Friday, October 17, 2008

Lottery Pick Thompson Making Mark With Sacramento Kings

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

The clock hasn’t hit midnight yet.
With the NBA Preseason underway, Sacramento Kings rookie forward/center Jason Thompson, like Cinderella, realizes he has a lot to prove.
For the lottery pick, a guaranteed contract doesn’t mean guaranteed playing time.
“I’m past that,” Thompson said about being the Kings 12th pick. “It’ll be something that I’ll always be able to say and remember but it’s time to move on. Now I got a new coach and a new team so I have to start fresh.”
The former Rider University star’s growth will mirror the Kings’ rebuilding process- filled with peaks and valleys. In the NBA Summer League, the 6-foot-11 Thompson proved that he belonged in the pro’s by averaging 19 points and eight rebounds. Thompson’s says that his strong performances confirmed that he was in the right situation.
“It gave me a lot of confidence because in the practices I was playing real well and within a couple games the coaches were running plays for me,” said Thompson. “I hit two buzzer-beaters during that stretch and though we finished 3-2, I thought we could’ve won even more games.”
In the Mount Laurel, N.J. native’s first preseason game, he was overshadowed by the dominant 13-point, two block debut of Portland Trail Blazers big man Greg Oden.
Though Thompson struggled with 2-for-8 shooting and six fouls, he assures fans that his best is yet to come. Gaining daily advice from former NBA star and current Kings assistant coach Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Thompson feels he can only get better.
“I’ve been learning a lot from the veteran guys out here and doing a lot of agility drills…overall my game’s got stronger all over,” said Thompson. “[Abdur-Rahim] has had success in the league so I’m going to trying to learn as much as I can in the fastest time so I can get on the court.”
Thompson’s development will be a key factor toward second-year Kings head coach Reggie Theus making strides in the Western Conference. With the Golden State Warriors missing the playoffs with 48 wins, Thompson understands that competition will come at a premium.
“It’s tough and it makes us work even harder with teams out there like the Lakers, Mavs, and Phoenix Suns,” said Thompson. The competition is getting even better in the Eastern Conference so I’m happy that our team’s headed in the right direction instead of downward.”
The versatile big man isn’t a stranger to coming out of nowhere. A former 5-foot-11 guard, Thompson grew to 6-foot-8 while attending Lenape High School where he became a multiple all-South Jersey performer. Playing alongside two fellow D-I signees, younger brother Ryan Thompson (Rider) and Stanley Greene (Howard), the pair led Lenape it’s first state championship.
Jason was recruited under the radar heading to Rider and turned a middle-of-the-pack mid-major program into a power in the MAAC. In his senior year, Thompson led the Broncs to the MAAC Championship Game against Siena. Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey feels that NBA experts shouldn’t underestimate Thompson’s motivation to be the best.
“I think what people failed to recognize was how competitive and driven he was, Dempsey said during the NBA Draft. “Over the years he put on some weight, grew a couple inches, competed everyday, and now he’s blossomed into a great player.”
Off the court, Thompson is starting his life over from scratch as well. For the first time in his 22-year-old life, Thompson will be a coast away from his family. Having moved into an apartment in the Sacramento area, he’s taken steps toward getting used to living consistently on his own.
Thompson admits that while becoming a grown man is a process, he’s well up to the challenge.
“The world is small and I have a lot of family out here too so I’m not all that worried about that,” Thompson said about being away from his immediate family. “I’m a people person so I’m going to meet new people in California. I feel comfortable out here and I haven’t even been out in Sacramento that long so it must be a good sign.”
The outgoing Thompson will be living in California but will still have a local state of mind. Thompson said that he’s eagerly awaiting when the Kings have road games against the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, and New York Knicks.
During the season he also plans to keep in constant contact with his family, especially Ryan who’ll be entering his junior season at Rider. The 6-foot-7 forward/ guard was an All-MAAC selection after averaging 16 points and seven rebounds. Highly touted like his older brother, Jason thinks his brother has at least an outside chance to join him in the NBA.
“Easier said than done but he definitely has the talent,” said Thompson. “Obviously it’s going to be a little easier for him because he has people like myself around that can give him advice about the process. He definitely has a good shot of going to the NBA.”
When Thompson returns to the Philly/ New Jersey area, he also has plans to give back to the youth. For the former long shot, helping out the next NBA Draft Pick is essential.
“I’m going to come back and do some Jason Thompson camps in the area where kids can work on their game as well as putting money in the community,” Thompson said. “I’m also interested in starting my own summer league or AAU team like Dajuan Wagner. Networking is important, so I’m trying to get my name out there where I grew up and then look to start expanding.”

Van Fleet Staying Hungry For Possible 2012 Olympic Bid

By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter

If hard work was an addiction, put Suzanne Van Fleet in rehab immediately. With her All-American career finished at Clemson University, Van Fleet is beginning her professional rowing campaign.
The Radnor native’s post-Tigers career has been highlighted with a gold medal finish in her second stint on the U.S. team in the Under-23 Championships. During the team’s run, the U.S. defeated Poland, Belarus, Russia, Canada, and Germany en route to the first-place finish. Van Fleet credits the experience with giving her the confidence to become a professional rower.
“I made up my mind completely after this summer,” Van Fleet said. “I almost didn’t apply to U-23’s but I made myself because I wanted to use the summer as an indicator of whether I should continue rowing. After I made the team and we won the gold medal, I knew I couldn’t stop there.”
The 6-foot Van Fleet came into tryouts with huge concerns about making the team but U-23 head coach Kevin Sauer alleviated her fears. Van Fleet said that the University of Virginia rowing coach’s strong attention to detail kept her at ease throughout her experience on U-23’s.
“Coach Sauer was one of the best coaches that I have ever had,” said Van Fleet. “He instilled such a confidence in our crews and really prepared us for all of our races. This year I really tried to not let the selection process control me, which is easy to do when all you’re doing is eating, sleeping, and rowing.”
Van Fleet came into U-23 tryouts with a great deal of momentum as a senior. A two-time All-ACC performer for the Tigers, she helped the team receive a bid to the NCAA Championships for the first time in the school’s history. The 2008 Tigers team captain also finished her career as a three-time National Scholar Athlete recipient.
The All-American rower says that she’s constantly motivated by her need to reach her full potential.
“I have a desire to test my limits and see what I’m capable of doing,” said Van Fleet. “I always feel like I would rather try and fail then not try at all.”
Willingness to always give a valiant effort is what prompted Van Fleet to begin rowing. The West Chester Henderson alum started rowing with the Wilmington Youth Rowing Association on a request from her friend and hasn’t looked back.
Van Fleet’s love for the sport has prompted her to make sacrifices in order to achieve early success in the pro ranks. The cordial Van Fleet is balancing her strenuous training schedule with spending her final college semester student teaching third graders at Clemson Elementary. The early childhood education major says that though working with children can be stressful at times, she’s learned a great deal.
“Working with the kids has taught me patience and how to go with the flow better because they like to test me since I’m only a student teacher,” said Van Fleet. “You can still see their individual quirks and personalities developing at that age as well.”
Standing up and working with small children for eight hours everyday is more demanding than simply going to class and working out. Van Fleet realizes that her schedule’s tough but she understands the price she has to pay in order to become a star.
“My schedule now makes me have to keep my goals in perspective everyday,” said Van Fleet. “When things get hard I just remind myself of the experience I had this past summer at the world championships and know that those extra two hours [at practice] will be well worth it come January.”
Van Fleet will truly be able to gage how well her training at Clemson has been going when 2009 begins. In January Van Fleet will be moving to Princeton, N.J. to train with the rest of her teammates on the U.S. team. Despite the adversity, Van Fleet is eager to be closer to her family and friends.
“I’m looking forward to being able to driving home to see friends on the weekends or being able to get home cooked meals from my family,” said Van Fleet. “It will be easier knowing that my biggest support system is only an hour away.”
All of Van Fleet’s teammates will have a leg up on her because they’ve been training at Princeton University since September. According to one of the members on the team’s boat, Van Fleet should have no problems catching up.
“Suzanne is one of my biggest motivators because she got such an incredible work ethic and loves a challenge,” said teammate Kady Glessner. “She shouldn’t have a problem because she doesn’t get intimidated by things but rather takes things head on and works through them.”
Van Fleet will receive considerable help in training from such rowing standouts as Elle Logan, who won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Working with Logan, who took her sophomore year off at Stanford University to train with the team, keeps Van Fleet aware of her ultimate goal.
When the 2012 Olympics arrive, Van Fleet is hoping that she’s not left out of the boat. Van Fleet says that competing in London will fulfill a dream she started believing in at the World Championships.
“I’m giving everything I have everyday because I don’t want to be watching the 2012 Olympics and wondering what could’ve been,” said Van Fleet. “I’m just trying to take things one year at a time but I think I’ll be more anxious once it’s starts getting closer to 2012. It still seems like a dream at this point, but I’m ready for it to become a reality.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hopkins To Take On Scrappy Pavlik

