August 30, 2012
By GREG BEACHAM
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.”
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.]
Anyone who thought for just one moment that my perspective on life is boxed into sports just think again.
While I certainly want to offer a different perspective on the sports world, it is secondary at least for the next few months when Americans will decide the fate of its first African American president, Barack Obama.
Both the Democrats and Republicans are sort of behaving like the crips and bloods, but they are not killing each other they just seem to be killing us slowly.
Each will stage their national conventions over the next two weeks, with the Reeps wrapping up this week in Tampa and the Dems next week in Charlotte.
I can’t help but notice that both parties play this political game of football much better than me, but I am always in tune to what side celebrities or athletes play their political hand.
I know that Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler receiver Lynn Swann; a former Trojan is also a Reep, as well as former SC athletic Director Mike Garrett.
Have you ever checked out Real Sports on HBO and saw this dude Bernard Goldberg? I once admired his style of reporters until he showed up on FOX bashing the president.
I do know that many NBA players are down with the Prez, such as LeBron James, and Oprah told us a long time ago Obama is ‘Brilliant.’
Boxing promoter Don King used to wear a George Bush button on his sequined jacket, but now says that he is a Republicrat, whatever the who that is.
Is it just me or does the Republican Party reflect a group of elitist whites, rarely a brother or sister in sight?
If Mitt Romney was a surgeon I sure would not want him operating on me. The dude goes back and forth more than a windshield wiper and just has a sneaky look about him as if he’s hiding something. Maybe his taxes? I’m just sayin’.
The kid running mate Paul Ryan has a rather sinister look about him that spells doom for us if that cat is second in command.
Personally, I have debated what the hell I am, until I look at the Republican Party. There is no one in that party that quite resembles me or my ideas.
Bottom line my friends if you think this election is about the economy or political parties you are dead wrong.
It’s about the class of races, white against Black. Them white folk want President Obama out by any means necessary, and as much as they can ‘trust what Mitt will do,’ he does have a complexion they can relate to. DON’T LET IT HAPPEN!
By JEFF LATZKE
Supporters of an Oklahoma State basketball player convicted of sexually assaulting two women at a party say he’s a victim of misidentification in a case with no physical evidence.
One of the women says she’s infuriated by the people who are “blindly” supporting Darrell Williams “without knowing the facts of what happened that night.”
Now a judge is considering whether to give him a new trial. Judge Phillip Corley delayed Williams’ sentencing on Friday August 24 so he can consider a defense motion claiming that new evidence had been found. The defense motion says the new evidence could have impeached a witness and changed the outcome of the trial.
A jury found Williams guilty last month of sexual battery and two counts of rape by instrumentation, all felonies, and recommended one-year prison sentences for each of the rape counts. Williams was also acquitted of two additional counts of rape by instrumentation.
The judge’s decision last Friday was a glimmer of hope celebrated by his family and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who came to Stillwater to speak on Williams’ behalf and draw attention to a case he believes to be flawed.
“If there is another trial, it will be more transparent — more people watching it in the courtroom and from around the nation,” Jackson said outside the courthouse.
Williams’ attorneys have cast doubt on the case from the outset, arguing that there was no physical evidence, such as a rape kit or DNA, and neither of the accusers suffered any injuries or had their clothes damaged.
It’s not clear what new evidence defense attorneys have. Williams’ attorneys, Cheryl Ramsey and Willie Baker, declined comment, and Jackson said the judge was keeping it under seal. Prosecutor Jill Tontz and Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford have both said they will not comment until after the sentencing.
Corley set a Sept. 14 hearing on the defense motion. In the meantime, Williams will remain in the Payne County Jail.
Williams enrolled at Oklahoma State in Stillwater — a town tucked away on the high prairie — after his brother was shot to death on Chicago’s South Side in 2009. His family hoped the move would keep him out of danger. Armed with big dreams and a knack for the game, Williams made the most of his time at OSU, leading the team in rebounding and averaging more than 7 points a game in 2010.
