Cade Cunningham spent years honing his game for a shot at becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. The Oklahoma State one-and-done star could accomplish that goal Thursday night as the headliner of a class that includes scorers, playmakers and potentially elite defenders at the top. “I’ve been saying for a long time,” Cunningham said, “we have one of the best classes in a long time. And I’m really appreciative of the fact that we’ve all been pushing each other throughout us coming through high school and things like that.” Only time will tell how deep the class really is. But Cunningham won’t be have to wait long Thursday night. His is expected to be the first name called when the Detroit Pistons open the draft in New York, while the rest of the top tier comes from Cunningham’s same 2020 high school recruiting class. There’s Southern California big man Evan Mobley, the draft’s top big man who helped the Trojans make their deepest NCAA Tournament push in two decades. Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs helped the Bulldogs carry an unbeaten record into the national-title game. Florida State’s Scottie Barnes is a playmaking forward capable of locking down smaller guards. And there are preps-to-pros prospects in guard Jalen Green and forward Jonathan Kuminga, with each bypassing college basketball to play in the G League. ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said depth at the top of this draft was the best since 2003, which produced perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade in the first five picks.
Thunder’s downtown Oklahoma City arena renamed Paycom Center
The Oklahoma City Thunder have announced an exclusive 15-year naming rights partnership to rename the city’s downtown arena after Paycom, a local company that offers online payroll and human resources services to employers. The arena was renamed to the Paycom Center effective Tuesday, according to The Oklahoman. Terms of the deal were not released. The Thunder said exterior signage changes, including Paycom’s green logo, will be completed by the start of the 2021-22 NBA season in October. “We are especially proud to enhance our alignment with this innovative and visionary Oklahoma company that is not only a top job creator, but a nationally recognized technology leader,” Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett said in a statement.
Real Madrid defender Alaba tests positive for COVID-19
Real Madrid defender David Alaba has tested positive for the coronavirus, the club said. Madrid did not immediately release details about the player’s condition. The announcement came a week after Alaba was officially introduced by the Spanish club after joining from Bayern Munich. The addition of Alaba will help make up for the departures of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos. Varane is joining Manchester United and Ramos signed with Paris Saint-Germain. Madrid striker Karim Benzema tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Madrid, coming off a season in which it failed to win any titles, plays its first match of the season at Alavés on Aug. 14.
BC High does not renew contract of 42-year baseball coach Norm Walsh
After more than 40 years leading the BC High baseball team, Norm Walsh’s contract has not been renewed. According to athletic director Jon Bartlett, when Walsh retired as a social studies teacher during the 2019-20 school year, it was agreed he would coach the baseball team for two more years. Walsh declined comment to the Globe. In his 41 seasons at the helm, Walsh directed BC High to Division I state championships in 2001, 2008 and 2009, in addition to seven South sectional championships and 16 Catholic Conference titles. “It’s the end of an era,” said Xaverian’s Gerry Lambert, who coached against Walsh for the past 19 years. “His teams were always very prepared, very ready to play and they weren’t going to give it to you for free. You had to take it from them. They were a mentally tough group, and I think that started with him.” St. John’s Prep coach Dan Letarte played against Walsh in the 1980s, then coached against him as both an assistant and head coach for the past 29 years. “There was always a point in the season when I’d call him and ask him for advice,” Letarte said. “In a way, he was also a mentor to me. I knew I could always get solid, honest answers.” A member of BC High’s Class of 1970, Walsh began coaching the Eagles 42 years ago after graduating from Harvard University. Over his career, Walsh won more than 600 games and earned enshrinement in the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the BC High Hall of Fame.
NCAA won’t re-evaluate penalties for Bush, other cases
The NCAA said it will not re-evaluate penalties handed down for infractions cases, a decision that will keep former Southern California running back Reggie Bush from having his 2005 Heisman Trophy victory restored. Earlier this month, the Heisman Trust said it would return the Heisman to Bush if the NCAA were to reinstate him for the 2005 season. The NCAA released a statement saying that recent changes to rules regarding how athletes can be compensated for their names, images, and likenesses still do not permit “pay-for-play type arrangements.” “The NCAA infractions process exists to promote fairness in college sports,” the NCAA said. “The rules that govern fair play are voted on, agreed to and expected to be upheld by all NCAA member schools. Previous penalties, including those that are several years old, will not be re-evaluated or reconsidered based on the recent changes to NIL rules.” Bush had his Heisman victory vacated after the NCAA ruled he received impermissible benefits while playing at USC. The games Bush played in for USC in 2005 were also vacated because was deemed ineligible because of the NCAA violations. When the NCAA lifted its restrictions on athletes earning money for things like endorsements and personnel appearances on July 1, Bush made a public appeal for his Heisman to be returned.