Browns’ Joe Thomas to miss remainder of season

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 12:42 PM

A brutal Cleveland Browns season just got worse.

Cleveland dropped to 0-7 on Sunday with more quarterback drama. But the bigger story was the NFL-record snaps streak concluding when Joe Thomas exited the game.

Thomas tore his triceps and will need surgery, ending his season.

Thomas played over 11 seasons without missing a down. With the Browns spiraling toward the first pick in the draft again, the hope will be that Thomas is fully ready to go for 2018, at least providing some optimism after a two-year stretch that may go down as the worst in NFL history.

Thomas confirmed it himself on Twitter, calling it a “tough break.”

Starting Five: Keita Bates-Diop is Ohio State’s rising star and a name worth learning

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 9:16 AM

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            year-freshmen-all american-keita bates diop-jalen brunson-mohamed bamba-marvin bagley-trae young-deandre ayton

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, college basketball columnist Kyle Tucker will name a Starting Five — his favorite five players from across the country at that particular moment in time. As guys heat up and cool off, this list will change through the course of the season.

The Starting Five got a near total makeover last week, and one of the new guys is already off the island.

G Jalen Brunson, 6-3, Jr., Villanova

He needed only 28 minutes to post 18 points (on 11 shots) and 7 assists in the top-ranked Wildcats’ 32-point rout at Georgetown. He made 4 of 7 from 3-point range and is shooting 49 percent for the season — 11 percentage points higher than his first two years with the Wildcats. He’s averaging 18.8 points, 5.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and just 1.5 turnovers per game.

G Trevon Bluiett, 6-6, Sr., Xavier

Welcome back, Trevon, who after consecutive duds (8-of-25 shooting) in back-to-back losses for the Musketeers, produced 47 total points and hit 10-of-18 3-pointers in wins over then-ranked Creighton and St. John’s. He’s averaging 19.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, shooting 43 percent from 3-point range and 82.2 percent at the line.

F Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Jr., Ohio State

In the first game after his Starting Five debut last week, he sank 6 3-pointers and dropped 26 points and 8 rebounds on Maryland. Then went for 20 points, 9 boards and 5 blocks in a blowout win at Rutgers. He finally had an off night Wednesday at Northwestern, which included 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal in the Big Ten-leading Buckeyes’ sixth consecutive victory. Bates-Diop is averaging 19.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, shooting 40 percent from 3-point territory.

F Mohamed Bamba, 7-0, Fr. Texas

Bamba stuffed the stat sheet in the Longhorns’ biggest win of the season Wednesday night against No. 8 Texas Tech: 15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 steals. He leads the nation in blocked shots (76), and over the last seven games has averaged 14.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.0 blocks and made four 3-pointers. The freakishly long freshman has a tall order (and big opportunity) Saturday at West Virginia.

C Deandre Ayton, 7-1, Fr., Arizona

We should note what an impressive free-throw shooter Ayton is for a giant: 71.3 percent on the season and 10 of 11 from the line Saturday against Oregon. The last two games — both wins for the Wildcats — he’s been remarkably efficient, scoring 44 points on just 22 field goal attempts, making 16 of those shots. Looking more like an NBA veteran than a college freshman, Ayton is averaging 20.2 points and 11.3 rebounds this season.

On the bench

* Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III was set to jump back into our Starting Five after 30 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks and 3 assists against Wake Forest on Saturday, then he had a ho-hum 13 and 12 in Monday night’s scare at Miami. Look, he’s probably the best player in the country — averaging 22 and 12 — but we’re holding him to a ridiculous standard and he’s competing with a terrific class of big men.

* Oklahoma star Trae Young leads the nation in both scoring and assists, but his freewheeling style has bitten the Sooners in each of their last two losses — at West Virginia on Jan. 6 and at Kansas State on Tuesday — when he made a combined 5-of-22 attempts from 3-point range and 20 combined turnovers against 11 assists. With Young, you’re going to get a stirring performance against TCU (43 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) Saturday and some of the hero-ball duds, too.

* West Virginia senior Jevon Carter had 28 points, sank 5 3-pointers and had 3 steals — he ranks No. 2 nationally in that category — on Saturday against Texas Tech. But then he went all hero ball down the stretch Monday against Kansas, jacking terrible 3-point attempts as the Jayhawks roared back to win in Morgantown. Carter was 4 of 15 from the field and 2 of 8 from 3-point territory. WVU has lost two in a row and needs its star to play smarter.

* We’re keeping an eye on Kansas senior guard Devonte’ Graham. The Jayhawks have won four in a row in league play to get back into contention for another Big 12 title, and he’s a huge reason. He had 28 points, 6 assists and 3 steals in a win over TCU. He had 23, 5 and 2 against Kansas State. And 16, 6 and 2 in the comeback at WVU. Shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point territory and 86.5 percent at the line, he’s dangerous.