That all changed at an off-campus party after a home game in December 2010.
As Williams has been in jail awaiting sentencing, several websites and Facebook pages have popped up in support of him, along with an online petition urging the judge to suspend his sentence.
One of Williams’ accusers blasted some of his supporters who believe race played a role in his conviction or that she and the other victim had something to gain by coming forward. Williams is black, while his accusers and 11 of the 12 jurors are white.
“That’s ignorance for people to say this is a race thing,” she said in an interview earlier this week. “It’s not about race; it’s about rape. He raped two girls.”
The AP typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Williams’ lawyers claim their client passed two lie-detector tests conducted by a State Bureau of Investigation examiner that were not admitted into evidence. They also contend the identification process — which involved the women picking Williams out of an Oklahoma State team photograph at the police station — was improper.
Jackson and members of Williams’ family, including his mother, were allowed to visit with him in jail after the hearing.
“I was glad to see my son. He had that big smile like he always did,” Williams’ mother, Alice Williams, said. “It was a good day.”
Jackson said Williams enrolled in classes at Oklahoma State last Friday. School spokesman Gary Shutt confirmed that Williams was signing up for classes and said he would have to work with a faculty member to arrange how he would do his coursework while he’s incarcerated.
A pre-sentencing report filed in court showed that Williams had a 2.7 grade-point average after the spring semester and had completed 88 credit hours. Jackson said Williams intends to graduate in December.
BY KENNETH MILLER
LA Watts Times Correspondent
Although the city of Los Angeles has been without a National Football League team since the Raiders followed the Rams right out of town in 1995, L.A. born players will be most prominent and dominant this season in both the NFL and collegiate ranks.
More players born in Los Angeles will wear NFL uniforms than any other city, with an estimated 114 on rosters opening day. On the college circuit the top team in the nation is bowl eligible USC.
While you are channel surfing throughout this football season, you are likely to see some of these local African American players shine in the colors of their team.
If the Raiders never turn their fortunes around he will not be the single reason, but when the late Al Davis allowed for this pure cover corner to leave via free agency you knew the old man had lost it.
Although he was born in Louisiana, he is Nigerian. He attended Bishop Montgomery, Leuzinger and Narbonne before signing with Cal Berkeley.
His 15 career picks is not close to describing how valuable a player he is which is why the Eagles paid $60 mil to get him. If he does his thing Philly can live up to expectations.
If you want to know why Oregon didn’t even flinch when their most productive offensive players from 2011 bolted to the pros, you need to look no further than the return of this senior power runner who hails from Lynwood. He rushed for 123 carries on just 15 carries against USC last season while averaging 8 yards per carry.
Here is why Oregon will scare the scarlet and gold out of USC.
Born in Pasadena. His dad, Richard Bell, was a wing back at Nebraska and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1990 NFL draft, where he played for one season as a running back. He is also related to former Major League Baseball star Darryl Strawberry who won four World Series titles with the New York Mets and New York Yankees and was an eight-time All-Star during his 17-year career. Young Jared is a defensive back for the Buffs and planning to make his own headlines this season.
JOSELIO HANSON/ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Bet you probably didn’t know the success of the ‘Dream Team’ would probably be riding on the trusted shoulders of an unheralded corner back from Inglewood who prepped at St Bernard.
Hanson didn’t even make the team in high school as a junior, but helped the Vikings excel as a senior. Despite not being recruited by the big boys, he went to El Camino College, was an undrafted rookie to make an impression with the 49ers before being cut and now has a two-year deal with the Eagles. Hard work pays off.
Donald Penn played at Utah St. and Jose Hanson played at Texas Tech and El Camino Community College.
Matt Barkley could have been the second pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but decided to remain a Trojan probably because there are not better receivers in the NFL than he has on his team.
One of them is this elite high flyer that caught 73 passes for 1143 yards and 11 touchdowns, as a FRESHMAN! He also ran for another 285 on returns and another score.
