November 28, 2013

Associated Press

 

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) —Top-ranked Serena Williams will defend her title at next month's Brisbane International among a powerful women’s field in preparation for the Australian Open.

Williams’ opponents at the Dec. 29 to Jan. 5 Brisbane tournament will include six of the world’s top-10 players. The field announced Thursday includes No. 2 Victoria Azarenka — the 2009 champion — Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki.

The men’s field is headlined by 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, whose rivals include top-20 players Kei Nishikori of Japan, Gilles Simon of France and Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

Tournament director Cameron Pearson said “to have Roger Federer and Serena Williams headline the event is a remarkable result and testament to the high regard the players have for the tournament.”

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November 28, 2013

LAWT Wire Services

 

Sharon Sands love of boxing began when she was just a little girl. She would sit in awe in front of the television watching boxing matches with her father. This little girl’s love of boxing would lead to an even greater love for the sport as she grew up. She would eventually travel across the nation attending as many boxing matches in person as she could. When she couldn’t be there in person, she would make sure to watch the match on the television. You could even say boxing was her first love. This love of boxing would one day lead her inside the ring – calling the shots.

One of six kids, Sharon grew up in a very athletic home – every morning before breakfast, their father would play a song called Chicken Fat and they all knew it was time to exercise and sing along. Her father learned all about exercise and structure in the military and it came in handy when managing six young children. Sharon continued her athleticism playing basketball, running track, serving as a lifeguard, and even set a national record as a hurdler when she was in high school. As an adult, she would grow up to be an attorney and own a boxing gym.

But the love of boxing and being in the ring was always on her mind. When she was initially approached to become an amateur referee back in the 1990’s, she declined. After much thought, she decided to go for it and seize the opportunity. Being a new referee in the boxing world can be intimidating and challenging. Just like the hurdles she jumped over setting a national record in high school, she would do the same exact thing as a referee in amateur and professional boxing. 

Sharon would spend 14 years an amateur boxing referee on the West Coast and the East Coast before officially becoming a California professional boxing referee last month. For the last 20 years in California, it has been male referees calling the shots inside the professional boxing ring.

Sands is the first female referee in California in more than two decades to officiate a professional boxing match. A recent bout in Southern California was the first evaluation of Ms. Sands as she earns a permanent professional license. So, during a boxing match, she is the one responsible for enforcing the rules inside the ring. The last woman to do this in California was Gwen Adair back in the 1990’s.

If you think becoming a professional boxing referee is easy, think again. They are licensed and regulated by the California State Athletic Commission and must meet some of the strictest requirements and guidelines in the nation.

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November 21, 2013

By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk

 

The world got a chance to see the top two NBA prospects early last week when freshmen Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Duke’s Jabari Parker headlined a Duke-Kansas matchup, a game that Kansas ended up winning.

With the top two likely choices in next spring’s NBA draft squaring off in a head-to-head tilt, scouts and college basketball fans got a first look at what should be a deep and prosperous draft. Parker dropped 27 points and nine rebounds for Duke while Wiggins countered with 22 points and eight rebounds, giving his Kansas team the edge in a 93-84 showcase. While both were impressive and lived up to the preseason hype, only one will go first in the draft. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate which of these young stars will hear his name called first.

Riley: The things Parker brings to the table are a collection of skills that basketball browsers haven’t seen since the days of Carmelo Anthony. A lethal scorer who can attack from several angles, Parker was outstanding in his duel with Wiggins. We saw a complete A-game, from deep, from intermediate and when attacking the rim. There was literally nothing that Duke’s Parker couldn’t or didn’t do in front of thousands at Chicago’s United Center. Wiggins is athletic, no doubt, but he doesn’t have the floor game that Parker has, and he never will. Parker is much more advanced offensively than Wiggins will ever be. You can’t teach scoring, which Parker has, and you can’t coach the intangibles that he brings.

Green: The NBA is all about the floor game—getting out on the break, cutting and hustling—and no one does it better on the collegiate level than Wiggins. Sure, Parker’s offensive repertoire is impressive, but he doesn’t have Wiggins’ legs. It’s the same debate we had when LeBron James and Anthony were coming out. James was clearly the physical phenom, but Anthony was perhaps the best scorer to come out in quite some time. NBA teams care about speed, athleticism and hustle, and no 2014 draftee brings all those qualities to the table except Kansas’ Wiggins.

Riley: Everyone has different styles, and opinions swing left and right in our industry, but athleticism can only take you so far in the NBA. Parker’s game is tailor-made to win now. He might not be as springy as Wiggins but he’s got some hop in his step. His one-handed alley-oop throw down against Kansas was evidence enough, but the acrobatic circus shot he made against three defenders even got Dick Vitale out of his seat. When you add in the rebounding, range and leadership, if I have the top pick in the 2014 draft, I’m running my card up to the podium and taking Parker as quickly as I can.

Green: You probably couldn’t go wrong with either pick, but the upside is definitely there when you see Wiggins play. Parker seems more like a finished product to me, but you can dissect Wiggins’ game and realize he has a lot more to offer as he grows and gets more diverse. He has the NBA game, no question. Can he shoot it like Parker at this stage? No. But I see the makings of a lockdown defender and furious floor-runner. Those two traits will serve him well as he gets his offense together. Once he does that, look out. Again, look at the Carmelo/LeBron debate from 10 years ago. LeBron couldn’t score like Melo initially, but look who turned out to be the greater player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see déjà vu all over again.

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November 28, 2013

By Kenneth D. Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Lakers fans need not worry about what’s going to happen during the summer robust free agent class that will include LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony because the team extended Kobe Bryant’s contract for two years at $48.5 million on November 25.