* Likewise, 5-foot-11 Marquette sophomore Markus Howard is in a bit of a slump, but we’re watching him. Because he has made 11 3-point shots in a game twice already this season — he ranks seventh nationally in made 3-pointers — and he has yet to miss a free throw. He’s 57 of 57 at the line. He started 2018 with a combined 89 points in games against Providence and Villanova.

The post Starting Five: Keita Bates-Diop is Ohio State’s rising star and a name worth learning appeared first on SEC Country.

Kennard donates shoes to Franklin High School basketball teams

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:56 PM

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 10: Luke Kennard #5 of the Detroit Pistons looks to pass the ball in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on January 10, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 10: Luke Kennard #5 of the Detroit Pistons looks to pass the ball in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on January 10, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Luke Kennard hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

A rookie in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, Kennard recently donated basketball shoes to the junior varsity and varsity boys and girls teams at Franklin High School. Kennard is a 2015 Franklin graduate.

»RELATED: Franklin cheers ‘favorite son’ Kennard

»RELATED: 7 more great Frankin athletes

Frankin athletic director and boys varsity coach Brian Bales posted photos of the teams with their shoes and thanked Kennard, whom he coached in high school, on Twitter.

Jerry Snodgrass of the Ohio High School Athletic Association was one of several people to retweet Bales post, also noting that the gift from Kennard was ‘legal.’

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Kennard is averaging 6.4 points in 37 games this season for the Pistons. He scored a career-high 20 points in a win over San Antonio on Dec. 30, 2017.

The Pistons selected Kennard No. 12 overall in the first round of the NBA Draft last June.

At Franklin, Kennard was a two-time Mr. Ohio Basketball, one of six players to ever win the award multiple times. He finished his career as the No. 2 scorer in Ohio high school history with 2,977 points.

Kennard played two seasons of college basketball at Duke, averaging 15.7 points in 73 career games.
Franklin's Luke Kennard scores past Bellefountaine's Max Oyer in the Division II Boys Regional at UD Arena Thursday. Franklin's Austin Doliboa follows up. Franklin jumped out to a 52-24 halftime lead. JIM WITMER/STAFF(JIM WITMER)

Penn State recruiting mailbag: Hopes for a top class in 2019; thoughts on early enrollees

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 9:16 AM

micah parsons-penn state recruiting-2018 early enrollees

Have Penn State football recruiting questions? We have answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Penn State recruiting mailbag to discuss Nittany Lions recruiting. This week, we discuss 2018 signees who may make an immediate impact and remaining targets beyond the early signing period.

Penn State recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started.

While it should be noted that the Nittany Lions aren’t ensured a top-five overall recruiting class in 2018 just yet, there’s no doubt this has been a landmark cycle in James Franklin’s tenure.

Penn State is presently listed No. 4 nationally in 247Sports composite class rankings, slightly ahead of College Football Playoff competitors Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma. Considering the size of this Nittany Lions class (22 signees, one verbal commit), there is a strong likelihood at least another program or two will surpass it when the dust settles on National Signing Day (Feb. 7).

Regardless of the top-tier talent other teams add in the coming weeks, or how Penn State fills its remaining scholarship slots, a top-10 class is seemingly certain in State College for the first time since 2006. That’s a big step for Franklin and his staff following back-to-back 11-win seasons, signifying increased effectiveness with elite talent and an expanded reach on the recruiting trail.

“The best thing that helps us right now in recruiting is us having success on the field,” Nittany Lions defensive recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said during the early signing period. “In the last two years we’ve won double-digit games and it’s enhanced our recruiting.

“It’s allowed us to be relevant in conversations that the previous couple years we weren’t relevant in, so we’re just going to keep presenting Penn State.”

So what’s next?

Well, it’s fair to say 2019 recruiting efforts are operating at a slower rate in terms of results. Penn State carries two verbal commitments from high school juniors: New Jersey quarterback Taquan Roberson and local State College cornerback Keaton Ellis.

This time last cycle, the Nittany Lions held pledges from blue-chip prospects such as Micah Parsons, Justin Shorter, Zack Kuntz and Pat Freiermuth. However, it’s important to note the impact Penn State has made on elite talent across America.

More than ever, it appears the Nittany Lions are focused on converting on-field success into a national recruiting footprint. Among the 90-plus scholarship offers Penn State has extended to high school juniors, only two belong to Pennsylvania athletes.

            State-Keaton Ellis
Cornerback Keaton Ellis became Penn State’s first verbal commitment of the 2019 recruiting cycle in September. (Tyler Donohue/Land of 10)

These widespread efforts are working. That became increasingly clear earlier this month when I encountered dozens of coveted 2019 talents in Orlando, Fla., while covering Under Armour All-America festivities.

