Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Showtime II

DRose said he wanted to get out on the court and "try and go crazy."

He walked off having shot 10 for 20 from the floor, 14 for 15 from the free throw line, with 35 points, 8 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals.

In between, an awful basketball game was played.

Bulls fans got to see Kyle Korver log the second most minutes in his brief history with the Bulls and Jimmy Butler introduced into the game in the second quarter to log his most minutes in his even briefer career with the team.

In warmups, Korver was incredible, netting nearly every attempt from the floor. Throughout the game, Korver was left largely open as the Wizards used his defender to help close down the paint. At some point in the second quarter, we were fairly confident Kyle was on his way to a 30 point night. But after missing his first attempt of the third quarter (he'd nailed virtually all of his warmup threes at halftime), Korver's opportunities dried up.

Butler was a body on the floor who fought through screens and used his length to disrupt shots. His biggest attribute last night was that he gave Ronnie Brewer a chance to rest during a terrible performance (2 for 10 from the floor, 0 for 3 on open threes, 2 turnovers, 2 assists).

Other than that, it was a miserable night at the Verizon Center. Bulls fans are not far removed from the Jerry Krause/Tim Floyd nightmare that engulfed the post-PJ/MJ/Pippen/Grant era and its not fun to see the current iteration of the Washington Wizards on the court. Wizards season ticket holders deserve better.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Moving On...

D.C. United announced today that Matt Oduran and Will Swaim have "been released from their respective trials" along with draft pick Matthew Kuhn and UMBC's standout forward Levi Houapeu, who continues to suffer from the league's roster restrictions on international players despite having moved to the United States from the Ivory Coast at 12 years of age.

Levi did enough in college to merit an extended look with some MLS squad, but things don't seem to be breaking the right way for him. At this point, the talent evaluation of D.C. United's front office and coaching staff regarding kids from outside of the club's academy doesn't instill a lot of confidence for the upcoming season.

I failed to note that the USL Pro Combine invitee list includes not only Dray Washington, but also two of his teammates at George Mason University -- Parker Walton and Eric Zuehsow. The list also includes University of North Carolina Wilmington's Shawn Guderian. One of Guderian's teammates at UNCW, Shaun Utterson, was recently signed by the Blyth Spartans and has acquitted himself well enough early on to start Blyth's last two matches. Utterson joins another recent Blyth signing with American collegiate soccer experience, Sam Hodgson.

Maybe Utterson's and Hodgson's football careers don't progress beyond Blyth. But playing for a club with the history and pageantry of Blyth is a heck of a lot better as a fallback option than what Oduran, Swaim, Kuhn, and Houapeu have available to them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Natty Light

Last night, I let my eldest stay up to watch Rico Clark score the gamewinner against Venezuelan reserves in a friendly that seems to have impressed no one outside of my home. But within these four walls, we were thrilled to see A.J. DeLaGarza and Graham Zusi start the game for the U.S. Men's National Team. I was particularly taken with DeLaGarza's play, who seemed nonplussed by the gravity of the event.

DeLaGarza and Zusi were the fourth and fifth Terps, respectively, selected in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. The first Terp selected, A.J.'s L.A. Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez, hit what is hopefully only a speed bump in his ascendant career with an ACL injury suffered in his first practice with Nuremberg. The second Terp selected in that draft, Rodney Wallace, has scored twice as a Costa Rican international in friendlies against the United States and Venezuela. And the third Terp selected in the draft, Jeremy Hall, will begin this year in the MLS on his fourth team, Toronto FC, after FC Dallas unloaded Hall for a second-round pick in the 2013 draft.

Of the Maryland kids coming out of that draft, I think I would have pegged Hall as the most likely to excel early on as a professional. I'd imagine that however happy Jeremy is seeing A.J., Graham, Rodney, and Omar in the limelight, it is tinged with regret at not joining them.

But at least Hall still has a shot at rebuilding his career in Toronto. I'd missed that Jason Herrick (the Chicago Fire's third-round draft pick in 2011) announced his retirement from professional soccer back in November due to a concussion injury that cut short his rookie year with Harrisburg last season. Herrick must of been one of the hardest-working players Coach Cirovski's ever been blessed with and he will, no doubt, take that same ethic to a professional career in finance or accounting.

Herrick's strike partner, Casey Townsend, seems to have landed in a good spot at Chivas USA after being selected fifth overall in this year's draft. Even more encouraging to see Alex Lee's talent recognized as a (what is effectively a third-round) pick in the Supplemental Draft for FC Dallas.

