Friday, February 27, 2009

Rays Trainer Went Above & Beyond For Rocco Baldelli

Nice piece about the Tampa Bay Rays trainer who helped Rocco Baldelli make his comeback, via Fox Sports:

His greatest hope also is his biggest fear. Allow Ron Porterfield, the head trainer for the Tampa Bay Rays, to explain. Porterfield, 44, spent more than a year trying to help outfielder Rocco Baldelli play baseball again. Baldelli, 27, had a condition that caused extreme fatigue after physical activity.

Initially, Porterfield worried that Baldelli's condition might not only be career-ending, but also life-threatening. But Baldelli returned late last season, producing a series of unforgettable moments for the American League champions, moments that brought tears to Porterfield's eyes.

Porterfield's greatest hope — after the countless hours he spent researching Baldelli's condition, speaking with doctors from all over the country, setting up appointments, purchasing supplements, jumping out of bed at night thinking, "What else can I do?" — is that Baldelli finally will become the player the Rays envisioned when they drafted him with the sixth overall pick in 2000.

His biggest fear is that such a breakthrough will occur now that Baldelli has signed with the Boston Red Sox; that somehow, the Red Sox's trainers and doctors will hit on just the right combination of treatments and supplements to bring out the best in Baldelli. "I know I can't worry about that," Porterfield says. "In all honesty, I hope it happens."

It is not unusual for baseball trainers and players to form close bonds. They work together through spring training, the regular season and possibly the postseason, then stay in touch during the winter. The best trainers not only help players get the most out of their bodies, but also serve as sounding boards and even confidantes. Porterfield was all that for Baldelli and more. "I've talked to him more than any person in my life — the entire time I was there, but especially over the last couple of years," Baldelli says.

Baldelli, Porterfield says, always had strange injuries, weird tissue problems; he was the type of player that trainers call a "bad-tissue issue." Porterfield, entering his 13th season with the Rays, fourth as head trainer, eventually came to realize that Baldelli was just a slow healer.

Then came Aug. 2007. Baldelli was on a rehabilitation assignment with the Rays' Class A affiliate in Vero Beach, Fla., trying to recover from a hamstring injury. The assignment lasted two games. Baldelli, calling it "one of the low points of my career," became emotional when he realized that he was not physically capable of playing. "I'll never forget it," Porterfield says. "It was 4:30 in the afternoon. All I could think about was, What did Lou Gehrig go through? I was worried that he had ALS, MS, something.

"That was the turning point where I said, 'We've got a problem and it's beyond my realm.' My big thing was trying to calm him down, say, 'Hey, Rocc, we're going to be OK,' stay very positive." Porterfield recalls telling Baldelli to find a private spot and call him back. "He did. He was in utter distress," Porterfield says. "We talked and talked and talked. The whole time I'm thinking, 'Where do I go from here?' I finally got off the phone with him. I had to cut it off. It was game time. 7 o'clock."

Nick Paparesta, then the Rays' rehabiliation coordinator and now an assistant trainer, was with Baldelli in Vero. Porterfield recalls telling Paparesta: Bring Rocco back to St. Petersburg. And don't let him drive. That night, Porterfield began discussing a plan for Baldelli with the Rays' team doctor, Michael Reilly. The next day, Baldelli visited an endocrinologist in St. Petersburg and began his long search for answers.

"That winter, we spent thousands of hours on the phone, together, going somewhere," Porterfield says. "I was Googling everything I could possibly think of. His file is 3,000 pages on that issue alone." Baldelli underwent a muscle biopsy on his left biceps and later had one on each quad. He visited doctors in New York, Dallas and Cleveland. But a quick diagnosis proved elusive. Porterfield says analyzing muscle tissue is comparable to marinating steak, only a more prolonged process. "I know I was frustrated," Baldelli recalls. "I also know that he was frustrated. As someone in the medical field, you're used to getting answers. There was no answer to this."

In the meantime, Baldelli began taking supplements, trying to gain energy and strength. Porterfield had pharmacies analyze the supplements to make sure Baldelli would not test positive for steroids. He also had compounds made so Baldelli could take, say, four pills instead of 12. "Ron didn't throw in the towel," says Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine, a close friend of Baldelli's. "He was always looking for new ways to help Rocco out."

In January, Baldelli finally got his diagnosis — mitochondrial disorder. Porterfield designed a program for him to participate in spring training. He even spoke with cyclist Greg LeMond, the only other known elite athlete who had a similar condition. Baldelli kept trying different combinations of supplements. He did water conditioning to stay off his feet. Porterfield worried that Baldelli would get hurt again once he began playing again in the minor leagues.

The Rays' goal was for Baldelli to be a September call-up. He was in the lineup, batting cleanup, on Aug. 10. Baldelli started in right field the night the Rays clinched their first postseason berth. He hit a three-run homer against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. And he delivered a game-tying shot against the Phillies in Game 5 of the World Series.

That was his last at-bat for Tampa Bay. The Rays paid Baldelli $9 million from 2006 to '08, a period in which he averaged only 55 games per season. They paid for him to fly all over the country seeking additional opinions and spent between $800 and $1,000 per month on his supplements, Porterfield says. When Baldelli became a free agent this offseason, the Rays tried to re-sign him, but were concerned about assuming more risk. The Red Sox guaranteed Baldelli only $500,000, but his contract includes $1.75 million in roster bonuses and $5.25 million in performance bonuses that start at 350 plate appearances and top out at 600. The Rays, needing more certainty from their fourth outfielder, signed free agent Gabe Kapler for $1,000,018, with no incentives. Kapler, 33, can play all three outfield positions for extended periods.

Baldelli's availability to the Red Sox is uncertain — he is participating in all baseball activities this spring, but not conditioning drills. He is encouraged by his revised diagnosis of channelopathy, a less severe, more treatable condition than mitochondrial disorder. "I can relax a little bit," Baldelli says. "I would get emotional thinking about my baseball career, where I thought it was going last year and the year before that. I was even more worried about my health. That was probably my No. 1 concern. And now it's not. "It's something I think about sometimes, but it doesn't consume my thoughts anymore. I feel good and I'm confident that I'll continue to feel good."

Baldelli speaks with Porterfield often; Porterfield, who is married with two children, says Baldelli is "like a son" to him. Before Baldelli signed with the Red Sox on Jan. 9, he called Porterfield out of respect and gratitude, informing his former trainer of his decision. "I'm sure we'll be friends as long as I'm playing baseball and after baseball as well," Baldelli says. Yes, even if Porterfield's greatest hope and biggest fear are realized, even if Baldelli becomes a hero in Boston and nemesis to Tampa Bay.
More: Rocco Baldelli

Thursday, February 26, 2009

URI's Marquis Jones Hits Game Winner Against Dayton (Video)

Wow, what a crazy finish to this game. Marquis Jones flipped in a layup over his shoulder to win the game for URI. This game was a must win for the Rams if they want to accomplish two things: win the A-10 and get an at-large bid. The Rams have been hot of late and if they keep winning I think that will sit favorably with the NCAA Tournament committee. An A-10 title certainly would do the trick. I do have one beef though: PC fans rush the court when they beat # 1 Pitt, which you know actually makes sense, but URI rushes the court when they beat unranked Dayton? Please step your game up people!

Here is the scoop, via ProJo Sports:

There were nine seconds left in overtime of the biggest University of Rhode Island basketball game of the year as the Rams’ Marquis Jones slowly dribbled the ball up the court Wednesday night. The score was tied at 91-91, and both URI and Dayton were tired after 44 minutes and 51 seconds of basketball. Forward Kahiem Seawright was at the top of the key, gesturing frantically at Jones, calling for a screen. URI had been running screens all night with success. Jones gave Seawright the signal, and Seawright brought his big body up to block Dayton’s smaller London Warren.

"I wanted to get a pick and roll –– I went to it, they switched, I had a big man on me, and I just tried to take advantage of the opportunity," Jones said. The screen worked perfectly. Dayton’s defenders switched, leaving the 6-foot Warren on the 6-8 Seawright. As Jones burst free, Seawright moved down towards the basket, expecting Jones to feed him the ball to complete the pick and roll. "I rolled so I could try to finish the game. I wanted the shot so bad," Seawright said.

But instead of dishing to Seawright, Jones kept driving down the lane towards the basket –– to Seawright’s disbelief. "They switched, I rolled, I had a little guy on me, I’m looking at Marquis, like, 'You’ve got to give me the ball!' " Seawright said. But Jones had other plans. As Jones pushed forward, Dayton’s defense collapsed around the 6-1 guard. Dayton coach Brian Gregory watched from the sideline, as Jones just barely slipped through his defenders and barreled towards the rim.

