Shaq’s jersey being retired by Heat

MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade still remembers when he initially heard the rumor that Shaquille O’Neal was coming to the Miami Heat, and how his first reaction was disbelief.

And then came the 18-wheeler that carried O’Neal to his arrival in Miami, as he happily fired a squirt gun at throngs of screaming fans.

“We had a vision to be a championship team,” Wade told The Associated Press on Wednesday, “but it wasn’t for real for real until Big Fella came and pulled up on that truck.”

A grand celebration was had on that day in July 2004, the franchise’s first of three NBA championships followed two years later, and the Heat will give O’Neal their version of an ultimate thank-you on Thursday night when they raise his No. 32 banner to the rafters. He will be the third Heat player to get such an honor, joining only Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

“I said ‘I promise I’m going to bring a championship here,’” O’Neal said. “And we did.”

Fittingly, the Heat will fete O’Neal at halftime of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers — who have also retired his number.

Stoops: Mixon would be off Sooners team had punch been now

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops says running back Joe Mixon would be off the team if he had punched a woman now instead of 2 1/2 years ago.

Mixon was suspended by the Sooners for a year after punching Oklahoma student Amelia Molitor in 2014.

Stoops says he believed that the then-18-year-old Mixon could redeem himself. On Wednesday, he said times have changed, and society now has a no-tolerance policy on such incidents. He said that’s a good thing.

Mixon entered an Alford plea, acknowledging there was likely enough evidence to convict him of misdemeanor assault while still asserting his innocence. He did not serve jail time and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counseling.

Baylor penalized for football recruiting violations

WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor has been fined $5,000 for NCAA football recruiting violations, the latest blow for a program trying to pick up the pieces from a sexual assault scandal and struggles on the field.

The NCAA announced the punishment Wednesday after an investigation found that assistant football coaches violated NCAA rules in spring 2015. The penalties were not severe, with the NCAA accepting most of the school’s self-imposed punishments, including banning two assistants from off-campus recruiting for 12 weeks and game suspensions that have already been served.

Two assistants had been advised of recruiting rules but still tried to find loopholes that would allow them more interaction with football prospects, according to the NCAA.

In one instance, a coach asked at a campus compliance session if the football staff could attend a track meet but turn their backs when a prospect they were evaluating was competing so they could avoid having to log an evaluation of the athlete, the NCAA said. The school’s compliance office said this was permissible but the NCAA panel that investigated the infractions found the counsel was “ill-advised at best.”

UNC receives 3rd Notice of Allegations in NCAA case

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina has received a third Notice of Allegations from the NCAA outlining violations connected to its multi-year academic fraud scandal.

UNC spokesman Rick White said in statement Wednesday that the university will publicly release the document but didn’t specify when. The statement didn’t comment on any changes compared to two earlier versions, both of which included five serious charges centered around years of irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments offered by a department.

The NCAA first filed charges in May 2015, then sent a revised notice in April. Both versions charged UNC with lack of institutional control in a case that grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe into the football program.

Inside Carolina first reported the arrival of a third NOA, further slowing a case already crawling toward resolution. For the third time, UNC will face a 90-day deadline to file a response before eventually having a hearing with an infractions committee panel and later a ruling or potential penalties.

In October, the school appeared before an infractions committee panel for a hearing focused on its procedural arguments in response to the charges from the most recent NOA. Among them, UNC had challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction by saying its accreditation agency was the proper authority for academic questions.

The school had also argued a March 2012 ruling in the original football case should have precluded some current charges, saying the NCAA was aware of key issues in 2011 but had determined no violations occurred at various points in the following years before reopening an investigation in 2014.

NBA to open academy in Africa in 2017

The NBA will open an academy in Africa next year, its latest move to unearth talent from outside the United States and extend the league’s reach into new territories.

The African academy will be based in Thies, Senegal, and follows similar NBA projects opened this year in China, which has three academies, and Australia. Another academy in India is set to start operating in April.

The NBA aims to open the Senegal academy, its sixth, in May.

