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About Keir Chapman

  • Member Since: April 7, 2016

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Keir Chapman began his career in sports journalism as Sports Director for iCLU Radio in Thousand Oaks. After graduating from California Lutheran University in 2013, Keir used his experiences as a writer and a college basketball player in a weekly blog for the New York based athletic gear company, True Athelite. Now, Keir makes weekly appearances on the Doug and John show on KHTS as Mr. Sports and is happy to contribute to the Santa Clarita Gazette.

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Sports Highlights

| Sports | July 1, 2016

On a hot Sunday afternoon in Santa Clarita, fists flew, music blared, and controllers clacked, as two friends were locked in the heat of competition. From the outside looking in, the fight was nothing more than two people sitting on a couch and staring at a screen, but once one took a seat and began to watch, he would see a bout unlike any he had seen before. This visitor has stepped into the world of competitive Super Smash Brothers Melee (SSBM), where every manipulation of the game is calculated and pride and money are on the line.

SSBM was released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2001, as a sequel to the wildly popular Super Smash Brothers, which was made for the Nintendo 64. The premise is simple: Famous Nintendo characters fight one another until one is eventually the victor. And, while the game controls were made to be simple as well, competitive SSBM players have been, and still are, finding new ways to use all the tools the game provides and turn them into unbeatable strategies.

“We’re still finding stuff in the game,” Ryan Reagan, one of the founders of the SCV Smash community, said. “There’s so much control over what you can do.”

In the competitive SSBM world, the general consensus is that Southern California produces the best talent, so making a name for one’s self out of this region is extremely difficult. For David Nevers, Ryan Reagan, and Ben Janusek, their love for the game over the desire to become a professional SSBM player is what compelled them to create the SCV Smash community.

“The entire global Super Smash Brothers scene exists on Facebook pages,” Reagan said. “I wanted to see who was playing in the SCV, so I created the Facebook page to see if it caught on.”

Ryan’s Facebook page was only the first piece of the much larger puzzle that is the SCV Smash community. On the other side of Santa Clarita, Ben and his friend, Adrian Fierro, attempted to go from casual to competitive play through the help of online forums, live streams of tournaments, and documentaries. After hosting house tournaments with the same players, Janusek and Fierro wanted to test their newfound skills against other competitors in the valley.

“I messaged David [Nevers], and he was the first one to get back to me; we started talking,” Janusek said. “Because David brought his group to the Thursday tournaments, he told me to join the Facebook page. I think that was the beginning.”

As Janusek and Fierro’s tournaments began to grow, the SCV Smash Facebook page grew right along with it.

“Then the page exploded,” Janusek said. “So we started doing tournaments for two dollars, and the community started to take shape.”

The increasing interest in competitive SSBM tournaments was a positive sign for Nevers. However, he knew that for the SCV Smash community to garner any legitimacy, there would need to be a shift from unofficial house tournaments to more professional competitions at gaming establishments in Santa Clarita.

“We started doing [SSBM] tournaments at the Gaming Attic once a month,” Nevers said. “We had two really big tournaments, but after that, the tournaments started dying out.”

Despite the waning interest in the SSBM tournaments at the Gaming Attic, Nevers had seen just how big the Super Smash community in Santa Clarita was and didn’t want to see it disappear. With what he learned about hosting tournaments from his experience with the Gaming Attic, Nevers decided to create his own and, after searching for the right venue, he found it at Tapped Out Gaming in Valencia, the current location of weekly SSBM tournaments every Tuesday night in Santa Clarita.

“They did [SSBM] tournaments before, and they were already thinking about it; they just needed someone to reach out to them,” Nevers said. “I started doing monthly tournaments, and we got 40 people right at the start.”

Now, with a dedicated following and a legitimate venue to host tournaments, Nevers has hopes that the SCV Smash community will stay strong and grow even more in the future.

“I want people to have a good place to practice and hang out at the same time,” Nevers said. “I just want to make sure that the SCV is ready to be passed on to the next person who’s ready to lead it.”

Janusek echoes Nevers’ statement and is happy to see just how much the community has progressed from the small house tournaments he hosted with Fierro.