"I thought we played it pretty good, maybe we could have shrunk the court a little [more] … but you want to make a guy make a tough play. That’s a tough play," Gregory said. Jones twisted through the Dayton big men, almost directly under the basket as he slipped past Dayton’s Mickey Perry. With little room left, Jones switched the ball in his hands, moving it to his left. He turned his back slightly to the basket as his momentum carried him forward, and he flipped the ball up, tumbling to the floor out of bounds. "I tried to get a foul, so I tried to get my body into it. When I let it go, I felt like it was soft, so I thought it had a chance," Jones said.

Jimmy Baron, URI’s best shooter, had been standing on the outside, setting up for a shot in case Jones fed him a pass. Baron stood still as Jones released his shot, and time seemed to slow down. As the ball bounced around the rim, the horn sounded and the backboard lit up red to signal that time had expired. Jones had let it go just in time, but it wouldn’t fall in. Baron watched as it rattled around. "We’ve got some tin foil rims at the Ryan Center, man, because that thing stayed up there. It stayed up there so long the buzzer went off," Baron said.

Then, finally, it fell in: 93-91, URI. The crowd poured out of the stands to mob the URI players, who were already piling on top of Jones in victory celebration, knowing that this would be one they would remember forever. "It’s the greatest moment I’ve ever had at URI. It’s not even close. It’s the greatest moment I’ve ever had," Baron said.

More: URI

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rakim Sanders Windmill Dunk vs Florida State (Video)


Check out this windmill dunk by Pawtucket's Rakim Sanders in last night's game against Florida State. BC "upset" Florida State, 72-67, and Sanders had 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in the victory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Providence Upsets # 1 Ranked Pitt, 81-73

Wow, the Friars really shocked me with this victory. I thought Pitt would crush them like they usually do, but PC came out with a ton of energy on Senior Night and I thought they played one of their best defensive games of the year. Makes you wonder why they haven't been able to come out with so much energy on defense all year. Meanwhile, Pitt looked like the didn't even want to be out on the court in the first half and I was really surprised at how they played. They got it together in the second half, but they still came up short. This win gets the Friars back in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament, but it certainly doesn't gaurantee them a spot. A win at Rutgers is something the Friars have to get, but if they are able to beat Villanova on the road as well then that should do the trick and punch their ticket to the tournament.

Here's the rundown, via CBS Sports:

All Providence coach Keno Davis wanted was for his team to be part of the conversation about who will be in the NCAA tournament field. They're talking about the Friars now. Weyinmi Efejuku scored 16 points for Providence, which took a 20-point lead and then turned back one last rally by No. 1 Pittsburgh for an 81-73 victory Tuesday night, the school's second win ever over a top-ranked team.
The victory greatly improves the at-large resume for the Friars (17-11, 9-7), who are in sixth place in the 16-team Big East, a league considered by most as the toughest in the country. "I think they made a big step to be able to continue their collegiate careers tonight," Davis said of his seniors after their final home game. "We're in a pretty good situation: we're in the top half of the best conference in the country. It puts us in the conversation. I'm sure if we had lost, they wouldn't be talking about us anymore."

The talking started when Pittsburgh star DeJuan Blair fouled out on an illegal screen in the final minute with the Panthers trailing 77-70. Pittsburgh (25-3, 12-3) returned to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press poll on Monday, its second time there this season as the Panthers spent two weeks on top in January. "It was just terrible. We didn't play as us," said Blair, who has fouled out in two of Pitt's three losses. "They deserved (it). We gave them that game."

Sharaud Curry added 15 points for the Friars, while Geoff McDermott had 11 points, six assists and three of Providence's 11 steals. Blair had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Sam Young had 16 points and eight rebounds for Pitt, which had won seven straight games and beaten Providence eight consecutive times.

Blair was named Big East Player of the Week after averaging 21 points and 20.5 rebounds in wins over then-No. 1 Connecticut and DePaul last week. He picked up two quick fouls -- his third and fourth -- midway through the second half, then his fifth with 46 seconds left after Pitt had a chance to make it a four-point game. "He's a special player," Davis said. "You look and he got 17 points and eight boards and it's a down night."

Providence led by 20 points after scoring the first basket of the second half to complete a 17-1 run. The Panthers cut it to 75-70 on Blair's putback with 51 seconds left. After Brian McKenzie hit two free throws for Providence a fraction of a second later, Pitt brought the ball down and Blair was called for an offensive foul.
The fans in the Dunkin' Donuts Center crowded around the courtside press tables for the final minutes. Twice, the public address announcer begged the fans to stay off the court following the game; twice the crowd responded by laughing. Sure enough, after the Friars dribbled out the last 20 seconds -- it was too far gone for Pitt to try fouling -- the fans went over the tables and chairs circling the court and celebrated one of the biggest wins in school history.

"We weren't here to get rolled on," Providence forward Jonathan Kale said. "We knew we had to win one. It happened to be Pitt. They happened to be No. 1." The Friars are 2-10 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams, with their other victory coming in double overtime against Michigan in 1976. They 2-5 against ranked teams this season, having also beaten then-No. 15 Syracuse on Jan. 28. "We've got high standards, and we didn't live up to them tonight," said Pitt's Jamie Dixon, who coached his 200th game. "That's obvious."

Providence opened with a 15-4 lead and led by 18 at halftime despite making just one of its first eight 3-point attempts. The Panthers cut the deficit to 29-25 with 6:25 left in the half, but Providence scored 17 of the last 18 points before the break.
More: Providence College

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Notre Dame Lights Up PC For 103-84 Victory.

Weyinmi Efejuku scored 31 points and Sharaud Curry chipped in with 23 points as the two Friar guards combined to shoot 18 of 29 from the field, but once again PC was done in by their horrific defense, via ProJo Sports:

If there is a definition for lack of respect in college basketball, one was hatched in the last few days in South Bend, Ind. In preparation for Saturday’s game against defensively challenged Providence College, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey gave his players a goal to shoot for. The Irish didn’t circle 80 or even 90points on their scouting report. How about 95? "There was no doubt," guard Jonathan Peoples said about his team’s chances of eclipsing that mark. "When we’re running-and-gunning and taking open shots, we’re capable of putting a lot of points on the board."

That Notre Dame was able to breeze past its lofty goal and leave a sold-out Dunkin’ Donuts Center with a 103-84 win was a gratifying feeling for the visitors and a crippling blow for the Friars. Notre Dame now has won three of four games since suffering a seven-game losing streak and is still breathing in the Big East race with a 15-11 overall mark and 6-8 league record. "It was a very big win for us," Brey said. "I’m proud of our group. This group has taken a lot of punches and kept on fighting."

The Friars, however, haven’t found any defense to muster much of a punch back with their postseason hopes on the line. PC lost for the fifth time in seven games and now stands at 16-11, 8-7 in the Big East. A visit from fourth-ranked Pittsburgh is up next on Tuesday.

It was easy to see why Brey and the Irish looked forward to come to town. They had already seen six Big East teams score 91 or more points against PC and couldn’t wait to test their skills against the Friars’ scrambling, but porous, zone defense. "As a shooter, when you see a zone, your eyes light up," said Kyle McAlarney, a senior guard who had four of Notre Dame’s 13 threes and finished with 25 points. "Having guys hanging on you (in man-to-man) the whole time isn’t fun. It’s nice to kind of freelance a little bit."

McAlarney and Ryan Ayers (seven threes, 28 points) came out firing as Notre Dame hit five of its first seven 3-pointers to race to an 18-10 lead. PC recovered a bit but even with star big man Luke Harangody on the bench with two fouls, the Irish kept rolling. Ayers and McAlarney combined for 10 of ND’s 11 first-half threes as the visitors built a 46-29 lead and led, 49-37, at the half. "I went into the locker room at halftime looking at the scoreboard only down 12 and it didn’t feel that close. It felt like they had dominated the game in a lot of different ways," said PC coach Keno Davis.

With few options available, Davis decided to play more man-to-man defense in the second half. Asked about his defensive planning after the game, Davis insisted that his zone gives the Friars the best chance to combat some of the nation’s elite teams PC faces in the Big East. "We did vary our defense in the first half where we tried to get out on players on the perimeter and not leave them," said Davis. "It might not have looked like that, at times, but we did change our defense in the first half without much success. "In the second half we just felt that with their comfort level in knocking down shots that we had to take away the 3-point shots completely, or try to. We did that but it exposed other parts of our defensive skill," he said.

The defensive switch helped and was further emphasized when Harangody picked up his third and fourth fouls by the 13:30 mark. That gave the Friars a spark with Sharaud Curry (23 points) and Weyinmi Efejuku (career-best 31, 26 in the second half) leading a charge that sliced the lead down to just 61-54 with 12:18 to play.

But that’s when Notre Dame began carving up PC’s man-to-man as well. Peoples, who went on to score a career-best 14 points and dish for nine assists, drained a huge 3-pointer and then turned a Randall Hanke turnover into a driving layup and a three-point play. The quick six points pushed the lead back to 13 (67-54) and the Friars could not get within nine points the rest of the way.

