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Diamondbacks’ top draft pick pays off family’s mortgage as Christmas present

Published: Tuesday, December 26, 2017 @ 12:25 AM

Pavin Smith was the No. 1 pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017.
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
Pavin Smith was the No. 1 pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017.(Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ first-round draft pick gave his family an unforgettable Christmas gift, Sports Illustrated reported.

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Pavin Smith, the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, received a signing bonus of more than $5 million. The former University of Virginia star used part of that money to pay off his family’s mortgage, and he revealed his plans to his family in an emotional letter on Christmas Day, the magazine reported.

Smith’s family, naturally, was floored by the gift, and broke down after reading his letter:

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NCAA can’t ‘fix’ college basketball without major help from the NBA

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 3:24 PM

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver anounces the #1 overall pick in the first during NBA 2K League Draft at Madison Square Garden on April 4, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver anounces the #1 overall pick in the first during NBA 2K League Draft at Madison Square Garden on April 4, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The NCAA’s Independent Commission on College Basketball got more right than wrong in its report issued Wednesday

While making some worthwhile suggestions for fixing some issues faced at the college level, the group chaired by Condoleezza Rice also exposed just how culpable the NBA is in placing elite basketball prospects in limbo when they are in their late teens and early 20s. 

RELATED: Ending one-and-done rule one of recommendations of NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball

The league’s one-and-done rule hasn’t been as bad for college basketball as it is made out by the report, but it has forced together some prospects and schools that clearly weren’t quite comfortable with each other. 

That, in turn, almost certainly increases the incentive for players who are only biding their time in college to break rules against receiving extra benefits that don’t always make a lot of sense (and few of those rules are addressed by the committee’s report). 

If the NBA again allows 18-year-olds to be drafted, the few players who without a doubt are good enough and mature enough to play in the league at that age could do so. 

Problems would remain for three much larger groups of players, though: The ones who think they are good enough to skip college but aren’t, those who think they are good enough to leave college early but aren’t and those who aren’t sure if they fit into one of those groups or not. 

Guess what? This also unnecessary. 

One of the committee’s recommendations — that players be allowed to return to school and play college basketball again if they aren’t drafted — would help, but it’s just a step in the right direction. 

  

The path to the pros would be a lot easier to navigate if everyone were eligible to be drafted once they reach a certain age and their eligibility remained intact until they sign a pro contract. 

Teams would retain the rights to a player for an agreed-upon length of time — probably until his or her college eligibility is up. 

This is essentially how things work in hockey, and it is preferable to “the baseball rule,” which the committee smartly recommended not adopting. 

In making the case against the baseball rule for basketball, the committee highlighted another shortcoming of the NBA: The G League still accommodates far fewer players than the hockey and baseball minor leagues. 

(Which is not to say those sports don’t have issues, too, but that’s for another day.) 

The NCAA has plenty of its own issues, and the committee has some strong suggestions: 

  • Allow contact between players and agents without compromising eligibility (a full-on business relationship should probably be allowed, but the report says agents actually oppose this). 
  • Standardize degree completion so players who leave school early are still guaranteed the opportunity to finish (some schools, including Ohio State and Kentucky, already have this). 
  • Establish an independent group to handle investigation and enforcement of NCAA violations (because the current model with rotating members from various schools is at best inconsistent and at worst completely ineffective). 
  • Add outsiders to the NCAA Board of Governors (so it is less myopic, presumably). 
  • Work with the NBA to create youth basketball programs that develop players on and off the court and help them have a better idea of their real pro prospects at a young age. (They also suggested some measures for eliminating corruption they perceive to exist in AAU basketball, but that was a little too esoteric to dive into here, and doing so may be too big a task anyway.) 

Do these go far enough? 

No. 

There’s still the issue of athlete compensation, something the committee basically punted because of pending litigation that could turn the whole system on its head anyway. 

The hope that legalizing more interactions with agents might curtail some illicit activity -- especially if agents aren’t allowed to offer players and their families loans -- is probably wishful thinking more than anything, too. 

