Calipari assistant allegedly broke recruiting rules

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari watches over his team during their practice for their upcoming NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

The smoke is gathering around John Calipari.

Allegations have emerged as part of an ongoing investigation that one of Calipari’s former assistants broke NCAA recruiting violations.

But a nearly two-year investigation revealed that [Bilal] Batley also broke NCAA rules by making repeated impermissible telephone calls while at both Memphis and Kentucky to recruits, such as DeMarcus Cousins, and their parents.

When approached by a reporter after his news conference on Friday, Calipari refused to address any questions concerning whether he was aware of Batley’s calls and whether or not Kentucky self-reported the violations.

NCAA rules state that all telephone calls made to or received from a recruit, his parents, legal guardians or coaches must be made and received by a team’s head coach or three countable assistant coaches.

According to Memphis and Kentucky, Batley was not a countable coach at either school.

The report goes on to quote Cousins in saying that Batley played a “big role” in his decision to follow Calipari to Kentucky.

“We stayed in contact with him frequently,” DeMarcus Cousins told

High-schooler (and top 2012 point guard recruit) L.J. Rose admitted that he spoke to Batley frequently while he was at Kentucky.

Batley has something of a checkered past, including an accident in Texas in which he was driving a van full of players. Two players were killed and five others were injured. He was not indicted.

He also worked for Kelvin Sampson at Indiana during the time when Sampson and his staff were found to have broken recruiting violations. Batley joined Calipari in Memphis about a month after one of the players) he was recruiting at Indiana (Nolan Dennis committed to Memphis. Hmm.

At best, Calipari is guilty of bad judgment in hiring Batley. At worst, he knew about the illegal contact and turned a blind eye. Worse yet, he endorsed it.

Nothing has stuck to Calipari in his college coaching career, but both of his trips to the Final Four (at UMass and Memphis) have been vacated due to NCAA violations. Marcus Camby was found to have had illegal contact with an agent while Derrick Rose had someone else take his SAT.

Is this year’s Final Four appearance next on the list?

Read the entire piece here.

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Final Four Primer

A combination picture shows Butler Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens (L) and Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Shaka Smart during their respective practice sessions in Houston, Texas, April 1, 2011. Their teams will meet in the first of two NCAA Final Four college basketball games on April 2. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Butler and VCU tip things off today at 6 PM ET, so while you wait, here is some opinion from around the internets. Also, be sure to check out our quick and dirty Final Four preview.

Carson Cunningham, Real Clear Sports: In Indiana we play basketball. It sounds cliché, but it’s true and you can try to quantify this. During Butler’s most recent tournament wins over Wisconsin and Florida, for instance, you could’ve noted that Indiana has about three times as many Division I basketball players as Wisconsin, even though the two states’ populations are nearly identical, or that Indiana colleges have produced 14 Final Four teams compared to the state of Florida’s 5, even though Florida has about three times as many people as Indiana. But basketball runs deeper in our veins than stats like this. When we watch Butler play basketball we’re reminded of the time we spent with our dads when we were 5 years old and of what our coaches taught us when we were 6 and 7. Whether it’s watching a dribble-drive to set up a backdoor, a sweet stroke from deep that draws nothing but net, or a lefty hook that represents thousands of hours of practice from Butler’s academic All-American Matt Howard, we can relate. Growing up, we practiced the same things for hours.

Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports: For VCU to continue its rampage toward the national championship, the Rams will have to do exactly what they’ve been doing. But their toughest test of the tournament — tougher even than what might await Monday — will be Butler. Because what VCU has done for five games is impose its will on the opponent. And nobody imposes squat on Butler. Butler is impervious to pressure, impervious to stress, impervious to whatever the other team is trying to do to it. Which means this game won’t just be a test of skill. It will be a test of will.

Pat Forde, ESPN: In its current 13-game winning streak, the Bulldogs’ games have averaged 62.2 possessions. That makes the contrast Saturday against Virginia Commonwealth rather stark. VCU has excelled this NCAA tournament at speeding up opponents, with its previous three games averaging 69.7 possessions. The Rams’ “Havoc” style was especially effective in the Southwest Regional final against Kansas, which was harassed into eight first-half turnovers and gave up a lot of open shots in transition as the Rams raced to a 14-point halftime lead. So the push and pull of pace will be paramount Saturday when the two teams hook up in the “Believe It or Not!” national semifinal.

Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle:
In the most delicious matchup of this Final Four, Liggins today almost certainly will be asked to slow down the best player in the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut junior Kemba Walker is generously listed at 6-1, and that’s irrelevant anyway. When you watch him play, when you see him work for the ball, wear down defenders and create opportunities both for himself and others, his height becomes irrelevant. No matter what else Walker accomplishes in basketball — and he’s almost certain to be a top-10 pick in this summer’s NBA draft – it may not be more impressive than what’s he done these last few weeks, putting a team on his back and taking it from the middle of the pack in the Big East to the threshold of a national championship.

Eamonn Brennan, ESPN: Jeremy Lamb has become a star. There’s no getting around it: This is Kemba Walker’s team. In many ways, from Maui to Manhattan to Anaheim to Houston, this has been his season. But UConn’s presence in the Final Four has just as much to do with Lamb’s emergence as a bona-fide star in his own right. The UConn forward has gone from a lanky, raw freshman to a versatile, comprehensive scorer. He’s made 11 of his 15 3-pointers in UConn’s four NCAA tournament wins, and he’s complemented that outside attack with an array of drives, pull-ups and pretty mid-range floaters. Can Lamb keep this up? If he does, he makes UConn’s Walker-led attack even more dangerous, and that’s bad news for the other three members of this unlikely Final Four.