Harangody scored just one free throw in the first half but delivered 17 points in the second half and helped the Irish kill the Friars off the glass, 46-32. "You see why they were picked by a lot of people as one of the top-10 teams in the country," said Davis. "They have a lot of weapons. A lot of guys who can shoot the basketball, as well as the conference player of the year from last year who is an incredible matchup for teams down in the post."

Notre Dame may be surging as its tries to reclaim what looked like a lost season, but it also just lost by 11 at West Virginia. The Mountaineers happen to be one of the stingiest defensive teams in the Big East, a trait that right now is not in Providence’s arsenal.
I have been saying for a few weeks now that this Notre Dame game was one that the Friars could win, but that was before it became obvious that the Friars can't defend and are especially horrible at defending the three. Notre Dame got so many open looks from three in this game that it wasn't even funny. They ended up knocking down 13 threes on their way to lighting up the Friars for 103 points. PC's at large hopes now hinge on what may be the impossible: winning out against Pitt, Rutgers, and Villanova. The Friars MIGHT be able to travel to Villanova and catch them on a bad shooting night, but I doubt they will be able to beat Pitt. The Rutgers game could be dangerous too, since the Friars historically do not play well at Rutgers. Right now it looks like PC will finish 9-9 in the Big East, with a very small chance of finishing 10-8. 11-7 at this point would be miraculous and almost certain to not happen. The Friars will have to do some damage in the Big East tournament if they want to get any at-large consideration. There actually is a possibility they could win 2 games in the Big East tournament with the way the bracket sets up depending on their seed. I will probably get into that once we know how everything shakes out.

More: Providence College

Jimmy Baron's 29 Points Lead URI Over Fordham

Jimmy Baron went 10 of 12 from the field, including six three-pointers, to lead the Rams of URI over the Rams of Fordham, via ProJo Sports:

The biggest game of the season — a Wednesday night meeting with Dayton at the Ryan Center — loomed in the distance, and it would have been understandable if the University of Rhode Island was caught looking past the 3-20 Fordham Rams on Saturday. But Jim Baron wasn’t going to let that happen. "They have good young players," the URI coach said of the other Rams. "They have guys who can score."

So his Rams kept their focus, charged out to an early lead and coasted to a dominant 77-58 victory. And they got a further reward Saturday night when Dayton was upset by Saint Louis, throwing the top of the Atlantic 10 race into chaos. The Flyers are now tied with Xavier for first place with 9-3 records, and Temple is a half-game back at 8-3. Also a half-game back, at 9-4, is URI. Xavier hosts George Washington and Temple hosts St. Bonaventure on Sunday. So keeping focused paid huge dividends for Rhode Island, which reached the 20-victory mark for the second straight season and now has 60 wins in the last three years under Jim Baron, the best three-year stretch under one coach in school history.

The first half, which saw URI build a double-digit lead before the 10-minute mark, might have well been renamed The Jimmy Baron Show. Baron, URI’s star 6-foot-3 sharpshooter and the A-10’s leading 3-point shooter, used the first half as his personal launching pad. He buried his first six field-goal attempts, including four from downtown. URI rode Baron’s 19 points to a comfortable 43-27 lead. Baron took his hot start in stride. "It’s going to happen," Baron said. "Last game, Keith Cothran carried us. There are three or four guys on the team that can have that type of game."

On a day when he finished with 29 points and shot 6-for-8 from downtown, the message was simple: give the ball to Jimmy. "He was on fire today," forward Delroy James said. "He led us in the first half, got us going and then we just capitalized on that."

Fordham had plenty of opportunities to close the first-half gap. But excluding freshman Jio Fontan’s 5-for-8 first half, the home team shot 3-for-18 from the field, including 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. Baron’s sweet stroke did not turn sour in the second half, as he drained his first two three-point attempts, while forwards James, Kahiem Seawright and company stifled Fordham’s interior game.

A 28-point lead dwindled to 16, as Baron spent much of the final half on the bench. Fordham shot nearly 43 percent in the second half, but the result never appeared in doubt. In the end, URI had too much firepower for an outmanned and outgunned Fordham squad. In a season that has seen its share of overtime games and first half deficits, coach Baron stressed the importance of leading wire to wire.

"We were down against UMass and St. Bonaventure, so we’re trying to put two halves together," Jim Baron said. "I felt we did a much better job of doing that." James scored 9 of his 10 points in the second half, and Baron added 10 to his total.

Now, with Fordham in the rear view mirror, the next challenge awaits. Come Wednesday, when Dayton rolls into town, they will face a Flyers squad that will be neither outmanned nor outgunned. "It’s going to be crazy [against Dayton]," Seawright said.
The biggest news here is that Dayton lost to St. Louis, which means the Rams are only one game back of first place in the A-10. If they can win out, which would include a victory over Dayton, and somehow manage to win the A-10, they will most likely secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Of course to win the Atlantic-10, they would not only have to win out, but they would also need Xavier to lose another game as well, since they lost to Xavier early this season. Getting back to the victory against Fordham, it really tells us nothing about URI, since Fordham is the worst team not in a mid-major or small conference in the country. They are ranked 321st in the nation out of 344 teams behind the like of independent schools like Houston Baptist and SIU Edwardsville. In fact, Bryant College here in RI is ranked 323rd, so the the victory over Fordham is about as meaningless as a victory over Bryant would be. Oh, and yes that is the same Bryant College that lost to 1-26 NJIT to help them break their 51 game losing streak. That should tell you just how BAD this Fordham team is. URI probably should have beat them by at least 30. Hopefully, they were taking it easy on the other Rams from Fordham.
More: URI

Oscar Nominee Viola Davis’ Path From Poverty In Central Falls to Hollywood

Oscar nominee Viola Davis' grew up in poverty in Central Falls, Rhode Island and is now making a name for herself in Hollywood. Central Falls is just 1.29 square miles in size and as of the 2000 census was over 67% Hispanic. Unfortunately, 29% of the city lives below the poverty line, just like Davis did. Davis' Oscar nomination is for Best Supporting Actress for her part in the movie Doubt, via ProJo:

The walk Viola Davis will take down the red carpet Sunday night in Hollywood began decades ago, a few thousand miles from Hollywood, far away from the paparazzi and the privilege, the glitz and the glamour that now surround the Oscar nominee.

Even by Hollywood standards, hers is an improbable story. Davis overcame poverty and racism to reach the pinnacle of her acting profession. “I come from Central Falls,” Davis remarked years ago before winning a Tony Award. “I did not, growing up, ever, ever dream I could be in this place.” Others aren’t as incredulous. “We’re not completely shocked,” said Deloris Grant, Davis’ sister.

While Davis has spoken with the Journal many times over the years, in this past whirlwind week before the Oscars she did not. Davis declined interview requests. So we spoke with someone very close to the source, Grant, who along with her mother are attending tonight’s ceremony. She has followed and supported all of her sister’s developments and achievements. “I am her number one fan.” Grant is an English teacher and a theater instructor at Central Falls High School. This is where Davis’ rags-to-riches road began, in the neighborhood surrounding the school.

Her parents moved here in 1965. Davis, the second-youngest of six children, was just two months old. But her parents, neither of whom went beyond grade school, were poor and couldn’t afford to raise all their children. So the two oldest stayed behind in South Carolina, raised by grandparents for several years. Davis’ late father left school and home at 8 to become a horse groomer. That’s what eventually brought the family to Rhode Island: a job at Lincoln Downs and Narragansett Park. Davis’ mother, Mae Alice, left home at 13 to marry and to raise a family.

“Poverty is traumatic if you let it be,” Grant said. “Viola didn’t let it be.” In two former tenement houses in Central Falls, one on Washington Street, the other on Cowden Street, both of which have since been razed, Grant shared a room with her younger sister, and a bunk bed, too, although both slept on the top bunk. It was safer. “The rats would run across the bottom bed and go into the wall,” Grant said. “We could hear them in the attic chasing the pigeons.” “I used to fall asleep at night listening to the rats kill the pigeons,” Davis told the Journal in 2004. Dinner once, Grant recalls, was a jar of peanut butter. Take some. Pass it on. “We all had to share it. It was such a sad moment.”

The Davis family was one of the first black families in Central Falls and the first in their neighborhood. Davis remembers racism, sometimes from surprising sources. On a couple of occasions the Davis girls attended Christmas and Easter services at a Catholic church, until a priest asked them to leave. The girls weren’t Catholic and weren’t with their parents. But Grant suspects there was more to it than that. “They didn’t want us in there. We were black.”

Six was the turning point in Davis’ life. Her sister Dianne, who was being raised by grandparents in South Carolina, moved in with the family in Central Falls, did not like what she saw, and would not accept it. “She was so driven, it was supernatural,” Davis said in 2004. “She instilled a ferocious passion for fulfilling our dreams.” Dianne told her sisters that they’d go to college, which was bold. No one in the family had even gone to high school.

