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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July 25, 2013

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Kevin Durant shied away from swarming media after this week’s Team USA practice in UNLV's Mendenhall Center.

There is one thing he won't be able to escape.

"Kevin Durant is the face of USA basketball going forward," said Jerry Colangelo, managing director for the national team. "He loves to compete, he has a passion for the game, he's won a lot of gold medals, he's just going to win more - we hope."

Oklahoma City forward Durant and Minnesota Timberwolves center Kevin Love announced Wednesday they've committed to Team USA for next summer's 2014 World Cup in Spain. Durant said he made the commitment to Krzyzewski late Tuesday night, while Love officially made his announcement during the news conference.

"It's an opportunity to represent my country ... and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to playing against the best in the world and playing with the best in the world," said Durant, who set a record for most points scored in an Olympic basketball tournament with 156 at London.

The two NBA stars made the announcement in an impromptu news conference after Wednesday's practice, alongside Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"The fact (Durant has) committed as early as he has is a statement," Colangelo said. "We think there will be a few others that will come along, along with Kevin Love, who is a big part of our program. So we're excited about the early announcement."

Colangelo and Love both mentioned Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston shooting guard James Harden as potential targets for the 2014 team, while Love added Chicago Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose's name to the mix.

"Hopefully this will have a snowball effect to where other guys will then commit from previous years, guys who have experience with FIBA basketball," Love said.

And while Colangelo and Krzyzewski were excited about both players' return - and as the Team USA coaching staff remains in scouting mode - the 28 minicamp participants know this week has been nothing short of a tryout for next summer's squad.

"This is definitely an audition," Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. "Everybody is taking it seriously, it's really competitive and it's intense. That's the thing I love about it. You're learning from Hall of Fame coaches, there's everybody here who's everybody. The young talent in the league here is great, and it's going to help us improve for next year."

Added New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday: "This is a really good opportunity. You want to prove you can play on this team, but at the same time you want to have fun, you want to get better, become a better teammate and better player."

The minicamp concludes Thursday night with the USA Basketball Showcase, an intrasquad game at the Thomas and Mack Center. Krzyzewski said after running the players hard over the first two days, he treated this week like the day before a medals-round game so they wouldn't be burnt out Thursday.

"I think they'll be fresh, excited and it'll be an exciting game," Krzyzewski said. "We're not making any announcement right after this ... so we get a chance to watch these guys during at least half of the NBA season. I'm sure somewhere in January, or somewhere along the line, a pool will be announced.

"This week was huge for Kevin Durant and Kevin Love to announce their commitment going forward. The more we learn about who we might have helps us in making decisions about who we need to add."

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July 18, 2013

By Kenneth Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

The start of the high school basketball season doesn’t tip off till four months from now, but gauntlet has already been dropped by Serra High School of Gardena, which recently defeated Mater Dei.

Although rules prohibit him from being on the sideline with his team, veteran coach Dwan Hurt has observed closely and he adores what he has seen so far.

Led by seniors Tavrion Dawson and Ron Freeman, the back-to-back CIF-SS champions have served notice of what is to come this fall by winning the prestigious St. John Bosco tournament.

Dawson, a growing 6’8 lefty has drawn scholarship offers from Tim Floyd’s University of Texas El Paso, Arizona State, Pepperdine, New Mexico, LMU, and Missouri.

Freeman, the most improved and talked about prospect on the summer circuit has been a beast. The 6’5 wing leaps out of the gym and is deadly from downtown.

He already has offers from UTEP, Northern Arizona and Utah State among others.

Rumors of the Cavs demise because of transfers of their starting backcourt Ellis Salahuddin and Ajon Efferson are greatly exaggerated.

“I think we are going to be just fine,” said Hurt who has been the head coach for the past 24 seasons. My philosophy is simple you coach the players that you have to become the best student/athletes possible and I believe that we’ve done a good job of that.”

Hurt entered Serra as a Freshman in the fall of l977 and graduated with the Championship Class of 1981 before he went onto Gonzaga Uni­versity on a Basketball Scholar­ship.

He was instrumental in the career of teammate John Stockton, who went on to NBA Hall of Fame.

After being graduated from Gonzaga, he returned to Serra in 1986 as an assistant Basketball Coach and teacher.

Today he is also a Dean and the standard by which greatness is measured.

When the official basketball season begins in November he will be just eight wins shy of his landmark 500 victories.

Hurt has led the Cavs to 7 CIF-SS division titles, 2 Southern California Regional crowns, and 2 state titles and has placed more than 50 players at Division I colleges, three have gone on to play in the NBA.

“I am a coach who coaches to the talent that I have and our defense dictates our offense,” said Hurt.

He has coached twice in the Collision All Star Games and in 2012 was the recipient of the Jim Harrick Lifetime Achievement Award.

His record 492-174 has earned him the respect of his peers and college coaches throughout the country.

He was named to coach at the Nike Global Summit in Washington D.C. this week where he will coach the United States West squad that will feature Mater Dei’s Stanley Johnson and St. John Bosco’s Daniel Hamilton.

“It’s always a privilege to coach outstanding athletes and especially against players from all over the world,” he told the Sentinel.

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July 25, 2013

 

By TERESA M. WALKER

 

AP Sports Writer

 

 

 

Titans linebacker Jonathan ''Tig'' Willard says he helped rescue a family from a burning vehicle on his way to Tennessee training camp.

