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Saturday, September 21, 2019

College Basketball

NCAA defends reasoning behind ‘Rich Paul rule’

Rich Paul

The NCAA has taken significant heat for a proposal that bars agents without a degree from participating in pre-draft representation, but they are doubling down in defense of their policy.

In a statement, the NCAA said they value earning a degree, and consultation with agents and advisors indicated that the standards for agents needed to be raised. Essentially, they said they stand by their policy.

The degree requirement has been particularly controversial, as it’s been interpreted as blocking Rich Paul from becoming involved in the process. The NCAA has denied this, but it will do little to quiet that speculation, especially with them doubling down on the policy.

Was Rich Paul’s advice for Darius Bazley a factor in new NCAA rule?

Darius Bazley

The NCAA this week added criteria to its rules about the agents student-athletes who are testing the draft waters can hire that some believe are targeted at NBA superagent Rich Paul.

The new criteria state an agent must have a bachelor’s degree, be certified with the NBAPA for at least three years, and take an exam at the NCAA Office to be eligible to provide advice to such players. Paul has over 25 NBA players as clients and has negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts despite not having a bachelor’s degree. Yet this rule would prevent him — and any other agent who falls short of the qualifications — from being able to advise such fringe draft prospects.

Though the rule seems to be in place to help ensure student-athletes are receiving high-quality advice from experienced agents, it also has a discriminatory effect. Why box out agents like Paul, who has clearly demonstrated his ability to represent his clients well? An experienced agent who is a college graduate is just as able to provide bad advice or lie to a prospective client as an agent who did not graduate from college and only has two years being certified.

Those who believe the rule is targeted at Paul view the Darius Bazley situation as part of the NCAA’s motivation.

Bazley was a five-star recruit from the class of 2018 and originally committed to Jim Boeheim’s program at Syracuse. He signed a Letter of Intent to play at Syracuse in Nov. 2017 but announced in March 2018 that he would go straight to the G League instead. This left Boeheim upset. Interestingly, Bazley never went to the G League. Instead, he signed with Paul’s Klutch Sports.

Paul arranged an unconventional deal for Bazley, setting him up with an internship at New Balance that would pay the basketball player $1 million over five years as long as he’s in the NBA, and potentially as much as $14 million. It gave the shoe/apparel company early access to a future NBA player and also allowed Bazley to learn about an industry he cared about. The arrangement would also provide Bazley with plenty of time to practice and train. Boeheim later took a shot at Paul and the agent’s most famous client, LeBron James, in further comments.

Bazley ended up becoming the No. 23 overall pick in this year’s draft and is now with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though it’s hard to know whether ot not playing in college harmed his development, it’s difficult to argue that skipping college hurt his draft stock.

Now, does the NCAA have an issue with Paul? They might.

Paul said in an interview on ESPN’s “The Jump” in October that the Bazley deal served to expose an NCAA system he believes is broken. He called the NCAA a system people have “been able to control for a long time” that needed to change. He also stated he believed he was viewed as a threat to the system.

“And when you’re a threat to that system, they don’t like that,” Paul said.

Even though Paul helped Bazley figure out a plan that the athlete wanted, that doesn’t make him anti-college basketball. In fact, he said he wouldn’t advise such a plan for everyone, and said most players need college.

“It’s not for everybody, so I’m not going to sit here and say anyone should follow this path,” Paul said. “This was just the right path for Darius Bazley. This is the right path for Darius Bazley and his family. It takes a collective group of people; his mom was very understanding and willing to allow me to advise them as a family. And the parents are important in this, as well. It’s not just me. The parents are very important. And you have to work together with families to help them understand why this is important.”

Paul said going to college is “the right thing” for most players.

“Because you need to learn how to play the game,” Paul said. “And you need to learn how to mature as a man.”

Paul clearly upset Boeheim. The agent bluntly stated that he was trying to disrupt the NCAA’s system to give players more options, ones that would better suit their needs. Given that context, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the NCAA doesn’t want Paul advising more and more players to avoid college, because that would erode their supply of high-end talent.

Players have chosen to play professionally overseas rather than attend college in the past. Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrance Ferguson are a few who have done that. RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball are two current draft prospects who have opted to play in the Australian league rather than go to college.

The NCAA may say they don’t want players who are uninterested in college enrolling in school, but there’s only so much of that they could take. Deep down they still want quality players in college programs so they can provide a better television product. An agent who can weaken the NCAA and college basketball through his creativity and ingenuity could be considered a threat to them.

LeBron James says ‘scared’ agents, NCAA created Rich Paul rule

LeBron James

The NCAA seems to have created a rule that is targeted at Rich Paul. LeBron James appears to think that is the case.

On Tuesday, word emerged that the NCAA created some criteria required for agents who wish to represent student-athletes who are interested in testing NBA draft waters. Student-athletes can test their potential position in the draft without losing their college eligibility, which is a change from the past when declaring for the draft prevented players from returning to school. The new conditions require agents to have a college degree and be certified for at least three years. The new criteria appear to be targeted at Paul, an NBA superagent, who does not have a degree.

James, who was Paul’s first client when the agent began Klutch Sports in 2012, believes the rule was created to limit Paul and is the result of the establishment being “scared”.

There could be some good coming from the new criteria; the requirements aim to add greater protection for student-athletes to ensure they are represented by experienced and qualified agents. However, Paul has shown he is one of the best agents in the business, and he didn’t need a college degree to become that. Maybe he was getting too good and this was a way they had to slow him down.

