A Leader Emerges

first_img Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. “If you’re afraid to compete, don’t be a Grizzly.”The words resonate more than ever for Shay Smithwick-Hann. Almost three years after being recruited as one of the best high school quarterbacks in the state, the Kalispell native is in an enviable yet difficult situation – battling to be the starting quarterback for the University of Montana Grizzlies football team, one of the nation’s winningest programs the last two decades but one that’s reeling from a tumultuous offseason and being investigated for possible misconduct.On Aug. 7, the same day the Griz stepped onto the field for the first official practice of the season, Jordan Johnson appeared in Missoula County District Court to plead not guilty to rape. Johnson was the starting quarterback for Montana last year and led the Griz to a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision. County prosecutors have charged Johnson with raping an acquaintance in February, and the university has suspended him indefinitely pending the criminal case. Johnson maintained his innocence through a statement from his lawyer.As Johnson’s court proceedings move forward, so do the Grizzlies. With less than a month of practice left before the season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 1, the Griz are trying to rebuild a perennial powerhouse that has advanced to the FCS national championship seven times, winning two. The team returns a few standout players, including Kalispell’s Josh Harris and Whitefish’s Derek Crittenden. But a few starting positions remain vacant, too, most notably at quarterback.Montana has four quarterbacks on the roster, but not one of them has completed a pass in a college game yet. In fact, only one of the four has stepped onto the turf inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium, surrounded by 25,000 fans during a game. Only one of them has been to every offseason practice and workout the past two seasons, studying the offense like its algebra. Only one of them was standing on the sidelines every game last year, helping usher plays to Johnson while analyzing every snap and preparing for any opportunity to emerge.Surrounded by three freshmen, including two redshirts, Shay Smithwick-Hann, a redshirt sophomore, is the bona fide veteran leader. “He’s what they need right now,” Glacier High head football coach and former Griz standout quarterback Grady Bennett said. “What a perfect person to have taking the helm and leading your football team. It’s perfect. They really couldn’t have a better kid in that situation to choose from than Shay.”Shay grew up a Griz. His dad Jim was a tight end for Montana. “Being a Griz was something I always dreamed about when I was little,” Shay said last week while back home in Kalispell days before the football season began. “I can remember going out and playing in the snow and pretending I was Brian Ah Yat or (John) Edwards.”Shay became one of the best high school quarterbacks in the state despite playing for an upstart Glacier program. In three seasons he compiled 5,584 career passing yards and gained attention from regional schools including the Griz and Montana State University. Montana’s recruiting coach at the time, Mick Delaney, had become familiar with Shay and urged the Grizzlies to seriously consider the 6-foot-4 all-state quarterback. Besides standing out athletically, Shay also seemed to possess the intangibles – character and work ethic and natural leadership.“His leadership ability just comes from being Shay and doing the right thing in the right way and always doing the extra things,” Delaney, who is now the Grizzlies’ head coach, said. “He’s the type of guy the kids just gravitate toward because of how hard he works and how much time and effort he puts into anything he does.”Shay chose to sign with Montana even though he knew nothing was guaranteed. He still remembers Ryan Fetherston, a defensive end at the time, telling him to prepare to battle every day. Fellow 2010 recruit Jordan Johnson was being touted as one of the best quarterbacks from Oregon and was a presumptive shoe-in for the starting position. But Shay remained committed to the Griz, committed to battling. He’s still committed. “The more competition, the better each person is going to be,” he said. “When you go to Missoula, you’re always going to have to compete and I’m excited for it.”Redshirt freshman Trent McKinney, a 6-foot, 198-pounder from Hawaii, and Shay have been taking the most snaps in practice of four quarterbacks, including freshman Brady Gustafson and Adam Brzeczek, a redshirt freshman who recently transferred from Stanford. But McKinney took first-team snaps at the team’s first fall scrimmage on Aug. 12 and Delaney told the Missoulian that McKinney currently has a slight edge as the top quarterback. But nothing is settled.