Paul Biancardi

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Paul Biancardi is ESPN’s National Recruiting Director for Boys High School Basketball.

The former Horizon League Coach of the Year at Wright State University also serves as a college basketball analyst on the ESPN networks.

Biancardi first joined ESPN in 2006 as a college and high school basketball analyst. He became ESPN’s national recruiting director in 2008. He is voting member of the McDonald’s All American Committee and the Gatorade State and National Player of the Year.

Prior to joining ESPN, Biancardi was the head coach at Wright State University, where he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2004. He also served as an assistant coach at St. Louis (2007-08), Ohio State (199-2003) and Boston College (1990-97).

Biancardi is a 1985 graduate of Salem State where he played for current New York Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau.

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Take some notes as we discuss the impact of NCAA Rules Changes on College Basketball Recruiting with Paul Biancardi, the ESPN National Recruiting Director for Boys High School Basketball.

What We Discuss with Paul Biancardi

  • His upcoming Recruiting Webinar on June 3, 2021 at 7 pm EST to benefit the Lymphoma Leukemia Society
  • How COVID has affected the high school class of 2021
  • His webinar guests Jason Jordan from Sports illustrated, the basketball director of recruiting and Adam Finkelstein, from ESPN
  • The impact of all college basketball players being granted an extra year of eligibility
  • The uncertainty for college coaches surrounding what their rosters will look like under the new rules
  • The transfer portal and how players and coaches are utilizing it at different levels of Division 1
  • College players at all levels trying to make the jump up a level during their college career
  • Coaches looking at 360 Degree view of a player and their inner circle
  • Coaches adapting to the new rules rather than trying to fight against them
  • Why he would create a position for a “Roster Management Coach” to oversee recruiting, transfers, and roster spots
  • His advice for players still looking for a spot on a college roster – Be your own advocate and have a point person for communication
  • His thoughts on NBA prospects Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, & Jalen Green

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle this morning, but I am pleased to be joined for a second time by Paul Biancardi ESPN’s Bational Recruiting Director for Boys’ High School Basketball. Paul, welcome back to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Paul Biancardi: [00:00:14] All right, Mike, thanks for having me.  I really appreciate it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:18] Really excited to have you back on, wanted to dive into something that you have coming up here soon that I think is going to be a huge value add for some of the coaches, players, parents, in our audience. And that’s your exclusive recruiting webinar that you have coming up on Thursday, June 3rd, at 7:00 PM Eastern. So just wanted to give you a chance to talk about that. Tell people a little bit about it. And then we can dive into some of the content and things that are impacting recruiting currently in the world, which we know there’s a lot going on in the world of recruiting right now.

Paul Biancardi: [00:00:49] Yeah, Mike. Well, first of all, I put the recruiting webinar together for two reasons.

First is to support the lymphoma leukemia society. A good friend of mine [00:01:00] is raising money for to beat blood cancer and, and he’s doing tremendous work. In the state of North Carolina, his name is Joe Tedesco and he’s one of the owners of architect, physical therapy. And he sees a lot of people in need all the time.

He’s been affected by a blood cancer in his, his family and others as well. And I also had a dear friend of mine about 10 years loses life, and it’s a blood cancer. And You know, Bob Valvano, who we know through, through the industry is fighting that right now. And, and that’s, and that’s public. He just got diagnosed.

It’s not as serious. As I think you know, it, it could be, which is great, but he’s also in a stage right now where he’s got to do a lot of things to get healthy again. So I just felt the, cause I felt the need and said, okay, how can I help my friend? Who’s helping the society? So I thought, well, what do I, what do I enjoy?

What do I know? I add some value decided to put a recruiting webinar together. And the second reason. Is to help [00:02:00] today’s player, parent and coach understand the landscape of recruiting today. COVID how it affected it. The class of 2021, how they’re stuck in a heavy traffic jam classes coming up behind 2021 that are looking for scholarships junior college.

Prep schools they’re now flooded with kids. And how can a high school player go from where he is to where he wants to be? What’s the best path and how should they go there? Because I think there’s a lot of mixed messages. I would in our climate about how to be a better basketball player and maybe how to get recruited.

