Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scott Drew will not lead Baylor to greater heights

Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew has overcame tremendous odds to get the program where it is today. No, not the current five game losing streak, but to the point where they actually matter. Drew has resurrected Baylor form the Dave Bliss/Patrick Dennehy scandal to three NCAA Tournament appearances including two berths in the Elite Eight and a NIT title.

Drew inherited a program in 2003 that had made only four NCAA tournaments ever and had just been rocked by a scandal rooted in the fact that one player murdered another. The penalties -- among them scholarship losses and a postseason ban -- were so severe that non-league games weren't even allowed one year, meaning this was the mess of all messes, and lots of people thought Drew was dumb to leave Valpo to take the Baylor job.

That's all good, but with the talent Drew has procured in Waco over the years fans and media expect much more. Definitely more than a current 1-6 mark in the Big 12 including Tuesday night's loss to West Virginia, a team that has struggled since joining the Big 12.

Drew had the Bears  near the top 10 with a 12-1 record entering Big 12 Conference play – having only lost to Syracuse and beaten Kentucky and Colorado. Suddenly, this team is second to last in the league standings. Baylor has lost six of its past seven games and five in a row. Six Big 12 teams have NCAA tourney-worthy résumés, but coach Scott Drew's group isn't one of them. This is past the panic button.

I'm not saying that Drew can't coach, but maybe he's just not the guy to lead the Bears to greater heights. He recruits his tail off and gets top high school players to come to Waco, which is an achievement in itself. But I'm starting to get the opinion that Drew can't coach the talent. The Bears have the players to win big, but all too often they disappoint and don't perform up to their ability.

I don't know if the team has tuned Drew out, but maybe it's time for him to go. For all the good Drew has done for the program, he's seen as nothing but  an amasser of talent who recruits as many McDonald’s All-Americans and NBA Draft picks as possible without any regard for team basketball.

Whether you like Drew or not, you must give the man credit. He is responsible for perhaps the most remarkable rebuilding job in college basketball history, the young, vibrant head coach at Baylor has transformed a scandal-ridden program into a Big 12 powerhouse since taking over in Waco in 2003.

But for Baylor to take the program to another level Drew may have to leave, because it's looking like this current edition of the Baylor Bears has plateaued and the season has flatlined.

"It Girl" of the week: Rosee' Divine

The Just Sports & Just Us "It Girl" of the week is Rosee' Divine.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Detroit Lions admit that Matthew Stafford's game needs some work

The worst kept secret in the NFL was that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford needed to be refined. He has regressed since the 2011 season when he threw for  5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. Over the past two seasons Stafford has backslid. He completed 63.5 percent of his passes in 2011. In 2012 59.8 percent and in 2013 his percentage dove to 58.5, which was good for 30th in the league.

Stafford would always say there's nothing wrong, but his play on the field said otherwise. Fans started to watch the Lions and wait for the untimely interception off of an ill advised throw. The worse part was that former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was an enabler of Stafford's lousy performances.

Stafford threw 12 picks in his final seven games of last season, and was culpable for 14 turnovers overall during that stretch and the Lions finished 1-6 after a 6-3 start. Seven games doesn't make a career but the way the turnovers happened you don't see the elite quarterbacks make.

General manager Martin Mayhew finally admitted what many knew all along. Stafford needs some work.

"I think there certainly has to be some work done," general manager Martin Mayhew said this week. "I couldn't really quantify that."

"I don't think his confidence has fallen very far," he said. "I mean, think about it. In Week 9, his numbers were outstanding. We were winning games. We were playing really well.

"Didn't finish up the second half of the season the way we expected to, do the things that we wanted to do. But there are a lot of moving pieces to that. It's not all on Matthew. I've been in contact with him several times since the end of the season and he sounds pretty confident to me."

If the season were nine games the Lions might be in the Super Bowl. Instead they're watching from their lavish homes once again.

The team has taken steps to get Stafford back on track. The Lions have hired former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, who worked extensively with Peyton Manning. The Lions have tabbed former New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach, Jim Lombardi as their offensive coordinator. Lombardi worked with Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Considering the past of the offensive coaches brought on board so far, many of the hires are geared to help Stafford.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Louisville's Russ Smith escorts freshman high school player to homecoming

 Louisville senior captain and leading scorer Russ Smith agreed to escort a Manual girls basketball player during homecoming festivities Friday night, after that girl's date didn't show up.