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Kelly Pavlik’s not as wet behind the ears as people think.
When Bernard Hopkins (42-5-1) steps into the ring at Boardwalk Hall next Saturday night, underestimating his opponent would be a fatal mistake.
Heading into the 20-year anniversary of his first bout in Atlantic City, the Nicetown native doesn’t intend to take the gritty undefeated middleweight champion lightly.
“Kelly Pavlik can walk in Philadelphia and, though he might get into a fight or two, will earn [people’s] respect win or lose because that’s the mentality he brings to the table. I recognize that and that’s why I know what I’m going to have to do to him in the ring. He won’t quit, he’s not going back down, and he’s not going to become a boxer all of a sudden.”
Pavlik (34-0) established a solid body of work well before dismantling Jermain Taylor to capture the middleweight crown.
Six of his past eight fights had championship implications including a seventh round technical knockout of the hard-nosed Edison Miranda.
The middleweight champ feels that these underrated experiences could pay dividends in his fight against the wily veteran.
“[Jose] Zertuche didn’t have the name of a Hopkins or Winky Wright, but he was a fighter that was tough, rugged, I won that I learned a lot from, said Pavlik. “We then turned around and fought Edison Miranda, who nobody fights, and stopped him. I think I’ve touched every aspect of type of fighter and my experience is pretty wide.”
The 26-year-old Youngstown product has slowly but surely starting carving out his own niche, separate from fellow local hero Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
The huge question will be whether the power puncher is as effective moving up to 170-pounds to fight Hopkins. Pavlik says that he walks around at the catch-weight but it’ll still be an adjustment for the 6-foot-3 pugilist.
A huge amount of pressure will rest on the champion to defeat Hopkins, who some feel is over the hill.
Hopkins thinks that his upcoming fight will be a perfect opportunity to prove to nay-sayers that he is truly ageless.
“Kelly Pavlik is a perfect opponent because he wants to knock Bernard Hopkins out…at least that’s what he says,” said Hopkins. “He’s going to find it difficult early and that’s what’s going to change the fight.”
Pavlik will be receiving a baptism-by-fire when he fights the defensive-minded Hopkins. In the past, power punchers such as Felix “Tito” Trinidad and Glen Johnson expected to finish off the former undisputed middleweight champion but both met the same results.
Hopkins scored TKOs over Trinidad and Hopkins in the 11th and 12 rounds of the two fights respectively. The former Graterford Prison residee warns that if Pavlik only looks for the knockout, his fate could be sealed as well.
“Tito” had one bullet in the chamber and it was the left hook, said Hopkins. “If Pavlik thinks that he’s going to beat Bernard Hopkins just because he has a right hand he’s a fool.”
In “The Ghost” win over Miranda, he had opportunities to hurt him because of his brawling style. As evidenced in Miranda’s recent loss against number one middleweight contender, Arthur Abraham, his lack of defense has led to many of his defeats.
When Pavlik fights the Philly native, his offense might be off-set by Hopkins’ penchant for not getting punched. During Hopkins’ recent fights, his strong defense has created for tough, controversial decisions against Wright and Taylor.
While Hopkins would love to stop Pavlik in order to keep the fight out of the judges hands, he doesn’t plan on getting out of character to ensure the victory.
“I would love to knockout everybody I fight and have a press conference but it doesn’t go like that all the time,” said Hopkins. “Would I put pressure on myself to be out of character to force something that’s not there…no because I’m too much of a savvy veteran for that. What I will do is leave no question about who wins this fight.”
Hopkins thinks that a huge factor for bad decisions has been the conflicting styles of judges. The Executioner feels that different types of fighters yield various results in certain cities and with a 10-1 record in Atlantic City, Hopkins feels he’s on a roll.
“At the end of the day, I think that certain states appreciate certain [boxing] styles more than others,” said Hopkins. “I believe Atlantic City appreciates skill, boxing, and aggression. I lost my first fight in AC but I rebounded, and I’m ready, willing, and able to show my greatness to my fans come October 18th.”

Legendary Coach Recalls Cheyney Roots

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Everyone was a Wolf on October 9th.
When Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer spoke at Cheyney University to promote her new book, “Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph”, everyone was all ears.
For the only woman to lead three different college programs to the NCAA Final Four, she credits Cheyney, her first coaching job, as inspiration for her book.
“The book really started because of Cheyney,” said Stringer. “When people started doing their research and understood the time I had come through Cheyney so the book came about. I [originally] didn’t set out to write a book.”
Before shock jock Don Aimus ever muttered a word about Stringer, she was well-known in basketball circles. Before Rutgers NCAA Championship appearance in 2007, she had already coached two programs to the Final Four.
Stringer had great memories to recall from coaching days at Cheyney when she gave a brief lecture in the Duckrey Social Science Auditorium. From 1972-1983, Stringer led the Wolves to the first-ever women’s Final Four where they played against Louisiana Tech in the championship game.
During the affair, Stringer spoke of her experiences having to work with limited resources on the road to becoming a success at the local black college.
“When I first came onto the [Cheyney] campus at age 22, I was a wide-eyed assistant professor that certainly wasn’t hired to be a women’s basketball coach, Stringer said in her speech. “
With first-year Cheyney coaches Jeff Braxton and Marilyn Stephens in attendance, Stringer received a huge turnout from students and alumni alike.
In her 11 years with the Wolves, Stringer coached legendary players like Yolanda Laney and Valerie Walker as well as being the head volleyball coach. Stringer says that the influx of blacks in teaching and coaching roles had a profound effect on her.
“I think it’s important for [blacks] to believe in each other,” Stringer said. “I never had a black professor [in school] and it opened up a whole new world to me. I think it’s important that black people support each other because we understand that we might not have what everyone else has but the extra help allows us to become the leaders that we are.”
Another key part of Stringer’s speech was the hardships she experienced on the road to success at Rutgers. She had to cope with the death of her late husband, Bill Stringer, when he collapsed and died of a massive heart attack in 1992.
In addition, the legendary women’s coach spoke being a single mother raising three children including her daughter Janine who is disabled. She even spoke of the tough experience that occurred when deciding whether or not to leave Cheyney for the University of Iowa.
According to Stringer, one of the biggest benefits that came sharing the arena with another legendary coach.
“I had the good fortune to be in the presence of John Chaney who is, without question, one of the greatest minds in basketball today,” said Stringer. “Beyond the x’s and o’s, he’s continued to call and guide me through the most difficult of times.”
Though it’s been over 20 years since Stringer graced the sideline at Cheyney, she still has a profound impact. Stephens, who’s number was retired by Temple University, has vivid memories of playing against Stringer and her Wolves teams.
During the question and answer portion of Stringer’s appearance, Stevens remarked about how Stringer inspired her to go into coaching and make an impact at Cheyney herself.
The modest Scarlet Knights coach just hopes that the Lady Wolves basketball and volleyball respectively have a better understanding of their great history.
“I sure hope that they appreciate that their history is rich and that we shouldn’t make excuses,” said Stringer. “Let’s just make [Cheyney] everything that we can in all things that we’re involved.”