This super sensational sophomore from Serra High School in Gardena already has NFL scouts drooling and agents lining up at his doorstep. A three-sport star at Serra where he was exceptional in football, basketball and world class in track is off the charts and reason for the Trojan horse to get in shape for this campaign.
DESEAN JACKSON/ EAGLES
DJ has always been a bonafide star from the moment he took flight playing for local powerhouse Long Beach Poly where he led the Jackrabbits to the CIF Southern Section title as a senior in 2004. He was an MVP in the Army Under Armour All American game the same year he got away to Cal, a mistake USC and UCLA never quite recovered from.
Even after starring at Cal and giving SC and the Bruins nightmares he lasted until the second round where he was nabbed by the Eagles and has been their go to wide out ever since.
He took last season off from the field, dismayed that he wasn’t rewarded with a sizeable contract that he subsequently got this year.
Born and raised in Los Angeles he has caught passes for more than 4,000 yards and scored 21 touchdowns during a brief three-year career. The sky is the limit for him and he knows it and with the cash in the bag, he has no more excuses to point at. A two-time Pro Bowler already he could be aimed towards Canton when its all said and done.
DONALD PENN/TAMPA BAY BUCS
Here is another St. Bernard Viking that went undrafted, but is currently starting offensive line in the NFL. Further proof that if you are good enough the NFL will find you. He went to Utah State before the Minnesota Vikings signed him, made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and is now the primary protector of quarterback Josh Freeman.
STEVE SMITH/ PANTHERS
Only one of 35 NFL players to achieve more than 10, 000 receiving yards with 59 touchdowns and six TD returns on kickoffs for the only team he has ever played for during an illustrious 11 year NFL career. A Los Angeles native who attended University High before going to Santa Monica College and earning a scholarship to the University of Utah, he is everything that DeSean Jackson wants to be. Durable and a fiery competitor who is a five time Pro Bowl selection. Undoubtedly the most accomplished football player on this list. Cam Newton threw to him 29 times for 1,394 yards and six touchdowns in ’11 and there is no reason not to expect more from the duo this season.
DEANTHONY THOMAS/ OREGON
When Snoop Dogg gives you a nickname then you must be really something! The Black Mamba electrified crowds while at Crenshaw where he played three positions, running back defensive back and wide receiver in addition to returning kicks. Not to mention that he ran a blistering 20-second 200 meters for the Cougars track team. He could have been the reason the USC football program never recovered from probation if not for Lee and Woods, but Oregon is sure as heck happy he decided to come there.
As a true freshman for Oregon he amassed a staggering 2,235 all-purpose yards, while his season haul of 18 touchdowns reset the school record for number of touchdowns by a true freshman.
He turned in a stellar two touchdown, 314 all-purpose yard performances in the Rose Bowl that helped propel Oregon to a 45-38 victory over Wisconsin. In that game, his 91-yard touchdown run broke the previous Rose Bowl record for the longest run from scrimmage. His only other carry in that game resulted in a 64-yard score, giving him a 77.5-yard average for the mention. The Heisman trophy is next!
DELANIE WALKER /SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
Another Los Angeles native flying under the radar in the Bay. A sixth round draft pick by the Niners in 2006, he played high school ball at Pomona High, went to Mr. San Antonio College and then Central Missouri. A tightend with a wide receivers speed, which makes for him a difficult cover in the West Coast offense. A name to be reckoned with on the upstart 49ers.
ROBERT WOODS/ USC
The other tandem in that dynamic duo at USC that just would not allow for Barkley to leave for the riches of the NFL. Born in Gardena where he also attended Serra High School where he starred in football and played basketball. A year ahead of Lee and will probably leave with his quarterback to the NFL following what should be a banner season. Has 176 catches for more than 2,000 yards receiving in career at SC.
