Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Evergreen State men's basketball preview

By: Darren Woods

On the day the Cascade Collegiate Conference preseason rankings were released, Evergreen's head men's basketball coach Arvin Mosley sat relaxed in his cozy office chair behind his computer. He nonchalantly utters that his team is picked to finish ninth out of ten in the conference. The preseason rankings are voted on by the ten Conference coaches. Clad in a team issued green warm-up outfit Mosley peered over his computer screen with a smirk. It's as if he had a secret. If he did have a secret, he kept it to himself and shrugged the prediction off as exactly what it was......Speculation.

Head Coach Arvin Mosley

One thing that is not speculation is that he is returning five his eight players from last year and he has added seven more talented young athletes to the roster. Coach Mosley is able to run 5on5 in practice, something he could not do last season, and he even has the luxury of  facilitating substitutions in practice. What a difference one year makes. 

Perhaps the biggest change Mosley has seen in the early stages of the season is the overall positive attitude of his team. 

"This is a much better group, just the overall mentality the returning guys brought in is better," Mosley said, adding that last year's team struggled to get used to a new coach after the coach that recruited them resigned a year ago. 

"[The returners] came to play for [Drinkwine]. It was stressful for the guys, it was stressful for all of us, We're in a much better place emotionally."

The Geoducks return Patrick Lewis, Larry Green and Tyrell Dixon in addition to Mo Tolliver and Mikey Hope

(L) Marice Tolliver (R) Rob Edwards
Tolliver earned All-CCC Honorable Mention recognition last year behind being ranked third in the conference in rebounds and ninth in scoring. 

Hope has progressed on the court more than any other player on the court over the offseason and Coach Mosley is excited about the prospect of having the new look Mikey Hope who improved his ball handling and strength over the summer. 

Notable new comers on the roster this year are Rob Edwards, Julian Holliday and Mike DeRosier. Edwards is a 6'4" transfer from Lower Columbia College while Mike DeRosier is a sharpshooter who comes to Evergreen via South Puget Sound CC. Julian Holiday is an athletic guard who played his high school basketball at Tacoma's Lincoln High School before starring at Yakima Valley College. 

The Geoducks host the annual Alumni game Saturday at 5:30 following the women's game. Former Geoducks expected to play Saturday are Evergreen's all-time scoring leader Nate Menefee, former players Marcus Whittaker, Mike Ward and Nick Moore.

Evergreen State women's basketball preview

Head Coach Monica Heuer
By: Darren Woods

            How does a team recover from losing eight players during the course of an offseason? This is a question 11th year Head Coach Monica Heuer has been asking herself readies her players for the 2011-12' season. 

           "How do you recover from that?" she says with a tone of humor and disbelief from her office in Evergreen's College Recreation Center. 

           It's a sunny but crisp autumn day in Olympia, Washington and Heuer still seems to be unraveling from the 6:00am practice she just finished and is already mentally preparing for another in the evening. 

           Two-a-days have become common place for the Geoduck women's team. Perhaps it's their way of combating lack of numbers. With just seven players on the active roster and two others recovering from injury, the Geoducks are going to have to be sharp and in shape. Being conditioned and sound is what coach Heuer is counting on to improve upon a 3-15 in conference record from last season. 

(L) Danielle Swain and (facing) Jessica Edge
add size to an athletic Geoduck roster
          On the court the Geoducks will rely heavily on one of its only returners from last year's team Danielle Swain. The sophomore post from Black Hills High School led Evergreen in rebounds last season and received All-CCC Honorable Mention recognition for her play as a redshirt freshman. The Rainier native has been battling with shoulder problems but has been participating fully in practices this offseason. Swain will be joined by junior transfer Jessica Edge who completes a one-two punch of size and athleticism underneath the basket. Edge redshirted last season and should be ready to jump right into action for she is familiar with the system. At the guard position, Mele Rich returns from last years team and will add some experience to the Geoduck roster.

Freshman Sammie Clark takes a shot
during a drill in practice
           From a leadership perspective, Swain and Edge have taken the reigns of the team while freshman guard Sammie Clark has made an immediate impact on her peers in a very short time. 

           "They're all leaders and we expect a lot from them," Coach Heuer said of the trio.

           Coach Heuer's expectations are the same as if she had a full squad and stresses that being game ready is going to be a work in progress but the coaching staff's goal is to have the team ready to go by the season opener vs. Walla Walla University on October 30th. 

           The Geoducks are in action this Saturday the 22nd at the CRC Gym at 3:30 in the Alumni game where former Evergreen players will look to steal the spotlight. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

NCAA football: midterm review

By: Darren Woods

            It’s that time of year in college football. The time where pretenders start to fall by the waste side and contenders begin to separate from the crowd. It could only mean one thing- and as much as many of you hate it- the BCS rankings have been released. So while the top ten looks a lot like the preseason polls, there are some glaring differences that cannot be ignored.
So without further adieu thenwsportsfan returns from a lengthy sabbatical to bring you college football’s midseason awards and ‘de-wards’ to date. 

