Hurricane Baseball Alumni HR Derby Photos

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Three Future proCanes in the top 50 NFL Prospects

21) Brandon Harris/CB/Miami-Fl: Harris is a natural cover-corner with the size and ball skills to start at the next level. He's best in a man-cover system and is a prospect who can help a franchise as a rookie.

31) Allen Bailey/DL/Miami: Bailey disappointed scouts as he never improved off the brilliance he showed early in his Miami career. He's still a quality lineman and may just need proper coaching.

43) Leonard Hankerson/WR/Miami-Fla: The Miami senior comes off a career season and has positioned himself as the top senior wideout in the draft.

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Andre Johnson is Houston's No. 1 athlete, and No. 2 isn't close. After that? Oh boy.

John and Lance threw the topic out this morning and not in a particularly positive sense. Once upon a time, we had big-name professional athletes: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Andy Pettitte, Jeff Bagwell, Earl Campbell, etc.

Now? We've got almost no one who raises an eyebrow around the country. Andre Johnson is held in high regard by opponents, but he doesn't get the respect he deserves because the franchise has been run so poorly. Come to think of it, who do we have?

Here's my Top 10:

1. Andre Johnson. I have no idea what his national profile is, but he's great on the field and off. It's a crying shame his best years have so far been on a terrible team.

2. Mario Williams. He has yet to become the game-wrecking defensive player he was supposed to be, but he's still one of the few Texans virtually every NFL fan knows.

3. Matt Schaub. I don't know of anyone on the Rockets or Astros who is more well known around America. He didn't have his best year in 2010, but if the Texans ever got really good, he might shoot to No. 1.

4. Arian Foster. This is where things got tough. I couldn't think of an Astro or Rocket with a higher profile. Fantasy leaguers love Arian Foster and serious NFL fans came to appreciate his greatness in 2010. As with the first three, he could be a really big star if the Texans started to win.

5. Brett Myers. I thought about putting Kevin Kolb No. 1 overall, but since he doesn't play for the Astros, Texans or Rockets, he's not eligible. He was a big deal in Philly, which raises his presence around the country. I think.

6. Aaron Brooks. I told you this wasn't going to be easy.

7. Shane Battier. Once upon a time, he was a household name. That was back when he was a Blue Devil. Since then, he has disappeared into the black hole of Houston sports.

8. Brittney Griner. Sure, I said she wasn't eligible. I changed my mind.

9. Kevin Kolb. See above.


Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Omar Kelly and UM tackle Orlando Franklin talk draft


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James Jones' 3-point bonus? Performance-enhancing cadaver

Rare is the NBA All-Star Weekend participant disqualified for the use of performance-enhancing cadavers. So Miami Heat forward James Jones is probably safe on that count when it comes to Saturday's 3-point shooting contest at Staples Center.

But without that outside assistance, it is doubtful Jones could have made it back to NBA relevance, let alone a spot in such a showcase alongside Kevin Durant, Paul Piece and Ray Allen.

To appreciate how far Jones has come in his climb back up the league 3-point charts is to appreciate where the eighth-year veteran stood at the start of the 2008-09 season, when he was uncertain whether he would be robbed of his special gift.

On the eve of his first season with the Heat, James ruptured a tendon in his right wrist. Surgery was scheduled. At the time, the former University of Miami standout said, "Just imagine somebody punching you in your stomach as hard as they can."

Into the breach stepped modern medical science. To that degree, Jones will not be alone at All-Star Saturday, and for more than teammates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also being in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game that follows a day later.

He'll also being carrying the added benefit, quite literally, of a personal benefactor.

In order to rebuild James' stroke, the team's medical staff essentially had to rebuild Jones' wrist. Not only were his own tendons repaired, but extra tendons were added.

"Because we strengthened my wrist, we changed the way the tendons work, where it wouldn't get to a point where I was fighting my body," he said.

Jones basically not only went in for a tune-up for his shooting wrist, but an overhaul.

"My tendons in my wrist, they repaired 'em, strengthened 'em, tightened them up, and then they wrapped 'em," he said. "So there's more tendon in there."

At that point of his explanation, Jones was asked to pause. A question had to be asked:

Extra tendons?

"When your tendons tear, you cut a section out, put a section in, to repair it," he said in a matter-of-fact manner. "Then they wrap it with extra tendons to make sure."

And where exactly does one get "extra tendons"?

"I guess from the same cadaver I got my other new tendon," he said. "It's not mine. It's human, from someone's hip. So I have tendons wrapped around other tendons, to prevent it from rubbing against the bone, the friction."

No, he does not know the identity of his donor, although it is safe to say a deceased shooting specialist was not exhumed for the process.

The bonus tendons came with a tradeoff: Less friction with the bones in his wrist, but also less flexibility. That meant having to relearn his stroke, a grueling process that now has him 15th in the league in 3-pointers converted, 17th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, and, of course, a half-game out of first place with the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

"Given the severity of the injury, I didn't know if I'd be able to shoot effectively again, without pain, without discomfort," he said.

"Initially, when I first came out of my cast and saw I had zero range of motion, the doubts creep in and reality sets in, and you realize you have a long road ahead of you and whether or not you'll ever get back on top of the mountain is to be determined. But you know you're at the bottom at that point."

The climb has proven swift and efficient. Teammate Mike Miller, who had to regain his own stroke after preseason thumb injury, said Jones' rise to the All-Star contest is a remarkable achievement, considering how a wrist is everything to a shooter.

"Any time you mess with something, as a shooter, on your shooting hand, it's going to mentally and physically take a toll on you," Miller said. "He's just worked so hard. He deserves everything he gets."

And yet, the clock also is ticking. The loaner tendon apparently comes with an expiration date.

"It's one of those things, because of the bones that are in there, the way my bone structure is, eventually it'll probably be a deteriorating condition," Jones said. "Eventually, over time, the tendons are compromised."

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Olympic Medalist: Lauryn Williams

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Olympic medalist and former Miami Hurricane Lauryn Williams talks to us about her track career and her preparation for the upcoming World Games and 2012 Olympics.

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Aubrey Huff focussing on 2011 title defence challenge

If there is one thing the San Francisco Giants are experiencing in the 2011 season, it is a sense of accomplishment.

After winning their first World Series title after 50 years, the players look relieved and energised by their efforts. However, 2010 has long ended and Aubrey Huff is focussing more on their title defence challenge in the new season.

The Giants beat the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series to clinch the major title but the challenge for the top crown has reignited and Huff is ready for the game to kick off.

Huff recently signed a $22 million two-year contract extension with the club in the off-season period. The first baseman has a World Series ring but he is more tuned in to the opportunities in the new season.