That same year, Davis saw Cicely Tyson in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman. And her mind was made up: She was going to be an actress, and promptly pursued her career. That summer, the town conducted a talent show at Jenks Park, just around the corner from where the family lived. “I wanted to be like all the little white girls who won the Miss Central Falls Recreation Contest, who took acrobat lessons at Theresa Landry’s,” Davis said recently on The Tonight Show. “I said I’m going to beat them. I’m going to get that damn prize.” First Davis went to the Salvation Army and bought a second-hand green bikini for her performance. And she selected a song to sing, “Abracadabra” by the DeFranco Family. When the contest came, Davis stood on stage in the big bandstand under its enormous umbrella-shaped copper roof, and she looked out at the crowd and spotted several African-Americans and a few other minorities rooting for her. “All the misfits of the town were like, ‘Do it for us Viola! Do it for us!’” But Davis didn’t do it. She opened her mouth and not a sound came out. “I wet my pants.”

But a month later, she was back at it. She joined three of her sisters in the park for a recreation department theater competition. The Davis girls, who created a skit based on 1970s TV characters, won the competition. And Davis remembers how performing well made her feel. “I felt I had discovered a gold mine.” So Davis continued prospecting. In fifth grade, she played the part of a master of ceremonies before the entire school, including Grant. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘Wow, she’s kind of good.’”

In high school, Davis recited Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” to her English class. That, according to Grant, is when Viola realized she was good. Grant and Davis performed together in a high school play called Noodle Doodle Box, where both acted from inside a big cardboard box. Rehearsals were hard since they had to share the stage with another group performing some other production. “They would deride us when we came out with our box,” Grant says. “They thought they were better than us because they were doing West Side Story.”

It has been more than 20 years since Robin Yates, retired English department chairman at Central Falls High School, had Davis as a student, but he remembers her “vividly.” “She was clearly a standout talent. It was innate. She had an ability to reach so deep inside herself to an emotion and convey that through her character.” Yates, who now lives in Hudson, Fla., was the school’s drama coach. He remembers Davis in a student production of a play called Runaways and another called Wings, when she “really brought the house down.”

More recently, Yates remembers seeing Davis’ scene in Doubt, feeling “blown away, but not surprised that she could do that. You could see that ability was there in high school.” You could also see a good-natured person with a great sense of humor, who was surprisingly shy in English class. “Give her a part and put her on stage and you couldn’t pull her off. But ask her to talk in class, she hated it.”

While at Central Falls High School, Davis enrolled in Upward Bound, a federally funded program to provide educational support to low-income students. “The first time I met her, I was impressed with her determination, her focus and her sense of honor and her genuine spirit,” says Mariam Boyajian, director of Rhode Island Upward Bound. “She is a remarkable person.” Davis and Grant set up an endowment for the Upward Bound program. And Davis often credits the program for contributing to her success. “I’m proof positive of how social programs can totally transform your life,” Davis said in December on the TV show The View.

Davis occasionally returns to Rhode Island. Her mother still lives in Central Falls, as do her sister Anita and brother John. Her sister Danielle lives in Pawtucket; Deloris lives in Lincoln, and Dianne lives outside Washington, D.C. Sometimes when Davis visits, she talks to students at Central Falls High School and gives them what they need: encouragement.“When I look at them, I think they’re great. They just don’t see the greatness in themselves.”

After graduating from Central Falls High School, Davis studied theater at Rhode Island College, where she was the only black student in the department. Then she worked for a time at Trinity Rep before studying theater at the Juilliard School, in New York, her tuition paid by the Rhode Island Foundation. There, in acting’s most competitive market, Davis struggled. She ate Spam and lived in a tiny apartment, which she shared with rats. “I told her I’m not going in that apartment,” Grant says. “I have a serious fear of rats because of my childhood.”

Viola Davis remembers that childhood, too. But now the 43-year-old has an Obie, a Tony and a Drama Desk Award and a chance tonight of receiving an Oscar. She lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles. “I may live in Los Angeles,” Davis told The Journal last December. “But when someone asks, I still say I live in Central Falls.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

South Kingstown's Erik Murphy Headed To Florida - Scouting Report

I completely forgot that Erik Murphy is the biggest basketball recruit to come out of Rhode Island since Marvin "Bad News" Barnes. He's headed to Florida and has a rating of 96, which means he has the potential to significantly contribute as a freshman for most national programs. He could be a three- or four-year starter and have an opportunity for all-league honors, according to Scout, Inc's grading system. Since he's 6'10 and headed to Florida, which is a major program, you have to figure he has a great shot at making the NBA one day. Hey, if you are 6'10 and can shoot from the outside, I'm sure you are going to get a long look by the NBA. Murphy is ranked as the 22nd best player in the class of 2009 and the 7th best PF, but unfortunately was not selected to play in McDonald's All-American game.

Check out the complete scouting report on Murphy, via Scout's Inc.:

January, 2009: Murphy has very good touch and finishes very well around the basket, using either his right or left hand for hoops in the paint. He has impeccable footwork around the basket. He has a great feel for the game, but he will have to get significantly stronger for the next level, which will not only make him a better finisher, but also will keep defenders from getting into his body when he gets the ball on the low block. Murphy will shoot jumpers and can make a living hitting jumpers in transition as a trailer as well as in pick-and-pop sets. He has range that extends out to the 3-point line, though he does not have a quick release. Murphy does a good job of running the floor and will fit perfectly in the up-tempo style of play that Florida employs. Murphy does not block shots at a high rate, therefore he needs to be paired with a more rugged big man when he plays on the next level.

November, 2008: Murphy will have to increase his strength level, but he has a dazzling collection of skills that will take him a long way in college. He has very sound footwork in the post and does a good job using counter moves as well as either hand in the post to finish with jump hooks. He also does a very good job of keeping the ball high when he gets it in the post or when he rebounds the rock. Murphy also has enough quickness to exploit slower big man on the perimeter by driving past them. If the big that guards him does not want to come away from the paint, Murphy will connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line, which will help to stretch defenses and bring shot blockers away from the rim, thus opening up driving lanes. His shooting ability as well as his passing skills makes him perfect for high-low alignments on offense as well as offensive sets that utilizes the pick-and-pop, which more teams now run in college. Murphy also has the ability to handle the ball on the break and spot open teammates, a valuable tool considering that he will play at Florida next season where they rely heavily on the fastbreak. Murphy also understands the game very well and has a great feel for basketball and a high basketball I.Q.

August, 2008: Murphy is a skilled face up power forward. He is long, wiry and athletic enough to get your attention. Murphy plays with good effort, toughness and he competes. He has a great feel for the game on both ends of the floor. On offense he does all the little things like attempting to set screens and helping to defend multiple screening actions like on ball screens and down screens on defense. In transition he runs the floor well and can finish above the rim. An excellent reader of guard penetration and knows how to make himself available in an area the he can be affective with his mid range jumper or swing step to the rim along the baseline. Murphy has an excellent touch around the basket and can score with either hand and with his jump hook but must be a more consistent finisher. He handles the ball well on the wing and in the open court which allows him to score on drives and slashes to the rim. A good defensive rebounder mostly because of his consistent effort to hit the glass and can block shots mostly coming in from the weak side. Must get stronger in order to add the physical part of the game to his mental assets. Great upside and should improve rapidly when he gets to Gainesville.

June, 2008: Murphy was one of the more intriguing prospects I saw over the weekend (2008 Fullcourt Press Showcase). During the shooting drills he was lights out. His stroke is very smooth and he has range out beyond 20-feet. He has a solid looking frame with fairly long arms and overall ideal length for the 4/3 position. However, he needs to get considerably stronger for him to be an impact player during the 2009-10 season. During the scrimmage he got bounced around the paint area and struggled scoring in traffic%u2014not too mention he shied away from contact on more than one occasion. He does have outstanding face-up 4-man skills but he needs to become a much more aggressive player on the inside to make his game complete.

December, 2007: Son of former Boston College standout, Jay Murphy, Erik Murphy is a multi-dimensional power forward who can score from the perimeter and the post. He is a very active floor runner and owns a good pair of hands. His court IQ is excellent and his unselfishness makes him a fine teammate. This ambidextrous finisher is a weight program away from being a complete player.

November, 2007: Erik is a skilled post player that can step out and hit 17 to 19 foot jump shots with his feet set. He is the son of former Boston College great and NBA player Jay Murphy. Erik has gotten stronger over the past 6 months. He was injured in June and did not play a lot over the summer. He has good skills for a post player and has been well taught by his father. He is a decent defender but not a shotblocker. He has decent basketball athleticism. Erik is a good scorer on the block. He does not move as well as he did before he got bigger but he is still solid in that area. Erik is a top 75 player nationally in the class of 2009.