“(Shay) is a leader on our football team and a quality young man who will battle for that starting position,” Delaney said in a recent interview. “The competition is wide open at QB and he’s certainly involved in it. Obviously production will be a key and seeing who can produce. It may take a couple games into the season and to see how they react in game situations.”Delaney said Shay’s knowledge of the offense gives him an advantage over the other candidates. Players often come to Shay for questions, and he’s always available, always eager to help. That’s the leadership Delaney saw years ago.“Leadership is definitely always important but this year it’s probably more important than any time during the previous four years I was here because of the situation we faced off the field,” Delaney said.The Johnson case is the latest chapter of the stormy saga at UM. Federal governmental agencies and the NCAA are investigating the university and its football program after another investigation earlier this year uncovered nine allegations of sexual assault that went unreported over 18 months. Two more sexual assault allegations surfaced in recent months. The Department of Justice and Department of Education are both looking at how university and city officials responded to reports on campus and in Missoula. The NCAA has not released details of its investigation into the Grizzly football program. Whether student athletes were involved in any of the sexual assault allegations has not been made public, although running back Beau Donaldson was charged with rape in January and suspended from the team, and now Johnson is facing a rape charge. Donaldson pleaded not guilty. A week after the university released the details of its special investigation, President Royce Engstrom dismissed head football coach Robin Pflugrad, who was Big Sky Conference coach of the year last year, and athletic director Jim O’Day. Engstrom gave no public explanation other than saying a “change in leadership” was needed. Uncertainty continues to swirl around the program as the NCAA and federal investigations continue, leaving the possibility of repercussions looming overhead.Shay said the team is not letting those uncertainties distract from the main goal.“I think the biggest chip on our shoulders is we still lost in the semifinals last year and we tasted that defeat,” he said. “I think that’s the bigger chip on our shoulder. All the other stuff that’s been going on has just been adding more fuel to that fire. We’re excited about this season.”Instead of splintering the team amid controversy and public accusations, Shay said the difficult offseason ended up bringing the players together more than ever before.“We have a great relationship in that Griz family,” he said. “When you’re on the field or in the weight room, all that other stuff is out the window and it’s just you and your teammates. All that’s really important to us is getting back on the field and getting back to where the Griz normally are, in the hunt for the Big Sky championship and, most importantly, that national championship.” Shay Smithwick-Hann is competing for the starting quarterback position at the University of Montana. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon Shay Smithwick-Hann at the University of Montana. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon Even if he’s not the starting quarterback, Shay has remained intent on leading by example. Academically he’s double majoring in accounting and finance and holds a 3.97 GPA – he dropped from a cumulative 4.0 last semester after receiving two A-minuses. “There are a lot of late nights and early mornings, but you’re thankful for the situation you have and being able to go to a great school and play for a great football program,” he said.He’s at every workout, voluntary or not. Just like high school.“I guarantee he was focused every day of practice (at Montana),” said Bennett, who coached Shay at Glacier. “I really believe he is ready. The coaches may count up and say he’s only got 50 practice reps over the years, but really he’s got closer to 1,000 because he’s been mentally preparing for this from the start. That’s just the way Shay is.”“I absolutely believe he is ready,” Bennett added. “There is no question. Shay’s a winner.”At the University of Montana, where Griz football breeds fanaticism, everything comes down to winning. As much as it would be a storybook situation – Montana native with standout character takes over troubled football program – athletic programs everywhere inevitably live and die by wins and losses.Shay knows that.“I think as much pressure as the fans put on us, we put more pressure on ourselves,” he said. “You walk down that tunnel every day to the stadium and you know the pressure that comes with that. Once you put on that Griz uniform you know the things everyone will expect from you.”You just control what you can control, Shay said. You work hard, you put yourself in the right situations, you make the right decisions. You do anything you can to help the team. You try to build on a legacy you’ve always revered. You try to become someone a young kid would look up to and stand out in the snow pretending to be.“You just take advantage of every opportunity you’re given,” Shay said, “and that’s when the good things happen.” Emaillast_img read more

