When it comes to luring a tournament to town, it helps when the mayor is a big tennis fan.At least it helped the new partners in Atlantic Station decide that tennis in the city was something they should take seriously.The result is the BB&T Atlanta Open, which runs from July 14 to July 22 on six courts in the former steel mill, now a mixed-use property just off 17th Street in Midtown.The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tournament is sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Southern region and features many of the world’s top players.It is the third year the professional tennis event has taken place in the Atlanta region, but the first time it has been situated downtown.“I don’t know if I’ve ever been on the court and looked up and saw the city skyline,” said player Tim Smyczek, who played in the tournament when it was held north of downtown in a more rural setting.“When I heard they were going to do this in this area, I thought this is going to be interesting, being right in the middle of the city,” Smyczek said.“Part of what makes this unique is that it’s an outdoor event in the middle of the city,” said tournament director Bob Bryant. “Typically the only real estate available for tennis is going to be in an arena somewhere downtown.”Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, CBS Atlanta
Month: September 2019
Hassan Whiteside will not participate in the NBA All-Star activities in two weeks in New York. But he’s been a star-in-the-making for the Miami Heat, a revelation that has made big news this season.At 25, Whiteside has found his game and an NBA team to call his own. It’s a startling, feel-good story about a 7-footer who took an around-the-world route to land in Miami.Here’s Whiteside’s journey to the Heat. He played for Reno, Sioux Falls and Rio Grande Valley in the NBA Development League; professionally in Lebanon, in China and back in Lebanon and then back to China last year. There was another trip back to the NBA D-League in Iowa, too.All this since 2010.But Pat Riley, through the Heat’s scouts, had been keeping track of Whiteside. And when the Memphis Grizzlies cut him, Riley swooped in. The Heat president and former NBA championship coach with the Los Angeles Lakers has been rewarded big time.Whiteside has gradually emerged as an inside force, a big man who plays like a big man. He has had games of 14 points, 13 rebounds and a team-record 12 blocks in just 24 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers and 16 points and 16 rebounds against Milwaukee.He plays with energy and enthusiasm, for sure partly because he’s so excited to finally have a true opportunity.“What I needed was a chance and the Heat gave me one,” said Whiteside, who went to Marshall and was a second-round draft pick by the Sacramento Kings.He’s averaging 3.6 blocks a game, more than anyone in the league. He’s shooting .675 field-goal percentage (most of them dunks), which would be second in the league if he had played enough games. And his 9.3 rebounds ranks tied for 15th with Chicago’s Joakim Noah.Impressive stuff for someone few people heard of before this season.“We still feel there’s enough upside on the educational side of his game as he’s getting more and more repetition,” Riley said. “He’s just touched NBA play. The more minutes on the court, the more situations he sees, the more players he plays against – he’s just going to get better.”Riley was surprised when he saw this new incarnation of Whiteside in November. He had gained 40 pounds, up to 260. He played with a purpose, focus and commitment that intrigued Riley.Said Riley: “I hadn’t seen him for a year and half, and I said, ‘This is not the same Hassan.’ His sojourn around the world, in all the different leagues, not only humbled him but he learned to play.”More than that, Riley said: “He’d got to the point where this was important to him.”Now he’s an important part of the Heat — a long way from playing in Lebanon.“”Finally,” Whiteside said. “(And) I’m going to get better.”