So I want to clean all those things up, give out the real right information. I got two great guests. Mike, I got Jason Jordan from Sports illustrated. Who’s the basketball director of recruiting. And I got my friend Adam Finkelstein, who works with me at ESPN. They’re going to touch on some topics. So we’re going to talk for 60 minutes.

We’re going to allow 30 minutes for questions and everyone who joins the webinar is going to [00:03:00] receive my recruiting ebook.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:02] Well, I can tell you that if you are out there and you’re listening and you are in any way, shape or form involved in this current recruiting landscape, you’re going to want to make sure that you tune into this with Paul, because I know from my own personal dealings with him and just the things that he puts out there that he is going to.

Make you more informed and you’re going to leave that webinar feeling a lot better about understanding what the landscape looks like. So that being said, what do you think is the number one? What’s the number one issue right now, as you look at. This summer recruiting season. And you think about this class of 20, 21 high school players that are coming out and normally in a normal year, they’d be on their way in many cases to playing college basketball.

But because of the challenges, as you mentioned, press schools are being overloaded. And we know that not only is it creating a problem for this year, but moving forward into classes, coming up behind them, just talk a [00:04:00] little bit about what this all looks like.

Paul Biancardi: [00:04:02] There’s multiple multiple issues. I don’t want to call them problems because they’re just opportunities for some, and some, it creates an adversity for the time being, but number one, because of COVID.

All players regain a year of eligibility. So that allows seniors to come back to the college game if they so choose. So they can come back to the school that they played at, or they can go back to another school, which that wasn’t expected when recruiting classes were formed two years ago. So you have seniors coming back to the game and that creates a log jam within certain rosters.

Everyone else on that roster. Regains another year of eligibility. So freshmen will stay as freshmen, sophomore, sophomores, juniors, juniors. And then if the seniors come back and you have incoming freshmen that were already signed you have a log jam on a roster. So college coaches really couldn’t go out and recruit during COVID for two reasons, one, they didn’t see any players. They [00:05:00] weren’t allowed to be out. Not many of us were out and number two, they didn’t have no idea what their roster was going to look like with returning players. And then they didn’t know who was going to leave because the portal now created a situation where you could transfer and play right away.

So guys were leaving. Guys we’re coming back, guys. We’re coming in and college coaches for the first time in probably history had really no idea what their Ross was going to look like last March, April. Now we’re into may. I talked to college coaches every single day, all different levels. I don’t know who’s coming back still.

I don’t know who’s going to leave. And if somebody leaves, we may want to take a transfer because if you take a transfer. This year, they can’t really transfer right now with the current rules. If they do, then they’d have to sit. So that’s why college coaches like the transfer because they’re older, they’re battle tested.

They’ve been through the [00:06:00] college system. Outing strength and conditioning. They played in big venues, so coaches want to get old fast and stay old. And they’re, you know, that you’re hesitating on the high school player because they haven’t seen him and Mike here’s another issue. And, and it’s, you know, very transparent if I recruit a high school player now and I develop him and he gets good.

There’s a really good chance. He’s going to leave me. If I’m at the division three level division, two level, which they already could do that in the past division ones. Now the low majors in the mid majors, those coaches are especially concerned with a guy getting good and then a guy leaving maybe unexpectedly, and then they have to replace him quickly.

So a lot of the lows and mid-major coaches in college basketball, looking at the transfer. The high major coach a little bit as well, but you know, if a guy’s going to Duke, Kentucky, Kansas Carolina, out of high school they probably won’t [00:07:00] transfer to go to a higher level. You can’t go to a higher level, but they can transfer it to go to a lower level.

So transfers are happening all over college basketball and it’s causing a lot of roster chaos.

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:12] Do you think that that’s something that is more chaotic right now because people are still wrapping their head around what it looks like and how it’s going to impact rosters and recruiting and just all the uncertainty that goes with it.

And if these rules were to stay the same, that five years from now, it will normalize a little bit. Or do you think that. It’s going to continue to kind of be this roster shakeup. I don’t really know where I’m going, where high school players are still kind of going to be maybe left a little bit behind, because again, as you said, I think the biggest point to me is that.