Two other recent Maryland grads, Will Swaim and Matt Oduran, were on trial with D.C. United. I'd guess that both are the longest of shots to break camp with the squad. While Willz got Skillz keeps the dream alive with the Black & Red, some of his former teammates at Real Maryland will vie for a contract with a USL Pro team in Bradenton later this week, including George Mason's Draymond Washington, John Hopkins' Sean Coleman, and Aboucarim Ndaw.

Most of these guys deserve shots as professional soccer players and a lot of talent is simply wasted by the limited opportunities available to our young athletes. That's probably what makes Billy Schuler's decision to forego a Generation Adidas contract and play in Sweden important. For good collegiate American players -- whether drafted or undrafted -- Scandinavia should increasingly become a destination to further player development.

In that vein, it is nice to Jide Ogunbiyi make some effort to describe his experience thus far in Denmark with Viborg. Long may it continue.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The Baltimore Sun's Don Markus recently penned a nice tribute to James Padgett's growth as a college basketball player under Coach Turgeon. With Alex Len, Pe'Shon Howard, Terrell Stoglin, Nick Faust, and Sean Mosley on the roster, Padgett's contributions can easily be taken for granted. I, like Markus, have very much enjoyed watching Padgett crash the boards at Comcast and it is nice to see his effort recognized in a mainstream publication.

But I'm back from Comcast this evening having witnessed a transcendent rebounding performance from Riverdale Baptist's Tianna Hawkins. The junior is averaging over ten rebounds a game this season and tonight Ms. Hawkins eclipsed a thirty-five year old team record by pulling down twenty-four rebounds against Wake Forest. Tianna grabbed her first twenty-three boards without much fanfare. Then the stadium's jumbotron informed fans that she had tied the team record after Maryland had pulled away, the game was largely over, and Tianna was on the bench:
"I asked the team if we should let her come back in and they unanimously said yes," Frese said. "That record has been in the record books for a very long time. It's special for us to be able to break records."
Now, we enjoyed the game and my daughters' had fun throughout, but the last minute and a half -- with Tianna trying to get one more board -- was the most compelling. In that short time, Tianna barely missed an offensive rebound after a missed free throw that slipped out of bounds, then elected to actually honestly finish a layup rather than play the ball off the rim to break the record cheaply, and then broke the record fair and square while her teammates bounded up and down off the bench.

We're about two-thirds of the way through the regular season and this has already been an amazing year for Maryland women's basketball; Tianna's phenomenal performance tonight was just another brick in that wall.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Football Players Can Be Smart

Over at The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn's policy blog makes the following observation about two college football players (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III) that figure prominently in the current bowl season:
Luck carried a 3.45 average at Stanford, studying architecture, and passed up huge money last year to finish his studies. The Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor, maintained a 3.76, finished his political science degree in three years, and is expected to graduate with a masters. Both are Academic All-Americans.
Cohn's point -- recognizing the often overlooked fact that some of the country's most elite collegiate athletes also happen to be some of their most promising students -- reminded me of this brief Terps news item that made me smile a couple of weeks ago.

Listed first (alphabetically) among the eleven football players that participated in the graduation ceremony is the remarkable Kevin Dorsey, Maryland's receiving leader in 2011. Mr. Dorsey graduated with a degree in economics as a junior.

The Diamondback ran a great profile on the player back in September that concludes with this quote from Mr. Dorsey:
"This is fun. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get an education that's paid for through athletics and be able to go out and do something you love every single day."

Congratulations to Kevin and to every other student athlete who walked on the 21st and 22nd.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Four pretty good college basketball programs between Maryland and Georgetown's men's and women's teams; Derrick Rose back at the United Center (wow); and Charlton seven points clear of a playoff spot more than half way through the season. These are neither coherent nor defensible allegiances, but it is a good time to have them.

The biggest treat over the last couple of weeks nevertheless has come from Stranraer F.C. My experiments with sponsorships with overseas clubs have largely been disasters and I've now scaled back to just two teams -- Blue Square North's Blyth Spartans and Irn-Bru SFL Third Division's Stranraer F.C.

Stranraer's where Gregory Tade's Scottish career really took off after a false start with Forfar Athletic. We sponsored Mr. Tade for two seasons with Raith Rovers, found him to be both an exceptional talent and person, and are thrilled with his debut results in the Scottish Premier League (where he's tied for the club lead with seven goals).

Stranraer's a fantastic club and they're currently enjoying a very good run in their league -- with a ridiculous +21 goal differential that's placed them 2 points behind Alloa Athletic for the sole automatic promotion slot.

Stranraer's success is not going to register stateside, but boy do I love this club.

For 50 quid (plus VAT), the team offers the opportunity to sponsor one of their players and show support for the squad. That's roughly the cost of a replica top (and sponsorship comes with the gift of the actual top at the end of the year). Yet, despite the limited contribution to the cause, folks at the club take it seriously and go out of their way to communicate appreciation.