Cohen Chooses Stephen Curry-Led Davidson Program

By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter

Intelligence is golden.
Jake Cohen's biggest strength as a basketball player has always been the ability to always make the right decisions. Whether the Berwyn native's playing in the Narberth League or among the nation's best at the Reebok All-American Camp, the 6-foot-10 center's knack for making smart plays is impeccable.
When the Conestoga big man made a verbal commitment to mid-major power Davidson over Stanford University, many people agreed that he made a wise move. With the signing, Cohen became the second 2008 All- Main Line selection to make an early D-I decision after Lower Merion small forward Greg Robbins committed to Richmond.
Cohen is also the second boys basketball player from the Main Line to sign with the Southern Conference (SoCon) program since former Shipley star Boris Meno. The star center is just happy to finally have a college program to call home.
"It feels like I have a big weight off of my shoulders now," said a relieved Cohen. "I feel like I can focus more now on playing for Conestoga basketball than what college I'm going to attend."
A more focused Cohen could create even more havoc for the Central League. In 2008, Cohen averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds en route to receiving Main Line Player of the Year honors. With the help of fellow All-Main Line guard Matt O'Hara, the duo were catalysts to the Pioneers posting a surprising 20-5 record which included a sweep of Lower Merion.
After the season, Cohen received considerable college interest from the likes of Penn State. Though the possibility of signing before the 2009 season wasn't out of the question, Conestoga head coach Mike Troy was ecstatic that Cohen had an abundance of choices in the first place.
"I wasn't concerned whether Jake was going to sign early or when exactly it was going to happen," Troy said. "I was happy for him that he was able to choose from a number of schools that he wanted to go to and he made a choice that he was comfortable with."
Cohen earned the right to choose from a plethora of suitable colleges from his strong play during the offseason. Playing for the Team Philly AAU basketball team coached by Lonnie Lowry (older brother former Villanova star Kyle Lowry), Cohen solidified his stock locally with strong performances in the Rasual Butler All- City Basketball Classic where he received Defensive MVP of the senior game.
His true homecoming came at the Reebok All-American Camp where Cohen was able to display his skills in front of numerous D-I coaches at Philadelphia University. Cohen received considerable exposure playing on the Allen Iverson team because of his blue chip teammates which included number one-rated Florida guards junior Brandon Knight and senior Kenny Boynton as well as University of Washington signee Clarence Trent. The ultra-bright Cohen understood the importance of playing well in the month of July.
"I knew I had to work really hard in July and it really paid off for me at the Reebok camp and at the other tournaments following," said Cohen. "A lot of high major schools like Stanford and California started to catch on and take notice of me for the first time. It opened up a lot of options for me."
During his two summers playing for Team Philly, Cohen was able to capitalize on the momentum he received at Conestoga. With teammates like Villanova signee Maalik Wayns, Cohen felt like his offseasons with Lowry were essential to being ready for Davidson.
"There's no doubt in my mind I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't play with Lonnie and Team Philly," said Cohen. "Those guys just showed me a whole higher level that I needed to take my game to in order to be ready for college. It was hard to make the transition at first, but I got used to it and I realized that it took hard work to earn the scholarship that I wanted."
Lowry felt that being exposed to the diverse talent added to Cohen's confidence and gave him a much-needed swagger on the court.
"We exposed [Cohen] to a different atmostphere," said Lowry. "Part of the game is having the arrogance that you can play well against everybody and when he first came to Team Philly he didn't have that. We kept telling him that he was good and he was able to make it happen during the spring and summer."
The desired college changed on a frequent basis for Cohen. After Reebok, Cohen planned on committing to Stanford University but had to wait on being academically admitted before accepting a scholarship to the Pac-10 school. Deciding to keep his recruitment open, Cohen opted to take an official visit to Davidson in North Carolina. Cohen was automatically at ease by seeing friend, former Conestoga star and current Wildcat freshman Kristen Johnsen, and a very inviting campus.
"I fell in love with the campus because it's a really small school where people know each other which I really liked," Cohen said. "I think I'll fit in nicely with the family atmostphere where everybody cares for each other."
On the court, Cohen will get the opportunity to play for a team that advanced to the Elite 8 last season. With guard Stephen Curry in control, the Wildcats won 25-straight games and upset major schools like Georgetown and Wisconsin during their March Madness tear.
During his visit to Davidson, head coach Bob McKillop let Cohen know that he'll have to earn every opportunity he receives at the next level.
"Coach [McKillop] was pretty upfront with me when I was down there," said Cohen. "I knew that playing time wasn't going to be given to me wherever I chose to go to school so it wasn't a big issue for me."
Receiving significant playing time within two years isn't out of the question at Davidson for Cohen. With key frontcourt contributors like Meno and Andrew Lovedale out of the lineup when Cohen arrives to Davidson, there will be an immediate need for solid big men.
"Davidson has shown now that they're a high-profile mid-major program and I think that Jake, at that level, is good enough to keep them in contention in their conference," said high school basketball expert Steve Keller of Cohen helping Davidson. "I think he's still has some upside left and after a year or so of developing his body, McKillop should be able to use him."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Prairie View's LB East Sparks Panthers Defense

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Statistics are only as important as you make them.
Prairie View A & M is currently in 4-0 with one Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) win over rival Texas Southern. The Panther offense has been clicking on all cylinders averaging more than 40 points per game and only allowing 11.5 points.
In the midst of Prairie View’s overwhelming domination, one player’s numbers doesn’t shine as brightly. Heading into Saturday’s game, one player must always be accounted for by Grambling State.
Senior linebacker Zach East, who was a double-digit tackle machine in 2007, has only reached 10 tackles once this season.
Chosen as the SWAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound East hasn’t been on the field a lot because of the improving offense.
Last season, East would be involved in at least 70 plays but this year the defense is on the field for an average of 50 plays. East, who leads the Panthers with 28 total tackles, says that the game is much simpler with a team filled with playmakers.
“It feels good because everyone knows their role and I can depend on my teammates to make tackles,” said East. “It makes the game much easier when everybody on the field knows their role and assignments.”
The Houston native has been one of the keys to the Panthers turnaround during his two years playing at Prairie View. When East transferred from Hampton University to help his family with family issues after his freshman year, the Panthers were a perennial cellar-dweller that barely won five games in the SWAC.
With the combination of East and head coach Henry Frazier III, Prairie View was 7-3 in 2007 which was the school’s first winning season in over 30 years. During training camp, expectations were set high heading into the season.
“We knew that we had the team to make this happen,” East said. “Nobody in the SWAC works out as hard as we do in these heat conditions. We’re really trying to correct the mistakes we made in losses last year so hopefully we can win the conference.”
East’s quest to end his college career with a SWAC title is a very attainable goal because of his exceptional head coach. Frazier is no stranger to championships having won a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) championship in 1989 during his playing days at Bowie State. The star linebacker is happy to have such a knowledgeable coach helping them navigate through their stretch SWAC run.
“He’s real lenient and willing to work with people if you work hard but he means business,” said East. “This is the best coaching staff that I’ve had ever…including when I was at Hampton. They always have your back.”
Conference victories against Grambling and Southern University are at the top of East’s list because he feels that the programs have been the class of the SWAC. East realizes that his team has unfinished business against Southern and Grambling. Last season the Panthers were 0-2 and only averaged eight points in the two games.
“Whenever you want to get big wins it’s always going to be Southern and Grambling because they’re the premier schools in the SWAC,” said East. “We had a close game with Grambling last year and I felt like we left a win on the field that day.”
East says that finishing undefeated isn’t a huge discussion in the locker room.
“We take things one day at a time and we got Grambling this week so we’re not trying to look past them, said East. “I try to be a leader and tell the younger guys to stay focused because it can be a small mistake that can get us back to losing games again.”
Prairie View isn’t underestimating Grambling because their statistics are deceiving. Though the Tigers are 3-2, they’re currently on a two-game winning streak. Grambling’s offensive line has also allowed 18 sacks heading into the contest.
According to East, the Panther defense aims to be stifling regardless of the opponent.
“We’re going to get after the quarterback no matter who they are or how many sacks they gave up the previous game,” East said. “Our defensive line might’ve looked at those stats but no matter what, we’re going to get our [sacks] in.”
East’s focus has elevated past mere individual statistics toward earning wins and possibly being drafted into the NFL. With every win and solid performance that the articulate linebacker delivers, he puts himself one step closer to playing on Sundays next season.
Eager to win the SWAC this season, East says that he’s focusing on the task at hand and letting the pro football picture take care of itself.
“I don’t really focus too much on the stats right now but I might do it when the season’s over,” said East. “I really try to focus on inside things and not about what the commentators are saying about me. It feels good when people think that you’re one of the best in black college football and I want to keep doing things to prove those people right.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Jake Cohen Makes Verbal Committment

Breaking News

By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter


By Jordan Ingram

Sources are reporting that Conestoga’s Jake Cohen has made a verbal commitment to accept a basketball scholarship to Davidson University. Last season Davidson won the Southern Conference (SoCon) and, led by guard Stephen Curry as well as former Shipley star Boris Meno, advanced to the Elite 8 last season.
Cohen, a 6-foot-10 senior center, was the Main Line Player of the Year in 2008 after averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. After a strong showing in Reebok All-American Camp at Philadelphia University during the offseason, Cohen was also considering such schools as Stanford.
With the decision, Cohen becomes the second 2008 All Main Line basketball player to make an early commitment after Lower Merion’s Greg Robbins verballed to Richmond.
Stay tuned for further details from Main Line Life.

BREAKING NEWS From Conestoga High School

By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter

Sources say that Conestoga’s Jake Cohen is strongly considering making a verbal commitment to either Davidson, Stanford University, or an unnamed college for basketball.
Two weeks ago the 6-foot-10 center planned to accept a basketball scholarship to Stanford but first had to wait to be academically admitted to the prestigious Pac-10 school. While he awaited confirmation from the Stanford, Cohen kept his recruitment open and made an official visit to Davidson University.
According to sources, the 2008 Main Line Player of the Year liked the school and was strongly considering playing alongside Stephen Curry. Davidson boasted a 20-plus game winning streak en route to winning the Southern Conference (SoCon) and making an NCAA Elite 8 appearance. The team’s also graduated former Shipley star Boris Meno who’s currently playing professionally in his native France.
If he joins the Stanford Cardinals, Cohen will join new head coach, former Philadelphia 76ers assistant Johnny Dawkins. The team also graduated big men Brook and Brock Lopez who were 2008 NBA Draft selections.
By signing to Stanford, Cohen would be the first Main Line basketball player to sign with a Pac-10 program since Friends’ Central guard Mustafa Shakur.
Stay tuned for further updates on Main Line Life.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Southern QB Lee Has Eye On SWAC Crown

