NCAA Players Revealed in FBI Report to Receive Benefits

It looks like we have our first name drop in the FBI investigation over corruption within college basketball. Yahoo Sports reported this morning that numerous players, from major programs, received impermissible benefits while at, or currently at, school from the ASM Sports agency. The reports come directly from the financial records and spreadsheets of Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins, two men formerly associated with the agency. Dawkins was one of the ten people arrested in September when this news first broke.

The report lists in detail the payments and loans given to players in an attempt to get them to sign with ASM upon declaring for the NBA Draft. The report includes current NBA players such as Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Kuzma and more. It also lists current NCAA athletes such as Wendell Carter (Duke), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Miles Bridges (Michigan State).

It’s important to note that these transactions were mainly between the player’s families and ASM directly, which is different from the school’s directly funneling money to the player and his family in return for a commitment. It’s possible coaches were unaware of these deals occurring, so I don’t expect much to happen to them based on this report. No school other than Xavier would comment on the report. Below is head coach Chris Mack’s comment:

“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. He plays no role in the recruitment of potential student athletes on Xavier’s behalf. Beyond that, our staff has never created a path for him to foster a relationship with any of our student-athletes while enrolled at Xavier. Any suggestion that I or anyone on my staff utilized Andy Miller to provide even the slightest of financial benefits to a Xavier student-athlete is grossly misinformed. We are prepared to cooperate with any and all investigations at any level.”

Former Xavier player Edmund Sumner was a name listed in the documents. I don’t disbelieve Mack. I’m sure he did not utilize ASM to land recruits and I’m sure he was never introducing Sumner to Andy Miller. As I said before, these transactions are primarily between families of players and the agency. It could have gone on behind a coach’s backs. However, as a head coach, you have a pretty good idea of what goes on within your program, on and off the court. For all these coaches to be 100% blind to these deals happening seems a little farfetched, but I’m not here to point fingers and make up rumors.

The news basically just cures a craving that most of the college basketball world has had since last week, when the report of hundreds of documents being in the FBI’s possession broke. It’s illegal, but nothing earth shattering. Most players have dollar amounts next to their name in the thousands, but others are much less. Some players are listed on the report solely because the agency picked up the bill for dinner meeting. Others received a couple hundred dollars to make some bill payments, allegedly.

As for the NCAA, they released a statement this morning, but it was pretty vague and unconvincing. “The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity.” That’s just a piece of the full statement put out by Mark Emmert. Unless those changes are compensating players and their families, in some fashion, for the monetary value that they provide to the NCAA and universities, these cases will never go away. I’m not saying players need hundreds of thousands of dollars, but some of these records are for hundreds of dollars. There is some middle ground that would eliminate this corruption and help players’ families. That’s a conversation for another day.

As I said before, not much should happen to head coaches with this report. I would expect a lot of teams to have to eventually forfeit some wins (joy) for having ineligible players play. We may just get to a point where the NCAA just vacates every National Championship for the past 20 years. Just pretend no one won anything and try to start fresh. It will be interesting to see how the programs with active NCAA players fair for the rest of the year. With conference tournaments and Selection Sunday coming up it’s worth monitoring. This report gave everyone a taste at what could be out there, but it remains a waiting game.

NBA Rookie Power Rankings

After a couple week hiatus, we are back with a new edition of the HG Insider NBA Rookie Power Rankings. We are closing in on the all-star break and the race for rookie of the year is becoming clearer. Markelle Fultz has still yet to return for Philadelphia, but some other rookies are becoming consistent and making a name for themselves as we are sprinting towards the finish line in year one of their careers. Without further ado, let’s dive into the rankings:

1. Donovan Mitchell – Jazz

Mitchell is once again on top of our Rookie Power Rankings, as he has been playing the best out of all of the rookies since the middle of December. He is making a push towards averaging 20 points per game for the season, and would become the first rookie to average 20+ a game since Blake Griffin’s rookie season with the Clippers. Mitchell is averaging 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assist per game this year, and his shooting percentages are holding at a respectable clip; 44.4% from the field, 35.3% from 3 and 83.7% from the free-throw line. Mitchell will have to keep his foot on the gas in order to hold off Simmons, but so far, so good for the Louisville product.

