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Rams Debut New Look Offense, Defense

| Sports | September 13, 2018

by Diego Marquez

After finishing the season atop the NFC West with an 11-5 record in 2017, the Los Angeles Rams were surprise contenders for the Super Bowl title. Now, after the 33-13 demolition of the Oakland Raiders this past Monday, the Los Angeles Rams are making true of everyone’s predictions – or at least looking the part.

Let’s begin with the Ram’s defense. Allowing Oakland’s running back, Marshawn Lynch, to plow through the defense early in the game for an impressive touchdown run that featured him carrying numerous Los Angeles defenders into the end zone for the score.

But that was it. Other than the Lynch score and Jared Cook, the Raiders’ tight end, finished the game with 180 yards receiving on 9-of-12 targets and was a bright spot for the Raiders on a day that seemed to have a gloomy result. Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson finished with one reception for 9 yards and three catches for a total of 23 yards, respectively.

Adding defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and trading for Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters, the Rams bolstered their already stout defense that includes defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Nickell Robey-Coleman, along with defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, the Rams looked as formidable as any defense.

With defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in control of the reigns, there was no telling the lengths that this defense could go to be heralded as one of the all-time great defenses in the National Football League and it showed against the Oakland Raiders.

Third-year quarterback, Jared Goff threw two touchdown passes in the season-opening win for the Rams, one to running back Todd Gurley on a 19-yard shovel pass and the other on an 8-yard reception to wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Outscoring Oakland 23-0 in the second half the Rams showed why the team is considered one of the favorites in the NFC to make it to this year’s Super Bowl. The receiving corps of Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks adds another dimension of unpredictability for the Los Angeles offense. Combined with a defense that looks to already be a lot more improved than a year ago, it’s scary to think that this is only Week 1 and the Rams have just yet begun this year’s conquest of being the No. 1 team in the National Football League.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | September 13, 2018

Andrew Brito

College of the Canyons sophomore quarterback Andrew Brito guided the Cougars to their second win of the season with a 47-14 road victory over Grossmont College on Saturday.

Brito finished the game 19-of-28 for 368 yards and three touchdowns while connecting with six different receivers. He also rushed for 17 yards. Those numbers helped the Cougar offense amass more than 500 yards of total offense in the game. Canyons will return to Cougar Stadium for its 2018 home opener vs. Santa Barbara City College at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept.15.

Kayla Tait

After dropping the first game of the match, Saugus Girls’ Volleyball player Kayla Tait willed Saugus to a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Canyon on Thursday. Leading the Cents in kills (20) and in digs (21), Tait did a little bit of everything in the Cents’ win finishing the match with three aces.

“Kayla Tait is a tenacious athlete,” Saugus Volleyball Coach Zachary Ambrose said. “She wants to excel at everything she does on the court and in the classroom. Kayla currently leads the team in kills and digs.”

 

 

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | September 6, 2018

Tim Burch joined Special Olympics (SO) 13 years ago at age 12. Tim first started out with SO bowling and then decided to also join SO basketball. Burch does not have a particular favorite sport, as he likes both sports equally. Burch states, “In bowling, you play on a team and you score your own points.”

Tim’s bowling average is 125, and his best game high was 188, which he bowled in a tournament and won a gold medal.

Tim also enjoys playing basketball. Burch sums it all up saying, “Basketball is more like a team sport. I really like going to the different tournaments and playing against different SO teams. SO has made me better, it’s taught me to have good sportsmanship, I’ve made longtime friends, I have wonderful coaches who help me, and most of all, I have a lot of fun.”

Zach Johnson
Hart Football Quarterback

Johnson was electric guiding Hart to their first win of the season in the 31-27 win over Arcadia High School at College of the Canyons on Friday. Johnson accounted for 260 of the 373 total yards on the night for the Indians completing 18-of-31 passes, throwing for three touchdowns and running one in.

Hailey Gomillion
The Master’s University Women’s Soccer

Gomillion delivered twice over the past week. She opened up her scoring on the year with the game winner in the 85th minute of the home opening 1-0 win against Southern Oregon on August 31. She then followed up scoring her second goal of the year in the 3-1 Labor Day win against Benedictine Mesa on Monday. Gomillion is currently tied for the team lead with two goals five games into the season.

Chip Kelly’s UCLA Football Debut an Offensive Blunder

| Sports | September 6, 2018

by Diego Marquez

Opening up the season with a 26-17 loss to the University of Cincinnati on Saturday, UCLA first-year head coach Chip Kelly’s debut as an offensive mastermind didn’t go as planned. Jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter things looked good for the Bruins and Kelly. The lead was squandered after the Bearcats stormed back, scoring 17-unanswered points to lead at the half 17-10.

Wilton Speight, the Michigan Wolverine transfer, got the start ahead of highly recruited freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but Speight was knocked out after just throwing 8-of-12 completions. In his first action of his collegiate career, Thompson-Robinson looked shaky and like a true freshman. The offensive line did not help anything not allowing the quarterback to be comfortable in the pocket long enough to make some decent throws. He had trouble with ball security and even gave up a fumble that resulted in a Bearcat safety.

Combining for 100 yards of offense, the Bruins’ running backs, Kazemeir Allen, Joshua Kelly and Bolu Olorunfunmi, did what they could to help out the first-year quarterback, but they also ran into some trouble. Allen carried the ball five times for 74 yards and a touchdown, averaging 7.25 yards-per-carry. Kelly was equally impressive, showing some flashes of brilliance finding the holes and gaps to run through and showing the ability to catch and use his hands out of the back field. Olorunfunmi ran the ball nine times out of the 21 total for the running backs, but managed to gain on 13 yards on those carries. He faired the worst out of the three running backs by missing gaps and running lanes to run through and hesitating allowing the defense to disrupt things in the backfield.

The receiver corps made up of Theo Howard and Caleb Wilson looked to be in mid-season form as Howard caught 5-of-6 pass attempts to finish the game with 52 yards receiving. Wilson equally looked good making adjustments time-after-time to make some unbelievable catches in the air by contorting his body. True freshmen Chase Cota and Kyle Philips looked the part of true freshmen not being relied on to heavily because of their inconsistency.

All in all, the UCLA Bruins need to work on multiple things ahead of the tough road game against perennial powerhouse Oklahoma, who just beat Florida Atlantic University 64-14.