CLEVELAND — After three titles in four seasons — two straight with Kevin Durant winning Finals MVP — it seems fair to begin questioning where Golden State sits in the conversation about the best teams of all-time. But the more compelling thing to analyze now might be whether the Warriors are better positioned to win at this level for a longer amount of time than the other modern-day dynasties the league has produced.And in looking at the vast array of things that make Golden State so dominant — from the club’s versatility and balance on both sides of the ball, its unselfishness on and off the court and its largely magic touch from a managerial standpoint — that feels like a real possibility.“Sometimes you come across those dynasties where you’re just outmatched, and it’s just their time,” Cavaliers guard George Hill said after his team had been swept on its home court.Stylistically, it is so difficult — arguably impossible — for anyone to truly replicate what the Warriors do. Even before the addition of arguably the league’s best pure scorer in Durant, Golden State possessed a point guard with the sort of 35-foot range that most players would only see in a practice setting. In the same backcourt, the Warriors had another guard who was arguably an even more accurate shooter, with a release that is the quickest in basketball — so fast that he doesn’t even need to have his feet set before he shoots.Put another way, this is the best shooting team the sport has ever seen. Golden State breaks defenses regardless of how well positioned or prepared they are. The Warriors were the best jump-shooting club in the NBA when left wide open this past season. And a closer look at the numbers shows the Dubs were also the best jump-shooting team in situations where a defender was draped all over them. Because of that, there really is no surefire way to guard this team.More often than not the Cavaliers, like the Rockets in the round before them, sought to use switches on defense to blanket Golden State’s offense. But in Game 2 of the Finals, the Warriors countered that predictable gameplan (and then changed things up in Game 3 in anticipation of a counterpunch), by using dump-off passes to spring give-and-go opportunities, or to set up lobs for JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell, who were often left all alone in the paint.The latter highlighted how the Warriors, in Bill Belichick fashion, have quietly been a chameleon of sorts by relying far more heavily on their bigs than most observers realize — even as they continue to be viewed as a club that relies solely on its dynamite 3-point shooting.Because of that constant evolution and comfort playing with different styles, the challenge of dethroning the champs could become even more difficult for challengers like the Rockets, who are so heavily vested in a singular type of play that it’s too difficult to adjust to something different if that style stops working in the middle of a postseason series.While the young average age of Warriors’ core would seem to be a plus in their quest to become the best team of all-time, they’re actually not all that unusual when it comes to how young they are when compared to modern NBA clubs that have won three titles in four years. Warriors2018Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson28 Lakers1988Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, A.C. Green26 Source: Basketball-Reference TeamYear of Third Title WinTop Four Players By Win ShareAVG. Age Bulls1993Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, B.J. Armstrong27 Bulls1998Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc33 Lakers2002Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher29 The Warriors aren’t as young as you thinkTeams that won three titles in four seasons by the age of their core players in the last title season, 1976-2018 If there’s something that makes this team different — and gives it better odds of winning for a greater amount of time — it’s that this group of highly talented players doesn’t seem as likely to be torn apart by the retirements, contract issues and jealousies that trouble other clubs in this spot.The Lakers of the late 1980s began running out of steam when then-coach Pat Riley resigned, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired and then halted entirely when Magic Johnson abruptly left the game following his shocking HIV diagnosis. No one knows how many consecutive titles the Bulls might have won had it not been for Michael Jordan’s retirements from the Bulls. And the infamous infighting between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant shortened what likely could have been a longer run of success with the two Los Angeles superstars in the early 2000s.By contrast, the Warriors have already become the new-age San Antonio Spurs, as a number of their players have acted in the best interest of the team by taking much smaller deals than they could have. That attitude, illustrated by Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala1Iguodala did this with his initial deal to join the Warriors. This past summer, he actually maneuvered to have the Warriors pay him more than what they initially expected to fork up. and Shaun Livingston, makes some of the long-term salary math more feasible in a league where these sorts of things can create strain on a star-laden club. (With Curry having just signed a five-year deal last July, and Durant saying he’ll stay with Golden State this summer, the next key player to look at is Thompson, who is slated to be a 2019 free agent. But even that may not be a concern, as he’s reportedly spoken with the Warriors about the possibility of taking a deeply discounted extension that would see him leave up to $50 million on the table.)The players’ willingness to often take less than market value, even for bit pieces like Zaza Pachulia, has allowed the Warriors to improve the roster on the margins each year — sprinkling in specific attributes that the team lacks. With McGee in particular, Golden State took a minimal risk by signing (then cheaply re-signing) a player who had a less-than-stellar reputation around the league, but was incredibly long and athletic — two things the Warriors lacked in a traditional center. Fast forward to this year’s Finals, and the one-time castaway was pestering LeBron James, the best player in the world, anytime he sought to get to the basket.James, whose own upcoming free agency could play a role in nixing the Warriors’ dominance the next few years, pointed out another advantage Golden State possesses: Brainpower. “Everyone’s trying to figure it out: How do you put together a group of talent, but also a group of minds, to compete with Golden State and compete for a championship?” James asked.Ascending teams may not like the idea of waiting out Golden State’s reign. Aside from how young the team’s core is, the players who compose it don’t depend much on raw athleticism. It’s likely they will age gracefully, given how well they shoot from outside and play off the ball.Injuries are a different story, and they can always come into play; particularly with Curry, whose presence has always been a deciding factor with this club. But short of that, the team is full of two-way talent and should be fine on D as long as it’s anchored by Draymond Green and long, versatile wings that make it possible to switch the way the Warriors do. (Still, Golden State would be wise to try to start the process of locating a younger, less polished version of Iguodala, given how different the Warriors looked at times without the 34-year-old this postseason.) The club has ranked in the top 10 defensively each of the past four seasons it reached the Finals.Coach Steve Kerr has made no secret of the other factor that could eventually catch up with his team, which at times struggles with complacency. Specifically, he’s talked about the weight of expectations, and the toll that comes with taking every opposing team’s best shot for years on end. And this season, Kerr said, was the toughest playoff run he’s overseen with Golden State.“I remember sitting in this room three years ago, and it seemed like a dream. This feels more like reality,” Kerr said Friday, perhaps a realization of the fact that titles are now expected as opposed to being hoped for. “And I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. It’s just that the talent we have, and that’s the experience we’ve gained.”There are any number of things that could turn out to be the Warriors’ downfall. But Golden State also has a handful of factors to hang its dynastic hat on for the time being.— Neil Paine contributed research.