2. Ben Simmons – Sixers

Simmons, who was leading these rankings for most of November & December, is still in the thick of the rookie of the year race with two months to go. Philadelphia is currently holding onto the 8th seed in the East, and with Simmons rounding back into form they have a chance to get hot and make a run at home court in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. Simmons, who has been vocal about being an all-star snub, is averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. If Simmons can hold his numbers steady and get the Sixers into the playoffs he has a very good chance of taking the Rookie of the Year trophy away from Mitchell come June.

3. Lauri Markkanen – Bulls

To no ones surprise the Bulls have been awful this season, but they have shown signs of promise, highlighted by Markkanen’s steady play all season long. The power forward is averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Along with Zach Lavine, The Bulls are showing a decent young nucleus, that could be further bolstered by a lottery pick in the 2018 draft. Markkanen has shown to be a lethal asset in pick and roll situations, and can score at all three levels. The Bulls are struggling, but they may have the next great, versatile European forward at the NBA level.

4. Kyle Kuzma – Lakers

The Lakers added an additional draft pick, and a ton of future cap space this week, but they have to be happy with the rookies and sophomores already on the roster. Perhaps no one makes them happier for their future than Kyle Kuzma, who is averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 rebounds during his rookie campaign. He has held steady shooting the ball with averages of 45.2% from the field, 36.2% from the three and 70% from the line. While he has had his share of great weeks, and poor ones, Kuzma is going to be a fixture of the Lakers plans moving forward, even if they get some big names in free agency over the next couple of summers.

5. Jayson Tatum – Celtics

Tatum may end up having the best career on this list, but as a Rookie he is playing on one of the best teams in the league, and he has sacrificed numbers for wins. The Celtics are a better team when Tatum plays well, as he is averaging 14.8 points, 5 rebounds and shoots 50% from the field in wins. While his shooting has fallen off a little bit, Tatum is already a very good NBA shot maker, and he has also been a plus defender for the Celtics, which is asking a lot of a rookie. Tatum will not win Rookie of the Year, but will win a championship before anyone else in the top 5 of this list.

6. Dennis Smith Jr. – Mavs

While Smith spent the first part of the season dealing with injuries and inconsistent minutes, he has suddenly found his stride over the last month. Over his last 10 games, Smith is averaging 15 points, 6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. Smith has still struggled to shoot the ball well at a consistent clip, and will have to improve in this department moving forward to take the next step as an NBA player. It will be interesting to see how he improves over the coming years, and what the Mavs will do to surround him with talent moving forward.

7. De’Aaron Fox – Kings

Fox has come on strong over the last month, after recovering from injury, and is showing sings of the player who terrorized college basketball in Lexington just one year ago. Over his last ten games, Fox has averaged 14.3 points, 4.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds while shooting 43% from the field. The Kings have continued to struggle, but Fox’s play gives Sacramento fans something to look forward to in the coming years. His role will only increase as George Hill was moved to Cleveland this week, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the extra responsibility over the last two months of the season.

8. John Collins – Hawks

Collins leads all rookies in PER at 20.12, but plays on one of the worst teams in the league. Collins has been uber-efficient for a rookie, and it will be interesting to see how he develops over the next couple of seasons for the woeful, yet rebuilding Hawks. He is averaging 10.3 points, 7 rebounds and is shooting 58.5% from the floor. With the emergence of some of the guys behind him, it will be tough for him to stay at 7, without an uptick in his current level of play, however, Collins is going to have a long and prosperous career.

9. Josh Jackson – Suns

While the Suns are still among the worst teams in the league, no rookie has improve their play over the last month than Josh Jackson. Devin Booker has missed some time hurt, and Jackson has taken advantage of the extra touches and responsibility with Booker out. Over his last ten games, Jackson is averaging 17.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just under 20 minutes per night. Jackson has been a mainstay in the honorable mentione section all season long, but he has earned his way into the top 10 in these rankings with his recent play.