If you’re a high major coach and you could get a kid who’s a transfer from a mid-major after their freshmen or sophomore year. Now those kids have already [00:08:00] proven themselves on the college level compared to a high school kid who you have no idea what they’re going to end up being when they get to, when they get to the college level.

There’s obviously no guarantee. So do you think it’ll normalize after a few years or do you think that it’s just that if it stays the way it is, it’s going to always be chaotic.

Paul Biancardi: [00:08:16] No, it will normalize it. It always does. Every time. There’s a rule change. There’s a little bit of uncertainty. There’s a little bit of chaos, if you will.

And let’s not forget this part about the high majors, the Duke’s Kansas, Kentucky, those kids lose players. Some of them that don’t play will go down a level that doesn’t hurt the high major, but the unexpected player at those levels. Who puts their name into the draft. They all put their name in the draft now to get feedback, which is the right thing to do.

But for that one kid who takes the plunge and you didn’t expect him to leave this quickly, that creates a hole. And then that high major, where do they do they look at the portal? Look, look to see who’s out there. I think it will come down in about two to four [00:09:00] years and I’ll tell you why. The class of 2021 really, really got hurt in all this division one players were not offered division one scholarships because of all the reasons I mentioned earlier, seniors coming back.

Maybe college coaches taking transfers. There was no room for the high school player this year, or not as much room for the high school player. So a lot of these high school kids in 2021 going to junior college, going to prep school, or maybe going to a lower level. So if a young man was a really good mid-major recruit, he may have to go to Atlanta or major for this year or division two.

I know a young man who was a division one athlete. It was a mid major athlete for sure. A great athlete, good basketball player. And he took a division two scholarship because that’s all he had because of all the roster lawn jams. And so what’s that what’s going to happen. That division two program benefits gets a really good player and will that play or [00:10:00] leave in time?

We don’t know. So right now the Vogue thing to do what’s in Vogue is to go play, do well and try to jump to a different level whether it’s. Kentucky Kansas player, trying to go pro the mid-major player, trying to go to the ACC the sec, the big 10, the low major player, maybe trying to hit the conference USA Atlantic 10.

Marker. Everybody’s trying to reach for a higher level, which is great, which is ambitious. But I hope that they do a great job where they are first, before they decide to make that jump.

Mike Klinzing: [00:10:33] Absolutely. I mean, if you don’t prove yourself at the level where you are, you’re obviously not going to have an opportunity to move and go to a higher level.

Certainly when you talk to. College coaches across the landscape, whether it’s high, major division ones, whether it’s mid-major division ones, coaches at other levels. What is some of the feedback that you hear from coaches about this system now, as it stands with the rule changes, do coaches like it? Do they not [00:11:00] like it just what’s the, what’s the general temperature of coaches as far as what this looks like?

Paul Biancardi: [00:11:06] Oh, the coaches don’t like it at all. Look coaches. And when I was coaching and when a guy would come and transfer. Now the portal has some real positives. It makes it easier for a player to transfer. You know, maybe just a couple of years ago, the player had to come down and talk to the coach. You know, meet with the coach.

And sometimes coaches made it difficult for guys to leave, which isn’t right or athletic directors, you know and coaches together would say, Hey, we’re not giving a young man a release, or if we’re giving them a release it’s to a certain you got to stay away from certain schools, maybe within the conference.

Like they put these stipulations involved in transferring versus saying, Hey, just go wherever you want. So the portal allows a kid to. Make his declaration that he’s going to transfer. He doesn’t have to get a lot of resistance from the staff and the administration. The coaches don’t like it because not so much of that part of it, but the ability to leave and play right away, [00:12:00] entices kids to leave programs that are unhappy, or maybe somebody.

From the outside is saying, Hey, you know what, you’re starting at that school, but I think you could start at this school. So outside voices are playing a big role in kids leaving today. You know, I I’ll give you an example that a Walker Kessler from North Carolina, a top 20 player in the class, five star big man went to North Carolina.

There were other big, big guys with him that were five star players or Garrison Brooks was a four-star player. Yeah, developed into, you know, a four plus star player. So they had a loaded front court. He played a little bit throughout the season, played great down the stretch. And for some reason whether it was how he was used his minutes, I’m not quite sure, but you know, they went in there as a family and said, Hey, you know, we’re going to transfer out of North Carolina.

