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Sunday, July 30, 2017: LaVar Ball incident raises fresh set of issues

   Leading off today: Contrary to the ad campaign, not everything that happens in Vegas does in fact stay in Vegas. It seems a basketball-related stench emanating from a tournament there made its way from coast to coast over the weekend.

   Consequently, it would be too easy to tear Adidas a new one in the aftermath of uber-helicopter parent LaVar Ball's embarrassing antics there ... so, let's get started.

   I'm not saying that they ultimately have to stage a boycott, but doesn't every chapter of the IAABO or other organization that officiates high school and college basketball games have to pause to ponder whether working the games of schools with a business relationship with Adidas is tacit approval of what just happened in Las Vegas? Seeing a ref fired in mid-game during a huge Adidas event raises the question of whether that company will expect (demand?) a particular outcome for the teams it sponsors -- whether in the form of free shoes and sweats or expensive arena ad packages.

   No officials organization wants fans wondering if their members can be bullied in a fashion similar to what seems to have happened late last week.

   The founder of Court Club Elite, which has been in business with Adidas for its annual summer championships for a decade, emphatically denied the shoe company pressured his organization to make sure game officials would go easy on Ball, the parent/coach (a better parent than a coach from what I can tell) whose juvenile behavior has some observers thinking less kindly of summer-league basketball -- as if that was even possible.

   I'll take Court Club Elite executive Ed Rush at his word regarding the denial, stemming from an unflattering report first posted by ESPN. Perhaps Adidas wasn't looking for pliable officials as much as they wanted to be sure trigger-happy individuals didn't get assigned to the game.

   Regardless, Ball behaved the way he usually does and berated a referee working his team's game Thursday, resulting in his first technical foul of the game. The fact that the ref was female and that Ball launched a rather sexist tirade afterward made for instant headlines.

   As if that wasn't enough of a public-relations mess, the tournament organizers yanked the ref from the court during the game and replaced her. Do the math and you might surmise that Adidas, a potential business partner with Ball, his son Lonzo and their Big Baller Brand of shoes and apparel, may have called the shots in humiliating that ref, who has worked Division I games in the past.


   If it's true, then Adidas put its business ahead of the integrity of a sport that makes the company a nice chunk of change each year. That constitutes poisoning the well it and others drinks from without regard for anyone else.

   End of rant.

   Section 5 basketball: Strictly speaking, a report that has all-state wing Jeenathan Williams of University Prep transferring to St. Benedict's in Newark, N.J., might be premature, but I've heard from a local source that the move appears inevitable.

   Williams, fifth-team all-state in Class AA after averaging 22 points a game, had recently told the Democrat and Chronicle he'd be leaving UPrep to attend prep school as a

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senior. He's accumulated an impressive list of offers that includes Georgia Tech, Marquette, Pitt, Providence and Syracuse.

    • Recent Aquinas graduate Jalen Pickett, a sixth-team all-state pick (full list here) last season and an AAU teammate of Williams with Albany City Rocks, is opting for the post-grad route by attending SPIRE Institute in Ohio.    The only knock anyone seems to have on Pickett is his tweener size (6-foot-4, give or take), but I've seen enough to know he can certainly play. A respectable year at SPIRE should get him onto the wish lists of multiple Atlantic-10 and MAAC schools, and I'd argue even that is setting the bar too low for a guy who's much more than just a complementary piece.

   Recent Cheektowaga grad Dominick Welch, another City Rocks player, also will attend SPIRE Institute this fall.

   More basketball: Speaking of City Rocks -- and it's hard not to when the subject is Upstate basketball, the Binghamton University roster will feature Stewart Squared a little more than a year from now.

   Carter Stewart, a 6-5 Mekeel Christian wing who was eighth-team all-state as a junior, has committed to the Bearcats. His brother Caleb sat out last season at Binghamton after transferring in from Division 2 St. Leo in Florida.

   Girls star on the move: Mariah Gonzalez, fourth-team all-state in Class C after helping Watkins Glen to a NYSPHSAA Class C championship, is transferring to Class AA Elmira.

   Gonzalez is already committed to attend the University of New Hampshire in September 2018.

   Alumni news: Former Irondequoit two-sport great Matt Kerwick, who went on to a coaching career that included the top jobs at Hobart and Cornell, is the new director of lacrosse at IMG Academy, the Florida boarding school specializing in sports.

    • Former Mount Vernon hurdler Rai Benjamin, who was Gatorade's New York track athlete of the year in 2015, has transferred from UCLA to Southern Cal for the upcoming school year following changes in the Bruins' coaching staff.

   Benjamin missed an NCAA title in the 400 hurdles by one one-hundredth of a second last month.

   Extra points: The age-discrimination lawsuit filed in March by longtime Garden City baseball coach Rich Smith, 75, is on hold while the two sides engage in settlement talks, according to a court filing, Newsday reported. Smith was not renewed as the baseball coach last season for the first time since taking over the program in 1973.

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