10. Jarrett Allen – Nets

If Jackson has been the fastest rising rookie of late, Allen is not too far behind him. Over the last month, Allen has seen his minutes skyrocket, and he has become increasingly comfortable with the pace of play at the NBA level with each passing game. Over his last ten games he is averaging 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and is shooting 68.8% from the field. He is flashing the long term potential he possesses and is turning out to be a hell of a pick for the Nets and their rebuilding efforts moving forward.

Honorable Mention:

Bogdan Bogdanovic – Kings
Jordan Bell – Warriors
Josh Hart – Lakers
OG Anunoby – Raptors
Lonzo Ball – Lakers
Bam Adebayo – Heat

NBA Draft Lottery Prediction: New York Knicks

New York Knicks – #8 Pick 2017 NBA Draft

The Pick: Dennis Smith Jr.

Needs: Pretty Much Everything

Other Possible Picks: Malik Monk (If Available) Frank Ntilikina

It’s no secret that the New York Knicks need a long term solution point guard. Derrick Rose is not the answer, and this organization is in desperate need of someone who can lead this team in a positive direction.

Dennis Smith averaged an impressive 18 points and 6 assists this season at NC State, however it is his performances outside the NCAA that have impressed people the most. He has blown away almost every team he has worked out for, including the Lakers, Celtics and Timberwolves. Smith possesses raw athleticism that could allow him to develop into a player similar to Jeff Teague.

Smith, like Teague, is incredibly fast with or without the ball, so he can run in transition and finish strong above the rim, or convert on crafty shots off the glass. He also has proven to be effective in the half-court, thanks to his great ball handling skills and effective pick and roll play. Smith very well could be the third offensive weapon the Knicks need to compliment Melo and Kristaps Porzingis, as he would help alleviate some of the pressure on the two stars. His sheer athleticism also will help him on the defensive end, as he shows great footwork and a tireless work-rate.

Granted that Malik Monk is still on the board, he is a talented scorer, but he is a volume shooter, which would be a nightmare for the Knicks offense. Ntilikina shows a lot of potential, as he has the size and frame similar to Lonzo Ball and is incredibly raw. Thus, he may not be the best option for a Knicks team who can no longer afford to take risks in the draft. New York needs a point guard who can be generally reliable and consistent, and Dennis Smith is the closest thing to this that they will find with the 8th pick. However, this could change if the trade rumors swelling around Kristaps Porzingis allow the Knicks to move up and possibly take DeAron Fox instead.

2015 Southern Jam Fest Championship Recap

Hampton, VA– The Southern Jam Fest took place in Hampton, Virginia at Boo Williams Sportsplex this weekend. The last of four Jam Fests this Spring, you could not draw up a better tournament to end our Spring events. Established teams and high-profile players were everywhere and media and scouts flocked to Boo to see the talent. Four teams were able to overcome the loaded playing fields and walk out as champions. Here our the winners.

17 and under

The 17u Division was absolutely loaded this weekend. With some of the best players in the country showcasing their skills, the bleachers were packed at Boo Williams this weekend. When the dust settled, it was Team Loaded NC who stood tall. Led by the highlight reel plays of Dennis Smith and Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo, Team Loaded stormed into the 17u championship as the favorites versus DC Thunder. The Thunder, led by Maryland commit Alex Cowen, were looking to spoil Loaded’s weekend, and take the trophy back to nation’s capitol.

After 16 minutes of play, we were deadlocked at 25, and it looked like either team could come out on top. Sam Green contributed 8 first half points for the Thunder, who also made 4 three pointers to keep the game tight. The second half was all Team Loaded; in the final half of play, Smith and Adebayo combined to score 23 of Team Loaded’s 33 points, catapulting them to a 58-46 win. Smith and Adebayo shared MVP honors, finishing with 15 and 14 respectively.
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16 and under

The 16 and under Division had the most competitive championship of the weekend. The final featured DC Premier and Team Loaded VA, two powerhouse programs with major prospects. In a game that looked more like a 12 round boxing fight, both teams traded punches back and forth the entire way. A monster first half for Prentiss Hubb (17 points) had Premier with a slim, four point lead at the break.

