August 01, 2013

By LARRY LAGE (AP Sports Writer)


DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons officially announced the next step in their win-now plan Wednesday, acquiring point guard Brandon Jennings from the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Brandon Knight and two other players.

''We believe Brandon's talent and skill-set will complement the core group of players we have assembled on our roster in a positive way,'' Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said in a statement released by the team.

The Pistons also gave up two seldom-used players, forward Khris Middleton and center Viacheslav Kravtsov.

Detroit has signed free-agents Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups and Luigi Datome this offseason after drafting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the No. 8 overall pick, but it didn't have a standout point guard until agreeing to a deal with Milwaukee. The Pistons seem to have improved their chances of ending their four-year postseason drought with a series of moves this summer.

The 23-year-old Jennings averaged 17.5 points and a career-high 6.5 assists last season, ranking among the league's top 20 in both categories, and 2.5 turnovers. The restricted free agent has agreed to a $24 million, three-year contract with the Pistons.

Milwaukee drafted Jennings 10th overall in 2009 out of Oak Hill Academy and he averaged 17 points, 5.7 assists and 2.4 turnovers over four seasons with the Bucks, who could've matched any offer made to the restricted free agent this offseason.

''We evaluated all of our options and we determined this was the best one for us at this time,'' Bucks general manager John Hammond said in a telephone interview.

Detroit drafted Knight eighth overall in 2011 out of Kentucky. He averaged 13.1 points, 3.9 assists and 2.7 turnovers over the last two seasons.

''We're excited about being able to add a young point guard, who we expect to have a long and successful career with us,'' Hammond said.

Middleton, a second-round pick last year, averaged 6.1 points in 27 games with the Pistons.

''This is going to be a great opportunity for Khris because he's going to have a chance to earn viable minutes and we hope he takes advantage of it,'' Hammond said.

The 6-foot-11 Kravtsov averaged 3.1 points in 25 games last season as a rookie, and might not end up being on the opening-day roster with the Bucks.

Milwaukee, coming off its first postseason in three years, signed free agent combo guard Gary Neal to a two-year deal worth just under $6 million on Tuesday. Neal will help add some scoring to a backcourt that will be without Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick next season.

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August 01, 2013

By Perry Green

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper


British Formula One racing driver Lewis Carl Hamilton is easily considered the most accomplished Black race car driver in the history of motor sports. Now 28 years old, he became the first Black driver to ever win the British Formula One championship at age 22, and is also the first Black driver to win a major race at the Indianapolis Motors Speedway in any discipline.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, this season has been a far cry from that early success, as he currently trails points leader and three-time defending Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel by 60 points after placing fifth in the German Grand Prix race on July 7.

Hamilton has yet to win a race this year; his last win came during the 2012 United States Formula One Grand Prix. He blames his struggles on his car after switching from McLaren to Mercedes at the start of the year.

“The car is a disaster on heavy fuel loads,” he said to the media following the German GP. “It’s always a shock when a race goes bad. You never expect it to go as bad as it does. You find you are digging yourself out of a hole right towards the end of a race when all of a sudden the car [stops] working. It’s very frustrating.”

Hamilton told reporters he still wants to win the 2013 Formula One championship, but it seems unrealistic given Vettel’s lead.

“I’m not really thinking about the championship now. There’s really no point—especially as he is nearly 60 points ahead,” he said. “We are going to need a little bit of elbow grease and we might be able to do it.”

Despite his struggles, Hamilton remains in a relaxed state of mind. According to The Daily Mail, he spent July 13 doing doughnuts for display at the Goodwin Festival of Speed as a crowd of thousands of race fans cheered him on. He then linked up with friends Jay-Z, Nas and Justin Timberlake as they performed at the Wireless Festival in London the following day.

He even posted a picture on Twitter on July 19 from his personal recording studio.

“My hideaway—pouring my heart into this track!!” Hamilton tweeted, while also sharing a message about love for his fans, hinting that he misses his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger, the former Pussycat Dolls lead singer, whom he recently broke up with.

“If you’ve found that special someone, don’t EVER let them go no matter what,” Hamilton tweeted. “Nothing in this world is more important!”