Biggest Choke
             By far, my vote for this award (or DEward) is Florida State. No one team has fallen faster or farther than the Noles’. Coming into the season ranked no. 6 many of the experts thought FSU had a shot at playing in the national title game.
Can you blame them?
             According to http, the Noles returned 18 starters for the 2011 season, the 9th most in the nation ; they had a favorable schedule with just two preseason ranked teams in an rarely competitive ACC conference and they had the all important game breaking E.J. Manuel under center. FSU has failed both tests against ranked opponents in consecutive weeks and then lost to Wake Forest to fall completely from the coveted top 25.  So long FSU, we hardly knew ye.

Biggest Surprise
AP Photo/ Patrick Semansky
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney
has his Tigers in the Top 10 
             College football fans need not look outside of the conference for this one. Clemson gets the nod for Cinderella story of the year up to this point. The Tigers, who started the season in the ‘No Rank’ category, has done what ACC counterpart FSU was not able to do as they were able to rise to the occasion numerous times.  In a stretch where they played three ranked teams in a row they prevailed in commanding fashion, outscoring their opponents 95-57 over the stretch.                  Clemson is off to a 7-0 start and is ranked 8th in the first BCS poll of the year. The ACC front runners are in the driver’s seat to win the conference and remain as the only undefeated team left in the conference standings

Most Impressive
             This could go about five different ways but my vote goes to Alabama. At the number two spot in the BCS, the Crimson Tide has absolutely decimated their competition and for every powderpuff they have lit up and smoked they've got a quality win against a ranked team to back it up. They broke off Penn State at Penn State and beat top 15 teams Arkansas (14) and Florida (12) in consecutive weeks. They're ranked 14th in points scored, 12th in rushing yards behind Trent Richardson and 1st in points allowed. A crash course between division rivals LSU vs. Bama' is set for Nov. 5th in Tuscaloosa which should dispel any controversy of which team is king in the SEC. 

Heisman Favorite
Strike a pose: Trent Richardson is a front-runner to
 hoist the Heisman Trophy in December
             As of right now it seems like three quarterbacks and a running back are head and shoulders above the rest. Andrew Luck of Stanford, Russell Wilson of Wisconsin, Kellen Moore of Boise State and Trent Richardson of Alabama look to be in the running. While each of them represent a different conference, they all have one thing in common; they all play for undefeated teams. Whoever stays undefeated the longest stands the best shot to hoist the hardware on December 10th. It's a four sided coin flip and I'm rolling with Trent Richardson of Alabama because I think they'll run the table in the strongest conference in college football.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Next stop, Iceland for CWU's Sprinker

 By: Darren Woods

Chris Sprinker
Chris Sprinker has made his name known across the state of Washington. His reign on Washington basketball  started when he and Sacramento King's guard Isaiah Thomas led the Curtis High School Vikings to the State semi-finals in 2006. Sprinker continued to make his name known when he eclipsed Central Washington University's career blocks record this past season in helping his team to the GNAC Championship with a glistening 26-4 record.

"Sprink" or "Big Sprink" as his teammates and friends call him will embark on his next big challenge as he will leave for Iceland to play for 14-time league champion UMFN Njardvik.

Here is a link to an article I wrote in the Tacoma Weekly that will be on news stands Friday, August 19.

A special thanks to Chris, the Tacoma Weekly and head men's basketball coach at The Evergreen State College Arvin Mosley for helping one of my biggest dreams come true as this is my first published piece outside of a school publication.

Good luck in Iceland Chris!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

49ers Smith continues to prove critics wrong: Still a starter in S.F.

By: Darren Woods
Alex Smith
I have to admit that I was one of the first ones to jump off the Alex Smith bandwagon after the first round draft pick wowed football fans his rookie year with one touchdown and 11 interceptions his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers. I thought, here’s the new Ryan Leaf.  You know, first round draft pick that lit up scoreboards in college who is anointed the savior of an NFL franchise but ends up out of the NFL shortly after his rookie contract is up or buried in some teams depth chart nowhere to be found.

But that’s not what happened to Alex Smith. He’s still in the NFL and more impressively he’s survived six offensive coordinators in the process. Now on his seventh coordinator since 2005, Alex Smith has proven many critics, including himself, wrong.  

In Michael Silver’s  COLUMN this morning on Yahoo! Sports he reminds his readers of an exchange Oakland Tribune’s Monte Poole had with Smith last season after he was benched for former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Asking Smith whether or not he believes he’d return in 2011 as the quarterback of the Niners, Smith responded by saying, “Are you being serious? Uh…. No.”

And yet even after all of that, Smith enters the 2011 as the starting quarterback of the 49ers joined by Jim Harbaugh and new OC Greg Roman.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Photo: Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh replaces Mike Singletary as the head coach of the 49ers after leading the Stanford Cardinal to a 12-1 record from 4-8 before Harbaugh took over the reigns. Harbaugh was known for cultivating Stanford’s 2011 Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck to a nationally known entity.