News Scan for Oct 31, 2018

first_imgMERS infects 2 more in Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia reported two more MERS-CoV cases, according to an update to its week 44 epidemiologic report today.Neither of the patients had contact with camels, a factor known to raise the risk of contracting MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). One patient is a 62-year-old man from the city of Omluj in Tabuk region in the northwest, and the other is a 53-year-old man from Riyadh in the central part of the country.Both are hospitalized and thought to have primary exposure, meaning the virus probably wasn’t transmitted from another patient.Since the first human cases were detected in 2012, at least 2,266 MERS-CoV cases have been reported, at least 803 of them fatal. Most of the cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia.Oct 31 Saudi MOH report Maternal-fetal transmission found in 26% of Zika pregnanciesA new prospective cohort study conducted in French Guiana found that, in cases of maternal Zika virus infection, 26% of fetuses became congenitally infected. Of those, 21% suffered severe complications at birth, and 14% did not survive until birth. The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).The study was conducted at the French Guiana Western Hospital Center during the 2016 Zika epidemic. The hospital admitted 1,690 pregnant women from Jan 1 through Jul 15, 2016, and tested all for Zika.A total of 498 pregnant women tested positive for the virus, and 305 fetuses were included in the study. Seventy-six fetuses tested positive for Zika via testing of the umbilical cord, or placenta, amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, or blood. Of the 76 fetuses, 34 were asymptomatic at birth, 15 had mild or moderate symptoms of congenital Zika syndrome (CZS), 16 had severe complications, and 11 suffered fetal loss.The authors said only 13% (approximately one in eight) of all fetuses born to mothers positive for Zika virus presented with “severe adverse outcomes.” This rate is similar to other congenital illnesses, including cytomegalovirus infection.”The burden of CZS might be lower than initially described in South America and may not differ from other congenital infections,” the authors concluded. Oct 31 BMJ study Flu elevated in parts of South Asia, Southeast Asia, rising elsewhereFlu in the Southern Hemisphere, which is nearing the end of its season, continued to decline, and though overall activity in the Northern Hemisphere is still at interseasonal levels, activity is starting to increase in Europe and North America, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week, based on data from the first half of October.In southern Asia, flu remain elevated, mainly due to the 2009 H1N1 virus, and in Nepal, detections of H3N2 and influenza B increased, the WHO said. Flu activity also rose in some Southeast Asian countries, such as Laos, where 2009 H1N1 is the dominant strain, and Myanmar, where health officials are mainly seeing H3N2 and influenza B.Globally, of viruses that tested positive for flu in the first part of October, 84.2% were influenza A and 15.8% were influenza B. Of subtyped influenza A viruses, 80.1% were the 2009 H1N1 strain.Oct 29 WHO global flu update Study highlights role for blood tests for enterovirus in childrenTesting blood for enteroviruses is helpful for diagnosing young children with fever without a source of sepsis-like syndrome, according to a study of French pediatric patients over two seasons, a research team reported yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.Enteroviruses are a frequent cause of acute meningitis and increasingly implicated in sepsis-like disease and with fevers without a known source. Though testing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is the gold standard for diagnosis, researchers wanted to assess polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for the virus in blood.The group’s prospective observational study included newborns, infants, and children ages 2 through 16 from 35 French pediatric and emergency departments at 16 hospitals. The study enrolled 822 patients with fever without a source, sepsis-like syndrome, or suspected meningitis who underwent enterovirus testing in blood and in CSF from June through October of 2015 and 2016.Overall, enterovirus was detected in 357 (43%) of children, which included 191 (54%) who had positive blood and CSF samples, 45 (13%) with a positive blood test but negative in CSF, and 40 (11%) with positive blood findings but no CSF available for testing. Only 81 children (23%) whose CSF was positive for enterovirus had negative findings in blood sample testing.The researchers said the findings suggest that adding blood testing, or using it when CSF isn’t available, significantly increases yield, detecting 24% of infections that wouldn’t have been diagnosed otherwise. Testing positivity, however, varied by age, with blood-test-positives more frequent in children ages 2 and younger. In older children with suspected meningitis, enterovirus detection was more frequent in CSF than in blood.In a commentary in the same issue, two experts from the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado said blood isn’t routinely tested and isn’t included in many clinical guidelines for managing febrile children, but the study findings suggest that it can contribute to the diagnostic assessment of young children with unknown fever or sepsis-like syndrome, including when CSF isn’t available for testing.They said enterovirus testing is most cost-effective during seasonal circulation and that ideally, results should be available quickly, which can help clinician avoid unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. “The novel information contained in this article should be incorporated into future guidelines for febrile neonates and infants with fever without source, by including recommendations for blood PCR testing for enteroviruses,” they wrote.Oct 30 Lancet Infect Dis abstract Oct 30 Lancet Infect Dis commentarylast_img read more