“We have what I wanted,” Janusek said. “We have this community; it’s consistent; it’s great, and the potential is all here now.”

The SCV Smash community is still working on making a name for itself against rival regions, like the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County, in competitions where area codes carry the reputation of the entire city. And, although the 661 is not quite at the top of the pecking order yet, the diligence of Nevers, Reagan, and Janusek has helped Santa Clarita come this far, and will only help the SCV Smash community moving forward.

Mr. Sports Santa Clarita Shoutout

The Santa Clarita Blue Heat greatly improved its standings in the United Women’s Soccer (UWS) Western Conference with a 2-1 victory over the conference-leading Real Salt Lake Women.

Real Salt Lake got off to a fast start, when Katie Rigby lobbed a shot over Blue Heat goalie, Jojo McCaskill. It took the women of Santa Clarita only eight minutes to tie up the game, when Melissa Fernandez scored in the 20th minute off an assist from Mele French.

The Blue Heat and Real Salt Lake Women began the second half tied 1-1 before Kassandra Massey gave Santa Clarita the lead, and the game, with her goal in the 56th minute.

The Santa Clarita Blue Heat now sits in third place in the UWS Western Conference, behind Real Salt Lake and the Houston Aces. The Blue Heat will have a chance to take the lead in the conference on its two-game trip to Colorado, where the team will face the Colorado Storm July 8 and then the Colorado Pride on July 10.

Sports Highlights

| Sports | June 23, 2016

At The Master’s College in the heart of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, a semi-professional women’s soccer club with the United Women’s Soccer League, shows off their offense in the second half of a game against the Houston Aces. A perfectly dropped shot and a strong attack quickly turn a 1-1 halftime tie into a 3-1 lead for the home team.

After a hard-fought game, however, a win was not meant to be for the Blue Heat, with the final score reading 4-3 in favor of the Aces. The loss, although tough to stomach in the moment, has not deterred head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch.

“This league is so close, the points are so close together,” Mitrovitch said. “Even though it was a very disappointing result, we’re still in the race.”

The determination to win that Mitrovitch displayed is what the team needs to move on from a tough loss and focus on their rematch against the Real Salt Lake Women on June 25 at The Master’s College. The first matchup between the two clubs saw Santa Clarita tie with their rivals from Salt Lake City, 1-1, but the two weeks since have given Mitrovitch time to find areas of growth for his team.

“We have a good offense,” Mitrovitch said. “We have to have a better balance; when to go forward, when to defend more organized and be more compact.”

The Blue Heat has been a fixture of Santa Clarita sports since its purchase by team owner and president, Carlos Marroquin, in 2010. Marroquin’s motivation for bringing over the team once known as the Ventura County Fusion was to deliver a professional soccer team to a town that was “hungry for superior women’s soccer.” Six years later, Marroquin believes he has achieved his goal.

“We bring teams from different states over here,” Marroquin said. “I am very proud to have my team bring quality to my town.”

Although the team’s president hopes for even more support from the community in the form of game attendance, a sentiment echoed by head coach Mitrovitch, Marroquin has found nothing but love and accommodation for his team from the City of Santa Clarita.

“We have support from the city 100 percent, the community is coming here all the time,” Marroquin said. “So, I feel so good to be part of the team and to be a part of Santa Clarita.”

Throughout Mitrovitch’s three-year tenure as head coach of the Blue Heat, he has guided his team through annual roster overhauls and the folding of the United Soccer League W-League, the league the Blue Heat played for previously. The transition to the new United Women’s Soccer League has been smooth, which gives Mitrovitch hope for the league’s future.

“It’s already a strong league, and it’s going to be a force on the women’s side of the game,” Mitrovitch said. “It’s stronger than it was, but not as strong as it’s still going to be.”

Halfway through the season, Mitrovitch’s view of the United Women’s Soccer League appears to mirror the Blue Heat’s season. The women of Santa Clarita have shown how strong they can be, defeating the Houston Aces in their first matchup, 10-1, while also showing they still have room to grow, demonstrated by their most recent defeat at the hands of that same team.