Dorial Green-Beckham10.910.16.90 On Tuesday, we looked at four players who changed teams during the offseason and could tip the scales of balance in the AFC. Now, we turn our attention to the NFC, where last season’s division champions — the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks — all appear vulnerable, while several of the also-rans they bested have made significant additions.NFC East: Alshon Jeffery, WR, EaglesOpportunity: The Dallas Cowboys were the class of the NFC East last season, going 13-3. But a spate of off-field issues and the potential of regression for second-year quarterback Dak Prescott may open up an opportunity for Philadelphia. Despite finishing last in the division at 7-9, the Eagles were among the best teams in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, finishing fourth in the league (Dallas finished second).What needed to be addressed: Last year’s No. 2 pick of the NFL draft, Carson Wentz, took the league by storm — at least until fans, media and opposing defenses figured out that he was relying so heavily on the screen pass. According to TruMedia, Wentz threw more passes to or behind the line of scrimmage in 2017 than all but three other quarterbacks. And the Eagles ranked 29th in yards per completion last season.Potential impact: Jeffery and fellow free-agent acquisition Torrey Smith will add serious field-stretching ability to Philadelphia’s dink-and-dunk passing attack. Jeffery averaged an outstanding 15.8 yards per reception in 2016; since Jeffery became a full-time starter in 2013, only Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton have averaged more yards per reception over more receptions. He also provides Wentz with a much more reliable catcher of the ball: Jeffery had the 14th-lowest drop rate of 87 qualifying NFL receivers in 2016, while Eagles WRs Jordan Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor ranked 59th, 81st and tied for last, respectively. Jordan Matthews11.09.64.50 YARDS/RECAIR YARDS/TGTDROP RATE Source: TRUMEDIA Alshon Jeffery15.813.11.10% Carson Wentz is getting an upgradeHow new Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery’s 2016 performance compared with that of Philadelphia’s receiving corps. Nelson Agholor10.110.59.10 Question mark: At age 27, Jeffery already has a history of nagging muscle pulls and soft-tissue injuries. He also served a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use in the middle of last season as a member of the Bears, making his gameday availability an ongoing concern.NFC North: Jarrad Davis (R), LB, LionsOpportunity: The Lions were just over half a game of head-to-head football away from claiming the NFC North crown when they squandered a 14-7 lead against the Green Bay Packers — and a 9-4 start to the season. They finished the year with three straight losses to fellow NFC playoff teams, including that Week 17, winner-take-all home game against the Packers. This spring, Detroit seriously outspent Green Bay in free agency, eyeing a possible first division title since 1993.What needed to be addressed: Detroit had the worst defense in the NFL last season, according to DVOA. Their pass coverage was an absolute disaster, allowing opponents to be 38.1 percent more effective than average through the air — by far the worst in the NFL. But none of the Lions’ major signings were on the defensive side of the ball.Potential impact: Davis, whom Detroit drafted with the No. 21 overall pick this spring, has been the unquestioned starter at middle linebacker since his first day on the team, according to the Lions’ official site. Head coach Jim Caldwell told the Detroit Free Press he expects Davis to “quickly” make an impact. Davis’s college defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon, described Davis as an amalgam of three linebackers Shannon coached at the University of Miami: Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason and Ray Lewis. Those three boast 19 Pro Bowl appearances between them. If Davis’s athleticism and attitude are as advertised, he’ll fill a sizable portion of the hole in the middle of Detroit’s defense.Question mark: There’s no such thing as a can’t-miss rookie. Projecting a college player’s impact on an NFL unit is closer to superstition than art, let alone science. Further, Detroit’s problems with depth and quality up front were just exacerbated by pass-rusher