 

The rookie was driving on Interstate 40 Tuesday near Oak Ridge when he noticed a sports utility vehicle smoking. He first told TigerNet.com that he flashed his lights and honked his horn to get the driver to pull over when he saw flames shoot out the back.

 

''As soon as I got to the car, I saw three small kids in the back seat and a dog,'' Willard said Wednesday at the Titans' headquarters. ''So for me, I'm thinking, 'Hurry up and get the kids. Hurry up and get everybody out and get them away from the car.' You could see probably up under the engine, all that was still on fire. So I'm thinking that the car might go up anytime.''

 

Willard said he handed an infant to the woman before pulling out another child. A second man who had stopped rescued a third child and the family's dog, and they were able to grab the woman's purse and a couple bags before the SUV exploded into flames a couple minutes later. He stayed long enough for firefighters to arrive and put out the fire.

 

''A lot of people passed by and didn't help, so she was just wanting to thank us and show us how thankful she was for us helping get the kids out and kind of grab some of the stuff,'' Willard said.

 

A Tennessee Highway Patrol report shows the SUV of Cheri Hubbard of South Daytona, Fla., caught fire and burned Tuesday afternoon near mile marker 340. The investigating trooper told Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, that the witnesses already had left before he arrived and that Hubbard did not get the names of the men who helped her.

 

Hubbard did not immediately return a voicemail left on her cellphone by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

 

Willard certainly knows how to impress his new teammates. Clemson's leader in tackles last season, Willard is an undrafted free agent with Tennessee and was driving from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to report for training camp when he spotted the smoking vehicle.

 

Coach Mike Munchak said he had been looking forward to hearing Willard's version of the story.

 

''He got involved in something that could have been bad,'' Munchak said.

 

Cornerback Jason McCourty said it speaks highly of Willard to see something like that and put himself on the line to help save a family.

 

''That's pretty impressive that he was able to do that and still show up to camp on time,'' McCourty said.

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July 18, 2013

By DAVID McFADDEN

Associated Press

 

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) —Jamaica’s leader on Tuesday called for the sprinting powerhouse's athletes to be far more vigilant about any supplements they take in the wake of revelations that two of the island's marquee sprinters and three others tested positive for banned substances at a meet last month.

In a Tuesday speech in Jamaica’s Parliament, Prime Mini­ster Portia Simpson Miller stressed that the sprinting powerhouse stands by its athletes but “as a country we reiterate the importance of integrity in sports, fair play and the maintenance of a doping-free sporting environment.”

Former 100-meter world-record holder Asafa Powell and Olympic medalist Sherone Simpson tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrone at the island’s national championships in June. Their agent, Paul Doyle, who told The Associated Press about the two track stars’ positive “A” tests on Sunday, says he suspects that their newly hired trainer might have given them supplements laced with a banned substance.

Italian police confiscated unidentified substances in a Monday raid on the hotel where the two sprinters and the physical trainer Christopher Xuereb were staying and preparing for a meet in the northeast town of Lignano Sabbiadoro. They were formally placed under criminal investigation for allegedly violating Italy’s doping laws.

National discus champ Allison Randall and two other athletes also tested positive for a banned substance at the same June meet in Jamaica.

So far, only one of the five athletes has requested testing of backup samples, Simpson Miller said. They have until Friday to make this request.

The five doping positives come a month after another revered Olympic champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, tested positive for a banned diuretic. Like the others, she expressed shock at the test results and says she is determined to clear her name.

The blow of all the recent allegations has staggered many people in Jamaica, where global domination in sprinting is a huge source of national pride. Some have criticized the prime minister for not addressing the matter publicly earlier.

On Tuesday, Simpson Miller said Jamaican athletes “need to be far more vigilant,” saying the “issue of supplement is one that we implore our athletes to be careful about.” The government intends to start high school-level doping test after consultation with parents, education officials and others, she said.

The local anti-doping commission has conducted 86 doping tests since 2009, including 504 in-competition tests, according to the prime minister. She said there have been 16 adverse findings among Jamaican athletes over that time.

She asserted Jamaica’s anti-doping commission had a rigorous program, noting that the recent positive tests were all found by the Jamaican agency.

Many islanders appear willing to give the athletes who delivered the positive tests the benefit of the doubt.

In a central Kingston square, office assistant Dawn Richards said she was waiting for more facts. But she said the swirling allegations were giving her a “very uneasy feeling.”

“They are saying they don’t know how this drug got in their systems so I think we have to believe them right now. I really hope what they're saying is true,” she said by a corner taxi stand.

Track fan Richard Morgan said Powell’s positive test in particular would be a “real shame” if it was intentional since he was the athlete who put the tropical island on center stage in the 21st century.

The soft-spoken Powell has been a major local hero since 2005 when he broke the world record in the 100 meters by sprinting the distance in 9.77 seconds — shaving one hundredth of a second off the previous record. Since then, he’s always showed promise to take a global title before disappointing at the event itself. He’s struggled with a groin injury for years.

But Olivia Grange, the opposition’s sports spokeswoman, called on Jamaica not to lost faith in their athletes, asserting that people should not jump to conclusions since “there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.”

But Karl Samuda, another opposition lawmaker, said the island’s brand has been rocked by news of the positive tests. “That certain knowledge that we are the best has been damaged,” he said Tuesday in Jamaica’s Parliament.

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