With a record of one win, one loss, and two ties, and the first four games in the rear-view mirror, the Blue Heat are only focused on the future. With four games left, the league is anyone’s to win, so the city of Santa Clarita is in store for an exciting finish to the 2016 United Women’s Soccer League season.

Mr. Sports Santa Clarita Shout-Out

The Santa Clarita Gazette would like to congratulate the following members of the College of the Canyons Cougar Baseball Team:

Freshman catcher Anthony Lepre was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings Pacific Association Division All-America First Team. He was also named to the 2016 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California All-State and Southern California Pacific Association ABCA/Rawlings All-Region First Team. Lepre finished the season with a batting average of .401, 13 home runs, and 47 RBIs.

Sophomore infielder Colton Burns was named to the ABCA/Rawlings Pacific Association Division All-America Third Team. He also received Southern California All-Region First Team and CCCAA Southern California All-State honors. Burns finished the season with a batting average of .406, 30 RBIs, and 50 runs and will be attending UC Santa Barbara in the fall.

Freshman outfielder Chad Bible was named to the Southern California All-Region Second Team. He also received CCCAA Southern California All-State honors and, after leading the state with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs, Burns received the “Big Stick” Award as the state’s top offensive player in 2016.

Follow Keir on Instagram @keirchapman22.

Sports Highlights

| Sports | June 16, 2016

Canyon Cowboys Return to Greatness

The air is crisp and refreshing early morning at Canyon High School. And while the spring semester ended two weeks ago, the athletes of the Canyon Cowboys Football team are already practicing their craft and preparing for the start of the fall season. Last year’s squad finished 2-8, but instead of dwelling on the negativity of their record, Coach Rich Gutierrez and the entire Cowboy team are focusing on areas of growth.

“We had a lot of young players last year, but they still got stronger as they went,” Gutierrez said. “When you have seasons of that nature, it helps you grow in a lot of ways.”

When any football team finds itself in a rebuilding process, it is pivotal for there to be an anchoring force that helps younger players focus not only on the games at hand, but also on developing and maturing as athletes. Canyon fortunately has its consistent fixture on the offensive side of the ball in senior quarterback, Miles Fallin.

“He was the Santa Clarita Valley Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore,” Gutierrez said. “And the potential definitely excites me; he’s built like a prototypical passing quarterback.”

Fallin’s junior season saw him throw for more than 1,500 yards with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 10-4. Standing at 6-foot 5-inches and weighing 195 pounds, Fallin has the physical tools to succeed at the quarterback position and, with a summer of work, he can build upon his early accomplishments and help take the Cowboys to the next level.

The long hours that every team in Santa Clarita puts into practice are not the only way they ready themselves for regular season competition. Schools from the SCV and surrounding areas take part in a summer league known as The Passing League. This little secret of Santa Clarita football consists of teams playing in 7-on-7 matches in an effort to simulate a real football environment and work out any kinks in the game plan.

“For us, it’s good for building the chemistry between the quarterbacks and receivers. For defensive players, it helps them identify where they need to be,” Gutierrez said. “Those routes don’t change (in the regular season), so it’s just high amounts of repetition.”

This past weekend saw the playing of the 14th annual Saugus Under the Lights Tournament, which is a traditional Passing League tournament played at Central Park. This year, Hart took the crown, while Canyon fought hard but ultimately came up short against Bishop Alemany in the quarterfinals.

The history of greatness that precedes Canyon High football, including a win against De La Salle High School in the State Division 1 Championships during the 2006 season, has the potential to put great pressure on the head coaches leading such a storied program. Coach Gutierrez does not see it that way, however.

“It’s a blessing when you have the opportunity to coach in a program so steeped in tradition,” Gutierrez said. “You feel special; you actually feel unique, because it’s a small group.”

As Coach Gutierrez puts it, there’s a “renewed excitement” around this Canyon Cowboy football team. All the factors appear to be lining up for this group of young athletes to make the jump from rebuild to CIF contenders. Like every year, the competition among the Santa Clarita schools will be tough, but Canyon is ready to throw itself into the mix on their road to a return to greatness.