And he was going to be starting next year at North Carolina. So if you’re going to start at North Carolina and you decide to [00:13:00] leave. You know, again, style of play, how he was utilized. I don’t know the factors cause they never became public, but those are usually the reasons. So he went to Auburn.

So Auburn benefits from this situation. So somebody who’s always going to benefit and somebody is always going to lose, but it really is like a revolving door at a Midtown Manhattan hotel. It’s going around and around and people are going in and people are going out. It’s the only thing I can think of and it hasn’t settled.

It won’t settle down for a couple of years.

Mike Klinzing: [00:13:31] Do you think that coaches are going to spend even more time that they have than they have in the past looking at. During the recruiting process, looking at the players inner circle and the people who have influence over them, whether that be family, parents, whether that be AAU or high school coaches, people that are trainers that work with the player.

And I know that’s always been important to kind of get a feel for the player’s character and their work ethic and all those [00:14:00] things. But. Do you see that becoming even more important when you start thinking about again, is this a kid who is going to come in and, you know, we’d like to develop and we think he’s going to be a really good college player, but maybe not his freshman year.

And now because of the, the basketball culture, again, that we’ve kind of set up all the way back down to the youth level, where kids are jumping teams and switching high schools and all this kind of thing. And now obviously the transfer portal makes it even easier for kids to go in and switch schools.

Do you think that that those. People around a recruit that coaches are going to look at that even more carefully to hopefully be able to determine whether or not those influences what they’re going to look like.

Paul Biancardi: [00:14:39] Oh, no question about it. I mean, you’re going to go, I like to call it the 360. You have to know everyone around the player because you want to know, are you going to get someone who you feel like is going to be loyal to you and loyalty doesn’t mean he’s going to stay for four years.

Loyalty means that when he steps on campus, he’s giving you everything he has academically, or he’s [00:15:00] doing that for himself, but he’s also making it easy on the coaches in terms of he’s taking care of his academics, he’s going to his meetings. He’s working as hard as he can with the strength coach in practices, you know?

Is a recruit, giving everything he can to that school. Once he steps on campus. I think the circle of influence will say it can help determine your evaluation more than ever. I think if you’re a coach today, you, you have to embrace the fact that guys leaving. I had one coach tell me from a, a low major conference said now when we recruit guys that are good players, we say, come to us.

You’ll have a great opportunity early. And then if you develop the way you think you can. We’ll get you out of here and get you to the ACC of the SNC. So they’re almost embracing the fact that guys are coming in and leaving like a junior college. And some coaches I know at certain levels are doing that because they’re not fighting it anymore.

They’re embracing it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:15:59] Yeah. I think you have to [00:16:00] live within the world that you live in. Right? I mean, If the rules change and the way that you can go about bringing in good players, when you think about just the way the one and done changed college basketball, and, you know, you used to have you think back to the think back to the eighties and early nineties, and you had teams that.

You know, you grew up with, you grew up with Michael Jordan’s, North Carolina teams. You grew up with the Patrick Ewing, Georgetown Hoyas and the Ralph Sampson, Virginia Cavaliers, and those teams were around. You felt like you got to know not just the stars of those teams, but the role players. And now you’re in a year out teams.

Especially at the high major levels have always had a lot of turnover and it wasn’t the same team year after year. Whereas that was one of the advantages. I think that the mid-majors had was that a lot of times those teams that went on Cinderella runs in the tournament where teams that were really experienced and had a lot of seniors, maybe they had a, you know, Two, two seniors in the back court that had played four years together and really knew and understood how to control the game.

And now it seems like that [00:17:00] which has gone away at the high major level. It’s also going to start to maybe slip away at the mid major and the low major level for the reason that you suggested, which makes sense. If you’re a coach, you have to adapt to what the rules are.

Paul Biancardi: [00:17:11] Yeah. When I first started coaching the guys at Boston College who weren’t playing, they would trickle down and try to.