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July 25, 2013

Associated Press

Inside the smaller theater at Madison Square Garden about five years ago, shortly before a world title fight, Emile Griffith was introduced one more time to the crowd. He rose shakily from his seat, waved ever so briefly and then sat down.

The applause kept going.

Revered in retirement perhaps more than during his fighting days, Griffith died Tuesday at 75 after a long battle with pugilistic dementia. The first fighter to be crowned world champion from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Griffith required full-time care late in life and died at an extended care facility in Hempstead, N.Y.

"Emile was a gifted athlete and truly a great boxer," Hall of Fame director Ed Brophy said. "Outside the ring he was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter."

An elegant fighter with a quick jab, Griffith's brilliant career was overshadowed by the fatal beating he gave Benny "The Kid" Paret in a 1962 title bout. The outcome darkened the world of boxing, even prompting some network television stations to stop showing live fights.

It also cast him as a pariah to many inside and outside the sport.

He went on to have a successful career after that fatal fight, but Griffith acknowledged later in life that he was never the same boxer. He would fight merely to win, piling up the kind of decisions that are praised by purists but usually jeered by fans hoping for a knockout.

Griffith often attended fights in his later years, especially at the Garden, where he headlined 28 times. He was also a frequent visitor to the boxing clubs around New York City, and made the pilgrimage most years to the sport's Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.

"He always had time for boxing fans when visiting the hall on an annual basis," Brophy said, "and was one of the most popular boxers to return year after year."

That outpouring of love that he received late in life stood in stark contrast to the way he was received after March 24, 1962, when he fought Paret before a national TV audience at the Garden. Griffith knocked out his bitter rival in the 12th round to regain his own welterweight title, and Paret went into a coma and died from his injuries 10 days later.

Sports Illustrated reported in 2005 that Griffith may have been fueled by an anti-gay slur directed at him by Paret during the weigh-in. Over the years, in books and interviews, Griffith described himself at various times as straight, gay and bisexual.

"People spit at me in the street," Griffith told The Associated Press in 1993, recalling the days after Paret's death. "We stayed in a hotel. Every time there was a knock on the door, I would run into the next room. I was so scared."

The Paret fight left a cloud over the sport for many years. NBC halted its live boxing broadcasts, and then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller created a commission to investigate the bout and the sport. The referee that night, Ruby Goldstein, never worked another fight.

The fight became the basis for the 2005 documentary "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story." One of the final scenes shows Griffith embracing Paret's son.

"I was never the same fighter after that. After that fight, I did enough to win. I would use my jab all the time. I never wanted to hurt the other guy," Griffith said. "I would have quit, but I didn't know how to do anything else but fight."

And fight he could.

Known for his overwhelming speed and slick style — certainly not his punching power — Griffith was a prodigy from the moment he stepped in Hall of Fame trainer Gil Clancy's gym in Queens, N.Y. Griffith had been working in a hat factory when, as the story goes, he took off his shirt on a hot day and the factory owner noticed his muscles.

Under the watchful eye of Clancy, Griffith blossomed into a New York Golden Gloves champion and eventually turned professional. He easily defeated the likes of Florentino Fernandez and Luis Rodriguez during an era when it was common to fight every couple of weeks.

He quickly earned a title shot against Paret in 1961, winning the welterweight belt with a knockout in the 13th round. Griffith would lose it to Paret in a rematch five months later.

After winning back the title during their controversial third fight — many believe Paret never should have been allowed in the ring after a brutal loss to Gene Fullmer three months earlier — Griffith would eventually move up to middleweight. He knocked down Dick Tiger for the first time in his career and claimed the title with a narrow but unanimous decision.

Griffith would go on to lose twice during a thrilling trilogy with Nino Benvenuti, his lone victory coming at Shea Stadium in 1967, and lost two bouts against the great middleweight Carlos Monzon. Griffith would finally retire in 1977 after losing his last three fights.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 with a record of 85-24-2 and 23 knockouts.

Griffith would go on to train several champions over the years, including Wilfred Benitez and Juan Laporte, among the most popular boxers in Puerto Rican history.

His humor and generosity buoyed those close to him as his health deteriorated in later years. He would regale fans young and old with tales of his fights, even though details often became hazy, the result of the many blows during his career.