Smithfield's Mike Marra Headed To Louisville - Scouting Report

Smithfield, RI native Mike Marra is headed to Louisville to play for Rick Pitino. He has an overall rating of 88, which means he could contribute for three or four years at a high-major program or have a significant impact as a freshman at a mid-major program., according to Scout, Inc's grading system. Marra is 6'5 and is ranked as the 50th best shooting guard in the class of 2009. It looks like the NBA could be a possibility for Marra based on his skill level, especially since he already has NBA range, but he would have to develop his game in other areas first. Pitino himself said the following about Marra: "He's the best high school shooter I have seen in my life," Pitino said. "I know that's quite a statement."(Courier Journal) Quite a statement indeed.

Check out the complete scouting report on Marra, via Scout's Inc.:

February, 2009: Marra has to continue to increase his strength as he matures in order to become more than a jump shooting specialist at Louisville. He also needs to become a better ball-handler in addition to adding a mid-range pull-up to his offensive arsenal. Marra should have success adding a middle game given his very impressive leaping ability. At this point, he prefers to shoot the 3-point shot with his almost unlimited range. Marra sometimes shoots deep, contested 3s and can get streaky due in large measure to his shot-selection, which can improve for the next level. Marra does a great job of curling off screens for jumpers, effectively squaring his body to the rim and making good use of his lighting quick release on the jumper. He also will need to increase his focus and dedication on the defensive end for college. Marra can also pass the ball when he applies himself in this area and making more good passes will make his shot attempts easier as the defense will have to honor him for the pass and the shot.

November, 2008: A pure shooting guard with NBA range who will stretch out defenses. He has great size as he looks over defenders while he focuses on his target from deep. He demonstrates the ability to break open a game with his 3pt shooting as he will shoot it often and with confidence in transition or in the half court. When you watch his jumper you see how he gets good elevation from his lower body and finishes with a high release and freezes on his follow through. On his teammates dribble penetration he spots up to a passing lane along the 3pt with vision. Setting multiple screening action is another way in which he gets his 3's. With such a lethal shot he needs to use his shot fake more into a dribble pull up. Opponents that are trying to stop him must have two simple rules: never leave him and make him dribble to a shot. In the 2008 National Prep Showcase, he went 9-17 from 3's, (53%) that is remarkable. Louisville got themselves a big time shooter.

October, 2008: Marra looks like he has gained more muscle, but he has to work to become stronger as he has problems when he tries to drive the ball to the rim and stronger guards can thwart his penetrations attempts by knocking him off-balance. Marra also has problems on the defensive end when stronger guards can overpower him on their way to the rim. He will also do better on the defensive end if he devoted the same focus and intensity defending that he does to shooting the ball. Marra loves to shoot the 3-ball with range that starts as soon as he steps in the gym. He sometimes falls in love with the 3 too much and opts for it almost exclusively, shooting ill-advised, contested 25-footers at times. Due in large part to his shot selection, Marra can become streaky from deep and hit three in a row followed by four consecutive misses. When he does stroke it from 3, Marra can surprise defenders by using his quick release to catch defenders off balance. He has good leaping ability and quickness, which he should use to become a better in-between player, utilizing his good shooting mechanics in the mid-range area. He also has decent passing skills and should use those to make himself more versatile on the offensive end, which would make him tougher to defend.

September, 2008: Marra has established a reputation as one of the nation's premier outside shooters. He impressed Coach Rick Pitino enough that Louisville accepted a commitment from Marra last February. Marra made his shots, and displayed well-polished backcourt skills while making the all-star game at the elite Reebok All-American Camp in Philadelphia last July. Earlier, he had a very good shooting performance at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest in April. Marra is an excellent catch and shoot player, and excels at coming off screens, and knocking in trifectas. He has a quick release, and very deep range. However, in watching him perform at the 17-Under Super Showcase in Orlando, Fla., in late July, Marra struggled to make his shots when pressured by defenders. He appeared to lack lateral quickness. He has been working to improve in this area, which would certainly enhance his playing opportunities at Lousiville. This deficiency causes him problems defensively against quicker, more athletic wing guards. During his final year at Northfield-Mt. Hermon, playing against top prep school competition, Marra must focus upon improving his ballhandling skills, become more adept at creating his own shot and emerging as a much better defensive player. In summary, he needs to round out his entire game, rather than being focused primarily as an outside shooting specialist.

February, 2008: Marra may be the best pure shooter in the high school ranks. He can knock down the 3-ball with NBA range. Marra needs to improve in two areas to play at the highest levels of college basketball. He needs to improve his handle and ability to bring the ball up versus pressure and create his own shot. In addition he must make a better effort to defend and take on the challenges of guarding the other team's better players in high school in order to get him ready to defend at the college level.

December, 2007: Mike is a tremendous outside shooter who has extremely deep range and needs very little room to get his shot off thanks to quick release. Like many other great shooters he is extremely self-confident which enables him to shoot his way through cold spells. He is also equally effective shooting off the catch or the bounce. Marra is also a very impressive athlete who can get up well above the rim when finishing on the break, and even dunk through contact from time to time. However, he lacks the ability to create his own shot off the dribble and isn't able to attack close-outs on most occasions. Physically, he has good height and size for the perimeter although he needs to add muscle to his frame. He is an average defender at best whose limited lateral quickness can be exposed against smaller and quicker guards. Overall, his ability to make contested shots from far distances is matched by few others in the country.

November, 2007: Shooter, stroker, gunslinger - take your pick, but more importantly, he is a maker. Marra has NBA range now. Therefore, he won't have to adjust as much as some players when the three-point arc is inched further back. Mike must show more versatility by adding strength and better ball skills to his game. More athletic than he might appear.

Mount Pleasant High School's Billy Soriano - Scouting Report

I kind of stumbled across this on accident, but apparently Billy Soriano is a pretty decent college basketball prospect according to the scouting report over at ESPN's Scouts, Inc.:

Soriano, though small, plays with a big heart and gets the most out of his ability on the court. He has good quickness and cunningly changes speeds with the dribble, which keeps bigger defenders from getting into his chest and knocking him off-balance. Soriano has an awkward release, but he connects on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. He really impresses with his passing ability, easily getting to the paint and finding open teammates for scoring chances. Soriano also gets extra scoring chances for his team by anticipating in passing lanes for steals. He needs to do a better job of playing position defense instead of allowing the dribbler to get past him and gambling for steals from behind. Soriano will benefit from adding a nice floater to his offensive toolbox.

They gave him an overall grade of 75 and here is an explantion of what that grade means:

73-76: Low-major prospect: Player should be a solid contributor and two- or three-year starter at a low-major program.

So basically that means Soriano should be able to play for teams in a lower conference, which is generally a team that comes from a conference that gets only one bid. A team the caliber of a Vermont, Kent State, or Holy Cross for instance might be the highest level of team he could play for. Worst case scenario, he would end up playing in one of those conferences that get ranked as the 15th or 16th seeds in every NCAA Tournament, like a Morgan State, Robert Morris, American, or Belmont. Since he's from Rhode Island, my guess is that if he doesn't end up in the Big East or A-10, then he will probably end up in one of the following conferences: America East, Northeast, Patriot, Colonial Athletic, or MAAC. He is still just a sophomore too, so if he continues to develop then his rating might increase, which would make him more attractive to some bigger name schools.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ryan Gomes Post-Game Interview (Video)

Check out this interview with ex-PC Friar Ryan Gomes after his Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Miami Heat

PC's Defense Exposed Once Again Against Louisville

The Friars poor defense got them in trouble again last night in their loss to Louisville, via ProJo Sports:

The Providence College Friars learned the hard way Wednesday night why coaches harp on playing a complete game. Less than three minutes of sloppy play took Providence (16-10, 8-6 in the Big East) from upset alert against seventh-ranked Louisville to an unspectacular 94-76 loss at Freedom Hall. With four games remaining, including home matchups with Big East opponents Notre Dame and No. 4 Pittsburgh, the Friars still need a high-profile win to have a realistic opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.

"What I told my team after the game was that for 20 minutes we played like we had a chance out there," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "(In the second half) they showed that they are a better team than we are right now. With four games left, we have to improve as a team and play through more physical contact. It doesn’t get any easier in the Big East."

After a stellar first half that saw Providence and Louisville swap leads nine times, the Friars came unhinged during a three-minute stretch of the second half and it cost them the game. The Friars held the Cardinals (20-5, 11-2) scoreless for 4:35 early in the half and led, 53-50, with 14:30 remaining. Then the game took a sharp turn for the worst. The Friars committed four turnovers in five possessions, which Louisville converted into nine points and a 59-53 lead.

