sports odds and ends

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Hard work pays off for small rookie who plays big

Heather Butler virtually hit the longest shot of her basketball career when, as an undrafted rookie, she made this season’s San Antonio Stars roster. It isn’t often that a player who was bypassed in the college draft later beats out, in Butler’s case, two drafted players. It was a long shot indeed for the 5’-5” first-year guard from Tennessee-Martin. Butler helped her UT Martin squad win four consecutive Ohio Valley Conference tournaments and four NCAA post-season tourneys in as many tries during her college career. She now becomes the first from her college to make the WNBA. Continue Reading →

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Twins outfielder decides to ‘swing one way’

It’s been over a week now since Aaron Hicks, the second-year Minnesota Twins centerfielder, quit being a switch hitter to being only a right-handed hitter. What brought him to that decision? Poor front-office decision-making may have resulted in rushing up the young man to the big leagues too soon last season. Hicks should have perfected his batting skills in the minors; instead, he struggled last season and was sent back down. This year thus far, Hicks is again struggling, leading him to stop his Judy Collins “Both Sides Now” batting and stick to one side only, a decision that caught his manager totally by surprise. Continue Reading →

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Many favor cheating for top draft picks

After the NBA draft lottery last week, an ESPN SportsNation online poll asked fans if they’d support their team “tanking” games — losing games virtually on purpose in order to get a better chance for the top overall pick. It was a 50/50 split among the 153,000-plus who responded. However, a further look at the state-by-state instant results was Gomer Pyle-like: Surprise, surprise — 54 percent of Minnesota-based fans favor tanking, as does Utah (53 percent), Wisconsin (58 percent), Michigan (56 percent), New York (57 percent) and Ohio (53 percent). But in a state like Nevada, where the nation’s gambling capital is located, 51 percent said no. These results, although for entertainment purposes only, show a dangerous side to some sports fans: They would rather support de facto cheating for a million-to-one shot at a top draft pick than see consistent, competitive basketball. Continue Reading →

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MSR’s ‘Only One’ at the NCAA softball regionals

After a long winter, our “Only One” reporter finally got out and spent last weekend as the only Black media member in the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium press box at the NCAA Minneapolis Regional softball tournament at the University of Minnesota. Again I seemingly wore my invisible suit as the passing-out-stats people passed me by on a couple of occasions. Before last weekend’s four-team double elimination tournament, I promised Gophers’ Tyler Walker and Madie Eckstrom that I would attend. The two previously were featured a couple of weeks ago in our Gopher 100 series.  

“We are going to see a whole lot of each other,” exclaimed Walker. Continue Reading →

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Gopher candidates for NFL Draft find the experience ‘overwhelming’




There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2013-14 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight these players.  

This week: Gopher football players Ra’Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen


The waiting game hopefully is nearing its end for former Gophers Ra’Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen. These two are the only Minnesota players being considered in this year’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday. If projections are accurate, Hageman will be the first Minneapolis City Conference player to be selected in the opening round and Vereen, the Valencia, Calif. Continue Reading →

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A sports reporter’s spring notebook cleaning

Marlene Stollings’ second hire on her Gopher women’s basketball coaching staff is Nikita (Niki) Dawkins. She is a 23-year coaching veteran who has been a VCU assistant coach the last two seasons and held similar positions at Old Dominion, Michigan and Ohio State, her alma mater. In a released statement, Stollings called Dawkins, whose duties include recruiting coordinator, “one of the top assistants in the country.” She joins Tiffanie Couts, who Stollings named director of basketball operations. Couts was a grad assistant last season at VCU. The women are the only two Blacks on the staff. Continue Reading →

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Lynx draft four ‘solid players’

Unlike last year’s top-heavy, star-studded draft, the 2014 WNBA Draft was instead more workwoman-like. Filling specific team needs took precedence over obtaining star players. The MSR, during the April 10 pre-draft media conference call, asked ESPN Analysts Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson if they foresee “a publicity let-down” from last year’s “3 to See” draft that featured Britney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Della Donne. “I don’t think necessarily we have an Elena Della Donne or Britney Griner in this class,” explained Robinson. “We do have a lot of impact players: Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Odyssey Sims (Baylor), Kayla McBride (Notre Dame), Alyssa Thomas (Maryland). Continue Reading →

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Concussion issue raises safety concerns among many contact sports

Is there a connection between playing such sports as football and brain diseases that down the road can produce fatal effects? Medical research indicates that such a connection exists, and athletes and coaches are doing their best to come to terms with the implications. Earlier this fall, Frontline’s League of Denial documentary on PBS in October showed a prominent Black doctor being “blackballed” after he performed an autopsy on a deceased former NFL player’s brain and blamed football for the player’s untimely death at age 50. The two-hour documentary also suggested that the league may have known that playing football could cause permanent brain damage but kept quiet about it. “The brain is the last frontier in medicine,” says Jack Brewer, whose Brewer Sports International group last June held a brain injuries seminar in the Twin Cities. Continue Reading →

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One Black coach, a few Black players reach NCAA women’s volleyball playoffs




Each of the four teams that played in the NCAA first- and second-round volleyball matches hosted last weekend by the University of Minnesota had at least one player of color: Cheyanne James (Radford), Alexis Austin (Colorado), Victoria Hurtt and Erin Taylor (Iowa State), and two Puerto Rico-born players: Iowa State’s Neira Ortiz Ruiz and the Gophers’ Daly Santana. James was second on her squad in kills — one of a school-record five players receiving all-conference honors. Hurtt thrice led Iowa State with 20-plus kills. Colorado Coach Liz Kritza called the sophomore Austin “team-oriented.”

While seeing a low single-digit number of players of color at a volleyball match, even a post-season match, wasn’t that surprising, discovering that one of the schools was coached by a Black female was a surprise, especially since, unlike the other three schools, her photo was not included in her school’s pre-game notes. Marci Jenkins last weekend completed her sixth season at Radford (Va.) University, which won the Big South conference this year. Continue Reading →

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