Griffith had four sisters — Eleanor, Gloria, Karen and Joyce — and three brothers — Franklin, Guillermo and Tony. He is also survived by his adopted son, Luis Griffith.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

"Emile was courageous in and out of the ring, a true champion and a legendary figure that fought an amazing 28 times at Madison Square Garden," said Joel Fisher, executive vice president of MSG Sports. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

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July 25, 2013

By Taki S. Raton

Special to the NNPA from the Milwaukee Courier


“Could we be seeing the second coming of Tiger Woods?” asked Hannington Dia in her April 23, 2013 NEWSONE for Black America posting.

She is young, gifted, and Black.  Ginger Howard of Bradenton, Florida has become the youngest Black female golfer to turn professional at the age of 18.  Prior, at the blooming age of 16, she was the first ever African American golfer to compete in the Junior Ryder Cup held at Gleneagles Scotland September 27-28, 2011.  Ginger has to date won 78 trophies and has ranked first in 41 out of 66 tournament events.  The Junior Ryder Cup is a bi-yearly contest between Europe and America.

The teams consist of boys and girls under the age of 18.  Designed as an international showcase of golf’s next generation, the event is designed to cultivate international friendships between top junior golfers in the United States and Europe according to a Ryder Cup web page.

Noting an “Outstanding Leaders in Golf Awards” site posted by the African American Golfer’s Digest, Ginger in 2011 scored a stellar record of two wins and one loss over the two day Ryder Cup challenge.  Teaming with Doris Chen, also from Bradenton, the duo managed to defeat the European French twosome of Manon Gidali and Maon Molle.

In addition to her selection to compete in the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup, her junior golf circuit during this time also included the 2010 Leadbetter All-American First-Team, the 2010 FCWT First-Team All-American, the 2010 AJGA All-American Second-Team and the 2010 Cannon Cup East Team.

The Symetra Tour golfer became the youngest African American in the world to turn professional, and in her rookie 2012 year, noting a Ginger Howard web site, she would amass a start-up career earnings of $21,170.00.

Promoted as the world’s largest international women’s development tour, the Symetra Tour, per a web descriptor, is committed to developing the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) “stars of tomorrow while creating viable role models for the youth today.”  The top 10 money winners in each tour season earn automatic membership on the LPGA tour.

Presently, writes Dia, the 5 foot, nearly 6 inch tall Ginger can drive the ball an average of 240 to 260 yards and has tallied notable competitive years on the National Junior Golf Circuit.

The oldest of four children to Robert and Gianna Howard, Ginger often shares the spotlight with her younger sister, Robbie, who is a year and a half younger.  Both girls are home schooled and perform exceptionally well in their studies says Dia.

“My sister and I started about the same time.  She was four and I was six,” reveals Ginger in a “Family Affair” titled writing on the Symetra Tour website.  “My dad would take us to the range all the time when he was watching us.  My mom worked night shifts as a nurse and had to sleep during the day.  We got bored of watching him play and that’s pretty much how we started,” she adds.

Golf has always been a family affair for Ginger from the time she picked up her first club under her father’s watchful eye to her first career Symetra Tour event.

The “Family Affair” feature writing says that “she names her sister as her biggest competitor, her mom as one of their most supportive fans” and her little brothers who could be the best athletes of them all.

“Growing up, from my first tournament up until now, he (my dad), would caddy for me.  But he always plays the role of a father, always giving me good feedback about my game, and he was my first coach.  He’s my manager as well because he is connected to everything I do,” she is quoted in the article.

She adds that they do a lot of traveling since she has turned professional with “just me and him going in the car.  My career has sort of been a father-daughter type of thing and really a family sport for us.”

As quoted in an April 19, 2013 Symetra Tour posting, the young golfer says that, “I learned a great deal about how to make ends meet while traveling with my dad during my rookie season.

I realized the importance of a budget and not living above my means, but most importantly, I learned to be patient and forgiving of myself while trying to accomplish my goals.”

Sister Robbi is very supportive and has been her cheerleader through every step of her career from competing on the course, having her as a caddie or on the sidelines cheering her onward to victory.  There are times, though, when homegrown dueling comes into play.