Ken Davis, NBC Sports:
One day before Kentucky defeated North Carolina in the East Regional championship game, Kentucky coach John Calipari shared an interview podium with his starters. Calipari calls Knight one of the most conscientious, hard-working players he has ever been around. So, when he was asked to describe how Knight has the confidence to take the game-winning shots he has become known for in the NCAA Tournament, Calipari gave an answer that revealed much more about his young star. “He will be in the gym at 11 at night,” Calipari said. “Then he will be in the training room icing his knees or his legs at 6 in the morning. Academically, he got mad the other day when he got a 91. What class was it that you got that 91 on a test?” “Sociology,” Knight answered. “Still got an A, but he is mad,” Calipari said. “He’s conscientious. So he feels that he will make that shot. And more importantly, why I put the ball in his hands, he is not afraid to miss it. If you really want to be that guy, you have no fear. ‘If I miss this shot, I miss it. I am not afraid to miss this shot. Life will not end.’ I feel comfortable putting it in his hands because I know his work ethic.”

Digging into the Calhoun/Calipari rivalry

Connecticut Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun gestures as his team plays the San Diego Aztecs during their NCAA West Regional college basketball game in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

ESPN’s Andy Katz outlines what has been something of a heated rivalry between Jim Calhoun and John Calipari.

The perceived breaking point between the two schools — and coaches — occurred during the recruitment of Hartford-area center Marcus Camby in 1993.

“I was responsible for recruiting Marcus and I did everything I possibly could,” Dickenman said. “I tried and I tried, and the bottom line is I was talking to a wall. We weren’t going to get him. We did have him on a visit with Kirk King and Ray Allen. We had this feeling that we weren’t in it and we never really were.”

“At the time John was an up-and-comer, a hot-shot name, and Jim doesn’t like to lose to anyone,” Dickenman said. “John has tremendous charisma and he’s a little brash. Jim had taken some things personal, but I don’t think they were necessarily directed at Jim.

Calhoun doesn’t like to lose at all, but he really doesn’t like to lose to hot-shot coaches like Calipari, so there will be a little extra juice to the UConn/Kentucky tilt on Saturday night.

Your quick and dirty Final Four preview

Butler Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens encourages his team playing against the Florida Gators in the second half during their NCAA Southeast Regional college basketball game in New Orleans, March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Butler vs. VCU

Spread: Butler -2.5; Sagarin: Butler -1.45; Pomeroy: Butler 55.3%
Butler is the slight favorite, and if this game comes down to the final few possessions, I have to give the Bulldogs the edge due to their amazing ability (fortune?) to triumph in close games. However, Butler has only won their four tournament games by a total of 13 points, so they have hardly been as dominating as the Rams, who have beaten #1 Kansas, #3 Purdue, #6 Georgetown and #11 USC by an average of 14.8 points. Their lone tight game was against #10 Florida State, which went to overtime.

The key for the Rams has been their lights-out three-point shooting. They have hit 44% of their attempts in the tourney, after shooting just 36% during the season. Will this hot shooting continue in a football stadium against Butler, which very good at defending the three-point line (32.4%)? If the Rams hit 40%+ from long range, they have a chance for a 10- to 15-point win, especially if they use their depth to press, something that has rattled the Bulldogs in this tournament.

My pick: VCU

Kentucky vs. UConn

Spread: UK -2; Sagarin: UK -2.32; Pomeroy: UK 58.4%
After watching UConn play in a tough environment against both SDSU and Arizona, there’s no doubt that the Huskies are mentally tough enough to leave Houston with a title. Kentucky has the more talented rotation, but the key to this game will be how the Wildcats defend Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb. Against both SDSU and Arizona, Walker carried the Huskies early, but at some point in the second half, Lamb stepped up with several big shots to help to put those two games away.

If you go with the “best player on the floor” argument, UConn probably has the edge because of Walker. He’s lightning quick and can usually get a good look at the basket whenever he wants. The Wildcats have more balance, with four players averaging double-digits and two more averaging 7.9 ppg or more. Brandon Knight has hit some clutch shots and UConn hasn’t had to wrangle a guard of his caliber so far in the tournament.

In the end, the Wildcats have the edge. They own the 4th-best Pomeroy rating and look more like a national championship-caliber squad with their elite (#7) offensive efficiency and more than capable defense (#20). That said, if Walker and/or Lamb get hot, this will be a close game.

My pick: Kentucky

Kentucky beats UNC, 76-69

Kentucky Wildcats’ DeAndre Liggins (34) reacts with the Wildcats bench after sinking a three-pointer against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their NCAA East Regional college basketball game in Newark, New Jersey, March 27, 2011. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

The Wildcats held a slim lead for most of the game, but found themselves tied at 67-67 with 3:18 to play after Tyler Zeller hit a pair of free throws to cap a 10-2 run for the Tar Heels.

On the next trip down the court, Brandon Knight picked a great time to hit his fifth three-pointer of the game. Zeller’s tip-in cut the lead to one, but then DeAndre Liggins hit a three of his own to give the Wildcats a four-point lead with 0:35 to play.

Just like the VCU/Kansas game, three-point shooting was the difference in this one. Kentucky went 12-of-22 (55%), while the Tar Heels made just 3-of-16 (19%) from long range.

Kentucky joins VCU, UConn and Butler in the Final Four. They’ll play Kemba Walker and UConn on Saturday.

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