This rugged albeit versatile linebacker who played on the same high school team with DeAnthony Thompson is a NFL prototype who runs well from sideline to side line and is a big play threat. He played on the offensive backfield and on defense for Robert Garrett at Crenshaw and had 12 solo tackles against Oregon in 2011. Undoubtedly a major defensive anchor for the No. 1 ranked Trojans whose future is well beyond the collegiate ranks. Born and raised in Inglewood, he is just additional proof that with or without an NFL team, we got pros playing here!
August 23, 2012
LA Watts Times Columnist
My main man, boxing promoter Don King celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday August 20 and this week I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the friendship that I had with the ‘Only in America’ man.
While his famed spiked hair is losing its pointing crowns, and his gait has been slowed tremendously by aging legs that have to carrying a belly of pork barbeque and soul food, his mind is as sharp as ever.
I first met DK in 1992 and while sitting in his Wilshire Blvd. condominium the first video of the Rodney King beating was revealed.
Personally, I didn’t think it was such a big deal at the time because I had witnessed brothers getting clubbed by the po-po many times, but the wisdom of King saw that this was a watershed moment in African American history.
King stopped what he was doing and then contemplated what he should personally do.
“Man, I think I need to reach out to the brother and offer some help,” he thought.
“But if I did they would ridicule the f--- outta me and say that I am doing it for selfish promotional reasons.”
So, like many of us who were rendered powerless by the now infamous video, King did nothing, but hope and pray that justice would be served.
Eventually it was served, but Rodney King’s brush with the law ill afforded him with money and fame. He died broke earlier this year with his infamy intact.
During the same day King was being accused by then LSU basketball coach Dale Brown of tampering and trying to recruit a young man-child basketball star named Shaquille O’Neal.
Brown was threatening DK with lawsuits and his reputation would be scorned.
He pleaded with anyone in the room to put a stop to this. Just happened that I met Dale Brown through the recruitment of Crenshaw star John Williams and I was able to get the matter squashed.
Brown had promised me a scholarship to LSU if JW had went there, but he never fulfilled the promise. Like most college basketball coaches: worthless as a used car salesman.
In subsequent years I took my first trip out of the U.S. courtesy of DK when he brought me to Mexico to witness the epic Julio Ceasar Chavez in Azteca Stadium in front of 132,000.
There would be other moments like when I brought him Tony Tucker after he had been out of the ring and addicted to drugs for more than two years and DK gave him three shots at the heavyweight world title of which he won zero.
Then there were the Tyson times when the dough was really rolling, and even during the most difficult time of my life DK stood up for me.
I remember a time when he was almost brought down to tears when the press ridiculed him so bad.
“I have a family and I have kids and grandchildren! Don’t they give a damn?”
Most people reflect on many of the negative aspects of DK’s professional and public persona, but get closer and there is a soft and cuddly side to him.
Now, I am not going to tell you that he doesn’t love money.
But, he lost close to a million in profits when a local street agent ran off with a deal he made for former Clippers bum Benoit Benjamin.
He could have represented both Venus and Serena Williams, but turned it down and instead quietly supported the family without reservation.
DK bought the tennis-playing girls their first soul food meal from Maes on Crenshaw Blvd back in the day.
The first clothes they wore in a public tennis match were oversized DK T-shirts and black tennis skirts he bought.
Now, the headquarters at DKP is quiet on most days. The only buzz in the office is his.
His stable of fighters has diminished to a fraction of a few.
The bold face 72 pt. font headlines, a distant memory.
A year ago, he lost his best friend when his wife Henrietta passed.
She was the only person who could ever check him, and she might be the only person that he fully ever respected.
He took a jab at Mayweather to get back on top of the boxing game, but haters be damned he came up short.
Far from finished, but also far from his humble beginnings and mega paydays of years gone by.
I spoke with DK on his birthday and sang a song to him. We laughed and joked about the good ol days and remembered some sad ones.
His beak just as sharp as yester-year.
He was on his way to Ohio to visit the gravesite of his wife.
“I’m going to have a talk with Henri,” he said.
Just like it used to be, but this time his best friend can only listen…
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