What’s Paul going to do? Challenge the rule, citing his experience negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in NBA contracts? Or complete some garbage online bachelor’s degree to comply with their new rule? Or maybe he’ll just sit there laughing about how establishments try to change the rules once someone becomes too good.

Did the NCAA add an anti-Rich Paul agent rule?

Rich Paul

Did the NCAA create a new rule for agents that is aimed specifically at Rich Paul? That sure seems to be the case.

College basketball reporter Jon Rothstein reported on Tuesday that the NCAA has added criteria for agents who want to represent student-athletes testing the NBA Draft market. The criteria includes requiring agents to have a bachelor’s degree, be certified with the NBPA for a minimum of three years, and take an in-person exam at the NCAA Office in Indianapolis.

Why would they create such a rule? Well, there might be some thinking that instituting such minimum requirements would help protect student-athletes from being advised by unqualified representatives. Another way to look at it is they’re trying to restrict agents like Rich Paul from emerging by making aspiring agents jump through more and more hoops.

Paul is the founder of Klutch Sports and best known for representing LeBron James. He has grown into much more since starting Klutch Sports in 2012 and has become a game-changing agent viewed as someone who will help empower an athlete to do what’s best for themselves. At the same time, he appears to also value professionalism and commitments. He recently sold a stake in Klutch Sports to Hollywood talent agency United Talent Agency. His client list includes about 25 NBA players like Ben Simmons, Draymond Green and John Wall in addition to LeBron. He’s built all of this despite not having a college degree. Not having a degree means Paul wouldn’t be able to represent a player who is testing the draft waters and considering a return to school.

If Paul has accomplished as much as he has without a college degree, why would the NCAA require three years of certification and a college degree for someone to represent a student-athlete testing the waters? LeBron James didn’t need a college degree to get where he did. Nor did Kobe Bryant. And clearly Paul didn’t either. Such a restriction seems to be a play by existing agents to keep out potential competition.

Juwan Howard not trying to duplicate John Beilein at Michigan

Juwan Howard

Juwan Howard will have some big shoes to fill next season, but he plans to fill them his way and his way alone.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic that ran Sunday, the new Michigan head coach acknowledged that comparisons to predecessor John Beilein will be inevitable but emphasized that he is trying to be his own man.

“When the comparisons start, I promise you I will not be sensitive about it because I know this: I have to do it my way, how I foresee how it should be done, and trust the process,” said Howard. “I’m not going to try to be or try to duplicate John or Steve Fisher or Brian Ellerbe or Tommy Amaker. I’m going to be Juwan Howard, and I’m going to try to be the best I can be.

“I’ve always gone about doing my job and not looking to be praised,” the 46-year-old went on. “During my playing days, there were some highs, and there were some lows. Fans and media have expectations, and I’ve been dumped on, and I’ve never made excuses for it. I’ve just rolled up my sleeves and tried to stay focused, and do my job to the best of my ability.”

Beilein, who left this summer to become the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had an incredible run in his 12 seasons at Michigan, racking up nine NCAA Tournament berths, five Sweet Sixteens, and two title game appearances. Howard, meanwhile, helped headline the team’s legendary Fab Five era as a player but has no prior head coaching experience at any level.

Nevertheless, Howard already made one flashy hire to his coaching staff, and it sounds like he is ready to sink or swim on his own merits.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s son Jabri commits to Virginia

Virginia Cavaliers

The defending national champions have picked up a big recruit.

Jabri Abdur-Rahim, the son of former NBA player Shareef Abdur-Rahim, announced on Twitter Wednesday that he had committed to Virginia.

Abdur-Rahim is a 6-foot-7 forward from Blair Academy in New Jersey. 247 Sports’ composite rankings list him as the No. 1 player in New Jersey and the No. 44 recruit nationally.

Abdur-Rahim has been involved with USA Basketball since 2016 and attended the Men’s Junior National Team July minicamp.

Jabri is a member of the class of 2020. He chose Virginia over numerous other top programs.

John Calipari: Indiana-Kentucky series not coming back any time soon

John Calipari

Kentucky and Indiana used to match up in an annual rivalry game in college basketball, but the series stopped after 2011 (they have met twice in the NCAA Tournament since). John Calipari says don’t count on it coming back any time soon.

SEC basketball coaches spoke with the media on Thursday for the SEC Basketball Teleconference. Calipari said on the call that he didn’t foresee the rivalry series with Indiana returning soon.

“Our schedule is so locked in, I’m not sure, here in the next four to five years, if even talking about it does anything,” Calipari said, via Kentucky Sports Radio. “We’re hoping to do something in London next year, we’ve got this challenge that we put together, the [Champions Classic] and then the [CBS Sports Classic]. We have a game that we have to play with Louisville. We have our big challenge with the Big 12. Our stuff is pretty well loaded so I don’t see it happening any time in the near future.”

Calipari preferred to do neutral site games rather than home games at Rupp Arena and Assembly Hall. He says he offered to play games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and was turned down. Why won’t he return to Bloomington? He seems to still hold something against Indiana fans after the way the 2011 game went down.

Kentucky still plays a very competitive schedule with games against North Carolina and Louisville non-conference, while Indiana has fallen off in level of play lately. They probably don’t see the need to add that game back.