Saugus Under the Lights Results

Behind the quarterback play of Nick Moore, the fourth seeded Hart High School defeated Chaminade High in the final round of the Saugus Under the Lights Tournament, 29-13. This was after the Hart Indians were taken to the wire against Bishop Alemany, winning their semifinal matchup 23-22.

The Golden Valley Grizzlies swept pool play to earn the second seed. Although they were ousted by Moorpark in the first round of seeded play, Golden Valley is showing it’s a program on the rise.

Valencia High School earned the seventh seed and lost in the first round to eventual tournament runner-ups, Chaminade. The Vikings finished with a 3-2 record for the tournament.

Canyon and Saugus entered seeded play ranked eight and ninth, respectively. In their first round matchup against one another, the Cowboys got the better of the Centurions and moved on to face Bishop Alemany, who ended Canyon’s run in the quarterfinals.

West Ranch entered seeded play as the eleventh seed and were matched up against Oaks Christian in the first round. The sixth seeded squad out of Thousand Oaks proved to be too much for the Wildcats, who lost to Oaks Christian in the first round.

More Passing League games can be seen at the Harry Welch Stadium on the campus of Canyon High School every Thursday night during the summer offseason.

Female Athlete of the Week – Arielle Roy-Petitclerc

| Sports | June 10, 2016

Arielle Roy–Petitclerc, a midfielder for the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, scored in the 85th minute in a match against the Colorado Storm, forcing a tie between the two clubs. The Blue Heat now has a record of 1-1-0 in the semi-professional United Women’s Soccer League Western Conference and will be playing the Real Salt Lake Women in Salt Lake, Utah Saturday night, June 11, 2016.

Male Athlete of the Week – Justin Gallegos

| Sports | June 10, 2016

Justin Gallegos of Hart will end his inspirational four-year track and field career at the first ever C.I.F Track and Field State Championship, Paralympic Division. Gallegos, who was born with cerebral palsy and found his love for track and field his freshman year, competed in the 400-meter dash, and the 200-meter dash at Clovis High School.

Justin has a GoFundMe account where he is attempting to raise enough money to attend University of Oregon. It is online at https://www.gofundme.com/2ddsfr4k.

Greg Hayes’ Santa Clarita Summer Basketball Tradition and Local Sports Highlights

| Sports | June 9, 2016

Basketball teaches the life lessons of teamwork, communication, healthy competition, and instills an ethic of hard work in those who plays. Anyone who coaches the sport should understand these core principles, and more importantly, be able to pass them on to the players they mentor. Santa Clarita is fortunate to have Coach Greg Hayes, who not only has been teaching kids these values every summer since 1991, but learned from a man who many consider the greatest coach of all time – John Wooden.

Beginning Monday, June 13, children in the Santa Clarita Valley between the ages of 7-14 are invited to the Santa Clarita Sports Complex gym to take part in Hayes’ four-day basketball camp, designed to give kids the feeling of learning from Coach Wooden.

“Coach Wooden had camps at (California Lutheran University) from 1977-1983 for kids to come and learn, and he was coaching basketball as if they were his players at UCLA,” Hayes said. “I was one of his coaches … and my camp is modeled after Wooden’s camp.”

Since its inception, Greg Hayes’ summer basketball camps have grown from 11 kids the first summer to an average of 50-60 kids at each one of his five camps. Due to the success Hayes has found working with children, he plans on expanding his format to an older audience who may want to learn basketball for the first time or strengthen their game.

Aside from his annual camp, Hayes has been a staple of the Santa Clarita basketball community, serving as head coach of Canyon High School, as well as coaching for Valencia High School and The Master’s College.

“As much as the (Santa Clarita) community has grown since 1982, it still has a commitment to kids and to family and that’s what makes it such a special place,” Hayes said. “I can’t say enough how good it is to work with our city’s recreation program and our city as a whole.”

Outside of coaching in the Santa Clarita Valley, Hayes has had the opportunity to coach in over 40 countries, including stints in the former Soviet Union, along with coaching a semi-professional team in North Korea in 2012. These experiences have helped him to grow not only as a coach, but as a person as well.

“Basketball breaks all barriers,” Hayes said. “You develop a love for the people in North Korea and you see the good in them … you know the bad things about the country, but you also see very good things too.”