Then, after a Jerry Smith layup made it 61-53, Davis was whistled for a technical foul. Smith hit both free throws, and in 2:26, the Friar’s three-point lead became a 10-point deficit. Over the next four minutes, the 13-0 run grew to 19-1 and a 69-54 Cardinals lead with little more than eight minutes left. During the run, Providence was largely forsaken by its offensive rebounding; the Friars took one shot or less on nine straight possessions.

The Friars never made a serious run from there. After shooting 75 percent (18 of 24) from the field in the first half, Providence hit only 9 of 30 (30 percent) in the second. "We shot lights out in the first half," said Providence guard Jeff Xavier, who had 12 points. "But we knew we weren’t going to score 46 points again in the second half against a Rick Pitino-coached team and that we would have to play defense. We started to miss some shots that we hit in the first half, and they started to take over after that."

Once again PC's horrific defense caused them to lose a game that could have been a signature win for their NCAA Tournament resume. In fact, this was the worst defense they played all season giving up 131 points per 100 possessions and allowing Louisville to have a 61.7% effective FG%. The same Louisville team that is 111th overall in effective FG%, shooting 50.7% on the year. That is not good news for the Friars coming down the stretch, who are going to need their defensive play to step it up. They need to win 3 of their next 4 games to have any hope of earning an at-large bid or else they will have to do some serious damage in the Big East Tournament. I have a hard time believing they stand any chance of beating Pitt, so they are going to have to take care of business against Notre Dame at home and they try to knock off Villanova and Rutgers on the road.

Keith Cothran's Career High 26 Points Lead URI To Victory Over UMass

Keith Cothran came up big for the Rams as they defeated UMass, 71-59, via ProJo Sports:

Some victories are sweeter than others, and the one the University of Rhode Island earned Wednesday night at the Mullins Center might be the most important yet for the Rams. It’s not just that URI won for the first time in five years, to the day, in the Mullins Center. It’s not that they rallied from 12 back to keep their hot streak alive with their seventh win in eight starts.

It was the way Rhode Island beat Massachusetts, 71-59, that made this one special. The Rams didn’t play their best. Their two co-captains, Jimmy Baron and Kahiem Seawright, were shut down and scored only six points each, 18 below their combined averages. Not only that, but Seawright injured his ankle and miss much of the second half.

But in a display of resiliency and determination, they fought back and rode a career night from Keith Cothran (26 points) and clutch play from everyone on the court in the final three minutes to a significant victory. "This is what a team is built on," Seawright said in wrapping up the night’s work. "Jimmy is going to get the best looks of the defense every night. I’m getting a lot of doubles. We need the third and fourth guys to step up."

Cothran was the guy who stepped way up Wednesday night. He carried the team on his back as he went 11-for-17, including 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. "I was thinking in the hotel room that I was going to be real aggressive," Cothran said. "I wanted to just create havoc." Coach Jim Baron told him he would be needed, especially after watching film of UMass’ previous game, a loss at St. Bonaventure. "I saw what the Bonaventure guards did against these guys," Baron said. "Keith is a big guard like they have. He’s a kid that plays hard and creates problems."

Cothran had played excellently early in the season, when he was starting. Since injuring a knee nine games ago, he has come off the bench and hasn’t been as big a factor. Wednesday night, Baron got Cothran in the game early and kept him in. Cothran played 29 minutes and had three of URI’s nine steals in addition to his 26 points. URI is now 15-1 when Cothran scores at least 15.

Rhode Island needed someone to step up since the Rams shot only 29 percent in the first half. They fell behind right away and were down by as many as 31-19. They scored the last nine points of the half to get within three at the break. UMass had outrebounded URI and beaten the Rams to numerous loose balls in the first 20 minutes.

With Cothran leading the way, the second half belonged to the Rams. URI got its first lead at 38-37 on a free throw by Lamonte Ulmer with 12:44 left. It fell behind again, but Cothran drilled a 3-pointer to get his team back on top. UMass went up six before 3-pointers by Stevie Mejia and Cothran tied it at 49-49.

URI appeared to be in trouble, though, since it had to go nearly 10 minutes without Seawright, who sprained an ankle trying to draw a charge on UMass point guard Chris Lowe. Lowe, who killed URI badly in two UMass victories last season, had 15 points and five assists. But, hounded by Marquis Jones and Mejia, he also had nine turnovers.

The score was tied for the last time at 57-57 with 2:40 left. Seawright returned and made two foul shots to start a 14-2 run the rest of the way that won it for URI. Cothran had two hoops in the run and Baron, who attempted (and missed) only two 3-point shots all night, made four free throws to help salt away the decision.
After reading this article, you might think UMass was a powerhouse this season. In actuality, they are pretty damn bad. They have a 9-15 record and rank 136th in offensive efficiency and 155th in defensive efficiency. Again this is just a case of URI beating a team they should beat. By winning, they avoid disaster, but do not gain much else from the victory as far as their NCAA hopes go. The good news for the Rams is that they have now one 7 of their last 8 games and if they win their last 4 as well then that would make it 11 of 12, which is quite a hot streak. The committee usually looks favorably on teams that finish the season on hot streaks like that and it could help them sneak in with an automatic bid if they continue to play well in the A-10 Tournament.

More: URI

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

JUCO Recruit Russ Permenter Committs To PC

Check out the latest PC recruit, via ProJo Sports:

Once Russ Permenter heard the words “Providence College,” his recruitment was complete. Permenter, a 6-9 junior college forward from Temple, Texas, verbally committed to PC on Sunday at the end of an official visit to the school. Permenter watched the Friars practice, took in the win over Rutgers and had a chance to meet with PC’s players and coaching staff. “It’s just a great situation up there,” said Kirby Johnson, Permenter’s coach at Temple College. “It’s Big East, the best conference in the country. Basketball is king up there. Being from the South, the only negative is the cold weather, but Russ said he’s fine with that.”

Permenter was not highly recruited, but Johnson says he understands why. Two years ago, Permenter was a high school star in Temple who backed out of a commitment to Texas Christian and ended up signing to play at Texas-San Antonio. He broke his hand in November of last season and ended up playing token minutes in 14 games, averaging just 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds. “Russ went to school with my son in Temple, so I told him when he went away to college that if things didn’t work out, we would be there for him,’’ said Johnson. “San Antonio just wasn’t a good fit, so he called us last May.’’

Permenter spent the summer working with Johnson and other members of a Temple College team that plays in one of the premier JUCO leagues in the country. He’s gotten stronger (about 225 pounds) and is averaging 19 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks for a team that’s 16-10 and hoping to fare well in the Texas playoffs. “We play in an excellent conference. The last two national champions (South Plains, Midland) came from our region,’’ said Johnson.

Johnson said that when Temple played in a holiday tournament in Fort Smith, Ark., college coaches began to notice his center. South Alabama, Pepperdine and Penn State were among the schools calling, but PC assistant Chris Davis went to see Temple practice, watched a game and offered a scholarship. “Chris watched us practice and just said right away that he was someone Providence will definitely target,’’ said Johnson. “We’re a very up-tempo team, so our big men have to do a lot, and Russ can step out and shoot the ball but also is a good scorer in the post.’’

Johnson said that Permenter is a strong student who only came to junior college to gain additional basketball exposure. He’s enjoyed some big games (30 points and 19 rebounds one night) and is looking forward to the opportunity to play at Providence. “Everyone just needed a chance to see him play live,” said Johnson. “Providence can be a great opportunity for Russ.”

PC loses its entire starting frontcourt ( Jonathan Kale, Geoff McDermott and Randall Hanke) to graduation after this season. Permenter becomes the latest recruit to join coach Keno Davis’ first class that is now at a whopping seven players. He joins Detroit center James Still and Atlanta forward Kadeem Batts as frontcourt additions who’ll compete for playing time with holdovers Alex Kellogg, Jamine Peterson and Bilal Dixon. The other four members of the recruiting class are junior college shooter Kyle Wright and high school guards Johnnie Lacy, Duke Mondy and Vincent Council. Permenter and Council have yet to sign letters-of-intent but are expected to do so in April.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a scouting report on Russ Permenter, but from this article it looks like he is a big man who can shoot from the outside. Of course, in the Big East, he's going to have to be able to hold his own down low on the defensive end or else he'll see his butt on the bench like Randall Hanke does for half the game because of his defensive inefficiencies.

Previously: PC Recruits Johnnie Lacy & Vincent Council

More: Providence College

Mayor Cicilline To Give State of The City Speech Tonight

Mayor Cicilline will let us know how doomed we are tonight, via ProJo:

When Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline took stock of the city in a speech last February, he saw the gathering clouds of economic and financial trouble. The foreclosure crisis was devastating neighborhoods in the capital city. The price of gasoline hovered around $3 a gallon. The mood across the nation, both politically and economically, was grim. “A hurricane is headed right for us,” said Cicilline, delivering his annual State of the City address before a crowd at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

With his city and the rest of the nation now in the midst of that hurricane, Cicilline will give his sixth State of the City address at 7 tonight in the convention center. The mayor will outline the city’s response to the difficult economic challenges it faces, according to a news release on the event, and will announce a “bold initiative” to help families. Cicilline spokeswoman Karen Southern declined yesterday to give details.

