September 13, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

 LAWT Columnist

 

Last week while just chill’n, I got a phone call from one of my basketball friends who told me that UCLA prize recruit Shabazz Muhammad had already begun formulating plans to play overseas.

 

The source indicated that Muhammad will be declared ineligible by the NCAA and will not be allowed to play for the Bruins or any other college program.

 

While rumors regarding Muhammad, a 6’6 man-child, have been circulating for several months, recently the NCAA indicated that it was investigating the status of Muhammad, Kyle Anderson a 6’8 point guard out of New Jersey and post player Tony Parker.

 

All three recruits were responsible for lifting the Bruins to the top recruiting class in the nation and thrusting them to the top of many college basketball preseason polls.

 

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero acknowledged the NCAA investigation of the student/athletes, but cited privacy laws that prevented him from discussing the matter.

 

Both Anderson and Parker were allowed to participate during a recent exhibition tour to China with UCLA, but if the allegations are true that could have been their first and last experience with the UCLA program.

 

The consequences of losing Muhammad or perhaps all three of the recruits would be a devastating blow to the UCLA basketball program and its head coach Ben Howland.

 

Although, Howland has led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Four berths during his tenure, they did not win a single title. Some would say the championships were too hard to achieve because of Florida’s back-to back title run, but didn’t North Carolina State upset Georgetown?

 

Rapid defections either to the NBA or via transfer, have not helped Howland’s case because most players who left early for the NBA still don’t openly endorse the head coach.

 

A scathing Sports Illustrated article last season painting a program in peril was brushed aside by AD Guerrero and the coaching staff, but this current crisis regarding Muhammad and his fellow recruits could cripple the program.

 

My sources tell me they would not be surprised if Muhammad is not cleared to play by the NCAA.

 

I was also informed that Muhammad was seen in Orange County driving a 2012 Range Rover while purchasing roughly $5,000 worth of computer equipment. Expensive lunches in Hollywood have also been reported.

 

Another source added that it was two prominent coaches who recruited both Muhammad and Anderson that turned UCLA in to the NCAA compliance office.

 

Because of the ongoing NCAA investigation neither the NCAA nor UCLA could comment on these latest allegations.

 

The NCAA is carefully combing through all of the information it has received and therefore a ruling could come as early as November.

 

Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect for local prep standouts to be running anytime soon to Westwood, especially when UCLA went out of region to hire Kory McCray AAU coach for its staff.

 

McCray, whose father founded he powerful AAU Atlanta Celtics, is qualified to be an NCAA assistant, but was primarily lured to UCLA by Howland to tap into the region from which he came. Parker is from Georgia.

 

Qualified local coaches have been passed over by UCLA for years.

 

This article is not written to accuse Howland or UCLA of anything. That responsibility rests in the hands of the NCAA.

 

It is a search for the truth. Sources are not always reliable, but these sources have no bias against Howland or UCLA. They were providing information on a high profile recruit at UCLA.

 

Only time will tell if they are accurate, and if they are, it spells trouble for the UCLA men’s basketball program.

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

September 06, 2012

 

By Kenneth Miller

 

[Editor’s note: Ken Miller is an award winning veteran journalist who spent 30 years writing for the L.A. Sentinel and has been a popular guest on local sports talk radio for several years. This is the first edition of his weekly sports column.]

 

Nobody asked me but something really fishy is going on with UCLA recruit Shabazz Muhammad who has yet to be cleared to play by the NCAA.

 

Muhammad was considered among the top two high school seniors of the class of 2012.

 

Rumors circulated early on that the dynamite 6’5 guard had received improper benefits during his high school career.

 

However, I am not buying it! Muhammad got nothing more than any other high school playing on a grassroots basketball circuit dominated by sleazy street agents and power brokering shoe companies.

 

Both his mom and dad are college graduates and way too smart to allow for some peddler to ruin a one and done collegiate career.

 

UCLA would possibly pay a high school super star! Would they…

 

Are you kidding me! Show me a high profile program that does not do a lil something extra for a player the caliber of Muhammad and I’ll show you a D-I program playing like a mid major.

 

They all cheat, within the rules of course.