Armonty Bryant’s latest suspension; it’s hard for linebackers to make impact plays when opposing quarterbacks are unpressured and tailbacks have free passes to the second level of the defense.NFC South: Adrian Peterson, RB, SaintsOpportunity: In 2016, the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers finished 6-10, good for last place in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons improved from a lackluster 8-8 in 2015 to winning the NFC for themselves last season. Somehow, in all the churn around them, the New Orleans Saints have finished 7-9 for three consecutive seasons. But with the Falcons losing the architect of the offense that took them to the Super Bowl, Kyle Shanahan, to the 49ers, the division could be there for the taking.What needed to be addressed: Saints tailback Mark Ingram had the fourth-highest per-carry rate of yards before contact in 2016; he didn’t run into a defender until he’d run an average of 3.26 yards. After the crack of the pad, Ingram was solid, averaging a 14th-best 1.82 yards after contact. But he can’t compare to Peterson:If Ingram needed any guidance learning how to make defenders looks silly, he now has the perfect mentor — albeit one who wants to steal his job. From 2011, the year Ingram entered the league, through 2016, Peterson had the highest average after-contact yardage rate of any back with at least 150 carries.Potential impact: Peterson’s historical lack of effectiveness out of shotgun alignments seemingly makes him an odd fit for Sean Payton and Drew Brees’s spread-style offense, but the Saints actually used shotgun formations at the eighth-lowest rate of any team in the NFL last year, according to Football Outsiders. Moreover, New Orleans ranked fourth in average yards-per-play when under center, roughly the same as in the ‘gun, and had one of the smallest gaps in efficiency between the two alignments. Though they still passed 63.4 percent of the time, the Saints are a strong fit for Peterson’s skill set. No wonder Peterson told Bleacher Report earlier this month that he was impressed by Payton’s passion about the dimension the veteran running back would add to the Saints’ offense.Question mark: Peterson is a 32-year-old running back with 11,747 of the hardest-earned yards in recent NFL history already on his odometer. The jury is out on how effective he could be moving forward.NFC West: Haason Reddick (R), LB, CardinalsOpportunity: At this time three years ago, the NFC West was one of the two best divisions in football. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a death grip on the rest of the NFC, but the Arizona Cardinals were right on their heels. Since then, attrition has taken a toll on all three squads; a Cardinals team that went 29-9 with Carson Palmer under center from 2013 to 2015 finished second in the division last year at 7-8-1.What needed to be addressed: A host of defenders from recent years left in free agency this past offseason. The Cardinals lost Calais Campbell, Kevin Minter, Alex Okafor and Tony Jefferson, who finished first, third, seventh and 10th, respectively, on the team’s defense in Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Approximate Value from 2013 to 2016.The Cardinals boasted a top-three DVOA defense in three of those four seasons, but to keep that up, they’ll need the best of whoever is left — including Karlos Dansby, who returns at age 35 after three years elsewhere. Arizona desperately needs a young impact defender who can run, cover and hit at all three levels of the defense.Potential impact: Reddick, a Temple product who put up an outstanding combine performance, has the size and athleticism to run with the Cardinals’ outstanding secondary. The 6-foot-1, 237-pound No. 13 overall pick was among the top-performing linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.52 seconds), vertical jump (36.5 inches) and broad jump (133 inches). General manager Steve Keim told the media that he expects Reddick to have a “huge” impact, according to the team’s official site — and Reddick’s timetable to contribute has since been accelerated, with linebacker Deone Bucannon slated to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.Question mark: As with Davis, measurables and fit alone don’t guarantee anything in the NFL. Reddick will have to prove that his knack for playmaking in the AAC can translate to the NFL.