Smith was there to support a friend who is an assistant coach on the Eastern High School boys' basketball team. Eastern played at Manual Friday night.

Tonysha Curry, a freshman on the Manual girls basketball team, waited and waited for her date to arrive. He never did. Curry and her friends noticed the Louisville star sitting court-side, and Curry got up the nerve to go and ask Smith to step in as her homecoming escort.

"I had an escort, and he had won the homecoming for king. But he hadn't been coming to the practices. So, he didn't come to the game apparently," Curry said. "I was like, ‘There's Russ Smith. Oh my God. What if he escorted me?' Everybody was like, ‘Go do it! Go do it!'"

So Curry did. Russ Smith's response?

"Can I do that?"

"I was like, ‘Yeah, you can! You can,'" urged Curry to Smith.

"I didn't know," said Smith, when recalling being asked to take part in the homecoming festivities. "It just all happened too fast. She said, ‘Please, it would really make my day, make my night.' It actually made my day probably more than hers. I'm kind of really happy about it."

Let's recap: Freshman girl in high school gets ditched by the homecoming king. The leading scorer on the NCAA college basketball national championship team takes his place. Yet it made Russ Smith's day more than Tonysha Curry's? Russdiculous, please explain.

"It just never happens. It's something that's one in a million," replied Smith. "You just have to live in the moment. It may not ever happen to me again. That made my day."

"I could not breathe," said Curry recalling the moment, when she took Smith's arm and walked to half-court. "I was almost in tears crying. We even had conversations. We were talking to each other."

Smith was a finalist for Louisville's 2013 Homecoming King, but he was beaten out by teammate and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock. No matter. Curry got her man.

"Oh my God. Best day of my life."

Kudos to Smith for giving Curry a memory that will last a lifetime.

Georgetown's Josh Smith out for the season for academic reasons

Georgetown's Josh Smith might go down as one of college basketball's most puzzling players.

Smith was a talented high school player and a McDonald's All American and that netted him a scholarship to UCLA. Unfortunately for UCLA, Smith took the McDonald's billing literally and ballooned to 300+ pounds and never got into playing shape. When he was on the court he flashed the skills that made him one of the top high school players in the nation, but due to his weight issues and inability to mesh with then UCLA head coach Ben Howland, Smith often found himself on the bench.

Smith played six games for UCLA in 2012-2013 and decided to transfer to Georgetown. Hoyas coach John Thompson III was willing to grant Smith a second chance and surprisingly Smith was given immediate eligibility by the NCAA.

Smith paid immediate dividends as he reached double-digit points in seven of his first nine games. Water finally net its level regarding Smith's production as he averaged less than six in his final four games. His final game was on January 4 against St. John's as he scored six points and grabbed five rebounds.

That was his final appearance because Georgetown has ruled Smith academically ineligible for the remainder of the season.

This is a big blow to the Hoyas as a season that started as a Big East contender is now on the brink. The team released forward Greg Whittington, and starting guard Jabril Trawick is out with a broken jaw.

Coach Thompson released a statement regarding Smith's status with the team.

"It's disappointing," Thompson said. "So much was geared toward [Josh's] presence. "Now here in the middle of the season, between [Smith] and Jabril, you lose two starters," Thompson said outside the team's practice court inside McDonough Arena. "You have to reshuffle everything. But this is Georgetown. We have a set of standards here. Everyone has a responsibility above and beyond what goes on those doors right there. He let his teammates down, but the rest of the group will try to regroup here and figure it out."

Hopefully Smith sticks around and figures it out. He has a ton of talent but it has gone untapped in a big way. But knowing Smith from the outside looking in, I don't see him staying at Georgetown to fix his academic problems.

I could be wrong in this assessment on his future. I see him as a future D-League player or trying to go to Europe. Cliff notes version, he's gonna be a basketball vagabond.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lester willing to give the Red Sox a hometown discount

Spring training looms, and while the Boston Red Sox prepare to defend the eighth World Series championship in franchise history one of the major subplots will be the contract status of Jon Lester.

The imposing left-hander struggled down the stretch of 2011 and throughout 2012 when he posted the first losing record of his career, but he rebounded last year with a strong season. Then he truly proved his worth in the postseason, when he was 4-1 and allowed just six runs in 34 1/3 innings, including a 2-0 record against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series when he gave up a single run in 15 1/3 innings.