It is Harbaugh’s resume of success that leads me to believe that Alex Smith does have a chance to resurrect his NFL career under Harbaugh. I’ve wondered the past six years what it was that kept Smith in S.F. The answer is a combination coaches and coordinators believed that there was a lack of options (Mike Singletary), and those who believed in Smith (Norv Turner) but didn’t have enough time to implement their system.

Smith has not had enough time to gel with a system and that’s why he will succeed under Harbaugh and Roman. Harbaugh will breed enough success as the Niners head coach to buy enough time for Smith to prove himself. Ultimately Harbaugh will be able to, like Luck, mold Smith into the starting NFL quarterback that experts believed he would be after being drafted out of Utah in 2005. 

Related article:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another Sunday at the Pro-Am

      By: Darren Woods

Rashaad Powell looks for a
shot against Bruce Cooper
        Sunday afternoon, the same day the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels wowed fans with stunts performed at breakneck speeds in the blue summer sky at Seafair, I couldn't help but think that in a  there was no place I'd rather be (in Washington) than the Pro-Am. Over the past month and a half I have been acquainted with athletes like Will Conroy, Nate Robinson and John Wall, who I've only seen on TV or read about in newspapers. I've also rubbed elbows with athletes I am ashamed to say I had never heard of before this summer, forgive me Micah Downs, Ryan Anderson and Chris Sprinker. And then of course I've seen athletes I've watched over and over again, that I never get tired of seeing because their joy for the game is contagious (Rashaad Powell, Marcus Bradford and Brian Johnson).
        That being said, I watched three exciting basketball games Sunday, took good notes too. But I left left my notebook in North Seattle. And with no car and very limited time I could not retrieve it in a timely enough manner. That's right, no stats, no runs, no quotes and no color. But this much I do remember.. I also had help looking back on a couple of Tweets I sent that day after the conclusion of a couple of games. Follow thenwsportsfan on twitter.

Blazers vs. 76ers (145-133)
        I talked to Will Conroy after he willed his Blazer team back from a 23 point deficit in the second half against Tony Wroten Jr.'s 76er squad. He graciously took a second to talk with me about how exactly he was able to lead his team on a comeback that eventually beat the 76ers. He also spoke about his professional options now that the NBA is in the beginning stages of what looks to be a very long lockout saying he had several options including the Czech Republic and Israel but he is still waiting his options. Wroten Jr. scored 47 and Conroy led the Blazers with 41 (this much I remember). Also both teams played with just one sub each.

Will Conroy

Sonics vs. Mavs
        I was also able to speak with another class act from Seattle Ryan Anderson a Rainier Beach graduate who just graduated with a sociology degree from the University of Nebraska and just released a CD dedicated to his wife. He teamed up with Carlos Singer on Sunday to turn back Nate Robinson and the Sonics on a game winning tip in by Morris Anderson with just 0.3 seconds remaining on the clock. The Sonics were unable to answer. It was entertaining to watch Robinson tactfully attempt to bait Anderson into a war of words but Anderson never bit. After the game I asked Anderson if Robinson was getting into his head to which he replied it was all in fun and that he took nothing to heart. During the lockout Anderson is looking forward to playing in the NBA's Developmental League, which is not affected by the lockout, to eventually one day achieve his goal of playing in the NBA. He chose the D-League over playing overseas because he felt the exposure and close proximity to the league would help him reach his goal. You can check out his website HERE
Nate Robinson was unable to get
the win in a 102-100 nail biter
Bulls beat Hawks (unable to retrieve score from memory)

        The Bulls and Hawks were the second game of the day, after the Mavs Sonics game and before the 76ers and Blazers game but was memorable in it's own right because it host the tournament's founder Jamal Crawford (Hawks) and it's 2011 coordinator Rashaad Powell (Bulls) as they faced off. The Bulls who in my opinion are the best all-around team in the tournament exhibited amazing ball movement and got everyone involved. The Bulls Marcus Bradford, Powell and Shawn Henderson showed they are the tournaments only big three. Bradford generously offered his input after the game saying that the Bulls chemistry is one of their biggest strengths. He added that the day before when they lost, Coach Randy Redwine was giving some new players getting some experience in the tournament.


More Photos
Will Conroy off an inbound

A Bulls guard looks to pass

A Blazers player makes a long two over an outstretched 76ers defender

(far right) Jamal Crawford discusses strategy during a timeout

Ryan Anderson dribbles against Quinnan Braxton

(Green) Nate Robinson and guard Carlos Singer enjoy a laugh during a timeout

Thursday, August 4, 2011

AP releases poll: #1 a bad place to be in the preseason historically

By: Darren Woods

        The Associated Press released their coaches poll today and with that college football fans can begin to go nuts trying to predict who will win it all this year.

        Oklahoma got the number one spot with 42 first place votes. Alabama took the number two slot while the BCS runner up from 2010 Oregon rounds out the top three. Sooner fans shouldn't break out the party hats yet though. Since 2002 only one team, the 2004 USC Trojans, have finished a season ranked number one the same year they received the preseason number one nod.

        Check out the link above for the full top 25 to see if your team has it made or has some work to do.