USC Basketball Touts the No. 1 Recruiting Class in 2019

| Sports | September 1, 2018

After a disappointing 2017-18 season, going 24-12 overall and barely missing out on the NCAA Tournament, the USC men’s basketball team received a much-needed boost this summer with a very highly-talented and explosive 2019 incoming freshman class. Touting an already prized recruiting class with four top-10 players in the state of California, the Trojans’ head coach, Andy Enfield, is still hot on the recruiting trail for another top recruit in the state.

Boasting the 15th-highest ranked recruiting class heading into this season, the Trojans’ recruiting triumphs have improved with each passing year, ranking 31st in 2017, 34th in 2016 and 45th in 2015. Focusing on attracting local and top California players, Enfield has put forth a vision that rivals recruiting juggernauts with the likes of Arizona, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky.

The first commit to headline the 2019 incoming freshmen class is 5-star prospect Onyeka Okongwu from Chino Hills, California. The 6-foot-8-inch center is the No. 18 player overall in the country and the No. 1 player from the state. Okongwu is described as a stretch 4 who can bring up the ball and stretch the floor for his teammates. He is still developing his shot and post moves, but the ceiling is as high on the Chino Hills star. Leading the Huskies to a CIF-Division I state title, Okongwu averaged 28 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks a game.

Committing shortly after Okongwu, the No. 2 player in the state, Isaiah Mobley from Rancho Christian followed suit. The 4-star power forward matched with Okongwu give the Trojans an already formidable back-court. His commitment comes on the heels of his father, Eric Mobley, being added to the USC coaching staff by replacing assistant coach Tony Bland. Mobley averaged 20 points, 11 and two blocks per game last season at Rancho Christian.

Adding to the already stacked, the Trojans secured commitments from two 4-star recruits after signing shooting guard Drake London from Moorpark High School and Max Agbonkpolo from Santa Margarita Catholic in Rancho Santa Margarita. London is the No. 76 player in the nation and No. 8 in the state, and a dual-athlete who plans on playing football for the Trojans as well as stepping out on the hardwood. During his junior season at Moorpark, London averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game last season. Signing shortly after London, Agbonkpolo a 6-foot-8-inch small-forward brings more depth and scoring to the already loaded class. He averaged 14 points, six rebounds and dished out five assists per game during his junior year at Santa Margarita.

Vying for a fifth 2019 in-state recruit, Enfield has set his sights on Sierra Canyon’s Cassius Stanley. The 6-foot-5-inch shooting guard is the No. 27 player in the country and No. 3 player in the state and led the Trailblazers to an open division and state championship this past season. In his junior campaign, Stanley averaged 19 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks per game among his notable stats.

Playing the waiting game, Enfield will look to end the year adding Stanley to a roster that features Okongwu, Mobley, London and Agbonkpolo, and the 2019 No. 1 incoming recruiting class.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | August 30, 2018

Casey Gilruth

Casey Gilruth is an athlete who likes to try new sports. He has been a four-year AYSO soccer player, a Special Olympics athlete in softball for one year, basketball for four years, floor hockey for one year, swimming for one year, bowling for 10 years, and golf for four years. Casey’s best game in bowling was a 203, and this year at the Vista Valencia golf course, he made a hole-in-one.

According to Casey’s coach, “Casey is a competitive athlete, a good sport, and fun to have on a team.”

Sophie Bobal

In last week’s 3-1 loss to Louisville, Sophie Bobal had a breakout game where she led the Wildcats in kills with 15, second in serves received (24) and digs (14). She was also third on the team in blocks (3) and aces, with one. Bobal is top-5 on the West Ranch girls’ volleyball team in all five categories.

Ryan Camacho

For the second week in a row, Ryan Camacho finished the game with multiple touchdowns in the home opener, a 54-0 shut-out win against John Burroughs. Carrying the ball six times in the contest, Camacho finished the game with 99 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Camacho later added an 80-yard interception return for touchdown to end the night with three total touchdowns.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | August 23, 2018

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Sean Coskran

Sean currently participates in Special Olympics golf, Strike Force bowling and SNAP (Special Needs and Peers) Sports ice skating. He juggles these activities with his work schedule at Carousel Ranch, along with a private ranch in Sand Canyon, but always loves to get out of his ranch attire and suit up for whatever sport is on his schedule.

Recently, Sean received a note from the Dave Chase, the Executive Director of SNAP Sports: “What a pleasure it has been lately to have you chipping in, and lending a hand at our Monday Night Skating class. Sean, you are a shining example of everything we try to teach at SNAP Sports!” Dave wrote. “We can’t take credit for it, but we are glad to have your wonderful smile and glowing attitude with us every week.”

 

 

 

 

 

Megan Charles

Megan has been participating in Special Olympics for 15 years. She started in 2003 at the age of 8. Over the years, Megan has competed in the bowling, swimming, gymnastics, field hockey, and basketball programs. Bowling is one of Megan’s favorite sports, and this year she has raised her average by 15 pins. “You can always count on Meg to give it her very best shot,” said coach Ken Charles, who is also Megan’s father. “She has a lot of enthusiasm.”

Not only is Megan a S.O. athlete, she is also a dancer. She has been participating in the special needs dance class for six years at Studio 84. She enjoys the challenge and rehearsing for the two recitals the class performs yearly.

Los Angeles Rams and Aaron Donald at Standstill

| Sports | August 23, 2018

by Diego Marquez

For the Los Angeles Ram’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald, it doesn’t seem likely that he will sign a contract extension anytime soon. The team began training camp practice in late July, and Donald was a no-show. The reigning NFL defensive player of the year has been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and defenses recording 41 tackles, 11 sacks and five forced fumbles during the 2017 NFL season.

Holding out for the second straight season, the first-round pick in 2014 is entering his final season of his rookie deal and is scheduled to earn $6.9 million. Since he did not report to camp by August 7, he has been deemed a restricted free agent after the season. The Rams are two years removed from a four-win season and are playing like the “greatest show on turf” Rams with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce, and now have something to lose.

Due to the NFL salary cap, Donald does not seem like he will garner the $25 million he so desires, because it won’t be financially feasible for the Rams organization and for the front office, due to the fact that they will reward a player that has held out for two years in a row.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay went on ProFootballTalk podcast with Mike Florio and had this to say about whether or not he thinks Donald will sign before the start of the season: “I don’t think so, but I think for us ideally, you’d like to be able to see a guy get in here a couple weeks before the season starts. But in terms of a stern deadline, we don’t have that. We’ve been in the situation before. Everybody knows how important Aaron is to us and how much we want to be able to get this done. In the meantime, we’re appreciative of the guys that we hear that are working. But to say that there’s a stern deadline, I wouldn’t say that, but I think there is an ideal time where you’d like to get him in here to get in football shape and feel confident that he’ll be ready to go and be healthy enough to participate just based on the things we’ve gotten exposed to for that first game.”