Browns Ink a Pair of Players to the Practice Squad

first_imgThe Browns today inked a pair of players to the practice squad, inking LB James Burgess and TE J.P. Holtz.In addition, RB Terrence Magee was signed by Seattle off the Browns’ practice squad.Burgess is a 6-0, 230 pound rookie out of Louisville. Originally signed by Miami as an undrafted free agent, he has spent time on the practice squads in Miami, San Diego, Baltimore and Jacksonville this season. Burgess is a native of Homestead, Fla.Holtz is a 6-3, 240 pound rookie out of Pittsburgh. Originally signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent, he spent the preseason with the Browns before being waived during final roster cuts on Sept. 3. Holtz is a native of Pittsburgh. Matt Loede has been a part of the Cleveland Sports Media for over 21 years, with experience covering Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, the National Football League and even high school and college events. He has been a part of the Cleveland Indians coverage since the opening of Jacobs/Progressive Field in 1994, and spent two and a half years covering the team for 92.3 The Fan, and covers them daily for Associated Press Radio. You can follow Matt on Twitter HERE. Matt Loedecenter_img Related TopicsBrownsJ.P. HoltzJames Burgesslast_img read more

Fifa calls for evidence following Triesman allegations

first_imgFifa has written to the Football Association asking for a full report on allegations of corruption within world football’s governing body.Former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman claimed four Fifa members sought “bribes” in return for backing England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid.Fifa said there was “extreme concern” at the latest allegations.Fifa has also asked for evidence from the Sunday Times after it made claims of bribery in the 2022 voting process.A statement from Fifa said: “The Fifa secretary general [Jerome Valcke] has also sent a letter to The Sunday Times to ask the newspaper to provide Fifa with any piece of evidence with regard to the statements made to MP John Whittingdale.”The MP for Maldon, Essex, is the chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, where Triesman made his claims on Tuesday during a hearing about the country’s failure to secure the right to host the 2018 World Cup finals. Triesman, a former chairman of England’s 2018 bid, accused members of Fifa’s executive committee of “improper and unethical behaviour” during the campaign process.e alleged Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz, Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira and Thai Worawi Makudi sought “bribes” in return for backing England’s World Cup 2018 campaign.Another member of parliament’s select committee, Conservative MP Damian Collins, said evidence submitted by the Sunday Times claimed two more Fifa executive committee members – vice-president Issa Hayatou, from Cameroon, and Jacques Anouma, from the Ivory Coast – were paid nearly £1m to vote for Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup bid.Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking re-election this year, said his organisation must react “very fast” to answer the latest round of allegations ahead its Congress in three weeks.“We have to deal with this matter before the Congress and not just kick it out of the minds of Fifa and [say] ‘we will deal with it afterwards’,” he told Al-Jazeera. “We have to do it now, immediately, and we have three weeks. We must accelerate the movement, whether it is for the good or for the bad.”Sports Minister Robertson urged Fifa to open up its bidding process and conduct similar internal reforms implemented by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) following the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics campaign scandal.“The first thing is the allegations are brought to the attentions of Fifa and make sure that happens in concert with the FA,” he said.“We have to back that up with evidence and I would hope Fifa follow the example of the International Olympic Committee, who went through a similar process after Salt Lake City.“There is nobody currently bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics who doesn’t believe their system is fair and transparent – Fifa needs to be in the same position.” However, in a subsequent interview with the Press Association, Robertson advised against canvassing support to re-stage the 2018 vote process.England were knocked out in the first round with only two votes when Russia were awarded the tournament, while Qatar were named 2022 hosts.“There is no practical chance of the process being re-run – that would be a huge admission of failure by Fifa,” added Robertson.“I think we have to be honest as a country that Lord Triesman made these allegations in Parliament but they are going to be very difficult to actually prove because these were just conversations he had with individuals.”Concacaf president Warner said he “laughed like hell” when he first learned of Triesman’s allegations that he had asked for around £2.5m to build an education centre in Trinidad. “I hold my head tall because I can stand up and tell the world I never accepted anything,” he told Trinidad publication Newsday. “People who know me would be totally dismissive of that nonsense.”Valcke has insisted that the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was conducted cleanly.Australia, beaten by Qatar in the 2022 voting, has already played down suggestions it could ask for a re-vote.“Ultimately, this is a question that needs to be directed to Fifa, the governing body,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard.“We were very disappointed. We put in a bid which was impressive and we pursued that bid in an ethical and impressive way.” Meanwhile, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said sports leaders must fight against corruption to prevent the type of scandal shaking Fifa.Rogge said there was “always the threat” of unethical behaviour in sports management but stressed that claims made by Triesman and others on Tuesday must be backed “by solid proof”.Source: BBClast_img read more

