Jeff Eisenberg

  • Amended notice of allegations seems more favorable to North Carolina

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 6 days ago

    When the NCAA dragged its feet for months in sending North Carolina an amended Notice of Allegations, many wondered whether the lengthy delay suggested that investigators had found new evidence that might lead to additional charges.

    That doesn't appear to be the case.

    The amended Notice of Allegations that North Carolina received on Monday isn't strikingly different from the original one the university received last May. North Carolina still faces five top-level violations, but the gentler wording suggests there's less reason to believe the Tar Heels will be hammered with severe sanctions by the committee on infractions later this year.

    The biggest change is to the first of the five major rules violations the NCAA discovered while investigating academic fraud in African Studies classes that benefited Tar Heels athletes in disproportionate numbers. Whereas that allegation in the first NOA was very broad and left the committee on infractions ample options for how it could choose to punish North Carolina, this one seems to be more narrowly focused on women's basketball. 

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Ivan Rabb may be the best NBA prospect not to declare for the draft

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 7 days ago

    In a year in which virtually every other potential first-round pick at least declared for the draft to get a better idea of his NBA stock, Cal's Ivan Rabb is the rare exception.

    The 6-foot-11 freshman announced he will return to the Bears next season soon after the deadline to enter the draft passed on Sunday night.

    Rabb is probably the most decorated NBA prospect who will definitely return to college next season. Had he chosen to enter the draft, he likely would have been selected in the first round and perhaps would have gone in the top 15 or 20.

    "Ivan is an tremendous person and student-athlete to have on our team," Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said in a statement. "He and his family have put a lot of thought into making a decision that was right for him. He is a talented basketball player with a very bright future, and we are excited to have Ivan continue as a member of our Cal basketball program."

    Cal will need Rabb to be exceptional to finish in the upper third of a Pac-12 that could be very good next season.

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Why an alleged 29-year-old posed as a teenage basketball player

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 9 days ago

    One morning last spring, Gregory Dole received a call from a friend with whom he'd played high school basketball in Tanzania nearly two decades ago.

    Deng D'Awol asked Dole for help finding a school in Canada that would be interested in a 16-year-old basketball phenom he'd discovered in war-weary South Sudan.

    "Deng told me, 'There's this amazing kid I want to help get a scholarship,'" Dole told Yahoo Sports on Thursday. "He told me this kid is the best player he's seen in Eastern Africa. He told me this kid reminds him of a young Kevin Durant.' When someone says that, your ears tend to perk up."

    Such sky-high praise typically would have inspired skepticism in basketball circles, but Dole trusted his friend's assessment. After all, Deng is a 7-foot-1 center who set shot-blocking records at NAIA Wayland Baptist University, played professionally in the American Basketball Association and overseas and now helps coach and train kids in his native South Sudan.

    "I had no questions whatsoever about his age," D'Awol said. "I saw the documentation. There was no reason for me to doubt him."

    - - - - - - -

  • There may be more to Dedric Lawson's draft flip flop than just indecision

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 11 days ago

    Just eight days ago, Dedric Lawson announced he was returning to Memphis for his sophomore season. Then on Wednesday afternoon, reported the freshman forward is planning to test the waters again.

    It's possible Lawson is merely experiencing some indecision. It seems more likely this sudden flip flop is more calculated than that.

    Keelon Lawson, the father of Dedric and fellow Memphis freshman K.J. Lawson, was an assistant coach on Josh Pastner's staff for the past two seasons. Keelon was all but certain to retain that job for a third season until Pastner left for Georgia Tech on April 8 and Memphis hired Tubby Smith as his replacement nearly a week later.

    That theoretically leaves one remaining spot on Smith's staff, which could be earmarked for Keelon Lawson or any other potential candidate including one of Smith's sons. Saul Smith was an assistant under his dad at Minnesota before a 2012 DUI and a video coordinator under his dad at Texas Tech the past three years.

    (Of course, this could just be code for, “Tubby, you’d better keep my dad on staff or else I’m leaving for sure.”)

  • Syracuse legend Dwayne 'Pearl' Washington dies at age 52

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 11 days ago

    Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, one of the most beloved basketball players in Syracuse history, died Wednesday at age 52, the school announced.

    The heralded point guard was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer and underwent surgery and various other treatments since the tumor was detected.

    Washington became a legend at Syracuse during a three-year college career in which he earned first-team all-Big East honors three times. He averaged 15.7 points and 2.3 steals and still ranks third all-time in school history in assists despite turning pro after his junior year in 1986.

    While Washington's stats alone are impressive, it was the flair and pizazz with which he played that made him a fan favorite. He had a handle so tight he could practically dribble through a crowded subway and a crossover dribble so lethal it often sent hapless defenders sprawling.

    Washington also had a knack for coming up big at the biggest moments. His most memorable shot was a half-court buzzer beater during his freshman season that toppled 16th-ranked Boston College and helped a previously unranked Syracuse team gain national relevance.  