Having to deal with the distraction two years in a row is unfortunate, but happens from time to time with big organizations like Los Angeles. But in the meantime, all the McVay and the Ram’s front office can hope for is that that Donald is physically fit, whenever it may be that he returns to the team.

“I think Aaron’s certainly a special player and a rare breed that he’s able to do that,” McVay said. “We’d love to have Aaron here. I think there is a certain level of at least understanding like you’ve been there before. Unfortunately, we’ve kind of been on this road before, and the one thing you do feel good about is that while he isn’t here, Aaron is one of the those guys that he’s working his tail off doing everything he can in his power – outside of this building to prepare himself to be ready to go, if we’re able to come to a finality and get this thing worked out where
everybody feels good about it.”

The Rams have two more preseason games left as they host the Texans on August 25 and the travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints on August 30. The Rams open up the regular season on September 9 as they take on the Oakland Raiders in Oakland.

Concussion Repercussions

| News, Sports | August 23, 2018

by Natalia Radcliffe

If you have seen the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you might pity the rabbit. His head never gets a break, being subject to constant, comical thumps. For a human, having a glass cookie jar dropped on the skull does not result in laughter, but possibly, a concussion.

And recently, there has been increasing concern over concussions for local athletes. This concern is commonly seen in sports where there is a risk of obtaining head injuries.

A concussion occurs when the head suffers a jarring blow, causing the brain to slide around inside the skull. This can result in damage to the brain cells. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some observable signs of a concussion are: “not being able to recall events prior to or after a hit or fall, appearing dazed or stunned, forgetting an instruction, being confused about an assignment or position, or unsure of the game, score, or opponent, moving clumsily, answering questions slowly, losing consciousness (even briefly), and showing mood, behavior, or personality changes.”

Locally, schools and organizations within the City of Santa Clarita have taken up the gauntlet to better protect its youth against concussions in regards to “tackle football,” the sport most associated with these kinds of injuries. The Hart School District, private schools, and Pop Warner organizations have been making an effort to prevent the repercussions of concussions.

The Hart School District consists of the public high schools Canyon, Saugus, Hart, Valencia, West Ranch, and Golden Valley. It has a partnership with Henry Mayo Hospital, which hires athletic trainers to be at each of the six schools. It was the first school district to hire such people. The athletic trainers’ main function is to oversee rehabilitation of injuries, making sure the proper protocol is followed so students can safely return to playing the game as soon as possible.

Dave Caldwell, the public relations officer of the Hart District, says the district “is very fortunate to have a full time, certified athletic trainer at each of the six schools. They make sure the athletes are healthy enough to play.”

The Hart District is part of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) southern section, which oversees athletics in the state of California. Because it is a contact sport, there are rules put in place to prevent injuries, which include limiting the time spent on full contact practices in order to prevent the opportunity for students to suffer concussions. Caldwell also mentions there is an emphasis nationwide on training coaches to teach tackling techniques that do not require players to use their heads. There are even penalties “when players are leading with their heads or hit someone in the head with their heads,” known as targeting.

The local private Christian schools, Santa Clarita Christian (SCCS) and Trinity Classical Academy, are also working toward protecting their students.

All of Santa Clarita Christian’s coaches take a national course with the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) in football and concussion safety before coaching students. They are always observing tackling and blocking techniques, and constantly work toward better ways that do not involve the head taking the brunt of the force. According to Mark Bates, the Athletic Director at SCCS, there have been major changes in how the game is played since he played football many years ago, when players would tackle headfirst.
These days, players tackle with the chest and shoulders, with the head being behind the body when the action occurs. The same thing goes with blocking. When Bates played football, players would block by hitting the opponents with their heads. Now, players are taught to use their hands. Helmets are another avenue in which the school is preventing concussions.

According to Bates, a helmet’s “primary use was to prevent lacerations on the head,” not to protect the brain from being jarred. This is not the case anymore, as the school uses newer helmets that better protect the head from hits as well as cuts. Like the Hart District, Santa Clarita Christian hires athletic trainers, but they are only are present at games. Bates says the school is working on getting them for practices as well. Despite these concerns, the school has not noticed a decrease in football registration.

Trinity Classical Academy is also working toward preventing concussions. According to Dr. Matthew J. Dixon, the Director of Athletics and Dean of Spiritual Life, the school has “been (obviously) having all coaches do the required CIF concussion training.” He says the school is “also exploring with better ways to register and account for injuries (including concussions), using tools like Player’s Health,” which, according to playershealth.com/about, is an interactive software that allows coaches to monitor and document injuries that happen while playing football. Coaches are also more aware of the consequences of a concussion injury, and therefore bench students over the slightest suspicion of one. As far as the school’s registration numbers for the football team, they have stayed the same 27 to 30 students, which Dr. Dixon says is normal for a school such as theirs.

The Pop Warner organizations say they are doing their part, as well.

The Saugus Spartans football organization, for example, requires all their coaches to pass an exam with USA Football. This exam includes recognizing concussion symptoms. If a concussion is recognized, the player is taken off the field and will need to be cleared by a doctor before returning to the sport. All of the teams have a medic on site during games, and someone who is medically trained available during practices. The president of the organization, Tony Moore, is in his seventh year at Saugus Spartans. In his time there, he says he has only been aware of two concussions, and both of those injuries were initiated by illegal hits from the opposing team.

Santa Clarita Cowboys is another Pop Warner organization that is striving to keep its kids safe. Like Santa Clarita Christian, all their coaches are trained in heads up tackling, which is tackling without using the head. According to Michael Haiby, the president, the rules have changed since twenty years ago. Players can no longer blindside the opposition, nor tackle with the head. He said that in 1999, coaches used to say to players, “go smack heads,” before going out onto the field. Obviously, this is not the case anymore.

Requirements for certification and inspection of helmets have also become stricter. Haiby says the organization uses the brands Riddell and Schutt for their helmets, and they are no more than four to five years old. The maximum number of years a helmet can be used is ten, but Haiby says a lot can change with helmets in a decade, as they can wear down from seasons of use.

Helmets are required to be conditioned every two years; however, the Santa Clarita Cowboys have their helmets inspected every year after the season is over. This is to keep their helmets looking new and clean, as well as making sure they are in top condition.

