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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

College Basketball

Shaka Smart receives ovation in return to VCU (Video)

Shaka Smart received a warm welcome when he returned to the place that helped make him one of the more popular coaches in college basketball.

From 2009 through 2015, Smart was the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Virginia Commonwealth University. While there, he led the Rams to a 163-56 record and five trips to the NCAA Tournament, including a run to the Final Four in 2011 as a No. 11 seed.

Now at Texas, Smart returned to VCU on Tuesday for the first time since departing for the Longhorns. Not surprisingly, Smart received an ovation when he took the floor at the Siegel Center. Take a look and listen below.

Smart, who is in his third season with Texas, got the better of his former team. The Longhorns won 71-67 to improve to 6-2.

LaMelo, LiAngelo Ball looking into playing professionally overseas

LaMelo Ball

LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball are considering playing professionally overseas and are looking into their options, according to a report.

The Vertical’s Shams Charania reported on Monday night that the representative for both players began making contact with teams this week about the possibility of the two players signing to play internationally. Options might be limited because seasons have already started and teams have their rosters set. However, the Ball brothers are well known on the basketball scene and could be attractive to teams for their drawing potential.

The development comes as no surprise given the way things have been trending for the Ball family.

Oldest brother Lonzo played for UCLA last season and was drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers, though he’s struggling in his rookie season. LiAngelo was set to play for UCLA this season, but he was arrested in China for shoplifting and has been suspended indefinitely. LaMelo is a high school junior who is committed to UCLA, but he left Chino Hills High School to be homeschooled.

On Monday, father LaVar Ball pulled LiAngelo from UCLA, saying he could better prepare his son for the NBA. LiAngelo isn’t considered much of a professional prospect, but could work well as a package deal with his brother.

LaVar was never worried about preserving LaMelo’s eligibility after giving him his own signature shoe anyhow. It’s no surprise to hear now that he’s trying to get his sons playing overseas.

LaVar Ball says he will prepare LiAngelo better for NBA Draft than UCLA could

LaVar Ball has made the decision to have his son LiAngelo quit the UCLA basketball team, and the elder Ball says the move is designed to better prepare the 19-year-old for the NBA Draft.

LaVar confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Monday that LiAngelo is leaving UCLA, but he said there are no plans for LiAngelo to transfer schools.

“I’m going to make him way better for the draft than UCLA ever could have,” he said. “He’s not transferring to another school. The plan is now to get Gelo ready for the NBA draft.”

LaVar Ball indicated that he grew frustrated with the indefinite suspension LiAngelo had been serving at UCLA stemming from his shoplifting incident in China.

“I’m not sitting back and waiting,” the Big Baller Brand founder said. “He wasn’t punished this bad in China. We get back over here and the consequences were even stiffer than China. So basically they’re in jail here.”

TMZ first reported on Monday that LiAngelo Ball is leaving UCLA, and LaVar said he didn’t bother to speak with Steve Alford and the Bruins coaching staff about the decision.

“I haven’t told any of those guys,” LaVar Ball said. “They didn’t tell me anything, so why am I gonna tell them? … They had him there just to use the Ball family name. They were going to keep the best shooter on the team coming off the bench? That’s like telling the Clippers back in the day not to play JJ Redick.”

While Ball said the plan is for his son to remain enrolled at UCLA, a university source told ESPN’s Arash Markazi that this will likely be the end of the Ball family’s relationship with the school. LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the Ball brothers, had committed to go to UCLA in two years. There have been some questions about whether LaMelo would be eligible to play NCAA basketball because he already has his own shoe.

LaVar Ball has been unapologetic over LiAngelo’s shoplifting arrest in China, and the incident has resulted in him engaging in a surreal war of words with Donald Trump.

Back in October, LaVar Ball chose to pull LaMelo out of high school in favor of homeschooling and private basketball training.

LaVar Ball reportedly pulls son LiAngelo from UCLA

LiAngelo Ball

LaVar Ball has already decided to pull his youngest son from high school in favor of home school, and now he is reportedly forcing his middle son to drop out of UCLA.