Transfer it to the University of Maine Boston University, they would transfer down now over the course of time in the last 10, 12, 15 years, the mid-major who got really good. He was a player of the year in the Mid American conference of the player of the year in the Big South. They transferred us to an Arizona, to a Louisville, to an Ohio state, to a North Carolina, because they want to play at a higher level.

So that the way kids transferred. Has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. I think if you’re a college basketball coach today, and I’ve said this multiple times, you, I think there’s so many positions on the staff, your assistants can only be concerned about who they’re [00:18:00] recruiting in the future and the players that they have in their program, but they can’t spend an enormous amount of time with the current players, their parents, their strength coach, their workout coach, their AAU coaches, their high school coaches, because if they spent all that time with them and they didn’t spend enough time in recruiting, they wouldn’t know who was good enough to play for them in the future. They wouldn’t develop any future relationships. And now you have to pay attention to the transfer portal. So what I would do if I was a college coach is I’d create a position called a roster management coach. Somebody who’s very experienced in the game.

Somebody who understands recruiting at a high level, maybe somebody who’s been a former head coach. Somebody who’s very close to me. If I’m the head coach, somebody who either worked for me in the past or somebody I trust explicitly to now develop a relationship with all my players and their circle on a full-time basis.

[00:19:00] So then I can get weekly updates as to what parents are thinking with high school coaches are thinking what club coaches are thinking. So I take all that information on a weekly basis and kind of, you know, brief if you will, our staff. And so there’s no surprises at the end of the year, maybe about transferring or.

You know, if there’s questions that come up, maybe that roster management coach can, can put the, you know, the communication level at a better spot. So everybody can go on with their, their jobs. Cause head coaches don’t have time to talk to people every single day. So once you’re in the grind, it’s incredible workload and it’s enormous pressure.

So I create the position and I’d get somebody who really understands the landscape. And I think you, you solve a lot of problems with great communication. That person would be the communicator.

Mike Klinzing: [00:19:48] Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. I think if you were able to put somebody who could take that off the head coach’s plate and was an expert in that area and was bringing the information that was necessary to the rest of the staff, I [00:20:00] think you’d put yourself in a lot better position when it comes to the end of the season to know.

What it was that you needed to do in terms of building the roster for the following season. I want to wrap up here, Paul. I want to ask you to, I want, I want you to ask, I want to ask you two quick questions. First one is advice for a high school player who’s graduating in the year 2021. Just give me 30 seconds.

On what advice you would have for a kid who is still looking for a place to play right now?

Paul Biancardi: [00:20:26] Be your own advocate and also get a point person. So get somebody that has coached you club, coach, trainer. High school, coach somebody to reach out to the schools for you. You have to be politely persistent, especially here we are in May.

Whether you’re division one, two or three. You may have to go as a walk on to a certain level. If you don’t get a scholarship situation, you have to bet on yourself wherever you go, go to the appropriate level. I think kids today, especially in 2021, they need us, they need a small circle of people that you know, are in their corner.

[00:21:00] And that care about them, not care about where a kid goes to school, but care about them. A lot of people are involved with, you know, trying to be influential and recruiting versus caring about the player themselves. And so get a small circle bet on yourself, be persistent and be your own advocate and try to get somewhere where you can walk on and then make, make your mark.

If you have to go down a level, that’s fine. If you love the game and you want it badly. There’s a home for everybody.

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:28] That’s so true. I think you find the right level. And again, if you’re getting an opportunity to play college basketball, that’s something that is special.

Paul Biancardi: [00:21:39] That’s a privilege like quick 10 second story. Nobody knew who I was out of high school. I walked on as we talked about it in our first time we talked, I walked on at division three. I got cut my first year at Salem State. And then I went back and made the team. It took me my third time to make it and Tom Thibideau who is coaching the Knicks [00:22:00] right now, decided to put me on the roster for all the intangibles that I had, not for my talent.

And I got my way onto a college roster. I eventually got to play as a senior, some meaningful minutes and I got to be named captain. So there’s so many players out there with so much more resources and so much more talent. You may not exactly go to your destination, but you can find opportunity.