Steelers LB Shazier remains in hospital with back injury

first_imgPITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will remain in a Cincinnati hospital until at least Wednesday to undergo further testing on a spinal injury suffered in the first quarter of Monday night’s win over the Bengals.Shazier left Paul Brown Stadium on a stretcher less than four minutes into his team’s 23-20 victory over Cincinnati following a tackle that left the 25-year-old writhing on the turf, his legs motionless. He underwent extensive testing overnight, with the team saying Shazier’s injury did not require surgery “at this time.”The Steelers had hoped Shazier would be able to return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The timetable has been pushed back at least 24 to 48 hours. He will remain at University of Cincinnati Medical Center under the care of neurosurgeons David Okonwko and Joseph Cheng. Shazier is expected to be transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital later in the week.While Shazier stayed in Cincinnati surrounded by family and his medical team, his team tried to find a way forward without one of its rising stars.Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II visited Shazier before heading back to Pittsburgh. Tomlin called their conversation “normal” and that Shazier was concerned about the well-being of the rest of the team, including good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams.“Ryan is a legitimate leader,” Tomlin said. “He’s asking about the guys, Vince particularly. I told him about the guys. We talked about how the game unfolded.”And not about Shazier’s prognosis.“It was painful to get on that plane last night, but that’s life,” Tomlin said. “We realize and understand he’s in really good hands and is getting expert medical care. He challenged us to move on with what we need to move on with.”Shazier’s injury came on a relatively innocuous-looking play. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton hit Josh Malone for a short 3-yard gain, with Shazier hitting Malone square in the back. Shazier, in his fourth season after being taken in the first round of the 2014 draft, led with his head while making the tackle.He immediately rolled over onto his back, raising his hands in the air while his legs went limp. He was placed on a backboard then put on a stretcher before being taken to the trauma center at University of Cincinnati Medical Center while players from both sides watched in silence or knelt in prayer.“I’ve been in football all my life, unfortunately injuries occur, serious injuries occur from time to time, they’re capable of shaking you,” Tomlin said. “We all deal with it in different ways.”Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio spot on 93.7 The Fan that he’d heard “encouraging things” but that Shazier was “not out of the woods.”Pittsburgh appeared to spend much of the first half in a daze following Shazier’s exit, falling behind by 17 points before rallying to win their seventh straight on Chris Boswell’s field goal on the final snap, culminating more than three hours of occasionally brutal play.The teams combined for 239 penalty yards and five personal fouls, including a taunting penalty on Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a blindside hit on Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict that resulted in Smith-Schuster being hit with a one-game suspension .Bengals defensive back George Iloka was also suspended one game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.“I’ll acknowledge there were some unfortunate things in that game that we don’t need in our game by both sides,” Tomlin said. “My job as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers is to work hard to minimize those things that we’re involved in before they occur and we do.“But they did (occur) last night in an instance or two and we’ll make an accounting of that and work hard to make sure they don’t happen again.”While Tomlin, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and the league grapple with how to rein in a rivalry in which the bad blood only seems to grow with each passing year, support for Shazier extended far beyond the NFL.Ian Cole, a defenseman on the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, called it a “shock” to see Shazier go down so awkwardly.“We’re not friends, we’re not buddies, by any means,” said Cole, who has met Shazier a handful of times. “But you do feel that kinship and it’s tough to see a guy go down like that, especially someone that’s as talented and as huge a part of a team as he is.”The Steelers (10-2) spent Tuesday taking a breath before trying to regroup for a visit by AFC North rival Baltimore (7-5) next Sunday night.A win and Pittsburgh will wrap up its third division title in four years, a prospect made more difficult without Shazier, though Tomlin is well aware prioritizing the impact on the lineup seems trivial.Still, it’s part of the job.“When they come into the building tomorrow,” Tomlin said, “we will reset and start anew like we always do.”___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier lies on the field after an apparent injury in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)last_img read more