“It's not about the ring for me. It's about the competition and getting in the playoffs and competing at that level with all the excitement. That was so much more fun than I can ever imagine. That's what you play for your whole life, getting in situations like that,” he said.

When Huff was asked about how to avoid complacency in 2011, he replied promptly.

“It's a good question. Throw everything out the window. My motto is, live in the now. I can't look to the future or the past. Try to get ready for this season. Everybody's going to be gunning for you. We're not going to sneak up on anybody this year,” said Huff.

Huff and Pat Burrell have been pushing the club in the right direction as well. They motivated the players in the organisation and gave them a target to achieve.

According to Huff’s teammate Sergio Romo, the only thing that matters towards achievement of targets is the right mindset. Romo also claimed that Huff would tell players on many occasions that they would need to adjust their attitude if he saw there was a tough situation on hand.

Huff went on to talk about his push towards working out and said watching the last out from the 2010 World Series would be enough to energise him.

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Aubrey Huff's rally thong is history

Aubrey Huff didn't pack his red rally thong. He left it at his Florida home in a bag.

That's where he wants it to stay.

"We retired that thing," Huff said today. "Just play baseball this year and try to keep the antics at home."

Huff began wearing the thong with 30 games remaining in the regular season and suggested the Giants would finish 20-10. Well, they did, winning the NL West by one game. He didn't hide it, either, sometimes wearing it through the clubhouse with nothing else on.

"The Hall of Fame wanted to keep the thong for Cooperstwon," Huff said. "I thought about it and said there's no way. One day my kids will go to Cooperstown and see their daddy wore women's underwear. I'm sorry, that's just not going to happen."

The kids would know anyway, right? After all, Huff pulled the garment from his pants and showed the world at the victory parade.

"I'm sure they'll find out about it with all the Internet nowadays," Huff said. "So it doesn't matter."

Great story. But the Hall of Fame says it never wanted the thong. Brad Horn, the Hall's senior director of communications, said, "That's one bare essential we do not need."

They have wonderful senses of humor in Cooperstown.

Horn was quick to say Huff and the Giants were gracious in the moments after the World Series to donate items for the museum. In fact, because it was such a wild scene after Game 5, perhaps Huff misinterpreted what the Hall was requesting.

For the record, Huff did make a donation.

He was asked for his black spikes, and he surrendered one. And kept the other.

"It's very unique, and perhaps that captures the personality of the Giants' first baseman," Horn said.

In retrospect, Huff said his intention was to not let anyone outside the clubhouse know he was wearing a thong.

"It was supposed to stay in house, but it snuck out," Huff said. "We rolled with it."

All the way to the championship.

But that was last year.

Now the thong rests, and manager Bruce Bochy couldn't be happier.

"It wasn't easy on the eyes," Bochy said. "I can go in the clubhouse a little more often now."

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Brandon Harris
Position: Cornerback
School: Miami
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 195 pounds

Achievements: Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist (2009, 2010), All-ACC second team (2010), All ACC first team (2009), Third team AP All-American (2009), All-ACC Academic (2008)

What he brings: Harris possesses a very good size-speed combination and broke up 25 passes over his sophomore and junior seasons. His success as a sophomore made quarterbacks less willing to throw his way in 2010, but if he were to join a stable of cornerbacks that already features proven players like Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden, pro signal callers won’t have as much of a choice. He has plenty of experience to back up his physical measurements, as he played in every game of his college career, starting all but seven as a freshman.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17, 28 or 33

Notes: While it would be surprising to see the Patriots use an early pick on a cornerback for a third straight year, it wouldn’t necessarily be the wrong move. Darius Butler took a step back in his second professional season and Bodden is coming off a shoulder injury.

If the Patriots were to select Harris in the first round, he would be the second Miami defensive back they have selected in the first round since 2007 (Brandon Meriweather) and the third Miami defensive player they’ve taken in the first since 2004 (Vince Wilfork). The 2010 draft was an odd one in that no Hurricanes were selected until late in the third round, when the Saints grabbed tight end Jimmy Graham with the 95 overall pick.

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Frank Gore will be running again soon

The coaches and schemes may change in San Francisco, but Frank Gore always remains the centerpiece of the offense.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has indicated of late that won’t be changing under his watch.

“Having studied our team and our own personnel and other backs across the league, I really think Frank Gore is one of the best running backs in the National Football League and one of the most complete backs,” Harbaugh said.

San Francisco’s best player is also healing quickly after suffering a hip fracture during the 2010 season.  Gore told Matt Maiocco of Comcast Bay Area that he was cleared to begin running again on February 28.  His injury did not require surgery.

When Harbaugh talked about the running back position recently, he failed to mention Brian Westbrook.  It appears very unlikely Westbrook will be back with the team.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Martin Bibla To Sign Autographs

A sports and non-sports memorabilia auction featuring several former standout athletes will be held this weekend at Mohegan Sun Casino. The event will benefit several local charities, including the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Salvation Army, Candy’s Place and the SPCA.

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Monday at the casino on Route 315 in Plains Township. There is a $1 admission fee.

Former Crestwood football standout Martin Bibla will be signing autographs from 1-3 p.m. Sunday. After his days at Crestwood, Bibla played at the University of Miami. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2002 by Atlanta and played four seasons with the Falcons.

Signed photographs of the following athletes/celebrities will also be part of the large number of items for bid: Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, Nolan Ryan, John Travolta, Arnold Palmer, John Daly, Gary Player and Lee Trevino.

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McShay gives thoughts on Bailey, Hankerson and Franklin

CORAL GABLES – After 14 years of having at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL – 1994 through 2008 – the Hurricanes were shut out the past two years.  

At this point, UM’s best hope for the new streak to be snapped in April is CB Brandon Harris.

DE Allen Bailey, once seemingly a sure-fire first-rounder, is now projected to be chosen in the second round by many draft experts, including Mel Kiper Jr., who once had Bailey rated as the 11th best prospect last season.

I asked fellow ESPN draft guru Todd McShay on a conference call Wednesday why Bailey’s stock has fallen.

“He’s obviously physically gifted. I know he’s working hard and preparing and he’s probably going to work at well at the Combine,” McShay said of Bailey, who in 2009 was rated college football’s No. 2 “workout warrior” by

“He has all the tools. It just hasn’t all come together yet,” McShay continued.  “I think part of it is inconsistent effort. Sometimes you see he’s not going 100 miles per hour. I also think part of it is instincts and consistently knowing what he wants to do in certain situations. He played different positions and that could factor into it. He hasn’t ever really settled into what he’s doing.