According to TMZ Sports, LaVar has decided LiAngelo should quit the UCLA basketball team and leave the university. The decision stems from LiAngelo being suspended indefinitely after he was arrested for shoplifting in China. Here’s more:

We’re told LaVar believes the suspension was unfair, especially since the charges were dropped. LaVar’s people tell TMZ the famous dad thinks, “There’s no need to break down a kid’s spirit for making a mistake.”

Our sources say LiAngelo is not officially withdrawn from the school but he’s at home and will not return to UCLA.

LiAngelo was a freshman and never actually played a game for the team.

A family spokesperson added LiAngelo and Lavar appreciate UCLA for everything … despite the circumstances that led to the suspension.

UCLA officials had not yet said when Ball and the two other players who were involved in the shoplifting incident — freshmen Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — would be eligible to return to the team.

LiAngelo’s arrest overseas has led to an epic war of words between LaVar and Donald Trump. It’s no secret that LaVar will do whatever he thinks is best for his boys and the Big Baller Brand regardless of the backlash, and we have even seen that with some of the comments he has made about how the Lakers are coaching his eldest son Lonzo.

Chris Mack critical of Mick Cronin after postgame incident

Things got a little bit heated at the end of the 2017 edition of the Crosstown Shootout.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin and Xavier senior J.P. Macura got into a verbal altercation in the handshake line that ended with Cronin having to be restrained from going after the player, with Cronin later accusing a Xavier player of telling him to “eff off three times.”

“You know who it was,” Cronin said, via Jeff Goodman of ESPN. “If he was playing for me, he wouldn’t play.”

Video of the incident was hard to come by, but a fan did capture Cronin having to be pulled away from the Xavier bench.

Xavier coach Chris Mack was having none of Cronin’s complaints.

“There’s two sides to the story,” Mack said when asked about the altercation. “There’s a reason their coach was issued a technical in the game.

“I’m not going to have the narrative be anything other than us playing better than Cincinnati and us beating Cincinnati today.”

Mack went on to defend Macura and blamed Cronin for needlessly losing his cool.

“J.P.’s my guy,” Mack said of Macura. “J.P. will fight for every inch on the basketball court. He’s a great kid. I’m not going to let anybody control the narrative on who they think J.P. Macura is.

“Lance Stephenson, right in front of me, called me the N-word three times and said F- you,” Mack added. “After the game, guess what I did? I shook his hands. I shook his hands. There is no narrative. There is no narrative. We won.”

It was six years ago now, but these two teams have fought in the past. It’s one of the country’s most heated rivalries, and it sounds like Cronin didn’t exactly do himself proud on Saturday.

Rick Pitino sues Louisville for $38 million

Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino is on the warpath.

The former Louisville coach has sued the university for $38 million, according to a report. TMZ Sports says Pitino filed his suit in U.S. District Court. They say the $38 million figure comes from the salary Pitino was set to earn through 2026, which is when his contract ran with Louisville.

The suit also mentions that Pitino was not given 10 days of notice prior to his firing, which is called for by his contract.

Pitino, 65, was the coach at Louisville since 2001 and had taken the team to three Final Fours, including a national championship won in 2013. During his time at Louisville, he was involved in an extortion attempt that led to a disclosure of an extramarital affair, and his staff was accused of throwing sex parties for recruits. The latest allegations which led to his ousting including a relationship with Adidas where recruits were paid to come to the school. Pitino denied having any knowledge or involvement in the most recent scandals. An unsealed indictment says Pitino was complicit in the illegal involvement with Adidas.

Sean Miller critical of team after win: ‘We’re not that talented’

Sean Miller

Sean Miller was highly critical of his Arizona Wildcats on Wednesday night even though the team won pretty easily.

Arizona beat Long Beach State 91-56 to improve to 4-3 this season and end a three-game losing streak. The team had a dismal showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing to NC State, SMU and getting thumped by Purdue. In the process, they went from being ranked No. 2 in the country to being dropped from the top 25.

Even though his Wildcats got back on the winning track, Miller wasn’t in a celebratory mood Wednesday.

Arizona shot 60 percent from the field in their win, with six players scoring in double-digits. They looked a lot closer to the team that many had ranked highly going into the season. But after their poor start, don’t expect Miller to hype up his team until they go on a lengthy winning streak and turn things around.

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