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Making smart decisions is respected whether a quarterback’s playing NCAA Division I or Pee Wee football.
Southern University signal caller Bryant Lee has made a name for himself by making interceptions a seldom occurrence.
The 6-foot-2 junior, who was selected as the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, has only thrown one interception so far this season. Over the past 13 games, Lee has only been picked off five times.
Lee’s spectacular play hasn’t gone unnoticed by football-crazy fans on Southern’s campus. His popularity was so high that a student designed the 2008 EA College Football poster with Lee on the cover that currently graces his Facebook page. The team oriented Lee appreciates the honor but hasn’t lost focus of the Jaguars’ true goals.
“All of this stuff is good, but it doesn’t really mean nothing, because our main goal is to get to the [SWAC] championship game and winning,” said Lee.
His penchant for keeping turnovers to a minimum has already caught the eye of ESPN Black College analyst Eddie Robinson Jr.
“He’s a real efficient quarterback that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes but that can still make big plays,” said Robinson. “Even though he’s still a young guy he’s still one of the more experienced quarterbacks in the SWAC Conference.”
Far from conservative, Lee has averaged 226.7 yards per contest in 2008 and has a 66.3 completion percentage. Though the Jaguars are currently 1-2, the offense has been producing a healthy 28 points per game. Lee admits that the team expected to perform better early in the season.
“We don’t have the record that we wanted going into SWAC play but I think we’re starting to get on the right track,” said Lee. “The win against Mississippi Valley [week three] gave us a huge boost going into the bye week.”
The biggest dud of the season came on opening day when the D-IAA Southern lost to D-I Houston by 52 points. Southern’s offense only managed three points and the 39 yards rushing made head coach Pete Richardson’s gameplan one-dimensional.
Being blown out by a Bowl Subdivision team was disappointing for the potential NFL prospect. Even though Lee threw no touchdowns against Houston, he still produced a season-high 58-yard passing attempt. Robinson, a former NFL star with the Tennessee Titans, believes that blame isn’t solely on Lee.
“One thing you have to look at when a D-IAA school plays against a D-I program is not just the talent level of the quarterback position but the skill level of the team,” Robinson said. “At some point, quite frankly, the Southern offensive line is going to get outmanned by Houston’s [defensive] players up front. The quarterback spot is a team position and if you don’t have protection to throw or wide receivers that can get open it’s hard to look good.”
More importantly, Lee says that the Jaguars got into the win column by committing less penalties. Southern lost a close game to Tennessee State because they allowed 34 points and had nine penalties for 113 yards. Lee was thought that the team’s discipline showed signs of improvement in their rout of Mississippi Valley.
“We wanted to start executing better as a team,” said Lee. “Special teams made a lot of plays that helped the offense out [against Mississippi Valley] and as an offense we re-dedicated ourselves to the film room to make sure we had our reads right.”
Lee is the epitome of diligence. While most of his teammates are having fun in their spare time, the Louisiana native can be found resting his body and getting extra hours in the film room. During the bye week, the soft-spoken Lee has also devoted extra time with Strength and Conditioning coach Thomas Hall to stay in better shape.
Heading into their showdown with Alcorn State, Lee feels that the Jaguars are more focused at 1-2 than they would’ve been at 3-0.
“I think we’re saying to ourselves that [being 1-2] is going to help us out because we didn’t want to go in the SWAC season with big heads and underestimate a couple teams,” said Lee.
Off the field, the star quarterback also benefits from having an understanding safety net during his leisure time. Girlfriend Jamicka Pugh is a senior defender for Southern’s soccer team and keeps his competitive juices flowing.
“She understands how dedicated I am to being in the film room she goes through the same thing too,” Lee said. “We’re always competing against each other in everything we do so it makes me that much better on the field.”
Lee wants to be on top of his game the final two years of his college career in order to get a shot at the NFL. With former SWAC quarterbacks like Steve McNair finding success at the pro level, the opportunity is there. The flexible Lee would prefer to be a quarterback in the pros but wouldn’t rule out if his position were to be changed in the NFL.
“It truly wouldn’t matter to me because I know I can get the job done at any position,” said Lee. “I’m really just looking forward to working hard to get in the position to get drafted in the first place.”
Before the junior can set his sights on the NFL, Lee has to navigate through a strenuous SWAC schedule. With teams like undefeated Prairie View A & M on the horizon, the road to the championship won’t be easy.
On the road to getting over the hurdle in the SWAC conference, the second-year starter already has certain games penciled in on his calendar.
“I look at Alabama A & M and Arkansas Pine Bluff because I haven’t beaten them yet so those will be important to me,” said Lee. “There were a few mistakes made by us offensively and defensively in the past so I’ll be looking forward to playing those two games.”
If the game-winning decisions are put in Lee’s hands, the safe bet should be on Southern.

Entering His Senior Season, FitzPatrick Wants To Go Out With A Bang

By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter

Brian FitzPatrick still remembers it like it was yesterday.
A 36-point blowout to the University of Penn Quakers to end the 2007 season stuck to the former EA standout the entire offseason.
“The off-season started for us in the locker room at Franklin Field last year where we got embarrassed,” said FitzPatrick. “It was real tough because it was my last [college] game in Philadelphia and to lose like that made me want to play them the next day. At that point we decided that we’re going to have to do some different stuff as a program and we came together.”
Earning a hard-fought 21-20 victory against Bucknell to open the 2008 season was a small relief, but far from a cure.
Heading into their Ivy League opener against Yale University, the Big Red will be expecting a lot from FitzPatrick who didn’t even catch a pass on opening day. FitzPatrick did not complain about his production in the first game, instead he focused on improving for the next contest.
“Between my fellow receivers and the quarterbacks we have a great relationship,” said FitzPatrick. “We don’t really have a set of starting receivers because we rotate about eight guys that are capable of being starters.”
Last season the 5-foot-10 senior only saw limited action after suffering a torn hamstring during training camp. Since FitzPatrick didn’t redshirt after the injury, he was able to return to the lineup for the final three games of the season where he only gained 38 yards.
The team has shown added dedication to their preparation during the week to ensure that finishing 2-5 in the Ivy League is a thing of the past. With players that come from 30 different states, everyone still found time to participate in voluntary weekend two-man camps at Cornell.
This season the former Inter-Ac Player of the Year is putting his stats aside to help the career end on a good note. It started with his attitude, which spread.
“The big thing we really wanted to change this year was the attitude people brought to the locker room,” said FitzPatrick, “people needed to devote themselves more than in the past.”
“People worked hard during the week but lost focus when they got off the field but we wanted to make the culture that you’re a football player 24/7 and keep it on your mind at all times.”
Staying in a constant football mindset even extends to talking about the gameplan in the cafeteria in between classes for FitzPatrick and his teammates. It was simple: Think, eat, sleep, and talk football off the field, and hope the results show on the field.
“Once we started getting game film of teams, we’re always talking about which guys we want to exploit or plays that will work during games,” said FitzPatrick. “We talk about the gameplan all the time whether we’re in practice or we’re walking home from the stadium after practice. It makes the game easier.”
FitzPatrick has also gained a keener awareness of how to execute and manipulate opposing team’s gameplans from daily phone discussions with former high school teammate, Greg Isdaner. At EA Isdaner blocked for FitzPatrick who played quarterback for the Churchmen. With the 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive lineman as a safety net, FitzPatrick was able to produce 25 touchdowns passing and rushing as a senior at Episcopal.
The versatile FitzPatrick loves being able to watch his former teammate flourish at West Virginia and loves getting a preview of what’s to come on Saturdays.
“He’s my best friend and I talk to [Isdaner] almost four times a week where we give each other our scouting reports on the teams we’re playing,” Fitzpatrick said. “I know West Virginia’s gameplan before they play the game because we talk about it the entire night before.”
In the Inter-Ac FitzPatrick also played against current Atlanta Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and former Haverford School signal caller Bryan Savage. At Episcopal, his notable classmates included Duke’s Gerald Henderson and North Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He’s a proud EA alum.
“I brag about every single one of those guys to the people on my team,” said FitzPatrick. “It’s fun to be able to watch all of them on television and say that I was around them in high school.”
With his uncle being an assistant coach on the Churchmen football team, FitzPatrick is also able to keep up with Episcopal’s progress during his leisure time. He even works out with some of the younger Churchmen during the offseason. His younger brother, Bobby, graduated from EA earlier this year, but that doesn’t stop him from rooting for the Churchmen, who started this week off 3-0.
“I have a lot of pride in Episcopal…I definitely stay as involved with the team as much as I can,” said FitzPatrick.
The loss to the Quakers last season not only left a bad taste in his mouth, but it was his last chance to play in Philadelphia. Two of the first three games on Cornell’s schedule are in Pennsylvania including a game at Lehigh, so he does have a chance to get a few victories in front of some familiar faces.
“I can’t wait because Lehigh is closer to home than any other game we’ll play this year,” FitzPatrick. “I drive past Lehigh on the way to Ithaca [N.Y.], for school, so I’m looking forward to my last true home game in front of a bunch of my family members.”

