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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / December 18.
  • By DAVE SKRETTA

    LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The one place Kansas guard Frank Mason III and his teammates can find a reprieve these days seems to be the basketball court, where the third-ranked Jayhawks can be defined only by their play.

    Off the floor, distractions and controversy abound.

    News surfaced last week that police were investigating a reported rape at McCarthy Hall, where the basketball team and other students live. No suspects have been identified in connection with the alleged incident the night of Dec. 17, but five members of the team have been identified as witnesses. During the investigation, police discovered drug paraphernalia — two glass smoking devices with residue inside. Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. was suspended indefinitely last week, and on Monday he was formally charged with misdemeanor possession and ordered to appear in court March 3.

    Deng Gak plans to return to his home in Australia over spring break at Blair (N.J.) Academy in March, but as someone who is Sudanese he needs to know exactly how the new Trump travel ban will impact him.

    “I’m going to do my due diligence before I put him on a plane at spring break, I can tell you that,” Blair Academy coach Joe Mantegna said Monday by phone. “I think he’s going to probably go back home. We have a three-week spring break in March. So I think the chances are he’ll probably go back home then. He did last year.”

    President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Sudan but excluding South Sudan, for 90 days has raised many questions about how it will impact those in professional sports, but it also has implications for those at the prep level, too.

    “Of course there’s implications with a kid like that when you tell his family that you’re going to take care of him and then you’re not sure,” Mantegna said of Gak. “The laws change out from underneath you.”

    Following his unofficial visit to St. John’s this past weekend, uncommitted Class of 2017 forward Derrick Walker is closing in on a college decision.

    The 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior power forward from Sunrise Christian (KS) is considering St. John’s, Tennessee and Georgia and has now visited all three programs.

    “I’m going to meet with my people and hopefully make a decision soon,” he said Tuesday by phone.

    Asked if he could pull the trigger this week, he said, “Possibly.”

    He took his official to the Queens school and then was at Madison Square Garden Sunday night for the Red Storm’s 82-77 loss to Xavier.

    The Knicks may just want to go ahead and begin an all-out tanking effort.

    At 21-28 and situated in 11th place in the East, the Knicks appear to be going nowhere. Again.

    So maybe Phil Jackson should just trade Carmelo Anthony for the best package of picks and prospects available. And try not to get fleeced in the process.

    The 2017 NBA Draft is among the most loaded in recent memory and the Knicks actually own their pick this year.

    So maybe they should “Throw their hat in for Patton” or “Let themselves flatten for Justin Patton.” (Props to Josh Newman on the latter. For more #Tank Slogans, read this.)

    The latest mock draft from DraftExpress.com has the Knicks taking 7-foot Creighton freshman Justin Patton with the No. 12 pick.

    Until now, the site had Patton projected as a lottery pick in 2018. Now the big man who’s averaging 14.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for a Creighton team (19-3) that visits Butler Tuesday night has moved into the 2017 lottery.

    Patton would be a tremendous pick for a Knicks franchise that could use an injection of youth at the center position, where Joakim Noah is averaging 5.2 points and 9.0 rebounds.

    “He’s getting better every day,” one NBA scout said of Patton earlier this month. “He’s only a freshman whose body needs to improve.”

    “The sky is the limit, he has tremendous upside,” a second scout said.

    On the night that Patton went off for 25 points and 9 rebounds against St. John’s, Chris Mullin said: “He reminds me of Marcus Camby. [He has] great hands and even banged a three. Especially tonight, he looked All-NBA.”

    Regardless of whether they land Patton or not, the Knicks would have a variety of great options if they were to finish with the worst record possible.

    Two elite Pac-12 point guards — Washington freshman Markelle Fultz and UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball — remain the projected top two picks in the latest mock.

    Following Fultz and Ball, the site has Kansas wing Josh Jackson at No. 3, N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith Jr., at No. 4, Duke small forward Jayson Tatum at No. 5, Florida State small forward Jonathan Isaac at No. 6, Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen at No. 7, Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox at No. 8, Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk at No. 9 and international point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 10.

    That’s five point guards in the Top 10, a position where the Knicks would be in major need should they opt not to re-sign Derrick Rose.

    Kentucky (4), Duke (3)  and Arizona (3) have 10 combined players in the mock.

    Zion Williamson, the No. 2 player in the 2018 ESPN 60, was floored by his visit to Kentucky this past weekend and will host Wildcats coach John Calipari on Wednesday for another meeting in which he could land a scholarship offer.

    “They have not offered yet,” he said by phone. “But I think Coach Cal and his assistants are coming up Wednesday to talk with me, my head coach and my parents again.”

    The 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward arrived Saturday morning for practice and then returned to Rupp Arena for Kentucky’s 79-73 loss to Kansas. Williamson spoke with Calipari and assistant Joel Justus both before and after the game.

    “Indescribable, the environment,” Williamson said of the game, which also featured 38 NBA scouts in attendance. “That environment, I just can’t even describe it, it’s ridiculous.”