Talk radio pundits and basketball analysts concur the Lakers ownership led by Jim Buss, over paid Bryant and thus crippled the Lakers’ chances of seriously competing for another NBA title in two years.

Die hard Laker fans will scoff at that, saying the team was smart in securing the face of the franchise and allowing him to retire as arguably the greatest Laker of all time with at least five rings and the all-time leading scorer mark.

Bryant will remain the highest paid player in the league pending what James and Anthony get in the open market, but may have taken cash over the possibility of championships.

All of this would really be great if the Lakers and their fans knew what they were getting, but the Kobe Bryant who returns as soon as Sunday, after rupturing his Achilles in April against the Golden State Warriors will not be the guy who tore the NBA up for the great part of 17 seasons.

Bryant returned to practice with the team two weeks ago and is on schedule to play any day now. His jump shot has looked crisp and spot on in practice and there reportedly have been no lingering signs from the Achilles tear.

However, even as a shadow of himself he will be much better than any of the top players expected to be drafted in the next two years. The larger question will be for how long will he stay healthy?

Bryant has already cashed a $24 million check on a $30 million contract this season, the final year of a six-year max deal.

Many were expecting the Lakers to wait until after the season to cut a deal with Bryant and gauge the temperature of James and Anthony to two top tier free agents, but loyalty to Bryant and Laker fans won out.

If the season ended right now the surprising Lakers at 7-7 would not make the playoffs. The forecast is the Lakers will win fewer than 40 games with or without Bryant and not make the post season.

Of course, the Lakers could just tank the season and pray they hit the lottery and draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker the two best players in collegiate basketball.

Providing they miss on either one of them the chances of getting a really good player in the first round of the draft is solid.

The question here is the Lakers plan after Kobe Bryant. There doesn’t seem to be one. Their over 300 game sell out streak snapped, the emerging Clippers now evolving into the top tenant of Staples Center and their growing popularity among local basketball fans.

If nothing else, the Lakers brass has stabilized their ship and their brand, which is all Kobe Bryant. Now they are banking that anything short of another NBA title will still be just as profitable.

 

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November 21, 2013

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The family and attorney of the alleged victim in a sexual assault investigation involving Florida State quarterback James Winston on Wednesday sharply criticized Tallahassee police in their first public comments about the case.

The lengthy family statement said their attorney, Patricia Carroll, was warned by police that Tallahassee was a "big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable."

The statement which was first provided to the Tampa Bay Times, also said the woman "cannot fathom" why local prosecutors were not told about the investigation involving Winston until last week. Winston's attorney has repeatedly maintained his client has done nothing wrong.

Several city officials — including the interim police chief — held a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday evening but they refused to respond to the specific allegations made against city police.

Tom Coe, the interim police chief, contended that the case was put on hold last February when the accuser "broke off contact" and Carroll "indicated" that the woman "did not want to move forward at that time."

Coe, without addressing any specifics, said statements are being made about the case and "some are not factual."

"We fully understand there is immense interest in this nationwide case," Coe said. "...My role as police chief is to protect the rights of everyone involved, the integrity of this investigation and to make sure it's conducted fairly and impartially and we try to get the truth in this case."

Winston was a top freshman recruit and backup quarterback at the time of the alleged December 2012 assault, but is now a Heisman Trophy candidate and the Seminoles are the second-ranked football team in the country.

The family said in their statement that the woman did not initially know the identity of who assaulted her and did not identify the alleged attacker as Winston until January.

Carroll, in an interview with The Associated Press, disputed the assertion by City Manager Anita Favors Thompson and Coe that the investigation into the alleged assault was put on hold because the woman no longer wanted to prosecute.

Favors Thompson, saying that she anticipated national media interest because of Winston's celebrity, emailed that information to the Tallahassee mayor and city commissioners on Nov. 12. Her email stated police "stopped getting responses from the young woman and could no longer contact her for additional follow up and information after many attempts to do so.

The city manager said an attorney representing the alleged victim's family said she "changed her mind and did not wish to prosecute."

Carroll, however, said that the woman never told police she did not want to press charges.

Carroll said that the accuser — who is from the Tampa Bay area — was going ahead with her life and attending classes at FSU when it became apparent that the police had no plans to seriously investigate the case. She left school last week when she learned that the case was about to become public.

"I had no faith whatsoever in the Tallahassee police department," said Carroll.

The statement from the family said that Carroll asked Tallahassee police detective Scott Angulo about obtaining a DNA sample from Winston. But Angulo refused to get the sample and refused to interview people— including Winston's roommate — who may have witnessed the attack. The family said the detective told Carroll that "such activity would alert Winston and the matter would go public."

When officials were asked about the allegations, TPD spokesman David Northway said they couldn't comment because it is an ongoing investigation.

The family statement also disputed that the woman was "intoxicated" at the time of the incident, saying that blood work showed otherwise.

Carroll said the woman and the family are cooperating with prosecutors "as they proceed with whatever actions they are taking in this matter."

Tallahassee police handed over information to prosecutors about the 11-month old case after two media organizations began requesting records associated with the incident. State Attorney Willie Meggs has said his office may make a decision regarding the case within the next few weeks.

Timothy Jansen, Winston's attorney, has said his client has done nothing wrong and maintains he will be exonerated. Jansen has said that he was told in February by police that the case was closed.

Coe emphatically said "the case was never closed," saying it was classified as "inactive" but still open. Coe said that after the media requests police consulted with Meggs and that the case was then "reactivated."

The family, in its statement, said the woman was "devastated" when they heard that Jansen was told about the case last February. They said that allowed Winston to create his defense and prepare witnesses.

Jansen said Wednesday he would not respond to any "specific aspects" of the investigation mentioned in the family statement.

"We are waiting, like everyone else, for the decision from the state attorney's office," Jansen said.

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