“He struggled sometimes getting off of blocks,” McShay added. “He’s not a guy that’s going to come in as an outside pass rusher having the speed and burst to get around the edge. But he’s also undersized playing inside. So you’ve got to get him in the right scheme, an undersized scheme and either bulk him up to defensive tackle or play him at left end in a 4-3 [scheme] which is where I think he fits best.

“I think he can be a good player in the NFL, I really do. I just don’t think it has all come together. He has to continue to work and be willing to pay the price in order to get there. If he does, he could wind up being a steal in the second round.”

McShay also gave his thoughts on WR Leonard Hankerson and LT Orlando Franklin.

— “Hankerson is one of the good stories coming out of the Senior Bowl. He’s clearly working hard to improve his route-running skills. Over the past year we’ve seen his consistency catching the football, getting better and better.

“Is he an elite prospect? No. But I do think when you start talking about that second day, when you’re looking for a potential No. 2 wide receiver, that Hankerson has a chance to really become a good value for a team. That’s where a lot of the quality depth in this wide receiver class is – in that second and third round.”

— “I was disappointed with Franklin this year, to be totally honest. I gave him a late-first, early-second round grade coming off of the previous season. I thought he struggled in space at left tackle. I think he got exposed at times.

“But I think if you move him to guard, which is where I project him, and you get him late-second, early-third round,  that with his size and the way he can move his feet in the short area, he has a chance to be a really good player.

“I think he becomes a good starter in the NFL. I just think he was playing the wrong position in college and got exposed against speed rushers and guys who were quick off the edge.”

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John Salmons carries scoring load in loss

John Salmons did the heavy lifting for the Bucks on Wednesday night, scoring a season-high 33 points against the Denver Nuggets.

The Bucks shooting guard engaged in a scoring duel with Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 38 points in the Nuggets' 94-87 victory.
But again the Bucks had their chances in the fourth quarter only to go cold at the finish. They missed their last 10 shots and didn't score a basket after Salmons scored on a reverse move with 4:23 remaining.

And they were outscored, 11-1, in the last 4 minutes.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles pointed out that Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings combined to go 2 for 18 "and we were still right there and have a chance to win."

Corey Maggette had a straight-on look at an open three-pointer with 52 seconds left and the Bucks trailing, 90-87. But Maggette missed and the Bucks finished a dismal 3 of 23 from three-point distance (13%).

"It was a good look," Maggette said. "It was one of those nights. That particular play was in and out. Those are the ones that really burn you."

Kenyon Martin came up with two huge blocks on the Bucks' next possession and Chauncey Billups clinched the victory with four free throws in the final 16 seconds. Martin finished with an eye-popping stat line of 11 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocked shots.

The Bucks played without power forward Ersan Ilyasova, out with a right eye contusion, and backup point guard Keyon Dooling, who had left knee soreness.

Salmons hit 13 of 23 shots while Anthony sank 16 of 30, including 10 of 15 shots in the first half.

Carlos Delfino opened the game guarding Anthony and Skiles put Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the Denver star late in the third quarter, when Anthony already had scored 30 points.

"We were trying to wait for a decent time," Skiles said. "We didn't want Luc on him the whole game. Carmelo has a tendency to get used to whoever is guarding him, no matter how good they are defensively.

"Luc did a very nice job on him. Carmelo is a great player and he still scored his points. We had that nice run at the end of the third to get back in the game. That lineup played well out there."

Skiles used a lineup featuring point guard Earl Boykins, Mbah a Moute, Bogut, Salmons and Maggette as the Bucks went on a 14-3 run to close the quarter and tie the game at 71. Boykins and Maggette entered with 3:30 left and Denver leading, 68-57.

"We fell behind and were dragging a little bit," Skiles said. "I put those guys in the game and we were able to quickly get right back into the game."

Jennings was 1 for 11 from the field and 0 for 6 from the three-point line and finished with four points. Bogut was 1 for 7 and had three points but grabbed 20 rebounds.

Nuggets coach George Karl was happy with how the Denver defense locked down the Bucks in the final minutes.

"We don't win a lot of games with our defense but tonight was kind of a gutty, get-after-it game," Karl said.

Billups, who added 20 points and a huge three-pointer with 2:53 left to give Denver the lead for good, also credited the defense.

"Salmons was hurting us. We went to trapping him hard, trying to make somebody else make a play," Billups said. "Nobody really could."
The Bucks scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and shot 6 of 22 from the field (27.3%).

Milwaukee (21-34) finished with eight losses in the 10 games preceding the all-star break, making a playoff run extremely difficult. The Bucks will have just 27 games remaining when they resume play Tuesday night against Minnesota.

"There's no big mystery what we need to do to get ourselves in some sort of decent shape," Skiles said. "At some point we've got to win six out of seven, eight out of 10.

"At some point, that has to be done. And it's more than likely right now. Without feeling pressure, we've got to put some pressure on ourselves to go out there and get these wins. Guys played hard again tonight. No complaints there. We've just got to play better."

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Pat Burrell with hot babes in bikinis at Barry Zito's mansion

The very popular website BarStool Sports recently posted two pictures of San Francisco Giants' outfielder Pat "The Bat" Burrell with hot bikini babes.

According to sources and the attached pictures, yes. These pictures were taken at Barry Zito’s $9 mil, 6k sqft, Tuscan Mansion about 20 miles north of SF in Marin County.

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Giants' Aubrey Huff to Retire the Rally Thong

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Scott Maine Has a Good Chance to Make the Cubs

Scott Maine. Other than Russell, he has the best shot of any lefty in camp of winning a job. He pitched well for the Cubs last year, and if he starts out in the minors it probably won’t be long before he comes back to Chicago.

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Redskins Confirm WR Santana Moss Is Now A Free Agent confirmed with the Redskins on Tuesday that WR Santana Moss is a free agent. He is eligible to sign anywhere up to the end of the official NFL season, which is March 3. If there is a lockout on March 4, he will be unable to sign. That means that he could possibly switch teams before a work stoppage takes place.

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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The Shutdown 40: #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on Feb. 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.

We continue our series with Miami cornerback Brandon Harris. In 38 games with the Hurricanes, Harris picked up four interceptions, 130 tackles (91 solo), 26 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, and 15 kick returns for 337 yards. Harris' relatively low career interception total is an indicator of both sides of the learning curve -- while he dropped a number of potential picks (and got burned for many touchdowns) in 2008, Harris was good enough in coverage by his junior season of 2010 to force enemy quarterbacks to throw the other way.