But Lester is entering the final year of his contract and will be eligible for free agency if he doesn't re-sign with Boston before the end of the season.

And given the contracts recently signed by Clayton Kershaw (seven years, $215 million) and Masahiro Tanaka (seven years, $155 million), Lester could command — and demand — significant money.

But Lester is willing to give the Red Sox a hometown discount as long as it's a fair deal.

“I want to stay here,” he said. “This is what I’ve known. I’ve grown up in this organization. I’ve had plenty of good times and plenty of bad times here. I enjoy it. My family loves it here. All my son talks about is going home to Boston. That’s what he thinks is home. …

“I want to be here until they have to rip this jersey off my back.”

"I understand that to stay here you're not going to get a free-agent deal ... I understand you're going to take a discount to stay. Do I want to do that? Absolutely. But just like they want it to be fair for them, I want it to be fair for me and my family, and if we can hopefully get to something in spring training that's awesome." 

If I'm the Red Sox I'd be locking up Lester right now. He's willing to take less than what Kershaw is getting and wants to remain with an organization that is competitive. I'm sure his agent will have something to say about that  as will players seeking big money deals.

I'm sure the Red Sox will give him a fair deal and Lester will remain in Boston. It's almost a feel good story where this isn't about the money but rather being in a place you and your family have grown to love.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kentucky basketball strength and conditioning coach charged with assault on his wife

An assistant on the coaching staff of the UK basketball team has been arrested and charged with assault and wanton endangerment after an incident involving his wife.

Brian Shorter, a part-time assistant strength and conditioning coach for the University of Kentucky's basketball team, was arrested early Thursday morning accused of shoving his wife into an unheated garage and throwing water on her.

A source said there was an argument between Shorter and his wife at their home on Russell Springs, early Thursday morning. According to the victim, it came to a head when Shorter pushed her into their garage, which had no heat, and locked her in there. The victim claimed that about 40 minutes later, Shorter returned and threw a bucket of water on her. She, then, apparently made her way to a nearby hotel where she called for help.

Shorter was arrested at his home.

Shorter is in the Fayette County Detention Center, charged with assault and wanton endangerment.

It's hard to envision Shorter having a job after this alleged incident.

Detroit Tigers showing interest in reliever Luis Ayala

Even though Dave Dombrowski said the Detroit Tigers were done spending for the offseason, he's still looking to improve the team and do it in an affordable way.

The Tigers have shown interest in right handed veteran reliever Luis Ayala. Ayala spent most of last year with the Atlanta Braves after pitching in two games with the Baltimore Orioles. He went 1-1 with a 2.90 ERA in 37 games with the Braves.

In three years with the Atlanta Braves Ayala has made about 157 appearances while posting a 2.58 ERA. Ayala, 36, must have himself a top agent if he’s able to get the attention of almost every organization in the league. The Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners are also said to be courting the well traveled veteran.

Overall Ayala has a career record of 38-47 with a 3.34 ERA and 367 strikeouts in 554 1/3 innings for the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins, New York Yankees, Orioles and Braves.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Former NBA star, Clifford Robinson, to appear on 'Survivor'

Former NBA forward Cliff Robinson will be on the upcoming season of reality series Survivor.
On Wednesday, CBS announced Robinson would be a cast member of Survivor: Cagayan, which premieres Feb. 26.

“It’s a challenge to come out here and see if I can one, play the game, and maneuver through the game at 6-10,” Robinson said in a bio video for the show.

The 46-year-old Robinson, who played 18 seasons in the NBA and was named an All-Star in 1994, cited his reason for being on “Survivor” on his bio: “The challenge of the show being so tough, and the million dollars.” And why does he think he’ll win? “I think I would do well in challenges. I also have a good ability to make people feel comfortable with me.”

Robinson played 1,380 games in the NBA with the Portland Trailblazers, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, and Golden State Warriors, averaging 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.

Andre Iguodala hates national TV games

Professional athletes enjoy playing in a nationally televised game. Most find it as a way to raise their profile for those who don't get a chance to see them play a whole lot.

Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala doesn't look at it that way.

Iguodala isn't a fan of playing nationally televised games while others enjoy being in the limelight.