When helmets are recalled to be inspected, they are dropped from four or five feet to see if they crack. This is called drop testing. The helmets are also buffed down so the finish can be seen, called inspection reconditioning. In a nutshell, the helmets are literally taken apart and put back together to determine if they meet the requirements. If the helmet is deemed safe and competent, new pads are put in the inside of the helmet and a sticker is placed on the back, labeling it as successfully inspected. It is then shipped back to the organization to be used again.

All the coaches at Santa Clarita Cowboys are also required to take the CDC’s concussion class. When a concussion is spotted, they fill out paperwork detailing the specifics and send the player with the paperwork to a medically trained professional who treats the injury. The player then must be cleared by a medical professional before getting back into the sport. Haiby says, “We are more aware of concussions these days, and we are watching what we are doing.”

Helmets and Other Concussion Risks

Not only are schools and organizations working on preventing concussions, so are helmet companies. Both Riddell and VICIS are working towards preventing concussions. According to Riddell’s website, they came out with the “Insite Impact Response System,” which is technology that can “monitor and record significant head impacts sustained during a football game or practice” in 2013. This technology is located inside the helmet, and is commonly used with high schools.

VICIS is also a major player in concussion prevention technology. Their newest helmet is the ZERO1. According to their website, “it is Virginia Tech’s top-rated 5-star helmet.” Virginia Tech is a public, land-grant university research center. The technology in the ZERO1 helmet can be used with high schools as well as college and the NFL.

It is worth noting, however, that football is not the only sport where players can risk obtaining concussions.

According to a study by the American Journal of Sports, girl’s soccer also has a high tendency for concussions. This makes sense, as players are not required to wear helmets, but are susceptible to being hit in the head by a soccer ball. During the game, there are times where the ball is kicked into the net or passed to other people that can result in players being accidentally hit in the head. Since the players do not have any protection for their heads, they are more likely to suffer from a concussion.

Flag football also has a tendency to produce concussion injuries, because players are not required to wear helmets. According to Michael Haiby, the president of Santa Clarita Cowboys, most of the concussion injuries come from catching passes when the players dive for the ball and fall on the ground.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | August 17, 2018

Aaron Rodriguez is a kicker/punter for Hart Football.

The football player is now ranked in the top-20 among all punters in the country, coming in at 17th in the U.S. and is the second ranked punter in the state of California. Rodriguez averaged 38.1 yards on 51 punts last year.

 

Allison Jacobs is a volleyball player for West Ranch Girls Volleyball and Legacy Volleyball Club.

Jacobs will be traveling to Honduras making the cut for the 2018 NORCECA Girl’s U18 Continental Championships roster. Making the final 12-man Los, Jacobs and the team will begin play on August 25.

Los Angeles Dodgers Reconfiguring Pitching Rotation

| Sports | August 16, 2018

by Diego Marquez

Los Angeles’ historic and storied MLB franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers, announced earlier this week that pitchers Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling will be moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen. The decision to move the pitchers comes on the heels of the Dodgers losing star-reliever Kenley Jansen for about a month due to an irregular heartbeat. Without Jansen, the Los Angeles Dodgers have dropped three of the four games they played since the injury.

The bullpen rotation has been a real problem for the Dodgers, as the team is dealing with numerous injuries to their relievers. The Dodgers also return pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood to the starting rotation as they come back from the disabled list. Alex Wood, a left-handed pitcher, will come off the 10-day disabled list after he went down on August 4 with left adductor tendinitis during a start against the Houston Astros.

With Hyun-Jin Ryu’s return to the starting rotation, the left-handed pitcher has been sidelined since May 2 due to an injury sustained to his groin when a muscle ripped and tore off the bone during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. On the year Ryu has gone a perfect 3-0 in six starts this season with an ERA of 2.12.

The Dodgers’ bullpen most recently blew saves this past Friday, August 10 and Saturday, August 11 against the Colorado Rockies giving up late-game home runs to Ryan McMahon. With the addition of Maeda and Stripling to the bullpen, the Dodgers gain much-needed help to a lack-luster bunch.

Maeda is 7-7 for on the season with a 3.80 ERA. The 30-year-old has seen some work in the bullpen this season and in 20 starts averages 10.7 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings in the 109 innings he has appeared in on the season. He has been a starter for the Dodgers since signing with the organization in January of 2016.

Stripling is 8-3 in 2018 in 28 appearances with a 2.62 ERA in 110 innings of work. In 17 starts, he has averaged 9.9 strikeouts and walking 1.4 batters per nine innings. For the most part, Stripling has spent the last three seasons in the bullpen before making the move into the rotation due to injuries among starting pitchers.

With seven weeks to go in the regular season, Maeda is factored to throw about 140 innings and finalizes a rumor that the coaching and management has been trying to complete for a while. Now that the Dodgers return Ryu to the rotation manager Dave Roberts will now have four left-handers with Ryu, Rich Hill (5-4, 3.62 ERA) Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 2.58) and Alex Wood (7-6, 3.58) and righties Walker Buehler (5-4, 3.32).

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | August 9, 2018

Izabella Adame

Competing in the 2018 USA Swimming Futures Championship in Santa Clara from August 2 to August 5, Adame placed first in the girls 100-meter breaststroke preliminaries with a time of 1:12.27. In the finals, Adame finished second with an even faster time of 1:11.19 for Canyons Aquatics Club. Adame also took home second-place in the girls 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:36.72.

Cole Roederer

Selected in the second-round of the 2018 MLB First-Year-Player Draft with the 77th selection by the Chicago Cubs, Roederer (Hart High baseball alumnus) has been on a hot streak in the Arizona Rookie League. In the month of July, Roederer has hit three home runs and 20 runs scored in 82 at-bats for a batting average of .305.

Paseo Aquatics Offering Introductory Swim Clinic and Meet To Community

| Sports | August 9, 2018

Paseo Aquatics will host an “End of Summer Splash” swim clinic and meet on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Castaic Aquatics Swim Complex.

“This is a golden opportunity for the local community to meet our amazing coaches and the other swimmers who compete with Paseo Aquatics,” said Jay Wolf, Paseo Aquatics co-founder. “The word is out: Paseo Aquatics is the area’s newest USA-Sanctioned Swim Club in the Valley, and we want to show that by inviting everyone to experience what we are all about on Aug. 18.”

The meet will include a swim clinic conducted by the Paseo Aquatics coaching staff. The “End of Summer Splash” will include a swim clinic, individual races (25 and 50 yards) and relays, water games and fun. Each swimmer will also receive a Paseo Aquatics swim cap.