OSU women’s ice hockey coaches including head coach Jenny Potter (third from right), pose for a picture. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsWhen the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team dropped the puck to open its season on Friday, it did so with several new faces but perhaps none more significant than its four-time Olympian head coach.Jenny Potter was named the third head coach in program history less than one month after the resignation of Nate Handrahan, who coached the team for four seasons before stepping down on March 11.“Obviously, you think about the long history of athletic tradition, and I am excited to be a part of trying to win here,” Potter said.Potter, 36, played collegiate hockey at Minnesota-Duluth and was most recently the head coach at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, for two seasons. While there, the Bantams won the 2015 New England Small College Athletic Conference championship, their first in program history. Now she is at a much larger university, albeit with a less storied hockey program, in OSU.However, Potter is looking forward to instilling her brand of hockey right away in the team’s 16th season.“I know there are expectations, and I’m not sure that we’re going to be the most talented team. But we will be the hardest-working team on the ice, and I’m expecting us to compete every whistle,” Potter said.Potter is one of the most decorated coaches to ever be hired by OSU, winning six gold medals in international competition and leading the United States in scoring at the 1999 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship. However, she said coaching after retiring from play does not bother her.“I always knew I was going to stay in hockey and coach in hockey when I was playing,” Potter said. “I’ve spent my whole life in it.”The stability that comes with a hockey life is important for a team that experienced turnover in more areas than just its coaching staff. In addition to Handrahan’s resignation, the team graduated all three of its captains last spring and welcomed five freshmen to the 2015-16 squad.“We’re looking for some of these young women to step up, but I know that they can, and I think we can expect to see that right away,” Potter said.Perhaps the program already has. In the first weekend with Potter at the helm, the team won its first two games against Lindenwood, scoring a combined eight goals, including five in the first game and two from senior forward Kendall Curtis. Last season, the team scored more than four goals in just three games.Potter said she hopes the team’s play so far this year is out of respect for the coaching staff, not out of reverence. “I hope I can teach these young women,” Potter said. “I think we’re all interested in just building a winning tradition here.”The building will continue this weekend when the Scarlet and Gray travels to Madison, Wisconsin, to face the Badgers in its Western Collegiate Hockey Association opener. Puck drop is set for 3:07 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown during OSU’s 28-3 win over Illinois on Nov. 14 in Champaign, Illinois.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorOhio State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett returned from his one-game suspension to help guide the Buckeye offense to a dominating victory at Illinois, 28-3, thanks to outstanding performances by junior running back Ezekiel Elliott and the entire OSU defense.The Scarlet and Gray started strong by keeping Illinois off the board on the first drive of the game. After taking over possession, the Buckeyes were able to drive all the way down inside the 1-yard line. Although the Illini managed to keep the Buckeyes from scoring after a stout defensive stand, the Buckeyes slowly began to flex their muscles as the game wore on.Redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas continued his terrific season after catching a 24-yard touchdown throw by Barrett to help the Buckeyes score first. After an Illinois field goal, Barrett added another rushing score to help the visitors take a 14-3 lead into the half. In the second half, though, Elliott took control, as the Buckeyes wore down Illinois with their fierce running game.Elliott ended the game with 181 yards rushing on 27 carries, as well as two touchdowns. As a unit, the Buckeyes rushed for 281 yards en route to 440 total yards for the day. Barrett added 159 yards through the air and two total touchdowns, but he also had an interception and a fumble on the day. However, despite several offensive inconsistencies, the Buckeye defense performed spectacularly, holding Illinois to a measly 20 yards rushing and 261 yards in total. OSU also kept the pressure on Illinois junior quarterback Wes Lunt, who was unable to complete even 50 percent of his passes, and also recovered two fumbles from the Illini. Illinois, which has lost four of its last five games, now find itself on the cusp of bowl eligibility at 5-5 as it travels to Minnesota next Saturday. OSU, on the other side, begins the toughest part of its schedule as the Buckeyes are set to meet Michigan State in Columbus next weekend in a battle of elite programs before traveling to Michigan for the regular-season finale.By the numbers:3,565: Elliott moved his career rushing total to 3,565 yards, the third most in OSU history behind Eddie George and Archie Griffin.30: With the win, OSU has now won 30 straight regular-season conference games, the most of any team in the nation.20: The current number of games where Elliott has rushed for at least 100 yards, tied for the second most in school history with George. This includes an active streak of 15 straight games.97: The number of total tackles sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan has amassed so far this season after his 14 against Illinois. McMillan currently ranks third in the Big Ten for total tackles.24: The number of years since Illinois last won a home game against OSU (1991).101: The number of all-time matchups between OSU and Illinois (the only team that Illinois has played more is Northwestern, with 108 matchups between the two schools).4: With the win, OSU has officially claimed its fourth straight season with double-digit wins. Illinois has not had a double-digit win season since 2001 and only has four in its 125 years of existence.2nd: Everytime Illinois and OSU meet, the teams fight for the second-oldest rivalry trophy in the Big Ten: the Illibuck (The oldest is the Little Brown Jug, which is between Michigan and Minnesota). The Illibuck originally started as a live turtle, but has since been replaced by 10 different wooden replicas.