 “I hate (national) TV games,” the Warriors’ starting small forward said after Monday’s shootaround. “TV games can play tricks on you. You want to play at a high level every night, but you can kind of see how some guys may get up a little bit more for TV games, and that might mess with the flow. Guys want to show the world what they can do, and it should be more than that.

“You should want to play well as a unit on national TV. When you have young guys, guys might shoot a couple of extra shots that they normally don’t shoot, so TV games are dangerous. They can be trick games.” 

First time I've ever heard of a player that doesn't enjoy being on television. The Warriors are 3-6 in their appearances on the tube this season. Like they say different strokes for different folks. With the Warriors being at the bottom of the standings for so many years you would think Iguodala wouldn't mind the attention.

Former NFL player B.J. Askew charged for not paying child support

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Tuesday that his Child Support Division has filed a criminal charge against Bobby Deangelo "B.J." Askew, Jr., 33, of Tampa, Florida, for felony non-support.

Askew was a standout Michigan collegiate athlete and went on to play professional football as one of the league's highest paid fullbacks at the time. According to Schuette, he owes more than $267,000 in back child-support.

"If you fail to pay child support, you must face the consequences," said Schuette. "No matter who you are or where you live, you cannot punt the responsibility to provide for your children – we will hold you accountable."

A star fullback at the University of Michigan, Askew was the first fullback selected in the 2003 National Football League draft. Askew's professional career spanned seven seasons where he played for the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2007, Askew was drafted by Tampa Bay and signed a four-year multi-million dollar contract extension with the Buccaneers in 2008, the largest ever for a fullback at that time.

It is alleged that although Askew enjoyed a lucrative professional football career, he failed to pay child support to his children in Michigan.

A court order was filed in 2005 for Askew to pay child support for his three children in Michigan and payments were to set begin May 2006 at a monthly rate of approximately $2,188.87. The court ordered payment increased to $5,127 monthly due to Askew's extended contract with Tampa Bay. Askew then allegedly made sporadic payments and submitted several arrears payments ranging from $13,058 to $35,310 after failing to pay on time and for the court ordered amount. In 2010, it is alleged that Askew underpaid $107.87 in lieu of a $5,127 monthly payment. Askew allegedly stopped child support payments altogether in November 2012 and has not paid since then.

Despite his alleged non-payments, Askew has received significant income from his NFL career and allegedly possesses multi-million dollar assets. In 2008, Askew signed a $8.3 million contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Askew is alleged to own a home valued at $2.1 million in Tampa and has owned several expensive automobiles whose brands include Bentley, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, and Corvette.

Askew's career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was cut short by injuries from a car accident in 2009.

Askew was arrested on January 7, 2014 by Florida's Hillsborough County Police. Askew is currently in the process of extradition to Michigan and will face one count of felony non-support in Wayne County's 36th District Court.

"It Girl" of the week: Crystal Dior

The Just Sports & Just Us "It Girl" of the week is Crystal Dior.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Washington Wizards possibly interested in Pistons' Greg Monroe

The Washington Wizards are reportedly interested in acquiring Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe.  Washington plans to pursue the big man in either free agency or before the NBA trade deadline, Alex Kennedy of reports.

With Detroit sitting with a 17-24 record, the team may look ahead to the future and entertain trade offers for Monroe.

"One player who has been mentioned in trade rumors throughout this season is Greg Monroe, the young power forward who will be a restricted free agent this offseason since he couldn't agree on an extension with the Pistons," Kennedy wrote on Monday.  "...It's possible that Detroit moves the valuable Monroe to upgrade another position and slide (Josh) Smith over to power forward.     

"One team is interested in Monroe is the Washington Wizards, according to multiple league sources.  It's becoming clear that Washington is planning to pursue (Monroe), either through trade or free agency."

Kennedy added, "How the team performs in the coming weeks could determine what the (Pistons') front office does next, similar to what's occurring with the Toronto Raptors right now."

The frontcourt of Monroe, Smith and Drummond hasn't worked out as expected when Detroit made Smith their big free agent signing in the summer.  Trading Monroe would net Detroit assets — picks, young talent or expiring contracts — to use in the future.

Although Washington has only $43.1 million on the books for next season, the team is expected to re-sign Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat when their contracts expire in July.