When Penn State surfaced in conversations, the reactions were positive and several marquee recruits expressed sincere interest in potentially attending the university. Just among that group, the Nittany Lions seem set up as legitimate contenders for athletes such as 5-star offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs (Belleville, Mich.), 5-star receiver Isaiah Williams (St. Louis), and top-10 linebackers Marcel Brooks (Flower Mound, Texas) and Brandon Smith (Mineral, Va.).

Each of these recruitments could last nearly another year if not all the way into February 2019, but Penn State has done an excellent job ensuring it’s at least under serious consideration at an early stage. Expect this class to feature even more of a regionally diverse feel than a 2018 collection of signees that represents 11 states.

The Nittany Lions have been selective with in-state players so far, but should be able to sign a significant percentage of those ultimately prioritized. Penn State will also do its usual damage in talent-laden Mid-Atlantic states Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. But the web is weaved for big-time additions from far beyond Big Ten territory.

Another top-10 class should be well within reach if Penn State delivers another successful season that keeps a national spotlight on State College.

Let’s turn our attention to some players who may impact that quest next fall…

This is a timely question from Lorie, who delivered it during our weekly Facebook Live show (8 p.m. Wednesday here).

Penn State welcomed six members of its 2018 recruiting class to campus last week. The early enrollees are going through a whirlwind learning experience, ranging from classroom expectations to weight room challenges. Plus, for some, it’s the first time mom and dad haven’t been around to handle laundry duties.

To review, the six freshmen who arrived early are:

What stands out immediately here is the trio of linebackers, including 5-star recruit Micah Parsons. Though he received plenty of attention as a defensive end throughout high school, plenty of programs eyed his abilities in a stand-up role and Franklin made it clear following his signing that Parsons will compete to replace departed senior middle linebacker Jason Cabinda.

That’s also where Jesse Luketa intends to push for early playing time. A natural leader who displays desirable instincts at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, he transferred from Ottawa to a Pennsylvania prep program for a shot at collegiate offers and ended up with more than 40.

While plenty of people are already wondering whether Parsons is ultimately destined for a transition to defensive end, Nick Taburton may be the most likely candidate for that route. This 6-3, 250-pound playmaker recorded nearly 300 tackles at Pennridge High School and did some of his finest work near the line of scrimmage.

His father, Rick Tarburton, shed some light on the potential for a position change during our discussion last month.

“He’ll play anywhere Coach [James] Franklin tells him to play. Nick is a football player,” Rick said. “He wants to play linebacker. I think he likes the leadership aspects of linebacker, especially middle linebacker, but when he was younger he played defensive end for years. They moved him to linebacker because teams would run away from him when he was at end. As far as where he’ll play [at Penn State], I think it’s going to depend on what the team needs.”

Behind these three linebackers, the Nittany Lions added a pair of defensive backs from the Lone Star State. The Penn State secondary suffers some key losses this offseason, saying goodbye to productive seniors Marcus Allen, Troy Apke, Christian Campbell and Grant Haley.

Few freshmen saw the field for Penn State in 2017, but two carved out roles at cornerback: Tariq Castro-Fields and Lamont Wade. Early experience should help this duo entering their second season, while the return of John Reid from injury provides another boost at cornerback.

Trent Gordon still envisions an opportunity to make his mark on this competitive group.

“One of my goals is to either start or be in rotation with the other defensive backs when the season starts,” Gordon told Land of 10 prior to his enrollment.

I believe Isaiah Humphries, son of former Nittany Lions defensive back Leonard Humphries, has an excellent chance to enter the conversation at safety with a strong spring camp.

The remainder of Penn State’s 2018 class — approximately 20 players — arrives this summer. Considering 18 of 21 freshmen redshirted this past season, it’s clear the depth-chart climb isn’t easy these days in Happy Valley. But the anticipation here is more newcomers will warrant key roles this fall.

Have a question about Penn State recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10PSU and we’ll try to answer it in a future mailbag. Check to see if your issue already was addressed by reading previous Penn State recruiting mailbags here.

The post Penn State recruiting mailbag: Hopes for a top class in 2019; thoughts on early enrollees appeared first on Land of 10.

New Wildcats but same expectations for Springfield basketball

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 2:16 PM

Larry Stephens and RaHeim Moss talk about the big plays they made as the Wildcats beat the Tigers.

Springfield and Cleveland Heights capped the second day of the annual Flyin’ to the Hoop basketball extravaganza with a thriller folks in Clark County can hope is a sign of even greater things to come this season. 

The Wildcats trailed by seven early in the fourth quarter but rallied to win 73-67 in overtime to improve to 10-0. 

RELATED: Future Buckeye wins showdown of stars

The comeback came mostly on the back of RaHeim Moss. The senior scored 18 of his 22 points after halftime, including the go-ahead bucket and a breakaway layup to ice it in overtime. 