The second half had as much separation between teams as the first one, slim to none. In another back and forth half of basketball, Team Loaded was able to take a lead late in the game. With the game looking to be in Loaded’s favor, a key offensive foul called on Matur Maker gave DC the ball with seconds left, and the stage was set for Naji Marshall. After taking the inbound at the top of the key, Marshall drove to the rim, bounced off a defender and threw up a shot that bounced off the rim and dropped. Loaded heaved a prayer from half court but it would not go and the celebrations began for DC Premier. Marshall was named MVP for Premier with 22 points in the championship. For Loaded, Mastadi Pitt, who had a fantastic weekend, led them with 14. Maker finished with 12 points, much of which came from the charity stripe.

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15 and under

In what was almost an all CP3 final, it was the cp3 15u team that came away with the Southern Jam Fest trophy. After topping DC Premier in the semi finals, CP3 found themselves in a match up against Team Loaded VA, a team who beat CP3s 2019 team on the other side of the bracket, in the championship.

From the tip, the game was all Cp3, who put together a complete team effort to take the trophy. After Jude Akubeze set the tone in the first half with nine points, the scoring opened up for a number of CP3 players in the final 16. They would score 41 second half points, thanks to balanced scoring from Tyler Williams (1o in the second half), Rechon Black (8), Tre Turner (7) and John Newman (6).  For the game, Newman led the balanced scoring effort with 11 total points. For Team Loaded, Keldon Johnson did all he could, and was tremendous, finishing with a game high 19 points, including 3 threes.

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14 and under

Philly Pride made the trip down to Hampton and walked out 14u tournament champions. After a commanding Saturday, the Pride had a match up against Boo Williams on Sunday in the Final Four. A big win over the host team moved Pride to a final game versus Garner Road from North Carolina.

Philly Pride’s will was put to the test, as the 14u final was a tightly contested contest until the last few minutes. Both teams traded baskets for much of the second half and it looked like overtime was a real possibility. That’s when Philly Pride turned to another level. Thanks in part to the play of Hakeem Hart, Philly Pride separated themselves from Garner Road and when the buzzer sounded, they were Jam Fest champs! Hart took the MVP honors and his team took the championship.

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Guards that Impressed, Southern Jam Fest Day 1

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Hampton, VA– Get familiar with hearing the phrase “The Southern Jam Fest is loaded,” all weekend long. After just 4 game sets Friday, we quickly saw that there is more talent here than anticipated. Here a few guards who stood out on day one.

Dennis Smith, Team Loaded NC 17U

Dennis Smith, being regarded as one of the best players in the country, came into the Southern Jam Fest and he didn’t disappoint Friday night. He set the tone early with multiple dunks. Smith isn’t just an athlete, but can also shoot well from the perimeter. Smith finished with 17 points in game one. He and the rest of his Team Loaded (NC) showed that they are one of the favorites to come away with a championship this weekend.

Trystan Pratapas, The District 17U

Cries of “shooter” from the opposing bench and the occasional double team didn’t faze Pratapas on Friday night, as he connected on six three-pointers en route to a game high 24 points in The District’s tough opening round win over Team Pro Look. Aside from his jumper, Pratapas showed the ability to make smart decisions distributing in the half-court and knocked down two clutch free throws to seal the win.

Zach Jacobs, River City Reign 16U

He made our top performers on the first day of the Pittsburgh Jam Fest, and he continues his first round onslaughts last night with a big 22 point, 8 rebound effort in their win. Jacobs won’t be competing for the rest of the week because of personal reasons, however the 6’7 high motor big has shown over his last two Hoop Group events that he can compete and produce with the best of them on the block.

Asem Johnson, Northeast Basketball 17U

Asem Johnson had a big game, and Northeast Basketball needed it. In a tight contest versus Spectrum Sports Academy, Johnson scored 29 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Johnson was able to produce in multiple ways, scoring off offensive put backs, drilling threes from deep, and taking it strong to the hoop. The guard from NJ already holds offers from St. Peter’s and Robert Morris and is looking to make a late push this spring.