OSU redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker (24) returns an interception during the second half of the Buckeyes game against Nebraska on Nov. 5. The Buckeyes won 62-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes are entering the third and final act of the season. Neither one of the first two acts can be distinctly separated from one another. At times, the curtain closed with a showering applause from the audience, and, on other occasions, the playbill was crumpled up and left in the aisle as people left with much to be desired.It doesn’t matter anymore. Scratch the first and the second act. The stars of the first two acts were junior H-back Curtis Samuel and redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker. The third act — the college football playoff — is what matters.Samuel and Hooker were each named Associated Press first-team All-Americans. The star playmakers on offense and defense have been the straw that stirs the drink for both sides of the ball. Against No. 2 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the two are possibly the most important cogs to a national championship berth as any other player on either sideline.Hooker has been the surprise contributor to the Buckeye defense this year. From the first game of the year against Bowling Green when he tipped the ball with one hand to himself in mid-air, Hooker has continuously made head-turning plays that have kept OSU in games. He also served as a dagger to momentum in other games. The former high-school basketball standout from New Castle, Pennsylvania, stood the test against a high-praised Michigan wide receiving corps, but no unit in the country quite compares to the star-studded lineup Clemson puts at receiver.“From everything I’m hearing, these are the three or four best receivers we’ll ever face,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said. “Obviously a great quarterback, a nice balanced offense. That side of the ball is going to be a great matchup with their skill against ours.”Redshirt junior wide receiver Mike Williams, senior tight end Jordan Leggett and junior wide receiver Artavis Scott are three of the four Clemson Tigers with over 500 receiving yards on the year. On top of that, they are all on NFL draft boards. Clemson is one of four teams with two of the top 30 reception leaders in the country with Williams and Scott. Of course it helps when Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson is the quarterback with almost 4,000 yards passing.Hooker, the pick-six extraordinaire, has championed co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s sideline return play on interceptions. Hooker is tied for fifth nationally with six interceptions this season, and broke the school record against Michigan with his third interception for a touchdown in a single season. Without that touchdown, OSU likely isn’t in the position it is in right now, just one game away from a shot at the national championship. For Hooker to be absent or largely ineffective from the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl against the Tigers on Dec. 31 in Glendale, Arizona, wouldn’t only be shocking, it could be devastating to the No. 3 Buckeyes given Watson’s 15 interceptions thrown already.“It makes us even want to be more hungry,” Hooker said. “We’re going out there playing with a Heisman candidate and a great player, so it feels like it’s sort of a thing for the back end. I feel like if we stop the pass, we have a great chance of winning this game.”Meyer called Samuel the team’s No. 1 playmaker before the season even started. If his 1,526 offensive yards weren’t impressive, then maybe his third-down, crossfield dash that gave OSU a shot on fourth-and-1, or his game-winning touchdown in double overtime against Michigan were the final touch to a decorative three-layer cake built for a king.All season, Samuel has been the catalyst of the offense. If redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett couldn’t get things going on offense, Samuel was the guy. If Barrett was clicking in the passing game, Samuel was the reason. The Michigan game was Samuel’s coronation. A win in Arizona will require the Brooklyn native to capitalize on any ball thrown his way.“Whether there’s somebody in J.T.’s face or whatever it is as a receiver, we just feel like we have to make plays on those types of balls,” Meyer said. “We recruited well enough to make those type of plays and I just feel like we have to make those.”Clemson’s defense ranks fourth in the country in sacks per game and registers a sack on 9.45 percent of plays, which is eighth in the country.OSU’s offense has had its moments of inability to move the football, and sometimes that has been predicated on the lack of balance in the touches for Samuel. For three quarters of play, Michigan stopped Samuel from getting to the perimeter and beating defenses on the outside. Its pass rush, which had eight sacks against the OSU offensive line, prevented Barrett from looking downfield and finding his speedster, tooNo one can accurately determine how OSU’s offense will perform on New Year’s Eve at University of Phoenix Stadium, but one can predict that Samuel will be a featured element.
