loaded Big Ten conference where a .500 record is a reasonable goal, Bill Carmody will need to find additional offense from unexpected places if his team is to have any shot at getting the NCAA albatross off its back.
Share this story

Lance Thomas Reaches a Settlement Deal: Is the NCAA Rendered Powerless In Its Investigation?

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 19th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The chances that former Duke forward Lance Thomas did not commit some kind of NCAA violation when he purchased $98,700 worth of jewelry on a December road trip to New York City during his senior season are, shall we say, doubtful. Thomas, a starting role player on the Blue Devils’ eventual National Championship-winning team in 2009-10, walked into world-renowned jeweler Rafaello & Co., dropped a $30,000 down payment on a host of diamonds and other trinkets, then promised to pay the remaining $67,800 within the next 15 days. His spending spree – the specifics of which were released last week when word leaked of the firm’s lawsuit against Thomas – raised many eyebrows. It is not every day that student-athletes – from the most well-off to those struggling to stay afloat on hefty financial aid packages/scholarships – walk into celebrity-hotspot jewelers and splash nearly $100,000 on buckets of iced-out swag; not without drawing the analytical glare of NCAA staffers, not without an explanation as to how or where the money came from, nor whether any third parties were involved in the transaction. Given the bare facts, it was hard not to come away thinking Rafaello & Co would entrust someone like Thomas with such for any other reason than an assumed stipulation of future NBA riches and the subsequent jewelry spending they prefigure. Thomas never made good on his promise, and so Rafaello & Co., after waiting more than two years for him to repay the loan, demanded he break even on his credit. On Tuesday, the Raleigh News and Observer reported that the two parties had reached a settlement on the matter.

If neither Thomas nor Rafaello & Co. come clean with specifics, the NCAA may be impotent in pursuing the case (Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images).

Now that Thomas’ outstanding debt has been settled, there are legitimate concerns that NCAA investigators will have no grounds on which to pursue information regarding the former Duke player’s involvement in this transaction. The NCAA cannot compel members outside its jurisdiction to cooperate, meaning neither Thomas nor Rafaello & Co. can be forced to speak with the organization about his purchase. There’s one caveat. A conversation between ESPN.com’s Andy Katz and Indianapolis attorney Stu Brown, a legal specialist focusing on NCAA cases, shed some light on the NCAA’s procedural wherewithal.  The terms of the settlement – which may or may not ever become public – may permit Thomas or Rafaello & Co. to speak with NCAA investigators, but if the legal ramifications mandate either or both to keep quiet on the specifics of their transaction, the NCAA will likely have no substantial recourse to find clarity in what on its face appears to be a blatant violation of amateurism. From Katz’s story:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.19.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 19th, 2012