Nene currently starts at the 4-spot for Washington and is under contract through 2016, but he's struggled staying healthy throughout his career.

Monroe, the 2010 No. 7 overall draft pick, is averaging 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

If I'm Joe Dumars I make the deal if I can get another team involved or get the Wizards to give up Otto Porter or Bradley Beal and I don't see the Wizards giving up Beal.

The Pistons are desperate for a bonafide wing scorer and peddling Monroe might be the only way the team can get one, but the problem is that Dumars has a tendency to overvalue his players and I can see him holding on to Monroe.

Florida State basketball signee arrested for eating marijuana during traffic stop

In something out of the movie Half Baked, three junior college basketball players are facing drug charges for trying to be creative while hiding marijuana.

Florida State basketball signee Cinmeon Bowers was arrested Thursday for allegedly eating marijuana in attempt to hide it during a routine traffic stop.

Bowers currently plays basketball for Chipola College, and signed with the Seminoles at the end of 2013. He was the first commitment of FSU's 2014 class.

Two other basketball players were arrested with Bowers and taken to Jackson County Correctional Facility. They were pulled over for speeding in Marianna, but police say they smelled marijuana in the vehicle. All three are charged with tampering with evidence.

Bowers, Torian Graham and Jamaar McKay-Taylor have been suspended indefinitely from the Chipola College basketball team until the school conducts its own investigation. FSU athletics has not yet commented on Bowers' arrest.

Manny Pacquiao says he'd fight Floyd Mayweather for free

Manny Pacquiao wasn’t joking when he dared Floyd Mayweather to a fight where all the revenue and all the proceeds will go to charities around the world.

"I’m really challenging him" said Pacquiao last night.

The Filipino boxing icon must have had enough of Mayweather saying Pacquiao is desperate to fight him because of his tax problems.

Mayweather was quoted as saying that Pacquiao “wants me to solve his problems for him.”

Pacquiao is facing tax woes from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) in the United States and the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) in the Philippines.

But the 35-year-old congressman from Sarangani said he’s “going through the process” of settling all his obligations

 “Floyd says I’m after the money,” said Pacquiao, who’s coming off an impressive win over Brandon Rios last November.

Before that, he lost two in a row against Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, raising questions on whether it was time for him to retire.

But he came back strong against Rios, and shortly after the win, the twin tax issues cropped up.

Pacquiao reiterated his latest challenge to Mayweather.

“We fight and nobody gets any money,” said Pacquiao. “Floyd, if you’re a real man, fight me. Let’s do it for the love of boxing and for the fans. Let’s do it not for the sake of money. Let’s make the boxing fans happy.”

Pacquiao’s business manager, Eric Pineda, last night said it’s now up to Mayweather to take the challenge or not.

“The ball is in his hands now. Manny is willing to fight him for charity. And Manny is serious,” said Pineda.

Pacquiao is scheduled to return to the ring on April 12 in Las Vegas but has yet to name his opponent. He is choosing between Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov.

Unconfirmed reports said a couple more names are in the mix, including Robert Guerrero, but Top Rank chief Bob Arum told The STAR the Mexican-American is not in the list.

Mayweather is also scheduled to plunge back into action in May 3, but like Pacquiao he hasn’t named his opponent.

Mayweather makes twice as much as Pacquiao when he fights, and a couple of days ago the undefeated American said he will retire in September 2015.

Whoever he fights next, Pacquiao can make around $20 million, meaning he can’t be that desperate. And if he wins his next fight, he can do a couple more fights and earn as much or even more.

Even without fighting Mayweather.

Now Pacquiao, who must have donated millions to charity, is willing to fight Mayweather – for free.

He’s turning the Fight of the Century into the Fight for Charity.

“The public clamor for a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout is getting stronger. The only way he can avoid facing me in the ring is to retire from boxing,” Pacquiao said.

Both fighters need to stop the posturing and get down to business. Make the superfight everyone is still waiting for and stop playing chicken.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Derek Mason plans on winning big at Vanderbilt

Derek Mason wants to make a few things clear: He has plenty of experience recruiting in the South, hopes to finish his career at Vanderbilt and has very high goals for the Commodores — such as playing the Southeastern Conference championship.

Vanderbilt introduced its new football coach Saturday, a week after starting a search to replace James Franklin, who left for Penn State.