Pros: Adjusts well to motion pre-snap. Trails receivers tightly on timing and crossing routes and has the short-area speed to recover on digs and comebacks. Closes exceptionally well on screens and swing passes. He'll lose one-on-one jumping battles because of his height, but he has a great sense of timing to leap as the receiver starts to descend. Excellent sense of play direction; you don't see him getting fooled out of a potential play by receiver moves or quarterback fakes. Seems to have an innate sense of when to be aggressive and jump a route, and when to hang back and tackle. Clearly responds to coaching and learns from his mistakes in coverage.

Decent form tackler in run support for his size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds), though bigger players will drag him and he'll have to wait for help at times. Doesn't shy away from lining up to set the edge. Quick enough to avoid getting beaten by jukes in space, and he doesn't hesitate to being a knock once he zeroes in.

Cons: Harris is a better man corner than he is in zone, especially zone where he's playing off. Less of problem when he's playing under with or without safety help, but he seems to get a bit lost with a bigger zone to defend. Faster receivers who can push off will gain advantage -- Harris will struggle to catch up at times. Passes defensed numbers are partially inflated because he has a habit of slapping the ball away even when he could go for the pick.

Conclusion: If Harris was two inches taller, we'd be talking about him as a top-15 draft pick. But as he stands (literally), he's still got enough talent to start his path in the NFL as an outstanding nickel corner and make the transition to starting cornerback in a system in which pure man-speed is more important than zone recognition and the ability to tackle. With continued focus on his technique, he should be able to meet good coaching all the way and make a real difference for his NFL team.

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New York Giants Sign Dwayne Hendricks to Reserve/Future Contract

With defensive tackle Barry Cofield and a few other members of the New York Giants' defensive line now free agents, let's take a look at DT Dwayne Hendricks. Listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Hendricks went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Giants signed him as a free agent, and, after bouncing on and off the roster last season, Hendricks was signed to a reserve/future contract in January.

The Millville, N.J. native played college football at Miami (Fla.), where he appeared in 27 games, starting three. Hendricks recorded 57 tackles (nine for loss) and seven tackles as a Hurricane. While at Miami, his roommate and teammate, defensive end Bryan Pata, was shot and killed outside their apartment in November 2006. Hendricks has spoken about Pata and his relationship with his roommate's family, crediting them for much of his success.

The consensus among scouting reports on Hendricks, though, is that he plays with a high motor and tenacious attitude, but not all the time. Out of Millville High School, Hendricks was the No. 11 defensive tackle in the nation, according to Clearly, Hendricks did not live up to the hype preceding him at Miami.

Hendricks has some experience with the Giants, so he could have an advantage over some of the other players signed to reserve/future contracts. Yet, many think Cofield will be re-signed, and the Giants still have Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty and Linval Joseph. That group is largely unspectacular, but Hendricks still has a difficult path to a roster spot.

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Great Things Do Happen: The Jimmy Graham Story

By Jimmy Gill, University of Miami Sports Administration Graduate Student

There are currently 42 former Hurricanes in the National Football League, but the route that New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham took might have been the most unique. The former UM basketball player has made a successful transition to the NFL after playing just one year of college football. His story is inspirational to all, proving that through hard work and perseverance, truly anything is possible.

Originally from Goldsboro, N.C., Graham's home life as a child has been well-chronicled. He never knew his father and his mother decided to put him in a group home when he was just 11 years old. It was a less than ideal start to life.

However, his life turned around when he met his adoptive mother Rebecca Vinson.

"She helped me and believed in me when nobody did," Graham recalled to the Associated Press. "I remember being a kid, and everyone told me I was going to be nothing, and she believed in me. I owe her everything."

Vinson eventually sent Graham to Charis Prep for high school where he blossomed into a star athlete playing basketball, tennis, baseball and football during his time for the Crimson Tide. He saw the most success on the hardwood, as he averaged 20.7 points, 13.8 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game as a senior, becoming an Honorable-Mention All-American by Street & Smith.

Basketball coaches across the nation took notice, as he became a top recruit.

"I saw this big, red-headed kid that could jump and was very raw offensively," said Miami head coach Frank Haith, bringing up his first impression of Graham. "I loved his tenacity and how hard he played. He was fearless. Jimmy was on the floor more than anybody and was not afraid to take charges. You just loved that about him."

Graham left Charis Prep after basketball season his season year and came to Coral Gables for the spring semester in 2005. He had no idea where his life as a student-athlete would take him.

Click here to read the rest of the story at

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Jon Beason to Get Better?

Jon Beason just put together another Pro Bowl caliber season and was rewarded with that by being a late entry into the Pro Bowl. Not only did Beason play, but he put in quite the day by picking off Matt Cassel late in the fourth quarter and taking it to the house. Many thought that when John Fox was at the end of his road in coaching the Panthers he wasn’t getting the maximum effort from his players. Well Beason was putting in another great season and he wasn’t even playing his regular position. When Thomas Daviswent down early in camp with his second consecutive ACL injury, the Panthers decided to move Beason to the outside. Beason later moved back into his regular middle linebacker position, but that was later in the season.

So, what does this say for Jon Beason this upcoming year?

In steps blitz and pressure crazy defensive coordinator Sean McDermott from Philadelphia. Also, without any setbacks Thomas Davisis set to return back to his role as the outside linebacker. With Beason now patrolling the middle and McDermott at the helm to bring more pressure on opposing offenses, there should be a lot of sacks coming Beason’s way. I see Beason being the dominant linebacker that can be brought up in conversations with Brian Urlacher and other top-notch MLB’s.

In his days at The U, Beason was dominant in all phases of the game. There is a reason the Panthers spent their first round selection on this guy, because he has the ability to give opposing quarterbacks nightmares as both a dominant rusher and as a solid cover man too. If you don’t believe me look at this past Pro Bowlas I mentioned early and tell me Beason can’t cover anyone.

So, with the addition of Sean McDermott and his scheme of bringing pressure to offenses, Jon Beasonwill cash in on this opportunity and be able to showcase his rushing and coverage skills. Oh, and Beason won’t have to wait until days before the Pro Bowl to see if he will be headed to Hawaii because he will show other fans that he is capable of starting in the game for the NFC.

Click here to order Jon Beason’s proCane Rookie Card.

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WWE smells what The Rock is cookin'

Finally, The Rock has come back to the WWE!

During last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced his return to the wrestling world.
The Rock came out in the closing minutes of Raw, causing the sell-out crowd in Anaheim to erupt in thunderous ovation.

After a prolonged entrance, the man who calls himself “The Most Electrifying Man in Entertainment” announced that he would host Wrestlemania XXVII, the biggest event of the year on the WWE schedule.

"The Rock has come back to Wrestlemania. The most electrifying man of all of entertainment is hosting the most electrifying event of all of entertainment!" The Rock said in an announcement.