A record 4 Ivy Leaguers trying to make WNBA teams

first_imgThe Princeton star is just the third player with Ivy League experience taken in the WNBA draft, joining former Harvard standouts Allison Feaster and Temi Fagbenle. While Robinson is a longshot to make the Liberty, she’s happy to have the opportunity.“It’s been great to learn from everyone and has been a really good experience so far,” she said.Coming from a conference known more for its academic achievements, Robinson is one of four Ivy Leaguers on training camp rosters this spring. She’s joined by Princeton’s Blake Dietrick (Atlanta), Fagbenle (Minnesota) and Columbia’s Camille Zimmerman (Minnesota).Dietrick played in three games in 2016 for Seattle, and Fagbenle appeared in 21 contests last season for the reigning WNBA champion Lynx. Fagbenle played for the Crimson before finishing her basketball career at USC after she exhausted her Ivy League eligibility.“The Ivy League definitely has gotten better,” New York Liberty coach Katie Smith said. “They are clearly smart players and while they may not be the most athletic, they figure out other ways to make up for it.”Feaster, who now works for the NBA, was the first Ivy Leaguer in the WNBA. She helped No. 16 seed Harvard upset No. 1 seed Stanford in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament and was drafted fifth by the Los Angeles Sparks.“It’s a source of pride whenever you see fellow Ivy Leaguers,” said Feaster, who played in the WNBA until 2009. “It’s such a grind to be a student-athlete first and foremost and you understand a lot of these students have work study jobs too as well as the academics. They aren’t the typical Division I student athlete by a long shot.”Feaster said she recently talked to Leslie Robinson, whose aunt is former first lady Michelle Obama, about playing professionally.“Playing professionally isn’t the traditional track of an Ivy graduate,” Feaster said. “What I learned playing basketball domestically and internationally are skills and tools I use on a day-to-day basis.”Robinson had no idea whether she’d get drafted. She was watching with her Princeton teammates and started to cry when her name appeared on the screen in the third round.While she was fortunate to see her name on TV, her dad wasn’t so lucky. Former Oregon State men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson, who is now the Knicks vice president of player development and G League operations, missed it because the television in his apartment didn’t have ESPNU. That channel carried the second and third rounds of the WNBA draft.“I got a call from my wife who was in Milwaukee, screaming ‘Leslie got drafted’. My eight-year old was also screaming,” Craig Robinson said. “The entire Liberty organization is keeping their eye out on her, which really means a lot.”Robinson’s wife wasn’t the only one who reached out to the Princeton grad and former fourth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers. He got a text from his brother-in-law — former President Barack Obama. An avid basketball fan, Obama went to Princeton’s 2015 NCAA Tournament game in Maryland during Leslie Robinson’s freshman year.“The President called me once he heard and he must have been watching on TV,” Craig Robinson said. “He texted and called me before I could text him. My sister was on vacation out of the country, and I didn’t talk to her until she got back.”Leslie Robinson played Monday night in the Liberty’s exhibition loss to Dallas. She had two points, two rebounds and drew a charge.While it may be difficult for Robinson and Zimmerman to make a WNBA roster, they are gaining valuable experience.“I’m trying to take in as much as I can,” Zimmerman said. “Trying to be a sponge.”Zimmerman admits she was a Mercury fan while growing up in Arizona. She became a Lynx fan when the team played an exhibition game at Columbia her sophomore season.“When they came to school, that’s when I started really watching them,” she said.Now she’s a member of the defending champions’ roster, playing alongside Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus.“I can picture myself as a kid on the sidelines watching WNBA games and now I’m shooting with them and actually playing with them,” Zimmerman said. “I’m taking it one day at a time. I know the Lynx have a stacked roster and chances are slim, but I’m going to make the most of my chance.”___Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Leslie Robinson joined an exclusive club when she was drafted by the New York Liberty last month. In this March 11, 2018 photo, Princeton’s Leslie Robinson reacts as she cuts her piece of the net after an NCAA college basketball championship game in the Ivy League Tournament against Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)last_img read more