  1. Is former Duke forward Lance Thomas destined to become the next Corey Maggette, or worse? For those of you not familiar with the one-and-done freak of an athlete who came off the bench for the 1998-99 national runner-up Blue Devils, Maggette admitted under oath in 2000 as part of a federal grand jury proceeding that he took cash payments in high school from an agent named Myron Piggie, (theoretically) putting his amateur eligibility at considerable risk. The NCAA chose to not vacate Duke’s 37 wins from that season nor did it ask the program to remove its banner — ever since then, Duke haters have pointed to this decision as Exhibit A of the NCAA’s selective enforcement process. Well. Get ready for part two. With the news Tuesday that Thomas had come to a settlement agreement with the New York City jeweler who floated him a $67,800 loan nearly three years ago, the NCAA will need a Deep Throat (or at least a James Carter, IV) if it has any inclination of properly investigating this case. The strong likelihood is that nobody — not Thomas, not the jeweler, not anyone who had a red hand in this transaction — will say anything to to governing body… which begs the question: Will the NCAA make a prima facie case against Thomas to rule him retroactively ineligible (see: Rose, Derrick); or, will they suffer the howling of the masses for what will appear to be Duke getting away with special treatment a second time around (see: Maggette, Corey). Gonna be interesting.
  2. Senior forward Julius Randle is the top player in the Class of 2013, depending on whom you consult with, and he’s gotten a lot of attention this week for taking an official visit to Kentucky (where he was photographed with Drake) and giving a review of each of his in-home visits with Eric Bossi at Rivals.com. The tea leaves with respect to Randle are all over the place at this point, as he still plans on doing another round of in-home visits with a number of other schools and plans on waiting until spring to make his final decision. Clearly this kid likes the attention. Still, with John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, and Roy Williams all vying for Randle’s services, this is already one of the most power-packed recruitments we’ve seen in some time. And it promises to only get better.
  3. While on the subject of recruiting elite players, SI.com‘s Luke Winn reported yesterday that surprise Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi plans on requesting a waiver from the NCAA so that he has an opportunity to play right away in the 2012-13 season. He didn’t give Winn additional detail on the basis of that waiver request, but it is notable that Oregon is the only school on his current list that hasn’t started classes for the fall term yet (September 24). He plans on making a final decision by the end of this week, and not coincidentally, Dana Altman’s program in addition to everybody’s possible destination, Kentucky, appear to be his “early leaders.”
  4. The Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit against the NCAA for the use of his and other student-athletes’ likenesses continues to churn on in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, and a series of recently unsealed emails and depositions from the organization clearly reveals that school administrators and NCAA senior management have had serious and frank discussions about the legality of their strategies. One of the more interesting memoranda showed that a senior policy advisor at the NCAA suggested to incoming president Mark Emmert in 2010 that the organization ditch the term “student-athlete,” which if you recall from last fall’s The Atlantic piece from Taylor Branch, was an invention by former NCAA head honcho Walter Byers in the 1950s to explain away the notion that scholarships, room, and board were payment in kind. The article from ESPN.com cited above is worth the read, as there are a number of interesting quotes and anecdotes buried within it relating to how the NCAA does business.
  5. We didn’t have space for this one yesterday but it’s something we wanted to make sure we got up on the M5 this week anyway. Marquette is back in action with what’s becoming an annual tradition around those parts — a karaoke-inspired mash-up of clips from various Golden Eagles singing (or whatever you want to call it) pop tunes that will be used as timeout fodder during next season’s MU home games. If you can bear listening to the whole thing, you’re one step ahead of us…

Share this story

ACC Weekly Five: 09.12.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on September 12th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: More scandal on Tobacco Road. Amid investigation of an ugly academic scandal in Chapel Hill and the recent potential trouble in Durham, North Carolina’s chief fundraiser resigned for apparently taking personal trips on the Tar Heels’ dime. But the story gets much weirder: another fundraiser implicated is Tyler Hansbrough‘s mother, Tami. Apparently the star’s mother has been earning $95,000 a year as a “major gifts officer” for the past few years, and as such, Hansbrough reportedly used UNC money to fly to see Tyler’s younger brother Ben Hansbrough play at Notre Dame.
  2. Bylaw Blog: Speaking of the Duke situation, the NCAA has one big problem in making a case. No one has to talk. Unless the lawsuit goes to court and becomes a matter of public record (and soon), the NCAA will need to convince the NYC jeweler or Lance Thomas to talk about the suspicious $67,000 loan for custom jewelry his senior season. The clock is ticking though, as the NCAA needs to serve Duke its notice of allegations before the four-year statute of limitations runs out. The bad news for the NCAA is that only gives the organization a little over a year to make its case. The worse news is that the jeweler already refused to talk to the NCAA (which would make sense if he specializes in athletic jewelry and hands out impermissible loans).
  3. ESPN.com: Dexter Strickland is officially back. The defensive-minded combo guard has officially moved past his torn ACL injury, playing pickup with his teammates last Monday. Strickland still doesn’t sound 100% confident in the knee, which is to be expected, but North Carolina and Marcus Paige will really need his presence in the backcourt next season. And if Strickland can’t trust the knee, it will hurt his defense and transition play (his two biggest strengths by far).
  4. CBSSports.com: Touted Xavier transfer Dez Wells is headed to Maryland after he was expelled after a sexual assault allegation in August. Wells should join the Terrapins with Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz in 2013-14. If Mark Turgeon can pull a coup and steal the Harrison twins from Kentucky, Maryland might be the most talented team in the ACC. Turgeon may be gaining on John Calipari as the highly rated brothers are headed to College Park for Maryland’s midnight madness. Kudos, Coach Turgeon.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: Michael Snaer‘s latest comments are firing up his teammates. Florida State is a tough team to judge, as the Seminoles lost six players from last season. However, their most important piece returned and Leonard Hamilton also brought in a very good class. Snaer says the team is much more polished skill-wise than last year’s veteran group.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2012

