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Northern Arizona’s Burcar building toward a bigger future Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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FLAGSTAFF, Arizona. Shane Burkar sits in the front row of the large auditorium as the storm rolls over the peaks of San Francisco’s Flagstaff and into the Northern Arizona campus.

The wall of windows on the north side of the room offers a great view of the lightning strikes and the approaching rain moving through the pine trees.

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The building that houses the auditorium, the new $47 million Center for Student-Athlete Excellence, gives Burcar something he never had in his four years as Northern Arizona coach: a first-class facility to showcase future basketball recruits.

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“It really is a game-changer,” Burkar said. “When we compete against a (similar) school, no one has better equipment than us. I’m not saying this to brag or say something bad about another school, but no one has that now.”

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The performance center, which opened in April, could be the missing piece Burcar needs to get NAU back on track. The Lumberjacks have not competed in the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and have won single-digit wins in five of their last seven seasons.

Burkar was named interim coach in 2019 when Jack Murphy left to coach at his alma mater in Arizona. The Woodcutter won 16 games in Burkar’s first season, earning him a steady job, but were unable to keep up that pace.

Northern Arizona survived the pandemic-altered 2020-21 season like many other programs to win six games and went 9-16 last year with one of the youngest Division I teams.

Lumberjacks may be ready to turn the corner towards a better future.

This year, the team is bringing back all five members, bringing with it a year of experience.

Junior quarterback Jalen Cone averaged 18.8 points last season after moving from Virginia Tech and is expected to take on a larger role. Nick Maines, the 6-foot-8 striker, opted to return rather than enter the transfer portal after averaging 11.5 points last year. Junior forward Keith Haymon is also back for his fourth season at Flagstaff, averaging 9.8 points a year ago.

Burkar dived into the transfer portal to land South Dakota defenseman Xavier Fuller, Grand Canyon defenseman Liam Lloyd – son of Arizona national team coach Tommy Lloyd – and Central Connecticut State defenseman Trenton McLaughlin.

Northern Arizona also added rookies CJ Ford, Oakland Fort, Preston Kilbert and Jack Wistrcill, all of whom should make an impact on the program this season and beyond.

“Our goal is to move up in the standings,” Burkar said. “I would say that if we don’t win everything, then we will definitely say goodbye in the first round of the Big Sky tournament. I don’t think it’s an impossible dream at all.”

The new performance center may continue to add to the talent pipeline.

Northern Arizona coaches could always sell the school’s picturesque campus, but the conditions weren’t up to par. The Lumberjacks play most of their home games early in the season at the Rolle Center, which is shared with several sports and physical education classes, and at the huge Walkup Skydome after the football season is over.

The three-story, 72,000-square-foot sports center features two full-fledged basketball courts with a video screen between them, massive gyms, training and food centers, and multiple conference rooms.

It also has a room with a view.

“The building kind of sells itself,” Burkar said. “We saw it in our camps this year when the high school coaches came up and said, ‘OK, they’re serious about winning.’ You can see pictures of it, but when you come here and touch it and walk on it, it’s a completely different thing.”

Burkar has a great view of the program, and not just through the back window of the auditorium.

LEXINGTON, Kentucky. Kentucky will host its annual blue-and-white men’s basketball showdown in Eastern Kentucky to help those affected by the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Appalachian Wireless Arena event in Pikeville will host a pre-game Fan Fest on October 22. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also be involved in community service with local relief organizations.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide temporary shelter through basketball and community involvement.”

The fight is traditionally held at the Rupp Arena. This will come eight days after Big Blue Madness’s public workout at Rupp.

LEXINGTON, Kentucky. Kentucky coach Kira Elsie says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot, 4-year-old mail carrier learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received different opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior coach Courtney Jones said in a press release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elsie said that Herron “is the epitome of a warrior” and everyone is grateful to be on the other side of the player’s operation. Herron is expected to return to campus early next month and continue rehab until she is allowed to return to normal activities.

“Her will and determination to eventually get back on the court is inspiring and it is this attitude towards the game that makes her the perfect fit for our program,” Elsie said in a press release. “We are so excited to have Tionna back in our dressing room; it’s not the same without our whole team.”

Herron moved to Kentucky during the early signing period last fall, is rated a four-star prospect and is among the top 70 players in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference tournament and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Michigan. Emony Bates, a former basketball prodigy who moved to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, has been charged with two felony charges after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

Bates, 18, was unable to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a gun was found during a search, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the car and gun did not belong to Bates.

“I hope people can hold back on judgment and understand that there is a benefit of the doubt,” Haney said. “It was not his car. It wasn’t his gun. … We are still gathering facts.”

Bates was charged with concealed carry and altering the markings on firearms. He was released after his lawyer pleaded not guilty. The next hearing in the Bates case will take place on October 6.

“This is his first run-in with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot Bates moved to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points per game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of the situation with one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to collect more details and will provide additional comments when more information becomes available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the 2020 high school basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year award, defeating Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Last year, Detroit selected Cunningham with the first overall pick, two picks before the Clevelands took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago but later backed out and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, which ended 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed most of the season with a back injury before appearing in two games in the NCAA Tournament in Memphis.

In 2019, as a freshman in high school, the slender and experienced quarterback led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan Division I Player of the Year by the Associated Press. His second season was interrupted by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy in his junior year, his last year of high school.

STORRS, Connecticut. On Thursday, UConn announced that it had agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination lawsuits related to his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to more than $11.1 million in back wages that Ollie has already paid off after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was wrongfully fired under the school’s agreement with the professors’ union.

“I’m grateful that we were able to come to an agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am glad that this issue has now been completely and finally resolved.

Ollie, the former UConn point guard who led the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was fired after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him on his contract, citing multiple NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on two-year probation, and Ollie was subject to individual sanctioning for violations that the NCAA determined occurred between 2013 and 2018. the purpose of firing Ollie “for a good reason”.

The school argued that Ollie’s misdeeds were serious and that his individual contract superseded these union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers argued that white coaches, including Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Jeno Oriemma, also committed NCAA violations but were not fired, and indicated that they planned to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie announced in a joint…


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