Basketball Clinic Puts Academics First

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

If you wanted to see some of high school basketball’s future movers and shakers, look no further than Roman Catholic High School.
Organized by local Sonny Hill League coach Rasool Nasr Hajj, the First Annual Youth Clinic invited some of the top grade school talents in the area.
During the event, the young up-and-comers also had the opportunity to hear other youth coaches, Abu Jabbar and Jerome Smith, speak about the importance of education.
Nasr Hajj, who also coached Interstate Realty to the 2007 Cosby League Championship, thought that education was the key message being expressed.
“We want to make sure that the kids are academically prepared for high school and college,” Nasr Hajj said. “We really used the basketball to draw them down to Roman Catholic so that we could really talk about academics.”
The first day of the clinic was focused on the youngsters attending classes at Roman where they received lectures about achieving good scores on the PSAT and SAT exams. Some of the top future talents that were in attendance included 6-foot-3 eighth grade guard Miles Overton (the son of New Jersey Nets assistant coach Doug Overton) and 5-foot-6 seventh grader Malik Tyndale (younger brother of former Temple star Mark Tyndale).
Nasr Hajj also was impressed that former NBA players like Pervis Ellison and Lari Ketner were in attendance to support the event.
“I felt great that I actually had Doug Overton’s son at the clinic, Marshall Taylor’s son, and Malik Tyndale because we think they’ll become good athletes but even better students,” said Nasr Hajj. “They were excellent kids that gave me zero problems during the weekend.”
When it came time for the kids to show-and-prove on the hardwood, the young athletes failed to disappoint. Nasr Hajj organized drills in order to focus on offensive and defensive fundamentals.
The younger Tyndale took a workmanlike approach to the defensive approach and his competitive demeanor at times mirrored his older brother. Even at a young age Malik, who attends Gesu School, understands that defense is vital.
“It all starts on defense first,” said Malik. “You have to do everything on defense before you start shooting the ball and scoring. My brother taught me a couple of moves and my dad taught us how to play basketball.”
The kids participated in five-on-five competition where Jabbar and Smith served as coaches of the respective teams. Though the game didn’t attract the large, unruly crowd of a Friday night Roman vs. Neumann-Gorretti showdown, but it gave onlookers a strong indication that Philly basketball has a bright future.
In the two quarters he played, it was hard for parents to take their eyes off of 6-foot-3 eighth grade center Amir Maddred. Maddred scored over double-figures and displayed a good feel for scoring that will make any coach happy. The Talley Middle School (Wilmington, Del.) big man was overjoyed to play against such top-notch competition.
“I got a really good experience playing against great competition and I thought it really helped my game out a lot,” said Maddred.

Eighth grade MVP Britton Lee impressed onlookers the most during the weekend. The 5-foot-8 combo guard from Woodrow Wilson Middle School seemed like a man among boys with his effortless drives to the basket and smooth, no look passes. Already inked to Roman in 2009, Lee was happy to play on the floor where he eventually hopes to become a star.
“It felt good to play here because I know a lot of great players played at Roman,” Lee said. “I understand that academics are important because if I didn’t have that I wouldn’t be able to get into Roman at all.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aaric Murray Verbals To LaSalle University

By Jordan Ingram
Philadelphia Tribune

Glen Mills big man has decided to end his college recruiting process early and make a verbal committment to LaSalle University. The agile 6-foot-10 forward will pair up with 2008 incoming freshman Devon White to make a formidable underclassmen frontline for the Explorers in 2009.

Murray, who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds, had a stellar offseason as he was a top performer at the Reebok Camp at Philadelphia University. In the camp's all-star game he finished with 13 points and six rebounds.

Stay tuned for more updates

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Heisman Helper?

By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter

While most Heisman Trophy winners on offense mostly come from skill positions, their production is only as good as their offensive line.
West Virginia’s Greg Isdaner is continuing to solidify his name by blocking for some of college football’s best athletes. Last season, the third year starter was a huge component to an offensive line that ranked in the top three nationally in rushing offense and in the top ten in fewest sacks allowed. His strength at 322-pounds also allowed him to register 57 knockdowns last season.
The former Episcopal star says that it’s not always an easy task blocking for a mobile quarterback like Pat White.
“It’s gets a little bit tricky at times because he sometimes he’s moving around the pocket and you don’t know where he is,” said Isdaner. “I’ll trade that disadvantage for his speed and playmaking ability…he’s the best quarterback in the country hands down.”
In White’s senior season with the Mountaineers he’s hoping that college experts feel the same as he’s one of the many candidates lobbying for the illustrious Heisman Trophy. The reigning Fiesta Bowl MVP will have more adversity to work through in winning the award than most with a new coach on the helm and a new offensive system.
The former Churchman also has certain adversity to work through heading into the final lap of his college career. Dave Jane will be Isdaner’s third offensive line coach at West Virginia and he missed spring drills recovering from a shoulder injury. The returning All-Big East performer shrugs off these issues and believes that the time off makes him a better player.
“In a way it’s a good thing because it allows me to re-charge my battery,” said Isdaner. “When I get back I’m ready to go and I play at a much more furious pace in practice and the weight room.”
With dynamic personality Rich Rodriguez coaching in Michigan this season, White and Isdaner alike will have to assimilate into first-year head coach Bill Stewart’s more pass-oriented offense. Often criticized for his arm and passing ability, Isdaner thinks that people will be shocked this season.
“We feel like we need more balance [on offense] where in previous years we rushed for all of those big numbers,” Isdaner said. “I think that a very underrated part of Pat White’s game is his ability to pass. People think that he can’t pass because he hasn’t had the opportunity.”
The offensive lineman knowledge of his quarterback comes from the fact he blocked for him a total of 850 plays last season including a season-high 88 against USF. Isdaner added that the fact that White’s been drafted on two occasions by MLB teams as an outfielder speaks volumes about his arm strength.
“He’s an excellent thrower…you have to have a great arm to be drafted straight out of high school in the fourth round by the Anaheim Angels,” Isdaner exclaimed. “The way he throws in practice has people on the team wondering why we didn’t pass the ball more last year.”
In past seasons, the 6-foot-4 Isdaner’s job was very predictable as a majority of the offense was based on the run. The past three seasons, Isdaner’s protected the potent one-two punch rushing attack of White and running back Steve Slaton. Against Pittsburgh in 2006, White and Slaton became only the third tandem in NCAA D-I history to both rush for 200+ yards in the same game.
Replace Slaton (currently a rookie on the Houston Texans) with Noel Devine and Isdaner still plans to be blocking for one of the top rushing teams in the nation. Heading into their home opener against D-IAA Villanova, the Gladwyne native is hoping to put forth his best effort.
“It’s pretty crazy because Villanova is a place that didn’t get too involved [recruiting] me in high school and I’m excited to go out and prove to the coaches that it’s somewhere where I could’ve played,” Isdaner said. “I didn’t get much respect coming out of high school recruiting-wise but that was at that time and there’s no place I’d love to be than [West Virginia] now.”
Isdaner says that the game against the Wildcats is a unique situation and it will be a good experience to play in front of a lot of friends he has at Villanova. While he hasn’t spoken too much to his friends at Villanova, he believes the Mountaineers are more occupied with getting a victory and not being upset in Appalachian State-like fashion.
“We work very hard to make sure that we’re not beat because we’re not ready to compete on that particular game day,” said Isdaner. “If a team’s going to beat us they’re truly going to have to be better and we really think we can win every game on our schedule.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Roy Jones Jr. Looking For Redemption Or Cash?