Mike Klinzing: [00:22:22] True.  I think if you find that right opportunity that you can end up having an amazing experience, not just as a college basketball player, but you look at your situation and get an opportunity to be coached by Tom Tibideau. Who’s now coaching the Knicks and the connections that you were able to make. It just it’s.

It’s just an incredible opportunity. All right. Last thing, NBA draft is going to probably be here before, you know what, even though the playoffs are just starting now. I want to get your opinion on three guys. I’m a Cavs fan. So I want to get your opinion on three guys that are coming out with the draft that the Cavs may consider drafting.

So you could give me the 15 seconds synopsis on each of these guys. Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Green. Give me [00:23:00] your quick thoughts on each of those three guys.

Paul Biancardi: [00:23:01] I’d trade up, get rid of everybody and try to get those three guys. No, I mean, this is a special draft class, Mike, there’s an enormous amount of talent at the top.

There’s star power there’s star depth. As I like to say, you can go down to seven, eight, nine, 10, and still get a guy who who’s a potential all-star in this draft. I mean, you, you can find. Great talent in a lot of dress, but I think this talent coming out of high school was very rich. And it was established that the college game and at the G league Kate Cunningham brings everything to the table that you could possibly want from a talent standpoint, a character standpoint, and he’s got an alpha dog mentality.

He’s a big Playmaker at six, seven. He can do multiple things for your team, whether it’s playmate score. You can even post up what his frame is, a good leader. I think he can be a better than average defender in the league. He’s got a great IQ and he [00:24:00] he’s a competitive kid. So I think that’s a home run for anybody.

Who’s a top of the draft. If you need size, like Cleveland needs, take a strong look at Evan Mosley. I mean, as skilled as they come as seven feet and an elite shop Walker fluid movements has all the tools you possibly want for an NBA center needs. Weight needs a little bit more effort to his game.

Sometimes he he’s playing hard and it just doesn’t look that way. Cause he’s so skilled, but I’m telling you what I have known him since he was in high school. Extremely coachable, great teammate. If you need size and I know Cleveland need some size. I, I strongly look at Evan mobily and it would be hard to pass up.

Kate Cunningham. Jalen green to me is dynamic. I mean, he’s got explosive legs, NBA legs got an NBA jump shot. He’s always taken the path of trying to be a pro went right to the G league. And as a two guard, I think he can give you a lot of points. He’s [00:25:00] only about six, four, maybe six, five. I know you have sex in in some other guards there.

Who’s your other point guard? Darrius Garland. Very good player. So he’d be a little bit bigger too, but he’s not a big two in the NBA. But I love Mobley and Cunningham.

Mike Klinzing: [00:25:18] Cleveland is crossing our fingers that we get into the well, I’d love to get the number one and be able to get Cunningham.

I think that seems like it would be the best fit for what we have going, but hopefully no matter where we land, we’re going to end up getting a player that’s going to help the cash for sure. All right. Before we get out, last thing, make sure you share here how people can get signed up for the recruiting webinar.

And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

Paul Biancardi: [00:25:40] Okay go to and you scroll down. You’ll see the link for the recruiting webinar. You click on that. It’s Thursday, June 3rd, 7:00 PM. You get 90 minutes of recruiting. What? Myself, Jason Jordan from sports illustrated, Adam Finkelstein from ESPN.

We’re going to cover every topic [00:26:00] that we can think of. We’ll be very transparent. You’ll get the right real information, no fluff, and all the proceeds go to the lymphoma leukemia society. And that’s Thursday night, June 3rd, at 7:00 PM. You can also go to It’s on their website, but it’s on my website, and follow us on Twitter @PaulBiancardi and posting about the recruiting webinar every day.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:26] Great stuff, Paul, we cannot thank you enough for jumping back on with us today. To talk a little bit about the recruiting situation and educate our audience about everything that’s going on. I know it’s confusing for people out there. I know it’s been confusing for me, trying to wrap my head around what it, what it means for coaches at all different levels and players, both that are in college already in high school players.

And so thank you for shedding light on it. If you are a part of our audience and you get a chance to register for the webinar with Paul, please make sure you do that. It’s going to be outstanding. And again, Paul can’t thank you enough for taking [00:27:00] the time out of your schedule to jump on with us and we will catch everyone on our next episode.


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