“This job means everything to me,” Mason said before a packed room. “This is where I want to be, this is where I plan on spending the rest of my career. We will win. Make sure of that. Make no doubts about that. I understand what college football’s about. It’s about winning, and you hired a winner for sure.”

Mason, 44, spent the past four seasons at Stanford working first for Jim Harbaugh, then David Shaw the last two as defensive coordinator. This is Mason’s first head coaching job in a career that started in 1994, and he said he wanted this job so much that he packed a black suit for his first interview in Atlanta — site of the SEC title game.

He made clear he understands Vanderbilt’s priority as a top academic university is graduating players, with winning just as important on the field.

“SEC East title, here we come,” Mason said. “Make no bones about it. If you can’t talk about it, you can’t be about it.”

The Commodores, who went 4-20 combined in 2009 and 2010, were 24-16 over the past three seasons under Franklin. They are 16-4 over the past 20 games — second in the Southeastern Conference only to Alabama and tied with South Carolina in that span. Vanderbilt has played in three straight bowls, winning two, for the first time in school history.

Vanderbilt also has finished in the final Associated Press poll each of the past two seasons, including No. 24 for 2013. The last time Vanderbilt was ranked in the final AP poll before was 1948 under Red Sanders.

Defensive end Kyle Woestmann said Franklin is the reason that a coach the caliber of Mason would want the Vanderbilt job so much.

“Franklin showed how to win and win big and that all we have to do is win two more games a year and you get close to competing for SEC championships and national championships,” Woestmann said. “Derek Mason saw that as an opportunity. He’s here to take us to that next level.”

Mason is the second consecutive black football coach at Vanderbilt. Out of 125 colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision, only 13 had black coaches in 2013. Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams, also black, said they heard from up to 70 people wanting this job, including coaches in the NFL, head coaches and assistants and even a computer analyst.

“Thank you for believing in us and trusting in us to get you a good head coach,” Williams said.

A former cornerback at Northern Arizona, Mason has been an assistant at various colleges the past 20 years, including stops at Ohio, New Mexico State, Saint Mary’s, Utah, Weber State, Idaho State, Bucknell and San Diego Mesa College. He coached in the NFL, including Minnesota between 2007 and 2009.

Mason helped Stanford slow down hurry-up offenses and read-option runs and beat Pac-12 division rival Oregon the past two years. That had about a half-dozen NFL teams sending coaches last summer for tutorials on Mason’s defensive schemes.

But Mason pointed out he has recruited throughout the south for years, making him very comfortable in SEC country.

Vanderbilt’s new coach met with his players Friday and has been busy studying tape. Mason said he expects to have most of his coaching staff filled out within 48 hours.

Salvaging a recruiting class that had been ranked in the top 25 by many services is his other priority with national signing day less than three weeks away on Feb. 5. Out of 20 commitments, Vanderbilt currently has 11 and sunk to 64 at least according to

Mason said he’ll make his vision and mission very clear.

“I think you’ll like what you see on signing day,” Mason.

Mason knows what it takes to win at a prestigious academic institution like Vanderbilt. Mason won the press conference, now it's time for him to win games.

New Orleans Pelicans reportedly shopping Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon

The New Orleans Pelicans started the NBA season with plenty of backcourt pieces. Now the word on the street is that the team might be willing to trade two of those pieces.

The Pelicans have been hit by injuries, namely to forwards Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and  point guard Jrue Holiday. The team has dropped 13 of 17 games after an 11-10 start. A report in the New York Daily News says the team might be willing to move Tyreke Evans and/or Eric Gordon.

 The Pelicans signed Tyreke Evans this past summer to a four-year, $44 million free-agent deal and then added veteran PG Jrue Holiday via a trade with the Sixers to join Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. But all the moves haven't exactly clicked. In fact, they've backfired, with New Orleans losing 13 of its last 17 games after starting out 11-10. The front office's take? Team execs are saying at least those are assets that can be moved. Davis and Holiday are the keepers.

It's kind of surprising that Evans is on the trade block considering the Pelicans inked him to a contract that he hasn't lived up to. In fact Evans hasn't progressed since his rookie of the year season in 2009-2010. Evans might fit best on a contender where he could flourish as a sixth man supreme. Gordon pretty much begged out of New Orleans last season when he signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns. He bought into what the team is doing and is now looking at being traded.  