The Rock, who returned after a seven-year hiatus, took shots at mega-stars John Cena and the current WWE Champion The Miz (Yes, the Real World Miz).

The Rock, who has parlayed his wrestling success into a lucrative acting career, is considered to be one of the WWE’s all-time greatest superstars, and his return should provide a much needed jolt to the program that has recently lost such big-name stars as HHH and The Undertaker.

Wrestlemania XXVII is scheduled to take place April 3rd at the Georgia World Congress Center and can be seen worldwide on pay-per-view.

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John Salmons finds his rhythm for Bucks

John Salmons isn't claiming he's in a groove yet.

But hey, it's a start.

The Milwaukee Bucks guard went back into the starting lineup Tuesday night and responded with a strong performance to help the Bucks grab a 92-74 victory over the Toronto Raptors before an announced Bradley Center crowd of 11,975.

Salmons had missed eight games with a strained right hip and returned against Phoenix last week.

But a neck injury severely limited his effectiveness as he came off the bench against the Suns and Golden State, and he still didn't look right as the Bucks lost at home to Detroit on Saturday.

This time Salmons was able to play 35 minutes and finished with a team-high 17 points and six rebounds as the Bucks (20-30) snapped a four-game losing streak.

"This is the best I've felt since I've been back," Salmons said. "I was trying to be aggressive, and I felt pretty good moving around.
"I couldn't even look back (due to neck stiffness) a couple games ago."

Milwaukee finally put away the Raptors in the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run, extending a six-point lead to 82-62 with 5:46 remaining.
Salmons was one of five Bucks players in double figures.

Corey Maggette added 16 points and nine rebounds, center Andrew Bogut had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocks and point guard Brandon Jennings contributed 12 points and four steals.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute came off the bench to post a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he definitely noticed a difference in Salmons' play.

"This is the most he's played now, and so he's got to get used to that again," Skiles said. "They (the Raptors) don't have great basket protection. The goal is to drive in there and try to put pressure on them at the rim.

"John did a nice job of that early in the game. Corey went in there. Brandon tried to go in there. We want (Salmons) to get comfortable again. It's clear he hasn't had a comfort level out there.

"You could tell; he played (35) minutes and after about 32 minutes of it he was just about done.

"Fortunately we had a nice lead and we could take him out right there. But he had some nice little runs where he looked good."

Salmons was able to get inside the Raptors defense to score on several occasions. And he knocked down an open three-pointer which ignited the Bucks' string of 14 consecutive points in the final quarter.

"I needed that," he said.

The Bucks now hit the road for a two-game trip, playing in Washington on Wednesday night and Memphis Friday night before returning home against Indiana on Saturday night.

Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors (14-38) with 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting and guard DeMar DeRozan added 18.

But Toronto lost for the 14th time in its last 15 games, after halting a 13-game slide with a victory over Minnesota on Friday.

The Bucks had allowed four straight opponents to shoot 50% or better, but they held Toronto to 36% shooting (31 of 86). Raptors point guard Jose Calderon was just 2 for 15 and had six points.

Salmons wasn't proclaiming any major breakthrough based on a single performance.

"I'm just keeping at it, that's all I can say," Salmons said. "It's been a tough year for everybody. We know one game is not going to do it for us."
Salmons said he was in pain in Phoenix due to the neck injury and probably should not have played there or at Golden State.

"It's frustrating. I've never been prone to injuries in my career," he said. "And it was my knee starting off the season and my hip.

"It's been tough. At this point, we've just got to focus on us and continue to try to get better."

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Jon Jay Not Bothered by Recent Additions

JUPITER, Fla. - Like a kid excited for the first day of school, Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay couldn't fall asleep late Sunday night as thoughts ran through his head about leaving early Monday morning to report to spring training in Jupiter.

So instead of tossing and turning in his bed all night, Jay decided to get up and make the 90-minute drive from his home in Miami to the Cardinals complex in Jupiter - at 2:30 in the morning.

Jay checked into his condo near Roger Dean Stadium and unpacked his bags early Monday morning before being one of the first players to show up in the Cardinals clubhouse.

"I didn't sleep all night," Jay said. "I was too excited and pumped up to be around everybody so I just got in my car and drove up here in the middle of the night."

Despite hitting .300 in his rookie season in the big leagues in 2010, Jay knows he's in for a battle just to make the roster this spring. Both Jay and Allen Craig were expected to see significant playing time in right-field before the club signed veteran Lance Berkman to man the spot.

Veteran Jim Edmonds was then signed to a minor league deal and will attempt to beat out Jay for a spot on the bench should he be healthy enough to do so.

"I wouldn't say it's disappointing because the Cardinals are known as one of the teams who will compete year in and year out and that's what happens when you are on a team like that," Jay said of the moves. "Sometimes it's better to be on a winning team and have a smaller role than to be on a losing team and have a bigger role. Hopefully I can stick around here and we can do some special things this year.

"I'm not too worried about who was brought in. If I can take care of what I need to take care of, everything will be fine. If I show up and I'm not ready and I don't do what I need to do to take care of, then I'm not going to merit a spot. I'm just looking forward to proving every day that I belong here."

Jay was hitting .396 when Ryan Ludwick was traded to the San Diego Padres. But he hit just .238 with nine extra-base hits in 176 at-bats from that point forward and was benched the final week of the season to ensure his batting average finish the season above .300.

Nobody expected Jay to continue hitting .396 the entire season but his dramatic drop off down the stretch was a concern. The left-handed hitting Jay said the slump was mainly just the law of averages playing out but admitted he has to be more consistent this year if he expects to remain in the big leagues.

"I went into a funk and it's one of those things where maybe it was a bad time to go into a funk," Jay said. "But I learned from it and this year it's going to be a test to see how quickly I can get out of that and how quickly I can make the adjustment. I take nothing but positive from last year and I got some valuable time here so I am looking forward to spring training and re-proving myself and continuing to show that I can play at this level.

"I think my hands were dropping a little bit too low but it was a combination of things. I was just missing pitches and not capitalizing on that. This is the big leagues. You miss your pitch and fall behind in the count and the pitcher is going to get you. I have to remember to work ahead in the count and continue to play my game. I'm excited for this year."

Jay is also the latest Cardinal to join the Twitter world. You can follow him @JonJayU.

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Gaby Sanchez & Danny Valencia look to avoid sophomore jinx

Gaby Sanchez: With Steve Garvey stockiness (and a little more size), Sanchez was remarkably consistent while changing the Marlins' plans at first base with his power. With that base of work behind him, more of the same is the general expectation.

Danny Valencia: The Twins are hoping he fills the black hole that has been third base, where 18 different players started in six years before he took over last July. Maintaining the high offensive output he had the second half of 2010 won't be easy.