The international academies, elite training centers for boys and girls at under-16 and under-18 level, are “the biggest investment the NBA has ever made in basketball development globally,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of international basketball operations.

“We are moving full force ahead and are really excited by the progress we’ve made,” Meek told The Associated Press.

A record 26 international players were selected in the 2016 NBA draft. Along with the new players, the NBA’s push into Asia and Africa, specifically, provides significant new audiences and marketing opportunities for the league.

The NBA has made two big plays in Africa over the last year-and-a-half, holding an exhibition game in South Africa in August 2015, the first on the continent, and signing a new trans-African broadcast deal in April.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was in Johannesburg for the exhibition game and said it was part of the league’s plan to have a pre-season and then regular-season game in Africa. At the time, Silver said the NBA was on a “fast track” to build a brand in soccer-crazy Africa.

The new academy in Senegal will focus on elite talent development, said Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA vice president and managing director for Africa. For the last 15 years the NBA has laid the foundation, using its international Basketball without Borders camps to develop the game at a grass-roots level in Africa and elsewhere.

Those Basketball without Borders camps have already provided nine NBA players from Africa, including Luc Mbah a Moute of the Los Angeles Clippers, who is from Cameroon. For its new academy, the NBA will work with and use existing facilities set up by Sports for Education and Economic Development, an international NGO, which has also had success after producing the Minnesota Timberwolves forward Gorgui Dieng. The NBA will provide NBA-trained coaches and other support staff for the academy.

“We’ve had a growing number of players coming from the continent and this is really without a concerted effort or focus on elite talent development,” Fall said. “Now we’re deciding to focus on that. Not only is the number of players coming into the league from Africa going to increase, but they’re going to come better prepared.”

The NBA will begin scouting for the African academy’s first class of 12 young players this week, Fall said.

NBA to open academy in Africa in 2017

By GERALD IMRAY, AP Sports Writer

The NBA will open an academy in Africa next year, its latest move to unearth talent from outside the United States and extend the league’s reach into new territories.

The African academy will be based in Thies, Senegal, and follows similar NBA projects opened this year in China, which has three academies, and Australia. Another academy in India is set to start operating in April.

The NBA aims to open the Senegal academy, its sixth, in May.

The international academies, elite training centers for boys and girls at under-16 and under-18 level, are “the biggest investment the NBA has ever made in basketball development globally,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of international basketball operations.

“We are moving full force ahead and are really excited by the progress we’ve made,” Meek told The Associated Press.

A record 26 international players were selected in the 2016 NBA draft. Along with the new players, the NBA’s push into Asia and Africa, specifically, provides significant new audiences and marketing opportunities for the league.

The NBA has made two big plays in Africa over the last year-and-a-half, holding an exhibition game in South Africa in August 2015, the first on the continent, and signing a new trans-African broadcast deal in April.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was in Johannesburg for the exhibition game and said it was part of the league’s plan to have a pre-season and then regular-season game in Africa. At the time, Silver said the NBA was on a “fast track” to build a brand in soccer-crazy Africa.

The new academy in Senegal will focus on elite talent development, said Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA vice president and managing director for Africa. For the last 15 years the NBA has laid the foundation, using its international Basketball without Borders camps to develop the game at a grass-roots level in Africa and elsewhere.

Those Basketball without Borders camps have already provided nine NBA players from Africa, including Luc Mbah a Moute of the Los Angeles Clippers, who is from Cameroon. For its new academy, the NBA will work with and use existing facilities set up by Sports for Education and Economic Development, an international NGO, which has also had success after producing the Minnesota Timberwolves forward Gorgui Dieng. The NBA will provide NBA-trained coaches and other support staff for the academy.

“We’ve had a growing number of players coming from the continent and this is really without a concerted effort or focus on elite talent development,” Fall said. “Now we’re deciding to focus on that. Not only is the number of players coming into the league from Africa going to increase, but they’re going to come better prepared.”

The NBA will begin scouting for the African academy’s first class of 12 young players this week, Fall said.