    You will forever be in our hearts. We love you.

    - - - - - - -

  • Antonio Blakeney's return gives LSU a star to build around next year

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 12 days ago

    Though Ben Simmons and Tim Quarterman have both already turned pro this spring, LSU will at least get one of its stars back next season. 

    Freshman Antonio Blakeney will return to the Tigers, the school announced Tuesday afternoon.

    Blakeney originally declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent earlier this month, leaving open the possibility of a return to school. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard decided to return without even waiting to see if he'd receive an invite to next month's NBA draft combine.

    "After consulting with my coaches and with my family, I have decided to return to LSU for my sophomore season," Blakeney said in a statement. "I believe I can further improve my skill set in different areas to become even more effective for my team in the future.

    "Although I finished the year strong and posted a solid season, I think it is in my best interest to return and continue to improve as I strive and prepare to be the best I can be. This will also allow me to continue with my schoolwork and continue to move forward on my college degree."

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • UNLV moves quickly to hire New Mexico State's Marvin Menzies

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 15 days ago

    One day after new UNLV coach Chris Beard bolted for Texas Tech, Rebels athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy moved quickly to identify a replacement.

    She hired the coach Beard initially beat out for the job less than three weeks ago.

    New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies will be UNLV's next coach pending approval of the Nevada Board of Regents next week. Menzies worked as an assistant under Steve Fisher, former UNLV coach Lon Kruger and Rick Pitino before becoming head coach of the Aggies nine years ago.

    In his past five years at New Mexico State, Menzies has presided over the Aggies' most successful era since their heyday in the early 90s. He has won 23 or more games each season, captured a pair of WAC regular season titles and made the NCAA tournament four times.

    The one hole in Menzies' resume is a lack of signature victories. New Mexico State did not win an NCAA tournament game during his tenure, nor did the Aggies defeat a power-conference opponent. They did have a pair of near-misses in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, however, against both Michigan State and San Diego State.

    Now she can only hope Menzies is capable of the same.

    - - - - - - -

  • UNLV shouldn't hold a grudge over Chris Beard's abrupt departure

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 16 days ago

    At his introductory news conference at UNLV seven days ago, Chris Beard described coaching the Rebels as "the opportunity of a lifetime."

    The 43-year-old coach surely sincerely believed that at the time after working his way from the junior college ranks, to Division II, to a low-major Division I job before finally breaking through.

    Everything changed for Beard on Wednesday, however, when Memphis began its whirlwind pursuit of Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith. By Thursday morning, Smith accepted the Memphis job. By Thursday afternoon, Texas Tech officials were en route to Las Vegas to meet with Beard. And by nightfall, Beard had less than 24 hours to decide whether to stay at UNLV or take a job he coveted more than almost any other.

    Beard accepted an offer to become Texas Tech's next coach on Friday, a decision that certainly has not endeared him to the school he is jilting. Many UNLV fans are furious that Beard is leaving less than three weeks after he accepted the job, especially since they hold him partially responsible for gutting the roster, running off last year's assistants and leaving the next coach with a total rebuild.

    - - - - - - -

  • Villanova stars pop out of playhouse to surprise cancer-stricken boy

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 17 days ago

    Soon after their 4-year-old son Blaise was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer two months ago, Annie and Andrew Davis asked for a favor from a family friend.

    The Pennsylvania residents wanted him to remodel their unfinished basement so that Blaise would have a play room.

    Contractor Tim Moore readily agreed to tackle the project with one stipulation. The Davis family was forbidden from coming downstairs to check out their new basement until the project was done.

    When Annie, Andrew, Blaise and 2-year-old Lucy finally got to see the finished product Wednesday evening, they found more than the new bathroom and fresh paint and carpet they were expecting. Tucked against the back wall was a newly built playhouse with a pair of surprise visitors from Villanova's national championship basketball team inside.

    Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu learned about Blaise thanks to Moore. The contractor managed to get in touch with Temple coach Fran Dunphy's wife Ree, who reached out to Villanova assistant Ashley Howard on Moore's behalf.

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Thon Maker being ruled draft-eligible highlights potential loophole

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 17 days ago

    Thon Maker just revealed a loophole that NBA and NCAA officials probably would have preferred remained closed.

    The skilled 7-footer found a way to bypass the one-and-done rule and go straight from prep school to the NBA.

    Under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement, draft-eligible prospects not defined as international players must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and at least one year removed from graduating high school. With the exception of Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay and a handful of other prospects who have spent a pre-draft season playing professionally overseas or in the D-League, most elite high school players opt to play a year or more of college basketball. 

    Maker opened another potential avenue on Thursday when the NBA ruled him eligible for this June's draft, a league spokesman confirmed to Yahoo Sports. Maker, 19, completed the requisite coursework to graduate from high school last spring, spent a post-graduate year in prep school and declared for the draft two weeks ago.

    That's not a trend that would be beneficial for basketball either at the college or NBA level.

    - - - - - - -