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How Badly Was Sam Shields Injured During The Super Bowl?

Matt Bowen at National Football Post breaks down the film on all the things Green Bay Packers CB Sam Shields did wrong on the fourth quarter touchdown pass thrown to Steelers WR Mike Wallace. He goes through four points where he failed to press at the line, slide his feet, play to his help, and recover. The first comment addressed my first thought - maybe he couldn't press at the line because he had an injured shoulder?

Bowen dismisses this thought in the comments because Shields isn't seen even attempting to jam. My next thought was that his injured shoulder would have discouraged him from even attempting one, but that excuse is just a different kind of mental lapse. Plus Bowen knows more about playing defensive back in the NFL then I ever will. It's too bad we don't know how badly his shoulder was injured was because the Packers don't have to disclose an injury report after the season.

Another possible rookie mistake could have been that Shields was confused about the defensive assignment. He had missed nearly the entire third quarter, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers scrapped the defensive game plan in the second half by going away from man coverage with more zone. Instead of playing his usual press coverage, Shields might have had a mental lapse and found himself halfway between press and zone. That's still a mental mistake, but it was a rough game for the rookie who might have made a rookie mistake. 

The Super Bowl wasn't his best game, but I'm not letting it take away from what was an amazing rookie season.

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Introduce Ray Lewis EVERY Game!

Whenever the Baltimore Ravens play a home game at M&T Bank Stadium, either the team's offense or defense is introduced. The player's names are called and the fans cheer as they make their way out of the smokey tunnel and onto the field. The biggest cheers on offense go to QB Joe Flacco, Todd Heap and Ray Rice. On defense, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs get theirs when their names are announced.

However no one comes close to getting the fans riled up into a frenzy like linebacker Ray Lewis does when he emerges from the tunnel. Once the other defensive players have been introduced and are on the field, the smoke thickens, the height of the spitting fire increases and the huge video screens show Ray entering the field to the strands of Nelly's "It's Hot in Herre!" Ray picks up a few tufts of grass to tell the world "this is my house!" and then breaks into his trademark dance that sends the fans into a wild mob of screaming lunatics. His teammates feed off of his passion and cannot wait to get out on that gridiron and hit somebody.

Nothing short of being there as witness to this spectacle compares, as the level of emotion cannot be felt from your living room. If you've ever seen this live, it never gets old and the  hairs on your arms tingle with the amazing passion you feel for what #52 has brought to the team, the city and its fans.

Regardless of whether or not the offense or defense is introduced prior to each home game, Ray Lewis should always be the last player out of the tunnel and his trademark entrance should become a staple of the introductions each and every game. Especially in the light of what could be his last season, the team owes this "birthright" to him, and the fans come to the game hoping to see it.

It was mentioned at one time that the team purposely did not do this to prove a point to Ray that they were "bigger" than him and it was about the team and not any individual. However, that is a bunch of bunk, as the purpose of the introductions is to raise the passion level and excite the fans to a level to get the most out of the home field advantage even before the opening kickoff.

So join with me in letting the team know that Ray LEwis should be an integral part of the opening plyer introductions each and every game!

Click here to order Ray Lewis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Wallace vs. Sam Shields: press-coverage

Let’s go back to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas during Green Bay’s 31-25 win over Pittsburgh and breakdown Mike Wallace of the Steelers vs. Sam Shields of the Packers. A one-on-one matchup outside of the numbers with Shields aligned in a press-look.

Press-coverage (or “bump and run&rdquoWinking is purely technique based. Your hands, footwork, hips and eyes are all tested when you want to challenge the WR at the line of scrimmage. Lose your technique—or guess—in the NFL and you will get beat. Sounds simple, but vs. the speed of a No.1 WR you have to rely on your technique to win.

We all know the play: a 9 (fade) route vs. Cover 1 (man-free) out of a 3x1 alignment with a single high safety in the middle of the field. Let’s check out the TV tape and get into some detailed coaching points to help you understand why Shields gave up the score.

Coaching points

Breaking down the play and talking technique…

1. Use your hands: Play a physical style. What we see on the TV tape is Shields keeping his hands low at the snap. That’s a minus on the grade sheet. As a DB, your hands are your weapons at the point of attack in press-coverage. Keep your hands high and punch on the initial move from the WR. With Wallace releasing inside, Shields should punch with his outside (right) hand and then come back with his inside (left) hand once Wallace breaks back to the outside. However, when we see a DB that doesn’t want to use his hands in press-coverage, he is already at a disadvantage. Use your hands—because they also allow you to keep your body square to the WR.

2. Slide your feet: Shields is too aggressive with his footwork on Wallace’s initial move and that causes him to “hop” inside. Instead, slide your feet on that initial inside move (think “mirror’ technique). Just like we talked about with the hands, move your feet and stay square to the WR to cut off any initial route stem. It disrupts the timing of the route and allows you as a DB to react to any counter moves. But in this case, when Shields does hop inside, he opens his hips (called “opening the gate&rdquoWinking and that puts him in an immediate trail-position. A tough spot to be in playing Cover 1.

3. Play to your help: In a Cover 1 scheme, use the free safety and any inside help you can find. One the initial move from Wallace, Shields can slide his feet, stay square and in reality, give up the inside. Force Wallace to use that vertical release and stem his route up the numbers—funneling him to free safety Nick Collins. But this turns into an outside release, and Collins can’t get over the top of the 9 route. If you are going to get beat, force the WR to release to the free safety in Cover 1—because it might save you.

4. Recovery: Shields is beat. We can all see that. However, there are some positives here to look at from his perspective. Watch his angle to Wallace. Shields runs to get back “in-phase” to the WR (bottom hip). Exactly what you want to do as a DB if you are in a trail position. Second, he never looks back at the ball. The one glaring mistake that DBs will make when they are beat at the line is to get their eyes back to the QB. That’s bad football. Why? Because the QB isn’t throwing the ball to you. In this situation, without getting his hands on Wallace at the point of attack—and the near perfect ball from Ben Roethlisberger—Shields can’t recover in time to make a play. However, we can all see the recovery speed of the Packers’ CB.

Playing productive press-coverage is a process—a technique based process. Win early and we don’t have to talk about getting back “in-phase” or recovery speed. A good learning experience for the Packers’ young CB.

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The Rock returns home; Great One surprises on WWE Raw

The Brahma Bull, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will `bring it' to WrestleMania XXVII. WWE (NYSE: WWE) announced Monday night that The Great One will return home to be The World's Most Electrifying Host of WrestleMania on Sunday, April 3 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

As The World's Most Electrifying Host of WrestleMania XXVII, The Rock will lay the SmackDown on all of the pomp and festivities that makes WrestleMania the world's greatest, annual pop culture extravaganza.