Ohio State center Jantel Lavender on Monday became the first basketball player in Big Ten history to receive the conference’s highest honor four times. The Big Ten announced that Lavender was named Co-Player of the Year by the media, alongside Michigan State senior forward Kalisha Keane, who was selected by the conference coaches. “It’s a great honor, well-deserved,” OSU coach Jim Foster told The Lantern. “Heck of an accomplishment for anybody to be named once — but to be named four times is, I mean, just an incredible honor.” Lavender is the only women’s basketball player in the Big Ten, ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC ever to be named her conference’s Player of the Year four times. The senior Buckeye, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week six times this season, was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick by both the coaches and media. Lavender was the conference’s leader in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage, averaging 22.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and shooting 53.2 percent from the field this season. En route to earning her fourth Player of the Year nod, Lavender became the Big Ten’s all-time leader in rebounds with a career total of 1,352 boards. The Cleveland native also is just the second player in Big Ten history to surpass the 2,600-point mark — to date, she has 2,677 career points. The conference also recognized several other Buckeyes. Junior guard Samantha Prahalis was named to the second- and third-team All-Big Ten by the media and coaches, respectively. Sophomore guard Tayler Hill was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and media. The coaches named Hill to the All-Defensive team and freshman center Ashley Adams to the All-Freshman team. In 2008, Lavender became the first freshman in the Big Ten to be named Player of the Year. She shared the award that year with Wisconsin’s Jolene Anderson, before exclusively winning the award the following two years. “I think (it was) deserved — more than deserved,” Foster said. “Terrific, very happy for her, as for all of our players who were honored.”
In the wake of a 25-9 setback against Minnesota Friday, Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan might not have been able to detail the Buckeyes’ remedy any clearer. “(It’s) just effort,” he said. “It’s simple.” Ryan said he was disappointed with the way his team wrestled against the Golden Gophers. “I think at times, when our guys get tired, it appears to me that it doesn’t mean anything to them,” he said. “The bottom line is, at the five minute mark or the 5:30 mark in some of the matches, (Minnesota’s) pace was good and ours wasn’t.” In response to that notion and the Buckeyes’ (7-2, 1-2 Big Ten) loss, he posed a question. “If something means that much to you,” Ryan started, “then what are you willing to do to fight for it?” Redshirt sophomore Josh Demas said the lack of effort is something easily addressed. “I just think we need to go out there and get after it more,” Demas said. “We hesitate a little bit. But it’s a small thing we can fix. It’s not a big thing where it’s our strength or something where it’s going to take a while.” Redshirt sophomore and team captain Logan Stieber said the loss to the Gophers will not set the team back. “We just have to keep getting better,” said Stieber, who again won’t wrestle after suffering a strained muscle in his leg in early January. “We still are very young, but we have to keep our confidence and keep pushing forward. We don’t really need to change much. Obviously, just little areas, but we don’t have to change everything. We’re all here, and we’ve done all right in our careers.” The Buckeyes have another opportunity to prove themselves Friday against Indiana (6-4, 0-2 Big Ten), which, too, most recently fell victim to Minnesota, 41-3. Ryan said he’s been pleased with practice lately and that his team will have to build from its experiences. “The training has been good but we’ve only had a few days,” he said. “You know, we have (64) days until the national tournament, and I think Minnesota is a team who could win the national tournament. That team at full strength can win it, and we have to learn from it.” Ryan said that Indiana, while not perhaps as talented as Minnesota, brings plenty of toughness to the table. “They have a coach that’s a legend in Duane Goldman who won four Big Ten titles and is a four-time national finalist,” Ryan said. “He’s a competitive guy. You know, within a dual meet you always get a couple of guys where it’s going to be a battle.” Demas sees the match against the Hoosiers as a way to get back on track. “We’re going from Minnesota who, I think is like (No. 4) in the nation, to Indiana who I don’t even know if they’re ranked,” he said. “I think it should be a good dual meet for us. It’ll be a good way for us to bounce back and clear our heads for the upcoming Penn State and Wisconsin matches.” There will be several key matchups to watch as Indiana brings in three top-ranked wrestlers in their respective weight classes. OSU redshirt junior and 12th-ranked Peter Capone is set to square off against 11th-ranked Adam Chalfant, a redshirt junior, in a battle of the heavyweight class. The 157-pound weight class will feature 20th-ranked Demas against 13th-ranked Taylor Walsh, a redshirt sophomore. “I have a pretty good match,” Demas said. “I’m pretty confident that I should be able to beat him.” Freshman Mark Martin will face off against 14th-ranked Ryan LeBlanc, an Indiana redshirt junior, in the 165-pound weight class. “They have some good individual kids,” Martin said. “I know my weight’s kid is ranked in the top 20, so we all have to act like this is a No. 1 team.” Since Stieber – the defending NCAA champion and No. 1-ranked wrestler in the 133-pound weight class – will miss his fourth consecutive match because of injury, his replacement will be decided in a wrestle-off between redshirt freshman Kyle Visconti and redshirt sophomore Drew Stone. OSU will look to even up its Big Ten record against the Hoosiers at 7 p.m. Friday in Bloomington, Ind.