  1. Another day, another scandal involving the, ahem, good name of college basketball. With all the allegations getting tossed around the sport in recent months, we’re starting to wonder if the best course of action is simply to burn the whole thing down and start completely over. After Tuesday’s disappointing news that even the nation’s top academic institution, Harvard, isn’t immune from student-athletes behaving badly, you’ll forgive us if we’re feeling a little more than down about our game. The skinny: SI.com’s Luke Winn has reported that senior co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry — two of the Crimson’s best three players — have been implicated in a cheating scandal along with over a 100 other students for acts in a class about Congress “ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism, on a take-home final exam.” With the fall semester enrollment deadline pending this week, Casey and Curry are expected to withdraw from school for the entire 2012-13 academic year in an effort to preserve their final year of eligibility after their cases have been adjudicated. And with those withdrawals goes much of the hope surrounding the Crimson basketball program next season — the Crimson had more than enough talent and experience to win the Ivy League again and make the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. More to come on this later today…
  2. How’s about some better news to focus on with your coffee this Wednesday morning? Mike DeCourcy has us covered with his column discussing six important factors that could shape the upcoming season. Most of his points revolve around the significant loss of elite talent from last season, but keep in mind that going into 2011-12 many people thought that the return of the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones would dominate discussion throughout the year. Although each player’s team made it to at least the Elite Eight, such a notion turned out to not be true. The talk last year mostly revolved around Kentucky’s precocious freshmen, Syracuse’s deep and athletic juggernaut, the resurgence of Indiana, and both Bill Self and Frank Haith’s coaching mastery. DeCourcy’s comment that “we’ll find something to enjoy” is absolutely spot on — predicting what that will be is the hard part.
  3. The NIT Season Tip-Off is one of the few remaining marquee preseason events that actually handles itself like a basketball tournament should, in that, it actually holds a tournament where winners advance and losers go home. And this is why it remains one of our favorites. The NCAA, who runs the event, announced yesterday that the top four seeds in this year’s Thanksgiving week event will be Michigan, Kansas State, Virginia, and Pittsburgh. Although John Beilein’s Wolverines will be the clear favorite in this event, there’s always some room for potential upsets — in a cursory review of the bracket, one intriguing subplot might be CJ McCollum’s Lehigh squad disposing of a revamped Pittsburgh team before heading to NYC to once again grab the national stage.
  4. It wouldn’t be a Morning Five this month without some mention of Billy Gillispie, so here’s the latest on the wild saga involving the Texas Tech head coach. On Tuesday two new pieces of information were released. First, an ambulance was called to Gillispie’s house on Monday of this week after a 911 call was made from the residence, but local hospitals had no record of Gillispie getting admitted anywhere. Next, in a text message sent to the AP Tuesday night, Gillispie himself stated that he plans on a treatment plan for high blood pressure “amongst other things” at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In the meantime as he deals with his health issues, Texas Tech has named associate head coach Chris Walker as the man in charge of the day-to-day operations of the team and told Gillispie in no uncertain terms that he is not to engage with the program in any way until he’s ready to sit down with the administration and discuss his future.
  5. If you’re a fan of the chaos theory of sports — that basically, the best possible scenario is the worst possible scenario — you’re going to love where the Lance Thomas case at Duke appears to be headed. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, not only is the New York City jeweler who extended Thomas nearly $70,000 in credit three years ago not talking to much of anyone, but in order for the NCAA to actually pursue what appears to be an obvious violation, they will have to do so by the end of 2013. So there are twin pressures building on the organization, but unless some degree of on-record information comes out through trial (highly unlikely), the NCAA will have to find a rat or some other documentation willing to assist them in this investigation. Chaos theorists loves this stuff, because it (mostly) leaves everyone outraged and upset.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 11th, 2012