But, hey, they have to start somewhere. 

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Sports Today: Same old Marvin Lewis quells Bengals draft excitement

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 9:59 AM

Marvin Lewis pre-draft presser

Marvin Lewis spoke Tuesday in Cincinnati about the NFL draft. 

That’s it. 

That’s the update. 

Well, maybe that’s not all

While the final draft decision is his, the coach explained how the new assistants on his staff have their say and that could affect how they put together their board. 

He also assured everyone in the room that he did not negotiate for any more say in personnel decisions or anything else during that weird few days between the end of the 2017 season and the announcement he signed a new two-year contract to remain the coach of the Bengals. 

“I didn’t talk about anything in any contract negotiations. We knew we had to make changes. We’ve made changes. We’ve added new players. Those are the things that were important. Everybody (here) was on board and in line with the same things.”

That nothing of the sort would be discussed during contract negotiations seems far fetched, but he was pretty adamant — and unusually animated — about this point. 

RELATED: Marvin Lewis signs 2-year contract extension

The saying goes coaches and managers often get fired because that’s a quicker fix than turning over the whole roster. 

Owner Mike Brown apparently does not follow this logic. 

Plenty of players will be back from last season, of course, but there have been some significant changes to the staff, including a new defensive coordinator, new offensive line coach, new quarterbacks coach and essentially a new offensive coordinator. 

The team is pushing it hard as an overhaul motivated by a desire to win now. 

They may truly see it that way, but with the same coach, quarterback and of course same ownership in place that have never won in the postseason, it is hard to follow that logic all the way through. 

Maybe I’ll get there by the end of the summer, but I’m not there yet. 

›› Jay Morrison’s full 7-round mock draft for the Bengals

Hiring new assistants was probably a good idea. 

Bringing in new players certainly was. 

The draft is always fun because of the new possibilities it opens up. 

Having the same guy to put the spin on it at the end of the day — especially with Lewis being a guy who seems to hate actually doing that — makes it hard to escape the notion we’re all headed to the same place (home by the middle of January, if not before) when all is said and done… 

The team that plays just down the road did finally make a move with its manager, and the Reds’ results have been mixed so far. 

They are 2-3 under Jim Riggleman — yeah, yeah, but that’s a lot better than 3-15 — and he has had some adventures the last two nights. 

The offensive explosion Monday night made Riggleman look like a genius for tinkering with the lineup. 

Last night he appeared to be stung by waiting too long to replace Amir Garrett with Raisel Iglesias and the recurrence of the defensive problems than have plagued the team all season. 

But Scooter Gennett, whose error allowed the game-tying run to score in the ninth inning, went from goat to hero when he clubbed a walk-off two-run homer in the 12th inning, giving a team that hasn’t had much to feel good about this season a much-needed chance to celebrate at home plate with a 9-7 win. 

Since I’m pretty sure the point in changing managers was more to perk up the clubhouse than anything else, that resilience has to be considered a good sign. 

Getting another good start — this one from Tyler Mahle — and finally hitting some home runs certainly helps, too… 

More good news: Eugenio Suarez started at third base for the Louisville Bats on Tuesday night and went 1 for 2 with a double. He also walked twice. 

Nick Senzel started at second base and went 0 for 3 with a walk. He also reached base via a hit-by-pitch and is batting .246 on the season. 

Catcher Stuart Turner went 0 for 2 with a walk but made the SportsCenter Top 10…  

Ohio State basketball got a big boost Tuesday with the announcement Keyshawn Woods will join the team as a graduate transfer. 

Coach Chris Holtmann needed another experienced ball-handler to play with senior C.J. Jackson as youngsters Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington and Justin Ahrens of Versailles work their way into the rotation, and Woods is just that. 