Coach Hayes’ decades of basketball coaching experience both locally and abroad have helped him to form the ideology that “if you put the time in and practice the right way, you can become a good shooter.” It is an ideal that is beneficial for basketball and can be applied to finding success in everyday life.

Because of Hayes’ dedication to this principle, kids attending his camp will greatly improve in basketball, and parents can feel comfortable their children are learning lessons that can be used throughout their lives.

It was John Wooden who said, “Young people need models, not critics.”

Greg Hayes truly embodies this idea, and is a model for the youth of Santa Clarita.
Local Baseball

The Santa Clarita Gazette would like to congratulate Jason Drees, a senior on the West Ranch baseball team, whose six home runs, .340 batting average, and 21 RBIs earned him the title of Player of the Year of the C.I.F Southern Section Foothill League.

We’d also like to congratulate Timmy Josten, a junior on the West Ranch baseball team who had a 1.75 ERA and nine wins to lead the C.I.F Southern Section and be named the conference’s Pitcher of the Year.

The Gazette would also like to congratulate the following for earning a spot on the C.I.F Southern Section Foothill League 2016 Baseball All-League Teams:

First Team:
Cole Spurlin – Senior – West Ranch
Trace Eldridge – Junior – Valencia
Ben Farris – Junior – Valenica
Chase Farrell – Junior -Valenica
Scott Ogrin – Junior – Valencia
Nick Plaia – Senior – Hart
Robert Reeves – Senior – Hart
Grant Thuente – Junior – Hart
Tyler Grissom – Senior – Saugus
Jacob Lopez – Senior – Saugus
Joey Mendez – Senior – Saugus
Mike Hairell – Senior – Canyon

Second Team:
Blake Baumgartner – Senior – West Ranch
Jack Cunningham – Senior – West Ranch
Daniel Luevano – Senior – West Ranch
Tyler Erne – Junior – Valencia
AJ Medina – Senior – Valencia
Brendan Henry – Junior – Hart
Rudy Aguilar – Senior – Saugus
Caden Salkeld – Senior – Saugus
Danny Cuevas – Senior – Canyon
Michael Stephan – Junior – Golden Valley

Crosstown Rivalry Reborn: The New Era of UCLA-USC

| Sports | May 20, 2016

Every Southern Californian knows three things in life: Perpetual summer, earthquakes and the UCLA-USC rivalry. The bad blood between the schools is so significant that websites even track which team has a better record in beach volleyball, but nothing tops the football feud that Angelenos wait for all year long.

In recent history, each school has dominated for a decade: The 1990s saw the Bruins capture the longest win streak in the rivalry at eight games, and the Trojans, led by Pete Carroll, lost all but one game in the 2000s. Since 2010, however, UCLA and USC have a 3-3 record against each other, ushering in an era of parity. What created this equality, and where the series goes next is anyone’s guess, but there are some factors that may offer some clarity.

Trojan fans need not look far to find what caused the team’s fall from grace. Hometown hero Reggie Bush, who helped the program win two National Championships during the 2000s, was found guilty of receiving improper gifts in June of 2010. The NCAA, looking to make an example of athletes who took such payment, levied sanctions against USC. They included vacating the last two wins of its 2004 Championship season and every win from the 2005 season, being banned from the postseason in 2010 and 2011, and losing 30 scholarships over a three-year period.

Some fallout from these sanctions was predictable. Fewer scholarships and no postseason for two years caused many high quality players to look elsewhere for national recognition. Still, the Trojans were able to recruit many players whom ESPN ranked as four- and five-star recruits during that time. The sudden resignation of Pete Carroll in 2010, however, was an unforeseen consequence of the NCAA’s punishments, one that still has USC searching for its next great leader.

UCLA, seeing the state the Trojans were in, decided to try and take over the town. After losing 50-0 to USC in 2011, Head Coach Rick Neuheisel was shown the door. Unlike losing Pete Carroll, the firing of Neuheisel allowed the Bruins to bring in a coach who would lead UCLA to new heights, Jim Mora. His NFL experience was a draw to kids with dreams of playing on Sunday, leading to an average recruiting class rank of 13th in the nation, according to information from 247sports.com. And Mora was also pivotal in the development of Brett Hundley, who went 3-0 against USC, and was the first UCLA quarterback drafted into the NFL since Cade McNown in 1999.

