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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

College Basketball

Top recruit RJ Hampton removes Duke from list of teams after reclassifying to 2019

Duke logo

R.J. Hampton, a scoring point guard who would have been one of the top five players in the 2020 class, announced today that he is reclassifying to the class of 2019.

Earlier in April, Hampton talked about his top four schools, and the list at that time included Kansas, Memphis, Kentucky, and Duke.

But with the reclassification, things have changed.

“It’s going to be Kentucky, Kansas, Memphis and we took off Duke and added Texas Tech,” Hampton’s father told 247 Sports.

Tre Jones’ decision to come back as point guard for another year at Duke no doubt played a key role in this decision by Hampton, and Duke may not have any more scholarships to give for 2019 even if Hampton was willing to play alongside Jones (Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier are both testing the NBA but likely to return to Durham). Texas Tech, meanwhile, continues to ride the wave with Chris Beard after the run to the NCAA Championship game and is now in the mix for one of the top point guards in the country, who also happens to be a Texas native.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey did not seem impressed by White House fast food spread

Donald Trump

Champion athletes being served cuisine from the finest fast food establishments in the world has apparently become a tradition at the White House, and Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey may not have been the biggest fan of a spread consisting of Whoppers and Big Macs.

Let’s just say the look on Mulkey’s face as she made her way through the buffet line was not one of a person who was overly excited:

President Donald Trump first served fast food to the Clemson football team following their national title because of the government shutdown, and he apparently was proud of the idea. Some Tigers players may have been less than thrilled about the menu as well, which we saw a glimpse of with the way one player reacted as he was getting himself a plate.

While the idea was unique to begin with, coaches and athletes probably expect something more along the lines of lobster and prime rib when they’re invited to the White House.

Report: UCLA offered to double Jay Wright’s salary

Jay Wright

UCLA tried hard to bring in as big of a coaching name as possible to replace Steve Alford, even doing what they could to dangle mega money in front of top candidates. In fact, one report says they offered to double the salary for Jay Wright to get him to leave Villanova, but that didn’t help.

The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch on Monday published a comprehensive look at UCLA’s search for a new head basketball coach. According to the article, the Bruins went after some of the most successful coaches in recent college basketball history, like John Calipari, Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Mark Few and Tony Bennett. Wright, who has won two championships in the last four years, was among their targets.

UCLA senior associate athletic director Josh Rebholz ran most of the hiring process and kept big donors updated on the progress. In one update, he told them through text message that they had made a big offer to Wright that mattered little.

“We would have loved for Jay Wright to walk out on the floor, but even when we offered to double his salary, he still wasn’t coming. Nothing we can do about that. But I am proud of our effort. We didn’t assume anything, took our shots and I believe will end up with a solid coach who will embrace UCLA and build a program we all can be proud of and root for.”

According to USA Today, Wright makes around $3.9 million a year. Doubling his salary would have put him just under John Calipari, who struck it rich by dangling UCLA’s offer in front of Kentucky.

The article details just how close the Bruins were to hiring Rick Barnes and also what the issues were with Jamie Dixon. UCLA ended up with Mick Cronin, who left Cincinnati and signed a six-year, $24.5-million contract with the Bruins.

Chris Beard signs new six-year deal at Texas Tech

Chris Beard

After coming so close to leading Texas Tech to a national title, Chris Beard will be extending his stay in Lubbock.

Beard agreed to terms on a new six-year deal, according to the school. That deal will pay Beard upwards of $4.5 million annually, making him the third-highest paid college basketball coach in the country.

Beard’s previous contract was serving him pretty well as he made his way through the NCAA Tournament, but this elevates him to another financial bracket entirely. It’s well-deserved, as he’s gone 76-31 in three seasons at Lubbock with consistent NCAA Tournament success.

5-star recruit Johnny Juzang reclassifies to 2019, interested in Virginia and Kentucky

Johnny Juzang

One lucky college basketball program will likely be benefiting from the services of Johnny Juzang later this year.

Juzang announced on Instagram Wednesday that he is reclassifying to 2019, which would make him eligible to play this year. He says he will make his college announcement in the coming weeks.

Juzang is a 6-foot-7 guard for Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, Calif. He is finishing his junior year of school this year and averaged 23 points per game last season. According to the Los Angeles Times, Juzang repeated eighth grade before entering high school.

LA Daily News high school reporter Tarek Fattal said on Twitter Wednesday that he has heard Virginia is the leader for Juzang, with Kentucky also in the mix.

Report: Rick Pitino, Cavaliers have mutual interest

Rick Pitino

Is Rick Pitino eyeing a job in the NBA now that many of the college basketball coaching vacancies have been filled? That could be the case.

Veteran NBA reporter Peter Vecsey reported on his Patreon page Saturday night that Pitino and the Cleveland Cavaliers have spoken. He says there is mutual interest between owner Dan Gilbert and Pitino, though it’s unclear for what kind of position. You can read the full report at Vecsey’s Patreon.

Pitino, 66, has been coaching in Greece since December. He led Panathinaikos to a Greek Cup victory and is coaching them in the EuroLeague playoffs.

Pitino was fired by Louisville in Oct. 2017 after being involved in a scandal involving the payment to a recruit who ended up at the school. He previously got into trouble with the NCAA and has a championship and Final Four appearance vacated over a sex scandal.

One of the best college coaches ever, Pitino has won two national championships — one in 1996 and Kentucky and another in 2013 with Louisville, which was vacated. He had two separate coaching stints in the NBA. He coached the Knicks for two seasons from 1987-1989. He coached the Celtics from 1997-2001 before resigning in the middle of his fourth season.

After being tied to some coaching vacancies, Pitino said earlier this month that he was not interested in leaving Europe for a college job. In October, he did express interest in returning to the NBA.

The Cavaliers are looking for a new head coach after parting ways with Larry Drew, who replaced Ty Lue, who was fired after an 0-6 start to the season.

Top recruit Matthew Hurt commits to Duke

Duke logo

The Duke Blue Devils are loading up with another top recruiting class for 2019-20.

Consensus top-10 recruit Matthew Hurt announced his commitment to Duke on Friday. Combined with the incoming Vernon Carey and Wendell Moore, it likely ensures that the Blue Devils will once again have the top-rated recruiting class in the sport.

Mike Krzyzewski has copied the John Calipari model and has essentially made Duke a machine in recruiting likely one-and-done players. There will be questions about whether Coach K can consistently win with freshman-heavy teams, but these arrivals, combined with a prominent returnee, will ensure that Duke is in the national title conversation again next year.