“I'm absolutely thrilled and fired up to be the host of WrestleMania. My goal was to partner up with Vince McMahon and WWE to create and deliver something globally entertaining and electrifying,” Johnson said.

“As an actor, entertainer and someone who both loves and has grown up in the sports entertainment business, the opportunity to host 75,000 passionate fans in a live venue, not to mention the millions that will be watching worldwide, is not only thrilling but quite honestly the opportunity of a lifetime. It's going to be one helluva an epic night.”

In making the monumental announcement of his return to WWE just minutes ago on Monday Night Raw, The People's Champion whipped the crowd into a frenzy and was showered with thunderous applause.

For all the latest updates, 'Like' The Rock at or follow him at

WrestleMania XXVII will be broadcast in more than 80 countries around the world. Check with your local cable operator or satellite provider to order the pay-per-view on Sunday, April 3. For information on WrestleMania and WrestleMania events, visit

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Brandon Harris takes training to Texas

CORAL GABLES — Hurricanes cornerback Brandon Harris, who decided last month to forgo his senior season for early entry into the NFL, has been training at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney, Texas.

He's working with the retired Olympian sprinter as well as Lance Walker, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Dallas Cowboys and Oklahoma Sooners.

"It's just a good opportunity for me to grow up and mature and focus on training and get away from some distractions that there may be back in Miami," Harris said by phone Sunday.

Unlike his 'Canes teammates, who played in the Senior Bowl and other all-star games, Harris hasn't had a chance to make an impression since the team's Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame. Still, his stock continues to rise. recently projected him to be drafted by the Texans at No. 11 or Lions at No. 13.

"Since I got up here, that's one thing I stayed away from," Harris said of projections. "Because I know it's something I can't control. … My only way to help myself will be at the [NFL] combine."

Harris said he's both nervous and excited about the combine, which starts Feb. 23 in Indianapolis.

"You want to show people that you belong and you're deserving [of attention], especially with me leaving as a junior," Harris said. "There are always foing to be questions, always going to be doubts out there. Why did this guy leave? He's not ready to be in the NFL. I hear that kind of stuff. People tell me that to my face."

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Ray Lewis teams up with Drew Brees for laughs

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who talked about acting after his football career is over, showed off his skills in a Pepsi commercial with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees,

Click here to order Ray Lewis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Santana Moss's contract voided on Friday: so what are the Redskins' options?

Santana Moss's contract voided on Friday, making the Redskins' top wide receiver an unrestricted free agent March 4.

In December, the 10-year veteran said he hoped to return to the team he has led in receiving six consecutive seasons. But do the Redskins still want Moss? And if Washington is interested in re-signing him, what will it take to get a deal done?

It's believed Moss is seeking a two- or three-year deal that averages about $5 million a season. The Redskins renegotiated Moss's contract in May 2009.

He received a signing bonus of more than $6.2 million and had a base salary of $968,500 last season. Under the terms of the renegotiation, the remainder of Moss's deal voided after the 2010 season.

Although Moss turns 32 in June, he could remain productive for a few more seasons. Last season, he proved to be a good fit in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system. Playing multiple receiver positions, Moss had a career-high 93 receptions for 1,115 yards (topping the 1,000-yard mark for fourth time in his career) and six touchdowns.

It would seem to make sense for the Redskins to re-sign him. The problem with their passing attack last season wasn't Moss -- it was the lack of consistent options in addition to Moss and Anthony Armstrong.

It would appear the Redskins could have some intriguing options, whether they decide to replace Moss or re-sign him and bolster their receiving corps with other potential free agents.

Of course, even when it comes to free agency, we don't know for sure how everything will play out until a new CBA is agreed upon. But once the CBA is settled, it's believed that the top free agent receivers will be Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. But they all may not be available or want to sign with the Redskins.

Leading up to last season's trade deadline, the Redskins and San Diego were reportedly discussing a deal that would have sent Jackson to Washington. The Chargers are reportedly considering using their franchise tag on Jackson, meaning they either plan on working out a deal to re-sign him or hope to receive two first-round draft picks from another team if Jackson signs elsewhere.

The 6-foot-4 Rice would meet the Redskins' longtime need for a big, dependable target. There's talk, however, Minnesota could use its franchise tag on him, and the New York Jets may do the same with Holmes.

The Redskins passed on both Owens and Moss when they could have pursued them last season (Owens as a free agent and Moss through waivers). It would seem unlikely that either would receive interest from Mike Shanahan & co.

That leaves Edwards (53 catches, 904 yards and seven TDs) and Smith (49 catches, 529 yards, three touchdowns) for consideration. Or there could be other lower-profile receivers the Redskins may believe could help them.

Another receiver expected to become a free agent is San Diego's Malcom Floyd, who at 6-5, 225 pounds has size. Floyd had 37 catches for 717 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games last season. And then there is Plaxico Burress, who will be an unrestricted free agent as he attempts to make a comeback after two years in prison.

As for the draft, Alabama's Julio Jones is expected to be available in the 10th to 15th-pick range. But a pass-rusher to complement Brian Orakpo or a quarterback likely are higher priorities for the Redskins, who have the No. 10 pick.

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Hapoel Holon release Robert Hite

Hapoel Holon decided to part ways with Robert Hite (188-G-84, college: Miami (FL)). The 26-year-old guard joined the Israeli team at the start of the season. He tallied 15.9 points, 5.1 boards and 1.8 assists per game in Premier League. Last season Robert Hite played in Italy. He had stints with Montegranaro, Caserta and Trenkwalder. Earlier Robert Hite had spells in NBA, D-League, Spain, Belgium and Turkey.

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Darius Rice Wins a Championship

MANAMA were last night crowned champions of this year's Zain Bahrain Basketball Cup. The victors romped to a 105-81 victory over bitter rivals Al Ahli to emphatically sweep their best-of-three championship series in two games and win back the crown.

American professional Darius Rice (208-F-82, college: Miami (FL)) led the way for Manama. The six-foot, 10-inch centre poured in a game-high 35 points while pulling down 13 rebounds. Point Guard Ahmed Abdulaziz chipped in with 20, while All star trio Mohammed Hassan, Mahmood Ghuloom and Ahmed Al Mutawa (199-F/C-81, agency: Low Country Sports, college: Broward CC) had nine points apiece. Also Al mutawa had 12 rebounds and 7 assists.