WNBA teams ready for sprint to end of the regular season

first_imgNEW YORK (AP) — With the WNBA All-Star break in the rearview mirror teams are ready for the sprint to the of the regular season. All 12 teams will play eight or nine games over the next few weeks setting the stage for what should be of the most exciting final few weeks of the regular season in league history. There are only four losses separating second place Atlanta and ninth-place Las Vegas.“It’s going to be a wild last few weeks,” said Washington’s Elena Delle Donne, whose team lost the All-Star game 119-112 on Saturday.The Mystics are currently in seventh place, but can easily move up the standings with a few consecutive wins. Just ask Atlanta, which has won a franchise record eight straight games to vault into second place in the standings.The only team that’s been eliminated from the playoff chase is Indiana.POWER POLL: A look at this week’s WNBA poll which Seattle sits atop :1. Seattle (19-7): Storm only need a few more wins to clinch a playoff berth and are in the best position to lock up one of the coveted top two seeds.2. Atlanta (16-9): Have definitely been the surprise of the league this season and the Dream play five of their final nine games at home.3. Minnesota (15-10): Put on quite a show hosting the All-Star game and have momentum heading down the stretch with three straight wins.4. Los Angeles (15-11): Sparks are getting healthy for the stretch run, Alana Beard has recovered from a groin injury and Nneka Ogwumike is back from an undisclosed illness.5. Phoenix (15-11): Could have most favorable schedule with seven of final nine games at home, then again the Mercury are a shocking 5-6 at Phoenix this season.6. Dallas (14-11): Wings faltered a bit before the break, dropping their final two games. They close the season with four of five on the road.7. Connecticut (14-12): Has six of final eight games at home and four games against teams currently in the playoffs.8. Washington (14-11): Is only 4-7 against teams from the old Western Conference and has seven of final nine against those squads.9. Las Vegas (12-13): Whether the Aces make the playoffs or not, they have a solid foundation in A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride.10. Chicago (9-17): Sky wouldn’t mind seeing Las Vegas make the playoffs to improve WNBA draft lottery position.11. New York (7-18): Pretty much locked into the fourth spot in the draft lottery, Liberty are trying to play with more consistency down the stretch.12. Indiana (3-22): Have shown they can play with the best, their three wins have come against Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota.___PLAYER OF THE WEEK:Sylvia Fowles had 27 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the Minnesota Lynx win over New York. Other players receiving votes were Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Chicago’s Diamond DeShields and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart.___SHOOTING DISPLAY:Allie Quigley defended her 3-point shooting title at the All-Star game, beating Kayla McBride in overtime of the contest. Quigley hit an impressive 20 of the 25 shots in the extra round to finish with 29 out of a possible 34 points. That’s the most points scored ever in a WNBA or NBA shooting contest since the rules changed in 2014 putting in an all-money ball rack where each shot is worth two points.___IT’S IN THE SHOES:Puma became an official footwear partner with the WNBA last week, marking the company’s first deal with a pro sports league. Skylar Diggins-Smith became a brand ambassador for Puma last season and wore a pair of their shoes in the All-Star game.___WATCH ME:Fans tuned in to watch the new All-Star format that pitted Team Delle Donne against Team Parker. Ratings were up 20 percent.___GAME OF THE WEEKLas Vegas at Connecticut, Sunday. This game will go a long way in determining the Aces’ chances of making the playoffs. As the winner will have the tiebreaker between the teams.___Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg In this June 13, 2018, file photo, Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne (11) celebrates with teammate Monique Currie (25) after being fouled by Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike during the second half of a WNBA basketball game in Uncasville, Conn. All 12 teams will play eight or nine games over the next few weeks setting up for one of the most exciting final few weeks of the regular season in league history with only four losses separating second place Atlanta from ninth-place Las Vegas. “It’s going to be a wild last few weeks,” said Elena Delle Donne. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File)last_img read more