“The basic goal is to introduce the Santa Clarita Valley to our growing club,” Wolf said. “We hope any local family who has child with a love, interest or curiosity for the sport of swimming will register for this fun day of swimming.”

There is a $10 fee to register. Visit www.paseoaquatics.org and click the link to register by sending your name, swimmer’s name, age and gender to: info@paseoaquatics.org.

UCLA Basketball: Incoming 2018 Recruiting Class

| Sports | August 9, 2018

by Diego Marquez

UCLA men’s basketball announced its highly-talented incoming freshman class earlier this week.

Headlining the 2018 recruiting class is Shareef O’Neal, the son of Hall-of-Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who committed to the UCLA Bruins earlier in the year, but had to straighten out his academic affairs and will join his teammates in Westwood soon. On Monday, O’Neal officially signed with the school after attending Crossroads School for his senior year. The No. 40 player overall in the 2018 signing class, O’Neal ranks as a top-10 power forward in the country. In his senior year playing basketball at Crossroads, O’Neal averaged 27 points per game en route to leading Crossroads to their first state championship since 1997, when Baron Davis, who also played and starred at UCLA basketball, led them to the title.

O’Neal is a four-star recruit and is part of a six-man incoming recruiting class that includes three other four-star recruits, including David Singleton, Jules Bernard and point guard Tyger Campbell, as well as three-star recruit center Kenneth Nwuba and the five-star center from Jamaica, New York Moses Brown. This, along with the fact that redshirt freshman Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were reinstated earlier this week after a year-long suspension, which was placed on them after both players, along with ex-UCLA men’s basketball player LiAngelo Ball, shoplifted sunglasses and other items from luxury shops in Hangzhou, China on UCLA’s trip to China about a year ago.

Singleton is probably the best all-around player in the Bruins signing class. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, the combo-guard can play and defend multiple positions. He can create for himself off the dribble or create for his teammates with his excellent ball-handling skills. In his senior year at Bishop Montgomery, Singleton averaged 25.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.

Bernard is the No. 54 ranked recruit in the incoming class and can be a two-way player for UCLA head coach Steve Alford. At 6 feet 6 inches, Bernard can defend the 2 through 4 spots and can keep up with the quicker guards, if need be. He gets off the floor quickly, thanks to his long wingspan and leaping abilities, and should impact the Bruin rotation in one way or another.

Campbell is a top-100 recruit and is one of the best “true-point guards” in the 2018 freshman class. He is a little bit undersized, but at 6 feet, Campbell doesn’t back down from anything and have proven to be a leader. During his senior season at La Lumiere in Indiana, Campbell averaged 16.6 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game and 7.7 assists per game. The guard is as crafty as any point guard and has amazing court vision. He will fill the void that Aaron Holiday left when he entered the 2018 NBA Draft.

Nwuba stands 6 feet 10 inches and is a true center who does his damage when his back is to the basket. He doesn’t need to touch the ball all that much, as he can set solid screens and is a high-level rebounder. He loves to fight for inside position; this is one of his best attributes for getting second-chance opportunities. Playing for Huntington Prep in West Virginia, Nwuba averaged 6.3 points on 57.6 field going percentage, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

Brown is the UCLA Bruins top-ranked freshman for the 2018 incoming class, and is arguably the best player to come out of New York. The 7-foot center is the No. 27 ranked player in this year’s class and brings incredible athleticism and agility for a man of his size. He is a nightmare for defenders as he can utilize the pick-and-rolls with ease and can snatch almost every rebound that comes his way. During his senior season at Archbishop Molloy High School, Brown averaged 26 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks per game.

With the amount of talent that the UCLA men’s basketball program brings with the incoming 2018 freshman class, along with the return of Riley and Hill, the possibilities are endless for the Bruins and their capabilities.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | August 2, 2018

 

Tyler Cash competed in the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics in the 15-16 age division this past weekend held at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. Clearing a height of six feet, 2.75 inches, the high jumper placed third out of 47 participants to earn All-American honors.

 

 

West Ranch golfer Zoe Campos finished in second place at the Southern California Golf Association held on Monday and Tuesday. Finishing with a total overall score of eight-under for the tournament, shooting a 211, Campos had a first round score of 70, followed it up with a 69 in the next round and ended the two-day tournament hitting a 72 in the third round.

 

Ryan is a twin who was born premature with complications. Both twins were in the NICU for 10 days, where Ryan flatlined a couple of times. Ryan progressed, along with his sister, at a fairly normal rate, until he began to lag behind his sister at about 2 years of age. By the time he was 3, there was a significant stint in his capabilities. It was then that he became diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability.

Ryan has been involved with Special Olympics since he was 7 years old, participating in swimming, bowling, basketball, golf, volleyball, and floor hockey. Ryan’s bowling average is 120, and he is an asset on the basketball court. He just finished a perfect season, taking the gold medal in all their tournaments. Ryan also loves volleyball, and he is known for his vicious serve. He served 16 straight points in the championship match at Fall Games to win the gold medal.

“I asked Ryan what his favorite Special Olympics sport is, and he said basketball” said Ryan’s father and coach Jay Schubert. “I then asked him what sport he makes the biggest difference in, and he said volleyball.”

Taylor Schubert, Ryan’s sister, had this to say about Ryan: “I love being Ryan’s volleyball coach because it gives us something to bond over. And although we are twins, it is oftentimes difficult to find a common bond.”

USC Looks For Next Trojan Quarterback

| Sports | August 2, 2018

by Diego Marquez

With the start of college football just a month away, there’s the discussion of who will be the next guy up, as previous year’s starters have graduated or declared for the NFL draft. For the University of Southern California, the decision to be made is at quarterback. With Sam Darnold off in the NFL fighting for the New York Jets starting quarterback position, the Trojans have a void to fill that last year’s field general left when he departed for the NFL.

It’s not a lie that USC has put out some of the most revered quarterbacks of this decade, so the task at hand should be routine and a piece of cake. Wrong. Replacing Sam Darnold will not be easy, as the Pac-12 South Division is open for the taking, but USC Head Coach Clay Helton will have to take all things into consideration as he tries to narrow down his Week 1 starter.