Today, USC is back to full strength, pulling in the eighth best recruiting class of 2016, per 247sports.com. The team’s coaching status is still in flux, but Trojan faithful hope Clay Helton is the answer.

UCLA is also on the upswing, with young phenom Josh Rosen in at quarterback and Jim Mora signed through the 2019 season, with the hopes of his retiring a Bruin.

The college football season is still months away, and the UCLA-USC game is even further, but there is still much for football fans to look forward to. If the rollercoaster of the past five seasons is any indication of what is to come, then no one knows what to expect, and that’s what makes this crosstown rivalry so exciting.

Balancing the Mind and Body of the Elite Athlete

| Sports | May 5, 2016

Athletics are a combination of physical prowess, elite body control, and mental acuity. Due to the image-driven nature of today’s media, however, it seems as though the physical aspect of sports is the object of everyone’s attention. Because of this, it is easy to forget that when someone hits a clutch free throw or sinks a tournament-sealing putt, it’s not the muscles that matter, but how the athlete uses them. Mental toughness is not earned in the gym, but rather on the floor with regular yoga and meditation practices.

Sheer size and strength are meaningless if the person who possesses them lacks control. This is why NBA audiences see burly 7-footers come and go faster than those players can move their own bodies. However, when athletes add mindful practices such as yoga to their workouts, they can gain a mastery not found in traditional conditioning. For example, according to a study by The International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health, yoga contributes to improving strength by working out muscles that weightlifting often misses. It also aids in balance and flexibility, which will allow for the largest of athletes to move their bodies with the precision of someone half their height.

When it comes to the benefits of meditation, the question on any skeptic’s mind is always, “How does just sitting with your eyes closed do anything?” The answer is that meditation allows a person to quiet an active mind for a period of time and be in the present moment. There’s an abundance of benefits that come from this practice in sports and beyond, but specifically in the athletic realm, having the ability to focus only on the task at hand, while blocking out all noise, pain, and pressure, is how the average athlete ascends to superstar status.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass General) conducted a study to see how mindfulness meditation improved a person’s alpha rhythms in the brain. In sports-talk, alpha waves are what allow an athlete to manage pain and quiet the mind, no matter what the situation.

Mass General’s study consisted of 12 healthy participants, half of whom were instructed to practice mindfulness meditation for eight weeks, while the other half were told not to do so. After the eight-week period concluded, researchers used tools to precisely monitor brain function in order to track how well each participant could adjust their alpha waves when an area of the body was stimulated. The researchers found that those who did practice mindfulness meditation were able to adjust faster than those who didn’t, bolstering the idea that meditation strengthens one’s ability to manage pain and control the body.

Media advertising tends to focus solely on well-toned muscles in order to move products, but seldom do they convey the fact athletes rely on well-developed, focused brains to move their bodies. And, while it may be rare to see the words sports, yoga and meditation in the same sentence, in 2016 it’s time for us to change our perception of the ingredients that make athletes great.

Draft Day Gamble: The L.A. Rams Story

| Sports | April 21, 2016

The Rams have only been in Los Angeles since January, yet they are already generating stories that will later be pitched to a Hollywood studio and passed off to the public as an original idea. After the announcement last week that L.A.’s newest team would be moving from the 15th pick on April 28’s NFL Draft all the way to first overall, there were shockwaves that could only be rivaled by the San Andreas Fault line. Now, aside from having to endear themselves to the L.A. fan base, the Rams are faced with the problem of choosing the right player and giving this story the Hollywood ending it deserves.

In 2012, the then St. Louis Rams were the beneficiary of the Washington Redskins’ desperate attempt to find the face of their franchise, receiving a Mack truck full of draft picks for their right to choose second overall. Washington used that pick on Robert Griffin III, who now will be fighting to earn a starting spot on the Cleveland Browns. In 2016, the Universe finally found balance, as L.A. will be relinquishing its first and third round picks in this and the 2017 NFL draft, and both the second round selections for this year, to the Tennessee Titans.