The annual address comes as the two-term mayor, generally regarded as a leading candidate for governor in 2010, has seen his approval rating decline. A Brown University poll conducted in September found that 46 percent of state residents rated Cicilline’s job performance as good or excellent, as opposed to the 64 percent the previous year. Last February, Cicilline’s approval rating was at 51 percent, according to the university.
Personally, I feel like the Mayor has done a good job since he has been in office. He seems to have cleaned things up corruption wise and I think he understands what the people of the city need. I would probably vote for him for Governor if he was to run, of course that depends on who he is running against too, but I honestly think he would do a good job. Plus, I'm also sure he has a deep hatred for current Governor Carcieri, which is always a plus in my book.

More: Providence

Monday, February 16, 2009

PC's Geoff McDermott Struggles With Knee Injury

Looks like McDermott is still struggling from the knee injuries that have plagued him over the past few seasons, via :
After seemingly every recent Providence College basketball game, Weyinmi Efejuku looks at a stat sheet, finds his pal Geoff McDermott’s name and shakes his head in amazement. That’s what happened after Saturday night’s 78-68 win over Rutgers. Efejuku saw that McDermott led the Friars with 12 rebounds, 11 off the defensive glass. “I don’t know how he gets the rebounds he does, but he does it all the time,” Efejuku said.

As any PC fan can plainly see, McDermott is hurting. Again. In each of his first three seasons at Providence, the 240-pound forward developed problems with his knees late in the season. Inflammation from fluid limits his explosion on the court and requires the team’s medical staff to drain the area. There is no structural damage but the same woes are repeating themselves.

To McDermott’s credit, he does not complain, wear a brace or even limp that much. He was not available to discuss his knee problems and coach Keno Davis has deflected the issue, saying only that he chooses to rest McDermott and others with nagging injuries.

The knee woes affect McDermott mostly on the offensive end of the floor. Over his last five games, he’s averaging just 3.6 points on 32 percent (7-of-22) shooting. Opponents are giving him open 15-footers and he’s not able to elevate and power home baskets near the goal. He is averaging a career-low 8.1 points this season.

But that’s not to say McDermott’s value to the Friars has dimmed. His rebounding and passing skills continue to make him an irreplaceable part of the team’s attack. Over the last five games, he is averaging 9.4 rebounds, with double figures three times. He is averaging 8.9 boards a game for the season and has a chance to end his PC career with more rebounds (998) than points (1,056).

It is that tenacity off the glass that draws respect from McDermott’s teammates. “He’s a warrior,” said Efejuku. “His knee might be hurting him, but he’s still going to go out there and play. He’s going to be in the training room all the time before and after the game but during the game, he’ll always play hard for us.”

Davis has talked about how he always lessens the load for his players at this time of year during practice sessions. Leading up to the Rutgers game, the Friars had light workouts, basically walking through Rutgers’ offensive plans and then taking time to shoot free throws and jump shots.

McDermott, who is shooting just 47 percent from the foul line, has taken extra time at the stripe in practices, according to Davis. The coach says he’s happy with all that McDermott continues to bring to the Friars. “The 12 rebounds is incredible and not only that, he gets six assists,” Davis said after the Rutgers game. “He is finding a way to help us win games even when he’s not shooting the way he would like. To get six assists playing the power forward, that’s a huge number. He doesn’t need to score points for us. I’d rather him get the assists and rebounds and help us win.”
It's too bad that McDermott hasn't been able to play at 100% this season because of his knee problems. You would think that some rest would do him good, but apparently the injury won't go away. Sounds like he might need some type of minor surgery to me, but as a senior in college the last thing you want to do is miss time with a knee injury. Hopefully some rest will do McDermott good and he will be close to full strength soon. I will never question his heart or passion for the game though and for that I salute him.

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Basketball Is A Bond For Students At Juanita Sanchez High School

Nice story here about the boys and girls basketball teams at Juanita Sanchez High School in Providence, via High School Game Time:

The Juanita Sanchez boys are fighting for a playoff berth in the Division III basketball tournament next month, while the Sanchez girls wind down their second consecutive season without a victory.

But a visitor to the dual school complex on Thurbers Avenue would never know the difference. Brenda Reyes and Joseilys Portes, seniors who have not won a game since they were sophomores, were just as excited about their basketball as Kirby Verlus, a senior on the boys team who started in the playoffs last year and expects to do the same in a little more than two weeks.

The Sanchez boys were 7-8 overall and 6-6 and fifth in Division III heading into their game with first-place Central Falls (14-2, 11-1) on Friday night. The girls were 0-14 overall, 0-11 in Division III, before their home finale Friday afternoon against Davies.

But basketball is more than winning and losing for these kids.

“We’re like a family,” Reyes said late last week. “We’re always learning how to work with people. Everybody loves to play and have fun.”

Basketball has taught Portes the value of teamwork and accepting the responsibility of coming to practice on time and playing hard. Basketball has provided senior Dekontee Azzam, a hoop rookie, with a team experience.

“It’s not about winning games all the time,” she said.

Verlus joined the Cavaliers’ boys halfway through the 2008 season and made such an impression that he is captain this season. He attended Del Sesto High for two years and played basketball for Mount Pleasant because Del Sesto did not have a team. When Del Sesto closed, he transferred to the William B. Cooley Health, Science and Technology High School in the Juanita Sanchez Complex. The Providence Academy of International Studies occupies the other wing of the complex.

“I heard this is a good school, and I knew they had a basketball team,” Verlus said. “I like the school. It’s not too big. Everybody knows everybody and is friendly.”

The Juanita Sanchez Complex, named for the Hispanic community leader who died in 1992 at the age of 39, opened in September 2003. Willie Washington, the former Central High and Rhode Island Junior College star and a resource specialist, directed a club basketball program that first year. In 2004, Steve Nadeau, the former St. Raphael football star and a special-education teacher in the Providence system, became the first coach of the boys varsity and is still calling the plays.

The Cavaliers won the 2007 Division III championship and reached the semifinals in 2008. This has been a rebuilding year, and Nadeau has started four sophomores with Verlus.

“We’re having some fun. We’ve had to teach them everything,” Nadeau said of assistant coach Kristen McCall and himself. Verlus said he was helping the young players just as the seniors last year taught him.

“It’s like kindergarten sometimes,” he said with a smile.

Sophomore Ramon Quinonez (16.8 points per game) is the leading scorer, followed by sophomore Malcolm Scott (12.9), Verlus (9.9) and sophomores Kevin Hernandez (7.6) and Angel Candelier (7.4).

The Sanchez girls made the playoffs in their second year and earned a sportsmanship award in 2007 but have struggled since. The team is playing this winter because Dan DeCataldo, a teacher, and Ricky Bozzer, the boys cross-country and baseball coach, stepped in at Thanksgiving and volunteered to coach. They held tryouts, 30 girls showed up, and 26 remain, split evenly between varsity and junior varsity.

DeCataldo and Bozzer had to start with the basics.

“At the beginning, everybody seemed lost and out of position. No one knew how to dribble. We didn’t know where to go,” Portes said. Azzam had no skills at the start of this season, DeCataldo said, but now she “dribbles with both hands, anticipates and makes steals.”

“I’m really happy with the team as a whole. I feel we’re becoming better,” Azzam said.

Reyes recalled her struggle as a backup point guard last year and said that she was more determined this year and understood that “I have teammates to help me.”

Team defense improved, but scoring remains a problem. Sanchez has scored 20 points twice, a 57-26 loss to Central on Dec. 29 and a 44-21 loss at South Boston on Feb. 9, and managed only five points against Fatima on Dec. 18 and two at Mount Pleasant on Jan. 6. But the Cavaliers outscored Hope, 12-10, in the second half of a 27-18 loss on Feb. 10 and were proud.

These girls have overcome more than a lack of ability to play basketball. Reyes dealt with family issues early in the season. Portes juggles a job at Wendy’s with dribbles at Sanchez. And Azzam was on the verge of quitting basketball to keep her job in the dietary office at Rhode Island Hospital. “I didn’t want to quit the team, but I needed that job,” she said. In the end, her supervisors worked with her, and now she plays basketball, works at the hospital and still takes Advanced Placement courses.

The best news from these four Sanchez seniors? Each plans to attend college.
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City of Providence Wants Judge Caprio To Step It Up

This right here is just a shame that the city wants to put pressure on the courts to generate more money when people are struggling to make ends meet everyday. I commend Judge Caprio for being honorable and fair. I think he is doing the right thing and giving a break to people who deserve it. He's also right that the court should not be a revenue engine for the city. They should be looking to create long term revenue streams from something that is more productive for the city and helps all people. Story via ProJo:

Caprio, whose videotaped court proceedings play regularly on the popular public-access show Caught in Providence, hears from nearly 150 people before court adjourns. Nearly all walk away paying less than they expected, or, in some cases, nothing at all.