USC has three eligible options at quarterback for the starting job during the 2018-19 season: J.T Daniels, Jack Sears and Matt Fink. Daniels is an incoming freshman who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was not to be taken lightly as he starred for Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. Daniels had a national list of offers, but it was clear early on in the recruiting process that he would stay on the West Coast and sign with Stanford or USC. The latter won. It is noteworthy that Daniels, an incoming freshman, has yet to take a college football snap and recently reclassified to graduate a year early by signing on as a Trojan with the 2018 class. Daniels threw for 152 touchdowns in his three-year career at Mater Dei, and looks to be poised to give the candidates a friendly reminder that he is not backing down.

Jack Sears, like Darnold, attended San Clemente High School and succeeded Darnold when he graduated and left for USC. Enrolling early with USC in 2017, Sears was redshirted as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart behind Darnold and Fink. For the second time in his life, Sears is trying to take over a job that was once Darnold’s. In 2016, Fink led the Tritons to a state championship and enrolled early at USC in 2017. The 6’3” redshirt freshman is a talented passer and will seek to show off his “Darnold-esque” characteristics and skills.

Enrolling early in 2016, Fink elected to stay local after being recruited by Notre Dame and Washington, as well as the University of California, Los Angeles. Last year, he served as Darnold’s backup playing minimally, completing 6-of-9 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore also rushed for an additional 82 yards. Coming from Glendora High School, Fink led the Tartans to a 27-8 record in three seasons at the helm of the varsity football. Fink threw for 1,258 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, in addition to another 1,106 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Out of the three candidates, Fink seems to be the most experienced progressing in his reads and being able to adapt to situations on the fly.

While some may think it may be a two-man race between Sears and Fink, incoming freshman Daniels might just surprise some people and steal the spotlight away from his predecessors. This USC quarterback battle is one of the most intriguing and impressive amounts of collective talent and potential for what can be the beginning of another Trojan dynasty, one that they haven’t seen since the likes of the Pete Carroll era.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | July 26, 2018

Izabella Adame

This budding Valencia sophomore swimmer competed at the Canyon Aquatics USA Swim Sectionals over the weekend. Racing against swimmers from across the state of California and Nevada, Adame competed in the 100-meter breaststroke and dropped her time by 1.31 seconds to finish second overall, with a time of 1:11.76.
“Izabella has been a great inspiration to many of the girls around her,” said David Kuck, head coach at Canyons Aquatic Club. “She is a fierce competitor and finds a way to get things done when it comes down to the wire. She has excellent confidence and trust in her coach, Kevin Nielsen, who has been instrumental in her continued success.”

Kevin Childs

The Foothill League’s boys’ swimmer of the year also took part in the USA Swim Sectionals held at Canyon Aquatics, qualifying for the men’s 200-meter backstroke. The Canyon High product finished with an overall time of 2:08.19 seconds, good enough to put Childs in seventh place overall.

“Kevin Childs is a great team player and is the picture of what coaches hope to find in athletes,” said David Kuck, the head coach at Canyons Aquatic Club. “He has a strong internal drive and focuses on his goals every day in practices. His base of training has been strong through the winter and spring and he is receiving the payoff at the end of the spring and now the summer.

Manny Machado Brings the ‘MANNYWOOD’ Back to Los Angeles

| Sports | July 26, 2018

by Diego Marquez

It has been a pretty exciting week for Dodgers fans. On July 18, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired All-Star infielder Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles after a three-day whirlwind of rumors and speculation. In return for the All-Star shortstop, the Orioles will receive five prospects: outfielder Yusniel Diaz, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer, third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-handed pitcher Zach Pop and infielder Breyvic Valera.

Out of the five prospects that Los Angeles is giving up Diaz, a 21-year-old from Cuba seems to be the prospect with the most potential, putting up a strong on-base percentage in Double-A. Kremer, 22, has a strong fastball and good command of a slider and curve. Bannon, 22, can play third base and can make solid contact with the ball. Pop, 21, averaged a 0.33 ERA in two seasons in the minors. Valera, 26, is a switch-hitter who can play multiple positions and can hit the ball.

Machado, 26, is having a career season batting .315 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs in 96 games for the Orioles. Playing in his fourth All-Star game, the American League’s starting shortstop has won two Gold Gloves at third baseman with three top-10 finishes for the league’s MVP. Machado is expected to take over at shortstop, meaning that Chris Taylor will move to another position, after taking over at shortstop when All-Star shortstop Corey Seager went down for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

Now with Machado in the lineup, Taylor might slide over to second base, where the Dodgers rank 27th in the majors at the position in batting average and slugging percentage and tied for 21st in home runs with seven. Stockpiling utility players: Cody Bellinger (first base and center field), Max Muncy (first base, second base and third base) and Kike Hernandez the Dodgers will be able to put out numerous lineups to align with the game plan for any given game.
The shortstop is owed $6.3 million (of the original $16 million) for the remainder of the season, and will become a free agent this upcoming season, unless he decides otherwise. One way of looking at it is that Machado is just a temporary solution to the problem when Seager went down for the year. Both Seager and Justin Turner (who play shortstop and third base) are signed through the 2020 season, when Turners contract is set to expire.

Due to the fact that Machado was traded during the season, Los Angeles will not be able to give him a qualifying offer the offseason, meaning they will not be able to recoup Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. The Dodgers began the season with an estimated $182 million payroll.

Now that the Dodgers have acquired Machado in the blockbuster trade of the year, Los Angeles appears to be the front runner in the National League, and is now tied with the New York Yankees for third to win it all, trailing only the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox. We will just have to wait and see what the Dodgers will be able to make of this season-changing trade, as there is so much season left in the year.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | July 19, 2018

Monique Febles

Monique Febles is entering her junior year at Saugus High School. Febles has shown signs of improvement throughout the summer with her scoring. In the Palm Desert Tournament, Febles started the tournament hot, scoring 22 points in the first game and averaging 12 points in the game, while the Centurions finished 2-3 overall in the tournament.

Bobby Garcia

Saugus’ lefty pitcher Bobby Garcia pitched the Centurions to a 4-0 victory in the VIBL Championship game against El Camino Real on Saturday night. Racking up 10 K’s on the day, Garcia finished the game throwing a one-hitter in the complete game shut-out win for the Cents.

 

Special Athlete of the Week – Keri Hartmann

| Sports | July 19, 2018

Keri Hartmann has been participating in the local Special Olympics program for the past 20 years.

She started in 1998 at the age of nine, when the organization was new to Santa Clarita. Since that time, Keri has competed in almost all the 16 sports offered.