A double-digit scorer at Wake Forest, Woods can play point guard or off the ball, versatility that should give Holtmann needed options in shaping a lineup next season… 

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Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber loves hitting in Ohio

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 11:01 AM

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 24:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates with teammates after a win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on April 24, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cubs defeated the Indians 10-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 24: Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates with teammates after a win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on April 24, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cubs defeated the Indians 10-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Kyle Schwarber clubbed two home runs as the Chicago Cubs beat the Indians 10-3 in Cleveland on Tuesday night. 

The Middletown native raised his season batting average to .302, the highest it has been since the first of the month. 

After slumping in the first week fo the season, he seems to have found his stroke, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise he would do major damage in Cleveland. 

After all, Progressive Field is the place he became a World Series hero two years ago when he came back from knee surgery to lead the Cubs to their first championship in 108 years. 

RELATED: Doubtful Cubs win World Series without Kyle Schwarber’s heroics

Last season didn’t go so swimmingly for Schwarber, who hit only .211 in 2017 and spent some time in the minors trying to find his swing. 

He always seems to have a good time hitting against teams from his home state. 

Schwarber is a .500 hitter at Progressive Field and has a .421 batting average overall against the Indians. 

He’s done even more damage against the Reds, who reportedly were set to pick him out of the University of Indiana four years ago if the Cubs hadn’t latched onto him first. 

Schwarber has batted .330 with a 1.018 OPS against the Reds. He has seven homers and 20 RBIs in 25 games against Cincinnati. 

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Ending one-and-done rule one of recommendations of NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 9:21 AM

UCLA practices Monday, March 12, 2018, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/STAFF
Contributing Writer
UCLA practices Monday, March 12, 2018, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/STAFF(Contributing Writer)

The NCAA’s Independent Commission on College Basketball recommends ending the one-and-done rule and making high school players eligible for the NBA Draft again. That was one of the findings in its report released Wednesday morning.

Under the current rule, top high school recruits have to spend at least one season in college basketball before being for the NBA Draft.

The commission, chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, was established in October in response to the recruiting scandal that dominated the headlines last fall. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith is also part of the commission.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the recommendations:

1. One-and-done rule: “The Commission calls on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) again to make 18-year-olds eligible for the NBA draft, so that high school players who are drafted may proceed to the NBA. The NCAA lacks the legal power to change one-and-done on its own; the power to make this change lies exclusively with the NBA and the NBPA.”

» RELATED: Dayton AD reacts to NCAA problems

2. Testing pro prospects: “The Commission recommends that high school and college players who declare for the draft and are not drafted remain eligible for college basketball unless and until they sign a professional contract. Specifically, players who are not drafted should be permitted to change their minds and attend college or return to college, provided they remain academically and otherwise eligible.”

3. Earlier professional assessment: “The Commission recommends that the NCAA and its member institutions develop strict standards for certifying agents and allow NCAA-certified agents to engage with student-athletes at an appropriate point in their high school careers to be determined by the NCAA.”

4. More resources for education: “The Commission recommends that the NCAA immediately establish a substantial fund and commit to paying for the degree completion of student-athletes with athletic scholarships who leave member institutions after progress of at least two years towards a degree. Colleges and universities must fulfll their commitments to student-athletes to provide not just a venue for athletic competition, but also an education.

» RELATED: Three changes that would help NCAA

5. Independent investigations: “The Commission recommends that the NCAA create independent investigative and adjudicative arms to address and resolve complex and serious cases (hereafter “complex cases”) involving violations of NCAA rules.

6. Harsher penalties: Among the changes the commission recommends is a five-year postseason ban for serious infractions and the loss of all revenue sharing from the NCAA tournament during the ban.

7. Reforming non-scholastic basketball: The commission addressed the influence of AAU basketball and other events recruits play in away from school.

“Virtually all of the top recruits for each collegiate recruiting class participate in non-scholastic basketball,” the report stated. “The Commission recommends that the NCAA take short and long-term actions to reform non-scholastic basketball and disassociate the NCAA and its member institutions from the aspects of non-scholastic basketball where transparency and ethical behavior cannot be assured.”

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