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

The players on the U.S. Olympic Basketball aren’t the only athletes looking to redeem themselves in 2008.
When Roy Jones Jr. fights the undefeated Ring Light-Heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe in November, he will be trying to recapture the magic that once was his career.
After three-straight losses (two by knockout) at the hands of Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, the public’s perception of Jones as unbeatable was shaken. Even with three-straight rebound wins over Prince Badi Ajamu, Anthony Hanshaw, and Felix Trinidad, HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant still isn’t impressed.
“He’s the same fighter as when he lost to Tarver….the only thing that’s changed is the quality of his opposition,” Merchant said. “He had a nice fight with Trinidad but I don’t consider Trinidad to be much anymore so I think he’s been able to use his name to keep his career going like many veteran fighters.”
Despite the name recognition that the Florida native brings to any fight, he’ll be entering Madison Square Garden as an underdog for only the third time in his career. In bouts where the critics voted against Jones, he’s currently 2-1 with the sole loss being a unanimous decision in the rematch against Tarver.
Though Jones hasn’t been counted out many times in his career, the 5-foot-11 fighter actually basks in people doubting him.
“That’s my favorite spot being the underdog because you truly get a chance to perform,” said Jones. “Whenever I’m chosen to win people say that it’s expected but when you’re the underdog, at that moment you can really show the people something.”
The last time Jones won as an underdog, he became the first middleweight titleholder to win the heavyweight championship in 106 years, with a victory over John Ruiz. In retrospect, Jones believes that the dynamic achievement speaks volumes about his ability and that of Bob Fitzsimmons more than a century ago.
“I’m the only man alive that could accomplish such a feat,” said Jones. “I paid the price for it [with the Tarver loss] but that’s what I have to do- to do what nobody else has done.”
According to Merchant, Jones defeating the Welshman would put him back at the top but that it’s not Jones top priority.
“I don’t think the idea is relevant because the winner of the Jones-Calzaghe fight will claim their number one but so will whoever wins the Tarver-[Chad] Dawson fight and they’ll have legitimate claims,” said Merchant.
Winning the bout won’t be an easy task for the 39-year-old Jones who will have to deal with a very intelligent, busy puncher in Calzaghe. Jones says that securing the important victory over his British opponent will prove an important point to those who said he should retire after the violent nature of his recent losses.
“It shows that it isn’t over until God says it’s over and that’s all I want to prove,” said Jones.
The outspoken former Olympic silver medalist doesn’t have too many points left to prove in his career. When he defeated Ruiz, Jones was at the top of his game in the eyes of many.
At the time he was 48-1 with quality victories over the likes of James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, and Virgil Hill. During his spare time he even found time to appear with Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix Reloaded.”
Had he defeated Tarver and Johnson, Jones admits that he wouldn’t even be stepping foot at MSG.
“I doubt if I still would’ve been fighting,” Jones said. “God must not have been done talking through me yet and wanted me to come back and re-prove myself.”
In Jones’ quest to regain respect, a victory over Calzaghe will open up the opportunity to one-up Fitzsimmons in his eyes. After Fitzsimmons original run as the heavyweight champion, he moved down two weight classes to defeat George Gardner in 1903 and won the light-heavyweight championship.
Since the super middleweight division wasn’t developed until the 1980s, Jones has every intention of adding another title to his mantle. Calzaghe is the current Ring Super Middleweight champion but a bout against the Welshman at 168 might not occur because he wants to retire after the fight.
The persistent Jones shrugs off the notion and would be anxious to win a belt at super middleweight regardless of the titleholder. He also doesn’t rule out another fight for the heavyweight title.
“I really want to regain the super middleweight title because I would take it a step further than Bob Fitzsimmons did because there wasn’t that division then,” Jones said. “However, if I don’t get a shot at the super middleweight title than I’ll fight [Wladimir] Klitschko at heavyweight and call it a day. That’s the beauty of Roy Jones…he can fight anywhere.”
Jones even added sending out another legendary fighter on a good note.
“I tried to get Oscar De La Hoya to say that he’d fight me on December 6th after I fought Calzaghe November 8th and he wouldn’t take it,” said Jones confidently.
Merchant, on the other hand, feels that Jones wanting to fight an upper echelon fighter like Klitschko isn’t realistic on his part.
“He moved up and beat a guy [Ruiz] that I regarded as a mediocre heavyweight and that’s good for him,” Merchant said. “If he throws out names like Klitschko than to me he’s just talking about making money.”
Since veteran fighters like Calzaghe and Jones are looking for financial gain at the latter stages of their careers, Merchant points to the winner of the Hopkins- Kelly Pavlik as next in line.
Both fights could bring enormous fanfare with Jones owning a victory over the 43-year-old Philly native and Pavlik having a considerable amount of buzz.
The only thing for sure in Jones’ mind is that Hopkins would have no true intentions of wanting a rematch against him.
“I love Bernard Hopkins to death but he has not wanted to get into a rematch with me,” Jones said. “Bernard Hopkins only wanted a rematch when he nobody else wanted to fight him. He hasn’t wanted to fight me since he got back into the limelight and got a big name for himself. He can fight anybody but if he fights me it’ll be his very, very last fight and I know that.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Steve Slaton Feature (Previously Written Article)

Slaton Preparing For Instant Impact As A Rookie

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Sports Correspondent

Even though most NFL rookie running backs start off at the bottom, this football player isn’t slated to stay there.
Houston Texans third-string running back Steve Slaton is behind veterans Ahman Green and Chris Brown on the depth chart, but injuries could propel him to the top. Last season Green and Brown started a combined six games and only rushed for 722 yards.
The rookie running back doesn’t rule out the chance to receive playing time and believes staying ready is always the best policy.
“There’s always a possibility for anything,” Slaton said. “You always have to prepare yourself for those types of situations and I’ll be ready if that were to happen.”
In his short time in the NFL, Slaton has put his ego aside by allowing Green and Brown to take him under their wing. Green, heading into his 11th season, has rushed for over 1,000 yards six times and spent seven seasons playing alongside Brett Favre.
Making the transition from West Virginia University to the NFL, Slaton admits, isn’t an instant gratification process.
“I’ve learned from them how to practice [in training camp] going full-speed all the time and taking every rep as a mental rep,” said Slaton. “You’re not given a lot of reps being a younger guy so you have to take advantage of the chances you get and try to turn them into minutes.”
Another obstacle that Slaton will have in the NFL is proving to coaches that he’s not too small to receive playing time. At 5-foot-9, 201-pounds, the former Conwell-Egan star isn’t the ideal size for most starting running backs. Compared to the 6-foot, 218-pound Green and 6-foot-3, 220-pound Brown, Slaton isn’t the biggest player around. The backup shrugs the notion of his size aside and believes that his talent overshadows the issue.
“I know I can play but I have to prove to other people that I can,” said Slaton. “There’s plenty of guys in the league that are my size and have become starters that carry the load so I believe I can do it too.”
Adjusting to the zone-blocking scheme that Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has implemented will be a stark contrast to the spread offense Slaton flourished under at West Virginia. ESPN football expert Merrill Hoge is a critic of the smaller back and believes that Slaton has a lot to prove.
Being a former running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears himself during his eight-year NFL career, Hoge thinks adjusting to smaller running lanes is no easy task.
“Based off of [Green and Brown’s] history with injury the past two years, there’s a strong chance that he’ll have an opportunity,” said Hoge. “Can he be the main ball-carrier, I’m not sure, and I think that’ll be a lot to ask out of him. I watched some of those bowl games at West Virginia and he had massive holes to run through.”
Hoge added that it would be better for Slaton’s development if he learns from Green and Brown from the sideline this season.
“If the Texans can bring [Slaton] along slowly than it will be a much better situation for him, Hoge said. “If he’s asked to carry the load on all three downs I think he’ll struggle.”
Slaton is no stranger to learning from the sideline. Originally recruited by West Virginia as a defensive back, he started his true freshman year off as a fourth-string halfback. After rushing for 139 yards and scoring a touchdown in his first start against Rutgers, head coach Rich Rodriguez couldn’t keep him out of the lineup.
Paired with mobile quarterback Pat White, the duo formed one of the better rushing attacks in college football. Slaton’s 17 rushing touchdowns his freshman season (2005) was the third most in school history. After defeating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, Slaton’s 204 rushing yards propelled him to the Sugar Bowl MVP Award.
He felt that staying positive throughout the season allowed him to stay ready and be prepared for him eventual success.
“There’s always going to be negative and positive things that people say about you but as long as you keep the right attitude, that’s the best thing you can have,” Slaton said.
Slaton took the momentum his freshman year and posted a career-best 1,744 rushing yards, 7.0 rushing yards per carry, and 360 receiving yards his sophomore season. He also combined with White for 2,963 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns. His 2,104 all-purpose yards in 2006 set a West Virginia record.
Entering his junior season, Slaton came in with considerable buzz after being ranked No. 2 by ESPN on its Heisman Trophy Watch. In the eyes of many football experts, Slaton failed to live up to expectations after recording career lows in yards and yards- per-carry.
Slaton says that his decrease in numbers was more a product of better defense than diminished skills.
“Playing in the Big East Conference defenses are getting better and [coaches] have time to gameplan,” said Slaton. “From the two previous years, teams had time to watch film and watch how other teams watched me so they had a better chance.”
Rather than redeem himself as a senior, Slaton decided to enter the 2008 NFL Draft. Slaton said that the move was fulfilling a lifetime dream from when he was he was a young boy.
He made the best of his opportunity by amazing pro scouts at the NFL Combine with his dynamic receiving ability and athleticism. Slaton was able to post a 35’’ vertical jump and a 4.45 40-yard dash time that helped reestablish his stock among pro teams.
Even though his draft status was the highest his sophomore season, when his draft status was the highest, Slaton said that his junior year was important to his development. With other college players like Adrian Peterson that looked attractive to NFL teams as underclassmen, Slaton felt that the league changing its policy should depend on the particular player.
“It depends on how that player feels,” said Slaton. “I talked to my family and felt I was ready but they have to be able to make that decision for themselves.”
Originally pegged as a low first-round to early second-round pick, Slaton slipped to the Texans as a third-round pick. In a draft that was filled with talent at the running back position, Slaton was the 10th halfback selected behind the likes of Darius McFadden, Felix Jones, and Ray Rice.
Compared to McFadden and Rice, Hoge sees a distinct difference in the type of NFL running backs they’ll project into as opposed to Slaton. Hoge says that certain aspects of Slaton’s character weren’t tested enough with the Mountaineers that are keys to success as an NFL running back.
“In the NFL running backs have to have a physical nature about themselves and be willing to put their nose in there for three yards when there’s nothing there,” said Hoge. “If you’re not used to that then there’s going to be a tough learning curve as Reggie Bush is experiencing that right now. If [Slaton] gets a chance to play he’ll have to improve on the things he didn’t have to do in college.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Steven Smith Is Heading To Greece