  1. In the span of four days, Lance Thomas has become a much bigger name some two years after his graduation from Duke than the role player ever was during his time attending Duke. Everyone who follows college basketball in any capacity whatsoever has an opinion on how and why Thomas got himself embroiled in a jewelry purchase and loan during December 2009 that could ultimately cause the Blue Devils’ 2010 national championship to come under duress if he was in fact ineligible at the time. Here’s a smattering of written opinion on the matter from Monday: ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil does a good job framing the debate, but the jewel (ahem) in her piece openly refers to the dilemma that the NCAA faces in pursuing information and potential sanctions against one of its sacred cows. Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante describes the leverage that the NCAA could have over Thomas in order to force him to talk to them (namely, that the jeweler is likely to give his side of the story, forcing Thomas to respond). Over at CBSSports.com, Matt Norlander examines the Thomas case through the prism of troubles surrounding each of the four major programs on Tobacco Road, but the most compelling point in his story is that Thomas at Duke was apparently known as someone not at all prone to flash. Yet… we know that he purchased nearly $100,000 worth of jewelry. So many questions…
  2. Meanwhile, the hits keep coming at UNC. A report from the Raleigh News & Observer on Monday evening disclosed that former Tar Heel quarterback Matt Kupec, who had returned to the school to become its chief fundraiser, tendered his resignation when presented with evidence that he and Tami Hansbrough (the 2008 NPOY Tyler’s divorced mother, also a UNC fundraiser) took personal trips together on the university’s dime. Hansbrough was placed on administrative leave from her job at the school, but given her already tenuous job history at the school and allegations from school chancellor Holden Thorp that some of these trips were to watch her other son, Ben Hansbrough, play at Notre Dame, we’re wondering just how many other surprises there are hiding out on the various servers and job descriptions tangentially related to football and basketball at this university? More to come, we’re sure — welcome to 2012, the year that integrity in college athletics came home to roost.
  3. The Billy Gillispie saga continues to churn along, with additional news on Monday reported by ESPN.com that the Red Raiders’ leading returning scorer, Jordan Tolbert, hasn’t heard from the head coach in two or three weeks and doesn’t want to play for him again. In addition to that, CBSSports.com reported on Monday that Gillispie was not actually on sick leave as many outlets had reported; he is instead using accrued sick time to recuperate and has allegedly told athletic director Kirby Holcutt that he is not well enough to meet. While this very space has all but declared Gillispie’s head coaching career in Lubbock to be over, our Big 12 microsite’s Danny Spewak makes a compelling argument that the media’s general rush to judgment without hearing his side of the story is journalism at its worst – and you know what, he’s right.
  4. Connecticut may not have a lot to play for next season, and depending on the mood of its head coach, they may be looking at a complete programmatic overhaul, but the returning backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright will ultimately determine the Huskies’ ceiling. The Napier half of that equation underwent surgery late last week to repair a nagging stress fracture on his right foot that doctors felt was not healing quickly enough for the point guard to be ready for the season. The rising junior is UConn’s most talented returning player and a legitimate candidate for Big East postseason individual honors, so they absolutely will need his production next winter to avert a massive cliff dive in both record and status.
  5. Larry Brown is well into his first year as the head coach of the SMU Mustangs, but the sad truth is that the rebuilding process will take some time in light of the paucity of talent left at the Dallas school. With that in mind, perhaps Brown’s open tryout scheduled for September 18 at the Crum Basketball Center will yield a diamond or two in the rough. You never know when a future Hall of Famer like Chicago Bulls great (and Central Arkansas walk-on) might literally stroll through your door. For those of you looking to get some instruction by the only dual NBA/NCAA coaching champion, the deadline to enroll in classes at SMU has unfortunately already passed. Maybe next year.
Share this story