 

You don’t think UCLA was just a tad desperate following last season’s disaster? Moving into renovated Pauley Pavilion that was half empty during most of “gentle” Ben Howland’s reign. A scathing article by Sports Illustrated citing the program as out of control last season might have been the tip of the iceberg.

 

Let’s hope he is cleared and for How­land’s sake lets hope they win it all…

 

It looks like Serena Williams will be celebrating yet another grand slam after steam rolling into the semi-finals at the US Open in New York.

 

Since that C-Walk that got every body including Black folk riled up she has been the best tennis player on the planet-man or woman!

 

I remember when she wasn’t even the best tennis player in her own family. Venus was first and then probably her dad Richard was second.

 

That was a long time ago. Few remember that Venus is still playing unless it’s doubles with her, and Richard has given birth to another child who I am sure will have absolutely nothing to do with tennis.

 

My sources tell me the girls have about two more years before they retire.

 

Finally, remember when Don King was recognized as the best boxing promoter in the world? Huh! You’re not old enough? Well, I was in Florida last week and had barbeque with him and while there he got a phone call from a certain undefeated fighter.

 

King didn’t take the call though, he was too busy conducting business with a Korean NGO queen and famed Nigerian Filmmaker Jeta Amata.

 

Appears the ‘Only in America Man’ is now an International entrepreneur fostering peace with Korea and promoting the political blockbuster ‘Black November’ that releases in December.

 

It’s football season and let’s see if Michael Vick can stay up right for one regular season game and the Eagles can win a Super Bowl for coach Andy Reid.

 

Meanwhile on the Raiders front, I never cared much for that freckled face Black GM especially after he fired Huey Jackson after just one season.

 

Here’s hoping the Raiders fall into the Black hole.

 

I like that Griffin III kid in DC, but I love Cam Newton better. Peace Out!

 

 

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

September 06, 2012

Associated Press

 

Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says USC will investigate a Los Angeles Times report claiming two Trojans athletes received gifts from an employee of the Los Angeles County assessor's office.

The Times reported on September 1 that former tailback Joe McKnight and former men’s basketball player Davon Jefferson apparently received a car, an airline ticket and cash from Scott Schenter.

The former appraiser is under investigation in an apparently unrelated scandal at the assessor's office. His interest in the two athletes wasn't immediately apparent.

Haden says USC investigated reports of McKnight using a Land Rover registered to Schenter in 2009. The school worked with the NCAA, which didn’t process a violation.

Haden says the school wasn't aware of additional gifts to the two athletes. USC already has discussed the report with the NCAA and Pac-12.

Haden replaced Mike Garrett in July 2010.

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

September 06, 2012

By MALCOLM RITTER

Associated Press

 

A study of former NFL players finds they were unusually prone to dying from degenerative brain disease, the latest indication that repeated blows to the head may cause serious trouble later on.

The death rate from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined was about three times what one would predict from the general population, researchers reported.

Prior research had suggested football players were unusually prone to those diseases, said lead researcher Everett Lehman of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, reported online Wednesday September 5 in the journal Neurology, looked at death certificates.

It drew on a long-running study of more than 3,400 NFL players with at least five playing seasons in the league between 1959 and 1988. Some 334 had died by the end of 2007, the cutoff for being included in the study. Researchers compared their death rates from various causes to that of a comparable group of American men.

One or another of the three brain diseases was listed as the underlying cause of death in 10 cases, which is about three times the general rate for American men, the researchers reported.

Researchers noted that the study can’t prove that the results were caused by football-related concussions, and that they may not apply to pro or amateur players who’ve played fewer than five years.

In recent years, much of the attention to brain problems in football players has focused on a condition known as CTE, which is traced to repeated head blows. The new study didn’t look for CTE. It’s not among the standard list of conditions the researchers used for classifying deaths, Lehman said.

But some of the brain disease deaths counted in the study may have actually come from misdiagnosed CTE, which stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the re­searchers noted.

Dr. Robert Cantu, who co-directs a center that studies CTE at Boston University but did not participate in the new study, said the results are “not at all surprising.” He agreed that some of the deaths could be misdiagnosed CTE, noting that the diagnosis requires a special chemical test of the brain after death.