Coach Jason Rabedeaux (agency: Edge Sports ) in just a short time transformed Manama into a dominant powerhouse giving players direction and confidence, Manama were on fire from beyond the arc, burying 13 three-pointers in the game. Rice alone had six. With the win, Manama came away with their third Cup triumph in the last four years. They lost last year's title to Muharraq, but before that won it two seasons in a row. They have now claimed the annual competition a record 14 times overall.

'This is like a dream!' Al Mutawa told the press. The team's inspirational and defensive leader added: 'We worked hard for this, but it's not over yet; we are now going to fight for the league Championship' After playing most of his younger years with Manama, Al Mutawa moved on to greener pastures in Kuwait for a few years before finally returning to his old club this season. 'This is why I came back,' Al Mutawa said while pointing to the thousands of jubilant Manama supporters who flocked to Zain Basketball Arena in support of their club.

With Ahli playing without influential court general Hussain Shaker, Manama were in control of the game from the opening tip. They led 27-16 at the end of the first quarter, and then in the second, blew the game wide open and took a 59-33 lead into the half. Guard Bader Abdulla Malabes came off the bench to help spark Manama into extending their lead. Malabes hit two successive triples that made it 48-30, and they never looked back. Manama eventually led by as many as 40 points in the third quarter before cruising the rest of the way. Added Rice, who only joined Manama mid-season: 'My teammates have really made me feel like a part of the family since I've arrived. I'm glad to have helped Manama win this title.' Of his stellar offensive display, Rice said: 'I love championship games. They bring out the best in me.'

Maytham Jameel top scored for Ahli with 30 points in the loss. Import Marquin Chandler (202-F-82, college: San Jose St.) from the US scored 23 before fouling out. Both teams were awarded their respective trophies and medals by Bahrain Olympic Committee chief executive Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa in the presence of Bahrain Basketball Association officials.

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Yonder Alonso Working out at the U

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Yonder Alonso got a taste of the big leagues in 2010 with the Cincinnati Reds.

Now, the former first-rounder draft pick is working hard in the off-season to assure he lands a full-time role in 2011.

Alonso, a Coral Gables High School product who starred at Miami from 2006-08, has been working out this off-season at Alex Rodriguez Park, home of the Hurricanes.

“This is my life,” Alonso told InsideTheU. “When I say it, I really mean it. Like Dwyane Wade says, ’this is my house’, this is where I’m welcome and everything is good. They welcome me with open arms here and hopefully I can have batting cages named after me or something so we’ll see.”

Alonso has been working out with New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez in Miami, something the two did when Alonso was at UM.

“We still work out here every day,” Alonso said. “Actually, Jorge Posada is with us now too. It’s been really good. Obviously, I have learned a lot. Brett Gardner has came in and worked out as well and helped me in left field. Melky Cabrera is helping me out there too.”

In regards to what Alonso what’s to work on specifically this off-season, he feels he needs to get better in all areas of the game.

“I think I’ve got to work on everything,” Alonso said. “People ask me that and I think I have to re-tune everything and make sure I polish everything up--my hitting, defense, running, fielding, workout routine, outfield--everything has to get better. The sky is the limit and I strongly believe that so I have to get better.”

Alonso played three seasons at UM as a first baseman and was drafted by the Reds at that position. However, Joey Votto, the NL MVP in 2010, currently plays first base for the Reds. Votto, 27, recently signed a three-year extension, which forced Alonso to left field, a position he is continuing to improve on.

“It was good,” said Alonso of the transition to the outfield. “I think it got a little bit better in the big leagues just because I got more help especially from Billy Hatcher and the guys that have been there for years and years. It got better and hopefully I can carry it on for next year.”

Last season, Alonso hit .290 with 15 home runs, 36 doubles, 13 stolen bases, and 69 RBIs in 132 minor leagues splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.

He was a September 1 call-up to the Reds and played sparingly in 22 games where he hit .207 with three RBIs in 29 at-bats primarily as a pinch-hitter.

“It’s been good. It was a jump,” Alonso said. “Two years ago I was here (at UM) and now I am in the big leagues. Twenty-three years old and in the big leagues. There are not too many 23- year olds are doing it. It was a goal of mine and it was a lot of fun. It was everything I dreamed and hoped for. Hopefully now I can get there and stay there for a while.”

His MLB debut came on Sept. 1 in Cincinnati against the Milwaukee Brewers.

“My first game was a blur,” Alonso recalled. “It was crazy. I hadn’t slept in probably a day or two because I didn’t know if I was going to get called or not. It happened and I went straight to Cincinnati. I really didn’t think I was going to play up. The game was like 5-2 and we were up and they said, ‘hey, grab a bat, you’re going in’. I had to face this lefty guy (Zach Braddock) throwing 95-97, it was fun, it was nice. I didn’t care who was pitching, I was going to swing really hard to matter what.”

His first hit came in St. Louis with former teammate Jon Jay in the outfield for the Cardinals.

“He saw my first hit,” Alonso said. “It was actually in St. Louis. My first hit was a double and it was on FOX, it was pretty crazy because they were talking about me and Jay. The double was down the line, but I was looking at him. We were in the hunt, we were one game up, and I get a double, I’m looking at him, he’s looking at me and we were in a big league game. It was pretty cool.”

Alonso said that he enjoyed the match-ups with a couple of the National League’s best pitchers--Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Carpenter--striking out in each appearance against them.

The Reds were one of the biggest surprises in baseball last year winning the NL Central for the first time since 1995.

“We had a great year,” Alonso said. “We knew we were going to be good from spring training, but just nobody knew us. Obviously now we are on the map. The NL Central is big so it’s going to be a battle.”

The fans in Cincinnati have been very supportive of the team.

“The fans are great,” Alonso said. “Midwest people are so nice, so friendly. They are big-time fans.”

Alonso on the Hurricanes
While at UM, Alonso was one of the best Hurricanes ever. He ranks third on the all-time home run list with 52 homers. His 215 RBIs ranks third and his 172 walks ranks fourth and was a career .347 hitter. His 24 home runs in 2008 was one short of the school record.

He helped lead the team to the College World Series twice in his three-year career.

“The Miami coaches get you ready for life, they get you ready for the big leagues,” Alonso said. “Everything that is in the big leagues from the little time that I was there was very similar to this. It was all about winning, make sure you get your work in, make sure you respect everyone around you, and carry yourself as a professional and that’s how we did things here.”

Alonso has been around the current Hurricanes and likes their chance in 2011.

“I think they are good,” Alonso said. “They are young and I think it is going to help them. I think they are going to be good with their pitching especially with these new bats, they’re going to be good on defense too. I think that is going to be the main key where maybe three or four years ago, it wasn’t the main factor was that you’ve got to out-hit the other team. Now it is about pitching and defense. It’s going to be fun. Games are going to be quicker.”

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