Some city officials think Caprio and the three other Municipal Court judges might be a little too forgiving to those who come before them, and it is costing the city money.

Mayor David N. Cicilline’s director of administration, Richard I. Kerbel, says the court — which deals with traffic and moving violations and some misdemeanor offenses — is not on pace to meet the city’s revenue estimates.

So, in not so many words, he is asking the courts to step it up.

But Caprio says the court is not a revenue engine. With the economy in tough shape, the court should show more compassion, not less, he says.

“A lot of people are hurting. You’d have to be inhuman not to take those factors in. You got to live in the real world. This is life and it’s all on vivid display here in court,” he said. “What am I supposed to say if a person comes in with four children and is on Food Stamps? ‘Sorry, the city needs money, so you have to pay?’ ”

But what about the cash-strapped city?

Kerbel said the court brings in a significant amount of money, but, he acknowledged, there is a fine line that the mayor’s office must consider: Municipal Court is one of three independent tribunals (the other two are housing and probate) whose judges are appointed by the City Council, not the mayor’s office.

“It’s very clear we cannot tell judges how to do their jobs,” he said. “All we can say is where we are in terms of our estimates, what would help, and what would not help.”

“Every mayor since 1985 has looked for more money from the court,” Caprio said, referring to Kerbel’s comments. “But we don’t get into that. We can’t. I’m not elected as a revenue enhancement officer. I’m elected as a judge.”

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weyinmi Efejuku Leads PC Over Rutgers

Weyinmi Efejuku dropped 25 points as the Friars defeated Rutgers, 78-68, via ProJo Sports:

As one shot after another fell through the hoop and Providence College’s commanding lead over Rutgers shriveled Saturday night, Friars guard Weyinmi Efejuku knew something was wrong. Efejuku said he could see the Scarlet Knights making a charge, but only when he heard the PC boobirds begin to chirp did he realize that an 18-point second-half lead had shrunk to only one. "The fans weren’t appreciating our effort and I didn’t appreciate our effort," said the senior from New York. "We had to turn it up and close out the game." That’s exactly what the Friars did as they took Rutgers’ comeback punch and regrouped in time to come away with a 78-68 victory in front of a crowd of 11,246 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

That Efejuku and the rest of the Friars fell asleep in the second half can be understood. Rutgers (10-15, 1-11 Big East) played very poorly for the game’s opening 25 minutes and had every excuse to pack up early and begin the long drive back to the Garden State. But once the Knights began to hit a few shots and put some juice into a moribund offense, the game turned. "Their record might not show it, but they’re a good team and they’re in our league, so we knew eventually they’d make a run," said Efejuku. "That’s what they did and we didn’t retaliate very quickly. We were kind of shocked at the run they put on us so fast. Next thing I knew, we were up two. I thought we were up 15."

With Earl Pettis (13 points) and Jaron Griffin knocking home 3-pointers and Rutgers limiting Providence to one shot, the visitors ripped off a 19-3 run that cut the Friar lead to 56-54. From there, it was your typical Big East dogfight. Rutgers kept charging and closed to within 61-60 on a Griffin tip-in. It was 63-62 when the Friars finally dug in. A Sharaud Curry 3-pointer pushed the lead to 66-62 and the Friars’ defense then stopped Rutgers on three straight trips. Curry made one of two free throws to make it 67-62 with 2:23 left. Rutgers turned the ball over as it came up the floor and Efejuku ran the ball back at the Knights for a layup and a 69-62 lead. One free throw from Geoff McDermott and two more by Marshon Brooks made it 72-62 with 1:19 left and the Friars were out of the woods.

Efejuku led the Friars with 25 points and was clearly the best player on the court. Curry and Brooks added 12 points and Randall Hanke added 10. With the win, PC improves to 16-9 overall and 8-5 in the Big East. Coach Keno Davis was clearly not happy with the second-half letdown, but was happy his team hung tough and didn’t lose the lead.
The Friars got a scare in this one, but came out with the W in the end. PC is always tough to beat when Efejuku plays well and scores 20 plus points. This was one of the games remaining on PC's schedule that they had to win in order to keep their at-large hopes alive. The way this game went, I would not be surprised to see PC lose when the travel to Rutgers for the rematch in a couple weeks. PC always has trouble playing at Rutgers and the Scarlett Knights probably have the confidence to believe they can beat the Friars after coming back on them last night. Next up for PC is a trip to Louisville on Wednesday to face former PC coach Rick Pitino. I think the Friars can win this game if they can play some good D and not turn the ball over, because Louisville is a poor shooting team. Of course, against the Friars they will probably hit about 10 plus three's now.

URI Defeats St. Louis Behind The Strong Play of Lamonte Ulmer

Lamonte Ulmer was a beast yesterday, shooting 8 of 9 from the field to score 18 points to help URI defeat St. Louis, 69-61, via ProJo Sports:

It took Lamonte Ulmer well into his third year with the University of Rhode Island basketball team to earn a starting spot. Now that he has it, Ulmer's playing as if he wants to keep it.

The junior forward from Connecticut was outstanding Saturday, turning in one of his best all-around efforts yet as he led the Rams to a 69-61 triumph over Saint Louis at the Ryan Center. Ulmer had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals as he helped Rhode Island go wire-to-wire in winningt he game. Kahiem Seawright added a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards and Jimmy Baron added 11 points for the Rams, who won for the sixth time in seven starts.

Saint Louis, which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, played without its head coach, Rick Majerus. Majerus stayed home to be with his girlfriend, who was seriously injured in an auto accident. Porter Moser, the Billikens’ associate head coach, took over in Majerus’ absence. Moser felt the result had more to do with Ulmer being present than Majerus being absent. Moser said he simply carried out the game plan Majerus had set up. That plan was designed to focus on Baron and Seawright.

Ulmer is a tough match for the Billikens because of his size, at 6-feet-7, and his speed. He had his first career double-double at the Scotttrade Center last year when Saint Louis beat URI, 68-61. This time, he was even better. "I thought Ulmer was the difference. He had as good a game as I’ve seen him have on tape," Moser said. "It seems like he’s so long. He’s athletic and he plays passionately. He sure did tonight." "He plays with so much high energy," agreed Rhody coach Jim Baron. "We played him at the top of the press . . . And he attacked the glass."

After coming off the bench for so long and worrying about the starters setting the tempo for him, Ulmer now concentrates on pushing the pace from the start. "I feel like I have to start the game strong so the people who come off the bench can keep it going," he said. "I’m getting more comfortable with it."

Ulmer is averaging just over eight points a game. He is at 11.1 in the eight games since becoming a starter. The lanky forward has extended his shooting range to the point where he has made a couple 3-pointers in recent games, but his strength is still his inside game and his defense. His first two hoops yesterday were dunks off the break. Later in the first half, he had another dunk off a set play on which the Rams set a double screen for him and Seawright lofted an alley-oop pass from the top of the key.

By halftime, Ulmer had 12 points. The Rams also had their stamp on the game. URI had jumped out quickly, which was a focus, Baron said, after a brutal first half against St. Bonaventure in the previous outing. This time, URI jumped ahead, 8-0. Saint Louis got within 14-13 and 16-14. The first of two 3-pointers by Stevie Mejia, who had a nice game coming off the bench for URI (6 points, 5 assists) and then the Ulmer dunk off the Seawright pass, got the lead back to seven.

It was 32-25 at the half. Ulmer started the second half in style, with URI’s first two hoops, including another dunk. Saint Louis, which was led by freshman point guard Kwamain Mitchell’s 15 points, tried to hang in, but never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Ben Eaves, given his first chance to play in crunch time because Delroy James was not feeling well, was the one who put it away. He had five straight points, on a 15-footer and then a 3-pointer, to clinch Rhody’s seventh A-10 victory, equaling the team’s total for all last season.

URI also ran its record at the Ryan Center to 11-1, matching the most victories in one season in the building. Unlike last season, when the team folded when the stretch, everything is looking brighter, although the next opponent is UMass Wednesday in Amherst. "They got us twice last year," Baron pointed out. "So we’ve got to be ready for them this time."
Not having Coach Majerus on the St. Louis sidelines probably weakens their team a great deal, so I think URI caught a break with that. Hopefully his girlfriend is going to be OK though. We don't know what types of adjustment Majerus would have made if he was coaching and this is probably a completely different game if that is the case. This win just keeps URI's NCAA Tournament profile from looking worse at this point. They need to beat everyone on their schedule, with the exception of Dayton, so they can avoid having anymore bad losses on their resume. UMass can score some points on occasion, so URI will have to play strong defense to avoid getting into a shootout with them. The Rams are a far better team though and should win that game

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