Moss has emerged as the team’s top scoring option, raising his average from 6.1 points per game last season to 16.1 so far in his junior campaign. 

“RaHeim was held back a little last year because of what we had in Danny Davis,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said, referring to the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer, who graduated last spring but was in attendance Sunday night. 

RELATED: Davis stands alone among Springfield legends

“(Moss) has been (averaging) 20 points a game the last five or six games, but it starts with defense, and that’s what he’s doin.” 

Moss had three steals and played a role in the Springfield press that helped turn the game around after the Tigers took the lead. 

The biggest theft of the night belonged to Larry Stephens, though. The sophomore guard picked off a pass at midcourt and then threw it up for Moss, who skied to slam it home. 

That gave the Wildcats a 66-65 lead and brought down the house. 

“We just want to put on a show for our audience,” said Stephens, who scored eight points. “Good team versus good team. Basketball is a game of runs. They had their run, but we never folded.” 

The high wire act might have added to the degree of difficulty at a crucial juncture in the game, but he and Moss said they work on alley-oops in practice. 

“I just work for my teammates and try to make a big play,” Moss said. "I was basically getting my team involved (in the first half) and I just executed, waited for my time to come. I knew my teammates could put in a bucket right there, but I just had to finish it.” 

Tigers get ‘Mossed’

Springfield led by as many as nine early in the third quarter, but found themselves trailing 46-44 heading into the fourth. 

The Tigers’ lead swelled to 52-45 on future Ohio State football player Tyreke Smith’s breakaway layup with 5:46 to go, but that was as good as it would get for the crew from northeast Ohio. 

Moss scored five straight points to get the Wildcats within two. 

He kept them close until the closing seconds, when Sam Towns’ free throw tied the game at 63 to send it to overtime. 

RELATED: Pressure doesn’t get to Towns in Springfield’s Flyin’ win

That let the Moss show continue. He fouled out Smith on a drive to the basket early in the extra session then put the Wildcats ahead for good with his slam from Stephens. 

Leonard Taylor added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Springfield. He spent spent most of the night battling down low with Smith, who had 17 points and eight boards. The two highly-sought-after football prospects put on a show. 

“That’s a senior that’s played in the Flyin’ to the Hoop before so we expected a big performance out of him,” Carson said. "He came in and did a great job for us.”

History Lesson

Carson found some extra meaning in this one for the Wildcats. 

The Springfield native who starred at the old South High School in the early 2000s had some revenge for North (the alma mater of his father, Fred) on his mind with the Tigers trekking south.

“It’s real sweet for us because I can remember growing up Springfield North High School went to two state semifinal games, in ’91 and ’95, and won (the state championship) in ’97 and both losses were to Cleveland Heights. So that’s a sweet win for Springfield.”

That sentiment was consistent with one he talked about earlier in the week — the importance of pride in the program, not just for the school but the city. 

“Springfield. We want to be the pride of Springfield,” Carson said after Springfield’s practice Wednesday. “When you think of Springfield, we want you to think of Springfield basketball. I think we’ve done a fine job so far. We just want to keep it going and keep raising the stakes.” 

That’s a message his youngsters seem to be getting. 

“It was a battle for Ohio, so we had to come out here and put on a show for the fans,” Moss said. 

What’s next?

The Wildcats go into the second half of the season intent on writing another winning chapter in the school’s history. 

They want to defend their GWOC National East championship and claim another district title. 

Though Davis graduated, this squad has a shot at being better than last season’s team that advanced to the regional final. 

Senior point guard Michael Wallace had 10 points but turned the ball over four times against Cleveland Heights. He was making his first season start of the season while playing his second game after recovering from a knee injury. 

Springfield jr. Sam Towns hit a free throw with 3.5 seconds left to force OT and Springfield defeated Cleveland Heights 73-67 in the 16th annual Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop at Trent Arena in Kettering on Sun., Jan. 14, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The Wildcats also still expect to get back guard JaJuan Rodgers, who has missed almost all of the season with a foot injury, but the absence of what was expected to be the starting backcourt has given others opportunities to flourish. 

“Wallace will be up and down for a little bit only his second game back,” Carson said. “We’re still working him in, but he’s a senior. We believe in him. We know what he can do. We’ve seen him and we’re going to continue to trust in Mike and he’ll come along.”

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Next up is a return to Trent Arena, where the Wildcats will face Fairmont on Friday night before playing at Chaminade Julienne on Saturday. 

Then it will be a Tuesday night trip to Belmont (Jan. 23) followed by a Wednesday night game at undefeated Wayne. 

The latter was rescheduled from last Friday night because of the snowstorm that hit the area. 

“We’ve got a gauntlet coming up,” Carson said. “We’ve got four games in eight days so we’ve just got to focus more than ever. We’re gonna be the hunter and not the hunted and just continue to try to play Springfield ball and try to get better.”