Although Keri likes all the sports, she is a regular athlete in the tennis and bowling programs. Most recently, Keri practiced with the newly created flag-football program, where she enjoyed learning new skills.
Keri loves the pageantry of attending a Special Olympics Opening Ceremony. Clearly, her favorite thing is to give high-fives to all the volunteers lining the parade route. “Keri loves being able to walk with the parade of athletes. You can tell she is quite proud to be able to represent this organization,” said coach Christina Lopez.

When she’s not practicing with Special Olympics, Keri enjoys attending a special needs dance class at Dance Studio 8, where she has danced for 14 years. She also volunteers at the Special Olympics office, as well as Shelter of Hope. news

The King of Thrones Arrives in Los Angeles

| Sports | July 19, 2018

by Diego Marquez

The Los Angeles Lakers have a long and storied history of winning, but in recent years, since the last major star Kobe Bryant retired after the 2015-2016 NBA, the Lakers have struggled to find a leader. Worry no more, Lakers fans, the king has arrived. After signing a four-year deal with the Lakers worth $153.3 million on July 9, LeBron James will officially be the next superstar to suit up for the 16-time champion franchise.

Missing the playoffs for the past five seasons, the Lakers have watched as James not only reached the playoffs, but played in eight straight NBA finals, winning three out of eight championships. Creating cap space by trading away Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr., coincidently to James’ former team the Cleveland Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the No. 25 pick in this year’s draft (Moe Wagner), the Lakers continued the process that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka set out to do in their “three-year” plan.

After signing the first piece of the next possible super team, the Lakers’ next line of duty was to add key players and pieces around James which would allow him to not only make it to the playoffs, but make a run at the two-time defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. With the additions of Lance Stephenson, an astute defender that can help guard the opposing team’s best player JaVale McGee, an upbeat rim-protecting high-flying center, and Rajon Rondo, a proven veteran who can take command of the offense and provide some leadership for the rest of the young Los Angeles core, along with the re-signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who stays on for his second season with the team after averaging 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season while shooting .426 from the field.

Coming off one of his greatest NBA seasons, James finished third in the NBA with 27.5 points, behind league MVP and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (30.4), as well as New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis (28.1), setting new career-highs in rebounds with 8.6 and in assists with 9.1, while playing all 82 regular reason games and reaching the NBA Finals. James will be joining a young and exciting core with the likes of Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft whose game IQ and court-vision has already drawn comparisons to some of the NBA greats, including the Lakers’ own Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd. Brandon Ingram, a lengthy small-forward or guard who has loads of potential, averaged 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds per game and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 43.8 percent from the field. Along with Kyle Kuzma, a stretch four who has proven to be effective by scoring 16.1 point and 6.3 assists per game in 31.2 minutes on the court, and Josh Hart, the second-year Villanova player who has been dominating in summer league putting up league best 24.2 points per game.

Given the new look, the Lakers roster is as intriguing as ever, with a mix of veteran role players and a group of young players who seem destined to make their mark on the storied franchise’s history. Not to say that there doesn’t need to be some improvements, but the Lakers with James seem talented enough to make a playoff run if the can put all the pieces together in time to knock off the two-time defending Champions Golden State Warriors.

It’s safe to say that with the new additions to the Lakers roster, the Lakers will look to compete for an NBA Championship and not just settle for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. But don’t count out Los Angeles out of the running to try and pick up another super-star yet, San Antonio Spur Kawhi Leonard is still available as the Lakers might look to ship off a part of their young core in exchange for Leonard, setting up a very dramatic and exciting beginning of the 2018-2019 NBA season.

The Angels and Dodgers Put on a Show to Start the 2018 Freeway Series

| Sports | July 12, 2018

The famed Freeway Series took place last week in a season that has been very different for both Los Angeles teams. The Angels have been hovering around .500 after a loss to Boston on June 28 gave Anaheim a 41-41 record. The Dodgers, conversely, rode a four-game win streak down the I-5 to take on their L.A. counterparts.

The three-game series offered its fair share of highlight moments, and a twist-ending that was hard to predict. The Angels, despite their struggles, were able to protect their field and fend off the Dodgers, winning the series two games to one.

The first game wasn’t settled until the bottom of the ninth inning. The Dodgers held a 2-1 lead and needed just one more out to take the win. Angels pinch-hitter David Fletcher wouldn’t let his team lose that easily. He hit a single that allowed Shohei Ohtani to reach home and tie up the score. Then, Ian Kinsler took the plate and drove a walk-off single to right field, helping Anaheim snatch a 3-2 victory away from the Dodgers.

Ohtani returned to action for the first time in a month on July 3 against the Mariners. Before game three of the Freeway Series, he had registered only two hits in five outings. A bruised right knee relegated Ohtani to the bench for this match, but that didn’t stop the Angels’ sensation from making an impact.

Albert Pujols tied the game with a home run in the sixth inning. From there on out, it was Ohtani’s time to shine. He came in as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, and with his lone at bat, hit a homer of his own to bring the final score to 4-3.

Game two was the only time in the series that either team won by more than one. Justin Turner ensured the Dodgers never trailed, giving his team a 2-0 lead with a single in the fifth. A Mike Trout home run made it a one score game, but Yasiel Puig’s ninth inning homer clinched the victory for the Dodgers.

July has been a rough month for the Angels offensively. After the first seven games of the month, their 19 runs scored were dead last in the MLB. The team’s collective .195 batting average was second worst in the league in that span. It comes as no surprise that Trout was their best hitter, registering a .300 batting average and six hits.

The Angles are hoping the bats come alive, because the pitching staff has been nothing short of sensational to start the month. Opposing offenses were only able to score 28 runs on Anaheim, and did so with just a .217 batting average. Andrew Heaney put on a show in the final game against the Dodgers, fanning 10 batters, and earning his fifth win.

The Dodgers suffered from anemic offense in their slow start to the season, but it appears that the team is putting it all together at the right time. At the end of the Freeway Series, the Dodgers had a collective .292 batting average, and scored 53 runs. Both of these numbers were good for third in the league. Matt Kemp continues to be a revelation in his return to Los Angeles, notching 11 hits, 11 RBIs, and a .458 batting average to start the month.

Pitching doesn’t appear to be a problem for the Dodgers either. They have allowed a batting average of .201 to opposing hitters, the lowest mark in the league. Teams have also scored 22 runs against the Dodgers in the opening week of July, the third lowest total in the MLB. Ross Stripling was the only pitcher to collect a win against the Angels, striking out seven batters in the process.

The All-Star break begins in just one week, but before it does, these two teams will square off again at Dodgers Stadium. The latest installment of the Freeway Series begins on July 13, and both ball clubs should expect to be in the same position they were last time, save for any dramatic changes.