August 21, 2008

Smith’s Hoping Stint In Europe Will Lead To Second Shot In The NBA

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Always make your next move your best move.
Former LaSalle basketball star Steven Smith is hoping that a stint for Kolossos Rhodes in Greece will propel him back into the NBA. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound combo forward looks at his third year of pro basketball as entering the crossroads in his career.
“At some point you have to buckle down and say that you want to get more secure financially and be in good standing after basketball,” said Smith. “I’ve been in the NBA before but to get back I there’s certain things I have to work on and I think this is a step in that direction.”
Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Jim Lynam says that though Smith has NBA potential the window for opportunity is slowly starting to close.
“In my heart I believe he has NBA talent but scouts have already given him one shot when he was coming out of LaSalle so there is a window for him,” said Lynam. “Now he’s going through a period in his career where he’ll have to take advantage of his opportunities within the next couple of years if he wants to be in the NBA.”
Smith, who was a two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year with the Explorers, made the Sixers as a rookie free agent in 2006 but was released eight games into the season. He finished the season playing for the Anaheim Arsenal in the NBA Developmental League and played part of last season for Solsonica Rieti (the same team Joe “Jellybean” Bryant once played for) in Italy.
While many pro experts projected the versatile forward to have an easy time hanging on with an NBA team after graduating from La Salle, Smith hasn’t found a home thus far. Smith says he isn’t fazed by this fact and feels that success in the NBA is all about timing.
“In the NBA you never know,” Smith said. “Sometimes you just need a combination of things to go right whether it’s timing, what the team needs, injuries, or money. I try to keep a positive outlook because I’m still on NBA scouts radars and understand at the same time that it’s all a business.”
The business aspect can deter many basketball players from their NBA dreams but Smith is adapting to his surroundings. According to Smith, he’s a different person than when he was coming out of La Salle. Being older and wiser, the mature Smith understands that there’s many opportunities to get the attention of scouts but that all of them aren’t created equal.
“In your first couple years out of college it’s okay to force the issue trying to get into the NBA but after that point you have to be smart,” said Smith. “You can’t just think that you’ll play in the [NBA] summer league and you’ll get noticed by scouts. What most players don’t get told is that you might not get the opportunity to play and might be riding the bench out there.”
Smith says that heading into Greece he’s trying to understand that not getting playing time in an NBA Summer League works against him at this stage in his career. The time spent watching other players earn their spot on an NBA roster could’ve been used trying to get into a viable European country.
In Greece this season Smith plans on putting the finishing touches on improving his game so that he’ll be ready for the NBA in the near future. A natural power forward that’s an adept ball handler, has sound post moves, and good jump shot, he also has the ability to play small forward. Overseas he feels that his defense needs to improve in order to make the jump to the next level.
“Defensively I want to be able to guard more effectively and be a better rebounder,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, at this point in my career, people are still confused about what position I can play. Offensively, [scouts] know what I can do as far as creating mismatches but on defense they want me to guard different positions.”
In the current NBA environment, the market for versatile power forwards is better than ever. With NBA lottery picks like the Miami Heat’s Michael Beasley and Sacramento Kings’ Jason Thompson coming onto the scene, Smith gains more confidence, but also realizes that strong defense is the key.
“I’m real with myself and I understand that I’m not coming to a team to score 20 points a game if I get back into the NBA,” Smith said. “I’ll have to be the type of player that plays a couple minutes, runs the floor, and plays great defense so that’s why I feel a good year in Greece will help me.”
The diligent forward will also be aided in Greece by playing in the same league as former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Childress. Lynam feels that if he plays well in Europe this season that NBA scouts will take notice, but it won’t hurt if he puts a strong emphasis on when he plays against Childress’ team.
“The balls in his court…if he plays well than he’ll get attention,” Lynam said. “Josh Childress is a high profile guy so you have to circle the challenges that are going to be there and when the opportunities come you have to take advantage of it.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Breaking News: Temple Signee

By Jordan Ingram

Norristown rising senior guard Khalif Wyatt has made a verbal committment to Temple University. After finishing in the top-20 of Eastern Invitational exposure camp, Wyatt was also receiving scholarship offers from La Salle, Siena, and Delaware. Last season Wyatt, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, was a Pennsylvania Second Team All-State selection after averaging 18 points per game.

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview from Wyatt in Tuesday's Philadelphia Tribune

Friday, July 25, 2008

Runhouse Hoops Project Feature

Ghana Native Armah Gives All To Basketball

By Jordan Ingram

With the recently assembled Runhouse Hoops Project, Marvin DeBose and Jack Whitehead are directing basketball players from Ghana to junior colleges in the states. Based out of the Finley Recreational Center where DeBose has aided the likes of Philadelphia University’s Malcolm Ingram and Lehigh’s Zahir Carrington, Runhouse plans wants to give athletes the opportunity to receive a solid education on a worldwide scale.
Since the players from Ghana haven’t been able to take either the S.A.T.’s in the United States, their only alternative is to become enrolled in a junior college.
For years DeBose and Whitehead have kept in touch with Cape Coast Hoops Program coach Claude Thompson and now the pair feel it’s ready to unleash their talent on the United States. Needing a suitable mascot to spearhead their goodwill program, their self-proclaimed “Jackie Robinson of Runhouse Hoops” is 6-foot-6 power forward Daniel Armah at Casper Junior College.
The mature 18 year old feels a great deal to succeed in the name of the program but also understands that Runhouse Hoops is a much bigger movement than him.
“I don’t think about myself but rather put [DeBose, Whitehead, and Thompson] on top of every decision I make,” said Armah. “If I smoke or drink that keeps me from being the best basketball player I can be and that affects them so I don’t play around with this opportunity.”
In Armah, he embodies the diligent, high-character basketball players that Whitehead and DeBose are looking to sponsor upon their arrival to the U.S. The son of a father who suffered a stroke and mother who supported Armah’s hoop dreams despite her leg ailment, has forced him to grow up fast which makes him an even better first candidate for the program.
Arriving to Casper in the second semester kept Armah from being able to play for Thunderbirds that have won 12 regional championships and more time to focus on his athletics. Being constantly entrenched in his studies, Armah was able to post a 4.0 G.P.A. in only his first year of school in the states.
At school Armah also had adjust on the fly to the issue of relating to African-Americans. For Armah, listening to his classmates laugh at him speaking english and say that Africans hung off of trees disappointed him but also obligated him to teach them about their true history.
“Whenever people in class would say that we live in trees in Ghana I would say that I can if we only ride on donkees how could I arrive in America so fast,” Armah retorted. “I wasn’t mad at [my classmates] but I said if you’re going to say something like that to someone you should make sure you do your research first.”
The subject that Armah has the biggest passion for at Casper is biology that he plans to major in when he attends a four-year college with a minor in nursing. He eventually wants to return back to Ghana where he can give children in his homeland the proper medical attention that they don’t have enough money to get treated at hospitals.
“I understand how bad things can get for people back in Ghana if they aren’t rich so I desperately want to help when I graduate from college,” said Armah. “Though I love Marvin and Jack, I have a family in Ghana that’s my basketball team. A lot of them won’t receive the opportunity to receive a great education in the states like me so it’s my responsibility to help them.”
On the court the articulate power forward, who speaks six languages fluently, also gained a great deal of discipline from his time playing for Cape Coast. Consistently stressing the fundamentals of basketball, Thompson focused on teaching players like Armah every aspect of the game regardless of position.
The biggest adjustment that Armah has picked up at practice during his redshirt season at Casper is conforming to one position. For the diligent rebounder, he’s willing to give a program that has produced 60 D-I players the benefit of the doubt.
“In Ghana if you want to play a sport you have to know all the rules of the game but when I get to America the coach would tell me that I can’t do this because I’m a power forward which was confusing at first,” Armah said. “I realize that I must be successful here for others to follow me into America so I’ve simply combined what I’ve learned in Ghana with what my coach has taught me.”
Without scoring one point, the inspirational Armah has made an impact on the Runhouse Hoops Project. Next season will be Armah’s first season playing for the Thunderbirds but he’ll also be joined by Cape Coast teammate, 6-foot-9 forward Achu Atakpa.
Not having the opportunity to visit Ghana since his arrival to junior college might be challenging to most but simply a new adventure for Armah. Unlike most, the upbeat power forward sees the bigger picture and realizes that he’ll be back in his homeland in due time.
“Whenever I’m down Jack calls me and between him and Marv I feel like I have a family here,” said Armah. “I really need to be focused on being successful [in America] and when I graduate from college I know my family will be proud of me.”