“Sometimes, we might trash talk, but that’s only if we’re in serious competition,” admits Ginger. “We don’t do bets or anything but we’re always competing against each other.  She’s the closest to who I am in my family and she knows my game sometimes better than I do.

I would say she’s my best competitor.”

Robbi, an accomplished amateur player, may be closest behind her sister’s footsteps with a view of also turning professional.

The two, according to the “Family Affair” writing, are “always swapping advice and encouraging each other on the course.”

The April posting further echoes her close connection to her tight knit family when living life on the Road to the LPGA.” She says, “The support of my family is crucially important to me because I know without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

My family is very encouraging to me and they give me the extra boost of confidence I need at times.  Also my parents have instilled in me that they are always proud of me and love me. When you have a strong support system, it is easier to persevere.”

The April writing further reveals that yet another guiding force in Ginger’s young career is her “unrelenting devotion to God” which allows her to keep everything in perspective either on or off the golf course.

“My faith has always been a huge part of my game,” says the now 18- year-old.  “It helps me to stay relaxed and mentally strong whether I’m on the course or at home.”

Being a role model to others has also been a goal.  She says that, “I try to live my life according to God’s word and also with the advice and guidance from my parents who raised me with strong morals.”

She adds that she sees herself as a mentor to her younger sister noting, “At times, I’ve suggested things about her game which is helpful for her.”

The 2013 citing reveals that with one full season already to her credit, to include a career-best tied for second, Ginger’s goal for her sophomore season on the Symetra Tour is focused on one goal – to earn her LPGA Tour card for 2014.

“I have set many goals for this season as it relates to my faith,” says Ginger.

“I believe that if I put in the work that is needed, along with keeping God my number one, I will obtain my LPGA card for 2014 by the end of this year.”

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July 25, 2013

By Bert Wilkinson

Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News


The exploits of sprinters Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the London 2012 Summer Olympics helped to ensure that the yellow, green and black flag of the small Caribbean island of a mere 2.8 million flew high and proud, as the Jamaican team ran away with most of the key sprint prizes, including the coveted 4×100 sprint relay.

The Jamaicans had signaled their intention to the world that they would soon control all the important sprint events at international meetings in Beijing four years earlier, but in the past week, a series of doping scandals involving some of its top athletes have cast a long dark shadow over the national development program, which has produced superstars the likes of Bolt and Fraser-Pryce.

Top sprinters Asafa Powell who did not medal in London and Sherone Simpson who picked up a silver medal were both recently busted for allegedly using banned substances following tests of samples supplied to the world athletic body recently. Jamaican first won an Olympic medal way back in 1948.

Both have explained that they were given the ‘medicine’ by trainers and assistants even though they were well aware that the World Anti-Doping Agency has been keeping a special eye out for Jamaican runners given the fact their phenomenal performances across the globe have dwarfed that of traditional rivals, the U.S. to an embarrassing extent.

The incidents, coming on the backs of previous doping scandals involving Blake, Fraser-Pryce and other Jamaicans have not only embarrassed the island’s national program and the cabinet but will also now force critics and Jamaican bashers to question the integrity of some of the super performances team members have displayed at recent world events.

Police in Italy, where Powell has been training and preparing for the 2013 international season, said they raided both his hotel room and that of his Canadian trainer, Chris Xuereb, and carted away suspicious containers of medicines and supplements.

In the meantime, American sprinter Tyson Gay, the second fastest man in the history of short sprinting, was also ousted after testing positive for banned substances and, like the others, faces an extended ban that could effectively end his career and future Olympic chances.

As an indication of the pain, hurt and embarrassment Powell’s positive test has caused, his parents say that no one else on the planet is more flummoxed than they are because they have repeatedly told him to be vigilant and not to eat or drink anything that could harm his career. Both Gay and Powell have withdrawn from meets for the remainder of the season even before they are officially banned.

“Safa is not a fool,” the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper quoted his mother as saying this week. “He tries not to hurt us. I always say to him not to even trust yourself. Don’t take anything from anybody, don’t eat from anyone.

“Somebody must be responsible for giving him that. The person who gave it him must know that it is a banned substance,” a distraught Cislyn Powell said.


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