It's only rumor, but if the Pelicans can find the right deal one or both will be gone in a heartbeat. That said, you can bet that if Evans is available, teams will come calling. Teams like the Miami Heat and also the Golden State Warriors both reportedly want to land backcourt help. But a player the caliber of Evans will command a lot in return and he would almost certainly be a little too rich for their blood. In addition, those teams almost certainly are looking more for a veteran role player with postseason experience. If a team truly wants to make a run at the guard, it will more than likely be another young, up-and-coming franchise that can give him a lot of minutes.

If any trade is made by the Pelicans, I see Gordon being shipped out of town before Evans.

Nelson Cruz is the biggest loser in free agency

When former Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz rejected the Rangers' one year qualifying offer of $14.1 million, many figured he would land somewhere with a multi year deal. In 2013 Cruz batted .266 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. That was with a 50 game suspension he had to serve because of his involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal.

Instead it's Cruz on the outside looking in as spring training gets closer. Cruz has been linked to the Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, and Baltimore Orioles, but still sits at home waiting for a contract offer to roll in. You would figure if Jhonny Peralta can land a 4 year, $53 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals it would be a no brainer that Cruz would land a similar deal, since Peralta also was involved in the same PED scandal. Instead teams see a player who hasn't played in a full 162 game season and has been hit with injuries instead of a bat they can plug into the middle of the lineup.

Cruz would be a fit for most American League teams. At age 33 he isn't finished, but is more on the downside than most would think. He's only hit for more than 30 homers once in his career in a stacked Rangers lineup. He can't run very well and he's a defensive liability. Not someone you want to throw a ton of money at. The guy has DH written all over him. Teams see a player who hasn't played in a full 162 game season and has been hit with injuries instead of a bat they can plug into the middle of the lineup. Being involved with PED's hasn't helped. They wouldn't know what kind of player they would be getting.

Here’s another thing about Nelson Cruz: nobody really wants him. It’s the middle of January and Cruz remains a free agent, and he’s a free agent without a strong market. The best fit, at this point, is probably Baltimore, but Baltimore hasn’t done anything. Seattle’s the only other fit, and they haven’t done anything. The Phillies looked obvious from the get-go, but they instead went with Marlon Byrd. Maybe, in the past, Cruz would’ve secured a major payday, but teams are smarter now, and one of the first things smart baseball people learn is that players like Cruz are overrated.

Cruz is better off seeking a one year deal and proving himself again instead of looking for a big payday. If Mark Reynolds can lock up an invite to spring training at the very least, Cruz should be able to secure a one year deal.

Cruz has definitely turned out to be the biggest loser during this free agency period.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ricky Rubio says he's not having fun

Entering this season this NBA season the Minnesota Timberwolves were thought of to be a playoff contender. Even though T-Wolves finished last season out of the playoffs with a 31-51 record, the building blocks looked to be in place for the team to make a run at one of the lower seeds in the tough Western Conference.

With All-Star Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio the team has a young core to put other pieces around them. The T-Wolves drafted Shabazz Muhammad out of UCLA and signed gunner Kevin Martin in free agency. Things looked somewhat promising as the team looked competitive. But the team has stumbled to three straight losses and coach Rick Adelman blasting the team for poor play it looks like the season might be slipping away.      

Add in the fact that Ricky Rubio says basketball isn't fun for him anymore, the Timberwolves could be headed back to lotteryland instead of the playoffs.

Rubio is struggling with his shot and turnovers so it could be the feeling that his game is falling apart as the losses mount. It could be Rubio speaking from emotion. I have a feeling that it's a combination and he's feeling a little frustrated right now.

''I'm going to be honest. I'm not feeling comfortable out there,'' Rubio told The Associated Press after a light practice on Thursday. ''I'm not being myself and the team is noticing. I just have to be back where I was, be myself. I'm working on that. It's something that's missing. It's tough for me, too.''

''It's basketball. I love it,'' Rubio said. ''But I'm just not having as much fun as it used to be. I know it has to be professional. But I just want to have fun. It's hard to find it right now.''

Rubio is shooting 34.6 percent and averaging 8.6 points. Both are career lows for the free wheeling Spaniard. Rubio was never a great shooter to begin with and his game is more Jason Williams than Stephen Curry.