Is Delaware Becoming A Recruiting Hotspot For College Coaches

Is Delaware Becoming The New Hot Spot For College Basketball Coaches?

By Jordan Ingram

In the past the state of Delaware has taken a backseat in sports to Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey because of having no professional sports teams. With the second smallest city in the United States currently boasting five upper echelon high school basketball local prospects with potential ranging from high D-I to high D-II level, The First State is pushing for top billing.
Delaware’s upside as a future basketball hotbed is bigger than ever because of the multiple blue chippers present in the state more known for being the first state to join the Union than its stellar basketball play. Usually star players out of “The Diamond State” come out one in a time like former Temple University and NBA player guard Terrance Stansbury in the early ‘80s, former Virginia Union star and Washington Bullets second-round pick A.J. English as well as Villanova star Will Sheridan in the 21st century.
The new breed, consisting of Deon Jones (younger brother of Virginia’s Jeff Jones), Trevor Cooney, Malcolm Gilbert, Dominic Morris, and Andre Wilburn could be jumpstarting a new trend out of the small state. Most standout players that come out of Delaware usually find their talent questioned whenever they play in Philly but each of them garner instant name recognition and credibility wherever they play. Philly Phenom AAU coach Paul Gripper even thinks that one of the five kids has the potential to join the conversation with Stansbury and English.
“Even at 15 years old I definitely believe that Deon has a strong shot to become a pro when it’s all said and done,” said Gripper. “He’s starting to get really good and playing with Trevor [at Sanford High School] and being such a good ball handler at 6-foot-4 he has a tremendous upside.”
Jones and Wilburn make up the class of Delawareans athletes that aren’t native born but have come to call the state who’s motto reads “Liberty and Independence” as their home. Both ball players are natives of Chester who’s parents moved them to Delaware. Though they aren’t native’s of the small state, coming from a small city gives them insight into the motivation that Cooney, Morris and Gilbert have whenever they play in the big city.
“It’s definitely a lot of pressure whenever [Cooney, Morris, and Gilbert] step on the court because people that want them to lose say that when they come to Philly they won’t be as good but at the same time that brings a lot of motivation so it works both ways,” said Wilburn.
With the 6-foot-7 sophomore Morris transferring to Friends Central and the 6-foot-10 sophomore Gilbert going to the Academy of the New Church (ANC), Philly basketball fans will see more of the star big men who both were All-State performers in Delaware last season. Their individual performances at Eastern Invitational which led to being ranked in the top-20 of the camp and looking good with their respective teams in the LaSalle Team Camp ensure in fans minds that they won’t disappoint in their first full season in Philly.
Guards Cooney and Jones, both at the same high school the Sheridan led to a state championship in his junior year, form a formidable backcourt that also draws the some of the biggest attention because of the fact that their only rising sophomores. Cooney, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard,

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dalton Pepper Commits To West Virginia 7/18/08

Breaking News

By Jordan Ingram

Pennsbury shooting guard Dalton Pepper, has made a verbal commitment to Big East power West Virginia. He chose WVU over such programs as Villanova, Miami, and Seton Hall. This past season the 6-foot-5 blue chipper averaged 22.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and three assists en route to a Pennsylvania Class AAAA All-State First Team selection.
Pepper will be joining a group that, led by first-year head coach Bobby Huggins, posted a 26-11 record and made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. With the loss of star forward Joe Alexander to the NBA, incoming freshman like Pepper will have huge shoes to fill.
The Levittown, Pa. native will be a solid addition to the Mountaineers with his accurate 3-point shooting and above average rebounding ability for a shooting guard. Pepper shouldn’t disappoint as he was well tested in his high school career playing against the likes of Chester, Penn Wood, and Norristown in state competition. He also contains deceptive athleticism that could translate into him being similar to former Mountaineer star Mike Gansey.
His innate ability to facilitate points for his teammates will be an underrated trait that will make him a fan favorite at West Virginia. At 215 pounds he’ll also have the strength to score in post up situations against smaller guards.
In order to be a productive college player, Pepper must improve his average foot speed which will in turn make him a better defender in the extremely tough Big East. Though he’s an adept shooter, at times he was too unselfish which must be changed if he plans to flourish in Huggins’ demanding system.
During the off-season Pepper has produced solid showings with his Jersey Shore Warriors AAU team as well as an all-star appearance at Eastern Invitational. His solid play during the summer has consistently kept him in the conversation of the top 10 players in the state.

Dalton Pepper couldn’t be reached for comment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Top-20 Guard At Eastern Invitational Making Noise

Burwell Aims For Division I Schools

By Jordan Ingram

Life is a game of risks, some of which lead to the ultimate victory or a total comeuppance in the end. When most high school players end their senior season and receive D-I offers they immediately pull their cards and end the game. For rising fifth-year guard Mike Burwell Jr., being a mid-major basketball player simply wasn’t enough.
“My father’s a real inspiration to me and I want to go above what he did,” said Burwell. “He’s done a lot in his career and I just want to say that I did more than him and for myself I want to be able to say I played at the highest level.”
Burwell’s father, Mike Burwell Sr., currently has set the bar extremely high for his son to surpass. After starting his college at Middlesex Community College, the older Burwell finished his school days at William Patterson University where he received D-III Player of the Year honors grabbed a school record 22 rebounds in his 1983 senior season.
After receiving his degree from William Patterson, Burwell Sr. started his 11 year journey through the pro basketball ranks. Originally cut by the then Washington Bullets, he played for Larry Brown’s brother Herb in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) for one season. Soon after he played overseas in stints that included the well- known countries like Portugal, Argentina, and France but also far reaching basketball cities like Venezuela and Paraguay.
While playing in Argentina Burwell Sr. met his son’s mother Alicia Burwell whom he brought back to the states. Though the two are currently divorced and remarried, Burwell Jr. has the ability to play for the Argentinean National Team if he ever makes the pro ranks like his father.
These high expectations don’t bother Burwell Jr. but have always helped keep the 6-foot-7 standout focused on the task at hand. Though the 205-pound upperclassmen averaged 29.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, and drained 112 3-pointers in his senior season at Cardinal McCarrick High School, he only received mid-major D-I attention.
After spurning mid-majors like Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Iona, St. Peter’s and the University of San Diego for greener pastures, the lanky guard steadily got to work to ensure his blue chip status. This attitude has turned off some coaches at times and led to criticism that he doesn’t give a full effort in games though he still dominates his competition. Burwell Sr., a workmanlike player in his day, disliked the Tracy McGrady-label that his son undeservedly receives from critics.
“It bothers me because a lot of people like to see guys diving for loose balls and up in somebody’s jersey playing defense so sometimes I hear that he’s not working hard,” said Burwell Sr. “It bothers me to the point sometimes I have to get on Mike about it and ask him if he’s giving 100 percent but I know my kid never gives anything less than his best effort.”
At Eastern Invitational, Burwell was unique from the other star guards at the College of New Jersey in that he rarely forced the issue offensively. In an environment where unselfish guard play in favor of teammates scoring baskets is frowned upon, the confident prep school transferee wasn’t pressed in his third trip to the camp about losing scholarship offers from major D-I programs.
“I have nothing to lose really in that the [mid-major] scholarships I have will be waiting for me,” said Burwell. “The only way I can go is up right now because I’m doing everything I can in camp to show that I’m perfecting my game showing [college coaches] that I’m getting better.”
If Eastern Invitational was an indication of what’s to come, college coaches will be flocking to him soon enough. Burwell amazed college coaches consistently through camp whenever he used his sleek frame to maneuver his way to the basket. Being taller than most guards also gave him the luxury of simply posting up defenders for easy baskets.
“I want my coach to be able to put me in any position,” said Burwell. “If there’s a mismatch where the defender’s bigger than me I want to be able to bring him out to the perimeter or if their smaller I’ll look to post up. If the defender is even with me than I want to be able to do any combination I choose.”
With Burwell beginning to receive college attention from Indiana, South Florida, and UCLA, staying true to his convictions is beginning to pay off. At the end of the camp, not only did Burwell’s team finish 8-0 but he also made the all-star team and was ranked as one of the top 20 players in camp for the second straight year.
By transferring to South Kent (Conn.) he will have every chance to succeed as he’ll be surrounded by D-I talent like former St. Raymond’s (N.Y.) star Kevin Parrom. Burwell’s biggest test preparing for a major college program is making it through the first-year coach Kelvin Jefferson’s rigorous practice schedule. With Burwell already being NCAA qualified and heading to prep school as an honor student, the scoring machine will have plenty of time to patent his game for big time competition.
The versatile wing has heard about the Jefferson, a former assistant at American University, tough reputation but believes he has all the tools to amaze him as a super senior.
“I just want to get to the top and I’m willing to do whatever it takes until I get there,” said Burwell. “My old coach [at McCarrick] really acclimated my game [for prep school] the way he was hard-nosed and I started to take on those characteristics. I know Jefferson has a long history in basketball and will push me but that’s why I chose to transfer there in the first place.”