Michigan sophomore quarterback Shane Morris (7) hands the ball off during a game against Utah on Sept. 20 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan lost, 26-10.Credit: Courtesy of MCTWhen you hear the word concussion, what comes to mind?From someone who has played quarterback just at the high school and college club level for seven combined years, I can tell you any sort of hit to the head is as painful as it looks.I do not want to speak for Michigan quarterback Shane Morris, but from the looks of his reactions immediately after the hit he took from Minnesota redshirt-junior defensive lineman Theiren Cockran, Morris was in significant pain — yet he stayed in the game. This decision has brought outrage upon the program and has warranted responses by the athletic director Dave Brandon and university president Mark S. Schlissel.Not only was he left in the game, he was left susceptible to at a minimum one more hit as Michigan coach Brady Hoke let the sophomore quarterback attempt one more pass, which was nearly intercepted.Hoke claimed after the game that he did not see the hit, which is why Morris was allowed to continue. Hoke also added that Morris is a tough kid and wanted to stay in the game, therefore, Hoke obliged.There is something Hoke needs to understand, and that is there is a difference between playing hurt, and playing injured.Football is without a doubt one of the most physical sports on the planet and it is inevitable that players will get bumps and bruises. As a football player, you are expected to play through it, as being sore comes with the job.However, being hurt is not the same as being injured. Morris was clearly already playing hurt on what appeared to be a sore ankle, but following the blow from Cockran, it seemed apparent that Morris was injured.Hoke, who has already been under fire for Michigan’s uncharacteristic 2-3 start to the season, is now fully in the fire, and rightfully so.Whether it’s in fact Hoke’s job to know if a player is injured, he should care enough about his players that he wants to know immediately whether a player is injured or not.Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Monday that his training staff, along with his strength coach, are in charge of monitoring players constantly and added that he has a conversation on every series as to whether players are good to play.So why then did Hoke not have a similar conversation with his training staff who he claims its job it is to monitor his players? Why was a wobbly, blatantly injured Morris allowed back into the game?Even two days later, Hoke said he had no knowledge that Morris had suffered any sort of head injury and the only reason Morris had been held out of practice was because of an ankle injury.Then, nearly 12 hours after that, at approximately 1 a.m., Brandon released a statement saying that Morris had in fact sustained a mild concussion on the play.Yet Hoke still put Morris on the field, in a situation where he was free game for the Minnesota defense.Now, as I write this, Michigan students are rallying on their campus, calling for the resignation of Brandon. One student, who has been all over social media has been wearing OSU gear in protest.Morris and his family deserve better treatment than Hoke and his staff gave him Saturday at the Big House, and finally the school acknowledged that with Brandon’s early morning statement, followed by a statement from Schlissel.Schlissel, the only one from Michigan who has made any sort of sense during this unfortunate situation, released a statement shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday and said he has requested to be briefed with “a thorough review of our in-game player safety procedures, particularly those involving head injuries, and will involve experts from the University of Michigan Health System in assessing its medical aspects.”Schlissel is just the latest Michigan figurehead to throw the man below him under the bus, and would have never been put in this situation had Hoke simply showed the slightest interest for the well-being of Morris.No matter what your stance is as a fan, this is not a situation to laugh, smile or joke about. A young football player was put in a dangerous situation in which his well-being was, without question, put in jeopardy.No one, including Hoke, is taking responsibility for what happened at the University of Michigan and someone needs to be held accountable.