It’s hard to anticipate what will happen when the Angels make the trip to Downtown Los Angeles, but another series win would be monumental in taking momentum into the All-Star break. The Dodgers will look to avoid losing steam themselves, since they will have five days off following their bout with Anaheim.

There is a lot at stake when these two teams meet up again. It will soon become clear which one can take the pressure, and finish the Freeway Series as Los Angeles’ top baseball team.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | July 12, 2018

Matthew Hernandez

Matthew was born six weeks early on May 25, 1990 after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. He was medically fragile and had many hospitalizations in his first year, due to congenital cardiac problems, liver failure and congestive heart failure. He had open heart surgery at 11 months, but after that, his health slowly began to improve.

When Matthew was nine years old, he joined the Antelope Valley Special Olympics Swim Team for two years and became quite a strong swimmer, earning gold medals.

When his family moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, he joined the Santa Clarita Special Olympics and played soccer for two seasons. Matthew has tried basketball, floor hockey, and volleyball and is a team player. Today, Matthew is 28 years old, strong, healthy, and he loves basketball. Basketball Coach Brad Bowers says of Matthew, “He is always, always hustling and looking to make a shot.”

His team just ended their season undefeated earning 3 gold medals.

Ally Shipman

Ally Shipman is a recently graduated member of Valencia’s softball team. Shipman was named to the Extra Innings Softball 2018 First Team. Extra Innings takes into account on-field performance, grades, and positive off-field behavior.

Shipman, who will be attending the University of Tennessee, finished the 2018 season with a .356 batting average, 31 hits, 25 RBIs, and seven home runs.

According to Valencia Softball Coach Donna Lee, Shipman’s accolades do not stop there. “Ally was also named 2018 Valencia HS Female Athlete of the year, and Daily News and Signal Sports Softball Player of the year,” Lee said.

Hayden Trowbridge

Hayden Trowbridge is an incoming junior for Saugus’ baseball team. The Centurions took an 8-7 lead into the seventh and final inning of their game against St. Francis in the Valley Invitational Baseball League (VIBL) on July 2. St. Francis scored five runs to take a 12-8 lead.

With the Centurions at bat, Nolan Kutcher scored on a wild pitch, making the score 12-9. Trowbridge then hit a triple that brought in three runs to tie the game 12-12. No more runs would be scored, and the game finished in a tie. Trowbridge finished 3-5 with four RBIs.

“Hayden (is a) hard worker, wants to be the best in whatever he does, (and a) complete joy to be around!” said Coach Carl Grissom.

Revisiting the Los Angeles Clippers’ 2018 Draft

| Sports | June 28, 2018

On May 18, I speculated on what the Clippers would do with two back to back picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Two of the top prospects that were discussed were Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Texas A&M center Robert Williams. Well, the draft finally took place on June 21, and the Clippers threw some definite curveballs that few saw coming.

Most mock drafts had Los Angeles selecting Gilgeous-Alexander at number 12, and while the team wound up drafting him, the pick came in the form of a trade with the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets held the 11th pick in the draft, which they gave to Los Angeles for pick number 12 and two second round draft picks. The Clippers got the guy they wanted in Gilgeous-Alexander, and Charlotte got the prospect they coveted in Miles Bridges.

For those who don’t remember, Gilgeous-Alexander is a 6 foot 6 inch point guard that gives Los Angeles a ton of length at that position. He does most of his scoring damage inside the paint, where he can penetrate with the help of an array of moves that get defenders out of position.

Once in scoring position, Gilgeous-Alexander can finish through contact, or pass to an open player when facing a double-team. His long arms come in handy on the defensive end, as he is able to read passing lanes and record steals. In his lone season at Kentucky, he averaged 1.65 steals per game.

With the 13th pick, the Clippers chose a player few were talking about in Boston College point guard Jerome Robinson. The decision to take another guard with an already stacked backcourt may seem confusing, but Robinson has all the makings of a modern NBA wing player.

Robinson stands at 6 foot 6 inches and has the ability to play on and off ball. With the ball in his hands, he too can make his way to the rim and finish through contact, like Gilgeous-Alexander. Robinson is also unafraid to take contested jump shots off the dribble. This will allow the Clippers to run isolation plays through Robinson, when he is ready to be inserted into the regular rotation.

Off ball, Robinson is a good catch and shoot option. His true shooting percentage in his final year at Boston College was 61 percent, showing his potential as a reliable scorer. He averaged 20 points per game, and did so with an offensive rating of 116.8 points per 100 possessions. In other words, Robinson knows how to put the ball in the basket, and does so at an elite level.

With Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson both coming in, the Clippers have begun the work of clearing up the logjam developing at the guard position. Starting shooting guard Austin Rivers was recently traded to the Washington Wizards for center Marcin Gortat. Gortat will act as insurance, in case Deandre Jordan decides to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

This may signal Los Angeles’ confidence in Robinson to earn a spot in the regular rotation sooner rather than later. Currently, the only two shooting guards in front of him are 2018 Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams, and Sindarius Thornwell, who averaged 15.8 minutes in his rookie season.

The path for Gilgeous-Alexander to see regular playing time seems pretty clear as well. He currently sits behind Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic at the point guard position, but the trade of Rivers makes it apparent the Clippers want to make room for their rookies to contribute as soon as possible.

This means Teodosic may be on his way out. He never figured to be part of Los Angeles’ long term plans, but opted in to his $6.3 million contract. If the Clippers can find a trade partner to take Teodosic off their hands, Gilgeous-Alexander will find himself second in the point guard rotation. If Teodosic stays with the team, it’s more than likely Gilgeous-Alexander supplants him on the depth chart anyways.

Los Angeles is clearly trying to build a team that will contend for a championship in the future, rather than the now. Gortat ensures the Clippers will have a starting-caliber center this season, at the conclusion of which, he will be an unrestricted free agent. This means, come 2019-2020, Los Angeles will have $72.5 million in cap space to fill out their roster with either, a big name free agent, or multiple serviceable role players.

The Clippers’ roster is in a state of flux at the moment. No player appears to be safe from the trading block, save for Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson. It seems Los Angeles has faith that these two can be foundational players to build around, and are actively trying to carve out playing time for both of them to develop.

Everything appears to be chaotic at the moment, but there is a definite sense of direction that should be reassuring. By the time the monolith that is the Golden State Warriors begins to decline, it is possible a young and finely-crafted Clippers team will be there to take Golden State’s place.

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