Immediately after the move was made, prognosticators have touted quarterback Carson Wentz as the most likely candidates for the Rams’ own star search. Wentz, whose wrist injury limited him to seven games last season, threw for 17 touchdowns to only four interceptions, to go along with six rushing touchdowns in that short span of time. At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Wentz has the toughness needed to potentially thrive in the NFL, but because he played for North Dakota State, and he currently resides in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, he has not yet had to prove his mettle against professional talent.

It appears the L.A. Rams have backed themselves into a corner — to either select a quarterback or risk enraging a community that has yet to embrace this team as its own. A twist ending to this saga, however, would give L.A. a true building block for its football future and possibly excite its citizens all the more.

Because of the loss of cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who intercepted three passes, defended against 10, and only allowed one opposing receiver to gain 100 yards in a game, the Rams’ secondary is left with only Trumaine Johnson and recently acquired Coty Sensabaugh to keep their end zones touchdown-free. By using their first overall pick on Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams would receive an instant impact player, whose 6-foot-1 frame and 41-inch vertical jump would create nightmares for quarterbacks and receivers alike. And, because he played in the ACC, Ramsey has faced NFL-ready talent for years, and has still come out on top.

The possibility of drafting a quarterback first, overall, is a sexy idea, a facelift to a franchise whose offense has been less than stellar. However, if the golden rule of football that “defense wins championships” still holds true, though, the Rams would be remiss if they didn’t take a chance on a player like Jalen Ramsey, who would shore up the one hole they have on that end of the ball.

Regardless of how the they use their pick, anyway you slice it, the Los Angeles Rams have spent a lot to win over a community that is not easily impressed. Maybe they belong in L.A. after all.

NBA Draft Analysis

| Sports | April 11, 2016

By Keir Chapman, Mr. Sports

An adage repeated by NBA fans the world over is that it is wise to wait two to three years before evaluating the impact of an NBA Draft class. This period of time allows for the NBA machine to weed out the pretenders from the contenders, and gives young players the space to carve out the roles they will play for the entirety of their careers. The reasoning behind not rushing to judgment is sound, but the temptation to dive head first, like a kid into a pool right after eating, can sometimes be too great.

Well before the first pick of the 2015 NBA Draft was announced at Barclays Center on June 25, the talent pool of college and international ballers was being compared to the 2003 NBA Draft. This now legendary class includes: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and a multitude of players who ushered in a new era of basketball. As the 2015 regular season comes to a close, the youngsters have lived up to pre-draft hype and seem poised to change the NBA landscape again.

Size has always been a crucial factor in the game of basketball, but never before have centers and power forwards been asked to space the floor like they have in today’s NBA. Finding this mixture of height and shooting ability is rare, yet the 2015 draft class boasts three such players in the top five picks alone. Karl-Anthony Towns, drafted first overall to Minnesota, is a 7-footer who not only shoots the three-pointer at 34 percent, but also averages 10 rebounds a game. Jahlil Okafor, taken third overall by Philadelphia, while not having the same range as Towns, is an offensive juggernaut who, at 7 feet, can create his own shot like a guard and averaged 18 points per game before injuries ended his season.

Possibly the greatest story to come out of the 2015 NBA Draft is that of Kristaps Porzingis, selected fourth overall by New York, and was thought to be a few years from being NBA-ready. The lanky 7-foot-3 kid out of Latvia was viewed as too frail to contend with other big men in the league, but has since shattered everyone’s expectations and become an instant fan favorite. With his ability to shoot the three ball at 33 percent, combined with his knack for corralling rebounds and blocking shots, Porzingis is primed to be the face of the Knicks franchise if he continues to play to his potential.

The 2015 NBA Draft class is laden with talent, so much so, that many of the first round picks play meaningful minutes for their respective teams. Even UCLA’s Norman Powell, whose lack of an outside shot had him drafted in the second round, finds himself a starter for the Toronto Raptors and looks to be the steal of the draft. Claiming this class rivals the 2003 draft, however, would be an overreaction this early. But if the children are our future, then the future of the NBA looks very bright.

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