Friday, April 24, 2009
UConn left to wait as Majok explores his options
Connecticut student Ater Majok, who hasn't played a minute for the Huskies since arriving from Australia, declared for the NBA draft Thursday. But that doesn't mean he won't still be pursued by the NCAA enforcement staff in connection with his ties to former registered agent Josh Nochimson, a one-time UConn team manager.
According to a source close to the situation, if Majok stays in the draft he would be under no obligation to talk to the NCAA and obviously wouldn't be subject to any eligibility penalties. But if he doesn't sign with an agent and he attempts to return to school, he is subject to the jurisdiction of the NCAA and the enforcement process.
At issue with Majok will be this: Did he sign an agreement with Nochimson or any other agent before his matriculation at Connecticut? ESPN.com reported in March that Nochimson had represented Majok during a summer-league tournament the previous year in Louisville. Nochimson was at the center of a Yahoo! Sports report on former Connecticut signee/student Nate Miles that said Miles received improper benefits (including lodging and transportation from the student-manager-turned-agent) and that the UConn staff made more than 1,500 phone calls and text messages to Miles and his representatives.
If Majok took any recruiting benefits from Nochimson, the value of those benefits would have to be reimbursed before he could be deemed eligible. He would have to be technically ruled ineligible, and Connecticut would have to seek his reinstatement.
If Majok never plays for UConn and the NCAA investigation into Nochimson's role with Miles and/or Majok finds violations, Connecticut would still be responsible even though neither is eligible at the school.
The NCAA enforcement staff is progressing with its investigation, but this will be a long, drawn-out process, and interviews with key personnel in the case will determine whether the violations in the Yahoo report can be substantiated.
What has become apparent is that Connecticut spent countless man-hours attempting to get Miles and Majok eligible over the past year and now both possibly may never play a minute for the Huskies -- not to mention causing them grief for being at the center of a potential inquiry. The 6-10 Majok was projected to be a major contributor for UConn once he became eligible in December.
• There are a few good rebuttals to some of the comments in my story on the elimination of on-campus evaluations on April weekends. Event organizer Rob Kennedy raised a good point that if the NCAA was so concerned about the perception of high school-aged students missing class time to go to these events then they should prohibit any official or unofficial visits during the week.
UCLA assistant Scott Duncan said he would like to see a rule that all visits can only be conducted between 5 p.m. on Friday and Sunday afternoon to ensure the visit doesn't occur during class. George Mason assistant Chris Caputo brought up a point that a number of these players have more of a longstanding relationship with their AAU coach than they do with their high school coach. He said they would likely want them around for any evaluations and that no rule change is going to force them to be tighter with their high school coach.
The evaluation period for Division I coaches ended Wednesday. But these AAU/summer league tournaments will continue through the spring. The next time Division I coaches can evaluate is July.
• Kansas won't wilt from any competition this season. The Jayhawks, the presumed No. 1 team in the country, will be on full display for the country from Day One.
KU is going to Tennessee and Temple in return games, will play at UCLA in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Challenge, and is still pursuing two high-profile home games.
The Jayhawks are also involved in an odd new tournament to start the season, along with Memphis, Louisville and Arkansas. The two separate, multiple-team round-robin events are sponsored by the Hall of Fame.
Memphis and Kansas each play three mid- to low-major teams at home. Louisville and Arkansas will do the same. All games are single games and played over a two-week period. The fourth game of this "tournament" will be in St. Louis on Nov. 17 with a doubleheader of Kansas vs. Memphis and Louisville vs. Arkansas.
The middling teams will play a total of four games, too. They will play each other on separate days with each playing one home game and one road against each other. They will each get a substantial guarantee for the two marquee games they play, whether that's at Kansas, Memphis, Louisville or Arkansas.
• If you're a college basketball fan -- and we're just going to assume you are if you are reading this blog in the offseason -- mark Dec. 19 on your calendar. North Carolina will play Texas in the Dallas Cowboys' new football stadium, home of the 2014 Final Four. The Longhorns once again have a stellar schedule, hosting Michigan State and USC in addition to Carolina.
Duke and Gonzaga are also talking about possibly playing at Madison Square Garden on that date. Speaking of the Zags, they get a return game from Oklahoma in Spokane this season. And Gonzaga and Memphis are still planning on continuing the series, even after John Calipari's departure. This time the game is at Memphis.