Michael Speight, Bump N Run 16U

Speight showcased his entire scoring repertoire in an opening round victory over the Juice All-Stars. Blessed with a strong frame, he was tough to keep out of the paint and did a great job getting out in the open court and flashing athleticism. Also a very good shooter from deep, defenders have to pick their poison when defending the talented combo guard. He scored 21 points on Friday.

Maliek White, River City Reign 17U

Clutch. That’s the best way to describe Maliek White on Day 1. After injuring himself at the Pitt Jam Fest, we finally saw what a healthy Maliek is capable of. With River City Reign and USA United tied at 52, White sunk a game winning three, sending River City into the next round. White is a high volume and athletic scorer. He’s really helped his stock this spring, picking up offers from Boston College and Cincinnati, among others, over the course of the season.

Jordan Johnson, Richmond Squires 16U

Talk about a breakout performance, Johnson lit it up to the tune of 29 points for the Squires in their first round win over USA United. Johnson, a 6’1 shooter, showed a knack for scoring in their win, as he scored 19 of his 29 in the first half. He showed the ability to shoot it from deep, create for himself in the half court, and drew contact well shooting 13 free throws on the night.

Andrew Langston, BWSL James 17U

Playing in the first game set of the day, Langston came out of the gates red hot. Putting up 19 first-half points, Langston showed off a smooth jumper and stretched the defense on every trip down the floor. His big first half allowed BWSL to develop a nice halftime cushion, and cruise to a win in the second half.

Jake Betlow, Hoop Heaven Elite 16U

The scouting report on Jake is that he is a shooter, and he continues to remind us time and time again why that is. He is a class of 2019 player, playing up in the 16U Division, and lead Hoop Heaven Elite Friday with 30 points on 8 three pointers. Teams need to take note quickly, Jake will hurt you if he’s left alone.

Chris Freeman, Team Winston 17U

Freeman was one of several standouts for Team Winston in a truly impressive team victory over VA Elite. A versatile 6-foot-5 combo with nice ball handling ability, Freeman played an integral part in getting Team Winston’s offense going in the half-court and making plays off the dribble. He also impressed as a long, active perimeter defender and did a nice job preventing dribble penetration.

Jamaal David, Team Takeover Orange 17U

David led Takeover Orange to a close first round victory over Brand X (NC). He showed off his ability to get into the lane and create for others. He was a threat anytime he touched the ball, which was clear early. He is also very long and created problems for the opposing team when he was on defense. If he continues to play the way he did Friday night Takeover Orange will have a good amount of success the rest of the weekend.

Johquin Wiley, River City Reign 16U

If you like old school, “floor general” point guards, look no further than Wiley. The undisputed leader of the River City Reign Team Iverson 16s, Wiley plays with maturity well beyond his age and sees the floor like a pro. He sees plays develop before they happen, and can thread the tightest needle with solid passes both in transition and the half court. He’s also a hard-nosed defender that will harass the best of ball handlers full court. Wiley finished with a stellar 6 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals, while only turning the ball over once for Reign in their first round win.

Lavarr Batts, Team CP3 16U

Batts served as the closer for Team CP3 in their 16 point win over the Arlington Titans. Despite the final score, the game was fairly close throughout until Batts — using his outstanding length and athleticism — made a couple of key defensive plays and turned them into easy transition buckets. At 6’1, he’s able to play above the rim and also knows how to run the show at point guard. He finished with 15 points.

Terry Nolan, Baltimore Supreme 16U

Nolan was the high-point man with 18 points in Baltimore Supreme’s come-from-behind victory over the Cary Rimrockers. The lanky, 6-foot-3 wing helped bring his team from down double-digits by pressuring the ball on defense and coming up with a handful of deflections. He stayed in attack mode on offense and got to the line to score a chunk of his points. His combination of length and athleticism make him one to watch the rest of this weekend.

Myles Cale, South Jersey Jazz 16U

Cale had one of the best scoring performances in the 16U division on Friday night, going off for 29 points in a win over the Durham Hurricanes. A prototypical shooting guard who plays for former NBA guard Tim Legler, Cale does an excellent job slashing into the lane and creating scoring opportunities for himself at the rim. He’s a good ball handler and possesses a dangerous crossover move that allows him to get into the lane almost at will.