Adelman feels Rubio gets down on himself too much when he has a bad game or after losses.

''He gets really down on himself too much,'' Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. ''I think he's just got to play and make the real easy play. It doesn't have to be a great play. When something doesn't happen for him, he tries so hard that he just kind of compounds it.

''So I think he's going to be fine. He's going to come out of it. He didn't play well last night, but he's not the Lone Ranger in that regard.''

If the Timberwolves are to make a run at a playoff spot they need Rubio to be at his best and start having fun again, because Love can't carry this team by himself.

Ron Prince named Detroit Lions tight ends, assistant head coach

One of the worst-kept secrets on Rutgers' coaching staff became official today when offensive coordinator Ron Prince left to join the Detroit Lions as an assistant under new coach Jim Caldwell, according to, the NFL team's web site. Prince also will replace Bobby Johnson as the team's tight end coach, though Johnson will remain on staff in a different capacity.

This will be Prince's first tight end coaching position at any level.

He played tackle at Dodge City Community College and Appalachian State, and has spent most of his career coaching offensive lines.

He got his start as a volunteer at Dodge City CC in 1992 before coaching the offensive line at Alabama A&M, South Carolina State, James Madison, Cornell and then Virginia from 2001-02.

Prince took over as the Cavaliers' offensive coordinator from 2003-05, and then succeeded Bill Snyder as Kansas State's head coach from 2006-08. He was fired from that position after going 17-20 in three seasons.

Prince, who spent three years in the NFL before becoming the Scarlet Knights' offensive coordinator last season, is the fourth different person to leave as Rutgers' offensive coordinator after just one year on the job.

Prince was an assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012 and with the Indianapolis Colts with Caldwell in 2010 and 2011.

Rutgers is expected to launch a search for his successor immediately.

Under Prince, Rutgers averaged 26.5 points per game and 365.2 yards -- but the unit tailed off over the final seven games of the season, with starting quarterback Gary Nova eventually getting benched for the final three games.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Former Kentucky player, Richie Farmer, sentenced to 27 years in prison

Former Kentucky Wildcats standout basketball player Richie Farmer was best known for being one of 'The Unforgettables', making a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Duke in perhaps  the most epic game in tournament history.

Farmer who was a Kentucky Mr. Basketball, was a state legend and revered by many in his home state.

He used his fame on the court to launch a political career that saw him heading up the Kentucky Department of Agriculture for two terms. Today his world came crashing down.

Farmer was the former Kentucky Agriculture commissioner and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $120,500 in restitution for abusing power as the state’s agriculture commissioner.

Farmer reached a plea deal in September that allowed him to avoid a larger sentence. Defense attorney Guthrie True said at the time that "Richie deeply regrets the pain which has been inflicted on his family, as well as any embarrassment he has caused the good people of Kentucky. In part, this is why he has decided to bring an end to what would have turned into a spectacle which would have run on for months, if not years."

It was during his time running to be elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with then Senate President David Williams in 2011 that complaints began to surface about his management at the Agriculture Department.

Eventually Farmer was charged with 42 ethics violations, the most charges ever filed against a single individual in the executive branch ethics commission's history.

The alleged violations included using workers on state time to take Farmer and his family to medical appointments, personal shopping trips, and hunting trips.

Farmer was also cited for using state workers and state resources to mow his lawn, build a basketball court in his back yard -- even chauffeur his dog.

"Excessive gifts were purchased and then taken home by the defendant. He used state personnel to perform tasks for his personal benefit, including building a basketball court and driving him and his family to events and hunting trips. He hired friends and relatives and expected little from them. He had items such as laptops, personal refrigerators, filing cabinets purchased with state funds and then used them at home, keeping some of them after leaving office.

"He pre-selected employees for merit positions, essentially rigging what should have been a competitive hiring process. Farmer also exhibited a pattern of requesting and expecting persons and businesses to give him things free of charge."

Farmer will have one more court appearance. On Friday he is scheduled to be sentenced in Franklin Circuit Court on a state charge that he took thousands of dollars in funds left over from his 2007 election campaign by filing false expenses with the campaign. Under his agreements with prosecutors, Farmer's sentence on this state charge will run concurrent with the time he serves in federal prison.

"It Girl" of the week: Ashley Logan

The Just Sports & Just Us "It Girl" of the week is Ashley Logan.