Also on Wednesday, the NFL announced a donation of $30 million for medical research to the Foun­dation for the National Institutes of Health, the fundraising arm of the NIH.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the research could benefit athletes and potential areas of study may include CTE, concussion management and treatment and disorders from later in life such as Alzheimer’s.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 30, 2012

By GREG BEACHAM

Associated Press

 

Robert Woods’ goal for the upcoming season sounds fairly modest.

“Just trying to make more plays than I did last year,” he said.

Except that last season, the All-American receiver made more plays for top-ranked Southern California than anybody in school or conference history. Woods made 111 catches, breaking Keyshawn Johnson’s records in just 12 games — even without the benefit of a Pac-12 title game or a bowl game for the postseason-banned Trojans.

So just how can Woods top the most prolific season ever produced by a receiver at a school with decades of stellar offensive tradition? By improving the quality of his plays, not the quantity.

“If you check out some of the games, I had a big drop against Stanford,” Woods said. “That was a big play right there. Some missed opportunities in the Cal game, the Washington game. Those are the type of plays I need to make, and those are the plays I need to capitalize on.”

Woods clearly pays attention to details, even on plays that happened 10 months ago. Nothing has changed about his meticulous preparation and work ethic, which have pushed him above receivers with greater physical gifts at USC.

And though Woods has set a deceptively daunting goal for himself, he says he's close to fully healthy after rehabilitating an injured ankle throughout the offseason. USC limited Woods to one practice on many two-a-day sessions, attempting to keep him in the best shape possible for Saturday’s season opener against Hawaii at the Coliseum.

If Woods can stay healthy, the Trojans think there’s no limit to what he could accomplish as a junior.

“This is the best he has looked since last year or so,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s good to see him push a little more, make five or six plays in a row.”

With 176 receptions in two seasons, Woods already is the sixth-leading receiver in USC’s rich history, even without ever playing in a postseason game. He’s also just 40 catches shy of Dwayne Jarrett’s school-record 216 catches, which means Woods easily could be the leading pass-catcher in USC history by the midway point of his junior season.

But after two years of youthful overachievement, Woods seems confident in his status as an upperclassman and a team leader. He’s among the core of young talent that never considered leaving USC during its two-year postseason ban, and he’s poised for the high expectations that come with the preseason No. 1 ranking.

“It’s the same,” Woods said of the Trojans’ preparations for a season with much higher expectations.

“Last season, we didn’t have the ranking, but we still had a lot to prove, just to prove that we still are SC and on the top,” he added. “Now, we are on the top, but we still have to prove that we’re the top team every week. It’s a constant battle. Nothing really changes.”

That consistency is just one reason Woods and Marqise Lee are among the top receiving duos in the nation. The former high school teammates’ rivalry is strictly friendly, even after Kiffin said Lee had the potential to be the greatest receiver in USC history last season.

“We’re a very close group,” Lee said. “We’re always together for the most part, always going places together, even walking each other to class. There’s no bad feelings. We’re all working toward the same goal.”

Woods and Lee were the fourth tandem of 1,000-yard receivers in school history last year, while Matt Barkley set the conference record with 39 touchdown passes with an offense that scored at least 30 points in each of its final 10 games.

Woods is considered the technician of the receiving corps, while Lee is thought to be the most gifted athlete, as evidenced by his weekly production of jaw-dropping highlights in practice. Woods is a low-key, humble star in interviews — yet his Twitter handle is still (at)HeismanWoods.

Woods doesn’t shy away from those labels, seeing them as a compliment to his work — yet he also produces one-handed, diving fireworks on a regular basis. Woods’ work ethic reminds new Trojans receivers coach Tee Martin of Jerry Rice.

But Woods isn’t getting caught up in outside expectations. He’ll stick to his own goals and the Trojans’ week-to-week process of improvement, even while his fans await his next superlative achievement.

“We definitely don’t listen to any of the hype,” Woods said. “The hype is always going to be there. If you get in the game and you make a big play, that's when you get hyped. It’s always going to be around. You keep the hype around, but if you just make your plays, the hype will come with it. We’re not even really allowed to talk about it.”

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