First Four: Former Flyers assistant happy to be back at UD Arena

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 9:25 PM

Ron Jirsa watches Radford practice at the First Four on Monday, March 12, 2018, at UD Arena.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Ron Jirsa watches Radford practice at the First Four on Monday, March 12, 2018, at UD Arena.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

It’s been 15 years since Ron Jirsa last stood on the sidelines at UD Arena, but the memories are flooding back this week.

A former Dayton Flyers assistant on Oliver Purnell’s staff in the early 2000s, Jirsa is back for the First Four after helping coach Radford to its third NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2009. Jirsa joined Mike Jones’ staff in 2015 and works mainly with the post players.

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The Big South champion Highlanders (22-12) meet LIU Brooklyn (18-16) in the First Four opener Tuesday at UD Arena.

“We had great years here,” Jirsa said shortly after arriving at the arena Monday ahead of a 40-minute practice session. “Great memories, a lot of close friends that still live here, and this is where my (now 17-year-old) daughter was born, here at Miami (Valley) Hospital. We lived right over on Plumwood Road. It’s just a lot of memories.

“Mostly what stands out is the friendships that I made, the guys I worked with I’ve always stayed in touch with from Oliver Purnell to (former assistant and current UD Director of Athletic Development) Josh Postorino, who is still here, and Frank Smith, who works with the NCAA now, and (former Director of Basketball Operations and current Texas coach) Shaka Smart had a tremendous career, (Liberty assistant coach) Kyle Getter had a tremendous career. And, I’ve kept in touch with some of the players that were so important to our success and our friends that still live here, anytime I’m back for high school basketball, I always try to get in touch with them. There are a lot of people to say, ‘Hi,’ to, so hopefully I bump into some of them.”

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It didn’t take long for some of the long-time Flyers fans watching practice to recognize Jirsa. After the Highlanders’ session ended, Jirsa was called over to a small crowd behind the baseline.

He took a few minutes as his team exited the court to greet at least one familiar face and a few others who gathered around him.

“You were on Purnell’s staff, right?” one fan in UD attire asked. “Remember his bulldog?”

Jirsa came to UD in 1999 after he was let go as head coach at Georgia, where he went 35-30 in two seasons.

During his four years with the Flyers, UD posted an 88-39 overall record, made two NCAA tournament appearances and two NIT trips. His final season in 2002-03, the Flyers went 24-6 and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship and advanced to the Big Dance as a fourth seed.

“I started talking to Purnell, and once I got to visit here, I really wanted to be here and I really started recruiting him,” Jirsa said. “He took me on his staff here, mainly because I was a little older at the time than some of the other guys on his staff, and I really enjoyed working with them and I felt I helped contribute. We did well during that time period, and the year we left, we won the Atlantic 10 conference championship here and that was by far was the most special.”

Jirsa left to stay with Purnell when he took the Clemson job, but two months in, Jirsa got a head coaching job of his own at Marshall. He spent four years there and has since been an assistant Bethel (Minn.), Tennessee Tech and now Radford.

He brings 30 years of coaching experience and seems well-respected by his players.

“He has his moments where he jokes, but he takes everything serious and he works well with the big men,” senior forward Ed Polite said. “He makes sure we know the fundamentals so we’ve always got to be top-notch with coach Jirsa.”

Now, Jirsa is hoping his Dayton connection helps the local crowd rally around the Highlanders, who were a surprise to make it this far after being picked seventh in the league during the preseason. He looks forward to coaching in front of some Flyer faithfuls again.

“I know what a special place UD Arena is, and I’ve seen the First Four on television, so I’m sure it will be at its finest,” Jirsa said. “It’s not like it’s a home game for the Dayton Flyers, but it will still be great. … Hopefully some of the fans will be for us, and maybe some of those fans that aren’t Radford fans but are rooting for someone else will come over with us for a while.”

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Middletown’s Harrison dominant in mixed-martial arts debut

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:08 PM

Kayla Harrison, of the United States, celebrates after defeating Audrey Tcheumeo of France during the women's -78kg gold medal judo contest on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Carioca Arena 2 on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Kayla Harrison, of the United States, celebrates after defeating Audrey Tcheumeo of France during the women's -78kg gold medal judo contest on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Carioca Arena 2 on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)(Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Middletown native Kayla Harrison won her professional mixed-martial arts debut Thursday night against Brittney Elkin, of Denver, in a Professional Fighters League 155-pound lightweight bout in Chicago.

Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalists in judo, got Elkin on the ground early and dominated the fight, finishing it off three minutes, 18 seconds into round one.

“Kayla Harrison golden in her debut,” the NBC Sports announcer said.

“She won every moment of that bout,” another announcer said.

MORE HARRISON: Kayla Harrison shares inspiring message with Middletown crowd | Middletown cheers Harrison to another Olympic gold

The Professional Fighters League is a new MMA promotion that held its first event earlier this month. The Harrison-Elkin fight was one of five on the main card.

Harrison is following in the footsteps of former training partner Ronda Rousey, who was also a well-known judoka before she became an MMA superstar in the UFC. 

“Ronda is always going to be, I think, that little ‘rabbit’ in front of me,” Harrison said via MMAJunkie.com. “When I was 16 and I moved to (coach Jimmy) Pedro’s, she was the superstar. She was the golden girl. She was the one everyone was watching. Every day, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be her some day. I’m going to be better than her. Anything she can do, I can do better.’ It helped take me to the highest levels of my sport. 

“So I don’t see this being any different. It’s positive motivation for me. It’s healthy. I think it’s always healthy to have something to chase, something to look forward to.”

Earlier this month, Harrison told reporters she battled depression after wrapping up her second successful Olympic run two years ago but has fallen in love with the competition provided by MMA. 

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Bengals sign final two draft picks

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 5:11 PM


            Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard practices at AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. David Jablonski/Staff
Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard practices at AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. David Jablonski/Staff

The Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday signed both of their third-round picks, defensive end Sam Hubbard and linebacker Malik Jefferson, to four-year contracts.

The signings mean all 11 picks from the 2018 draft class are under contract.

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Hubbard (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) played in 40 games with 22 starts at Ohio State. He recorded 116 tackles, including 29.5 for loss and 17 sacks. The Cincinnati native (Moeller High School) also had one interception, three passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Jefferson (6-2, 236) played three seasons at Texas, appearing in 34 games with 30 starts. He registered 233 tackles, including 25.5 for losses and 12 sacks, to go along with six passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

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As a junior last season, he led the Longhorns with 110 tackles, including 10 for losses and four sacks, and was named Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-Big 12, second-team All-American (AP) and a semifinalist for the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.

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Dayton Dragons past and present moving up in Reds organization

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 4:41 PM

Dragons OF Stuart Fairchild. The Dragons defeated Lake County 10-9 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton on Thursday, April 12, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Staff Writer
Dragons OF Stuart Fairchild. The Dragons defeated Lake County 10-9 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton on Thursday, April 12, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF(Staff Writer)

The Dayton Dragons announced a handful of roster moves Thursday as the Cincinnati Reds promoted multiple prospects within the organization. 

Outfielders Stuart Fairchild and Randy Ventura were promoted from Dayton, the Reds’ low Single-A affiliate, to Daytona, their advanced Single-A squad. 

RELATED: Reds make pair of roster moves prior to series with Cubs

The Dragons also added pitchers Tyler Buffett and Dauri Moreta from Billings and outfielder Malik Collymore from Greeneville (Billings and Greeneville are rookie-league affiliates) while activating outfielder Andy Sugilio from the disabled list and pitcher Andrew Jordan from the inactive list. 

Fairchild’s promotion is notable from an overall organization standpoint because he was one of the most highly thought of players the Reds drafted last June. 

According to reports, the Reds also promoted outfielders Jose Siri and T.J. Friedl from Daytona to Double-A Pensacola. 

Siri and Friedl both had outstanding stints for the Dragons last year. 

This season, Friedl hit .294 with three homers, 10 doubles, 35 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 64 games for Daytona. He posted an on-base percentage of .405. 

Siri, who began the season on the disabled list with a thumb injury, played 30 games for Daytona this season and hit .261 with one homer, nine doubles, nine RBIs and nine steals. 

Interestingly, outfielder Taylor Trammell — another 2017 Dragon — has put up better numbers than either of his teammates who were just promoted. 

Trammell is hitting .301 with six homers, 25 RBIs and nine steals. 

Trammell is the team’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, ranking him four spots ahead of Siri. 

Fairchild is No. 10 while Friedl is No. 14. 

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Cincinnati Reds make pair of roster moves prior to series with Cubs

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 3:40 PM

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 28: Scott Schebler #43 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by Joey Votto #19 after scoring against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fifth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on May 28, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. MLB players across the league are wearing special uniforms to commemorate Memorial Day. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Staff Writer
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 28: Scott Schebler #43 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by Joey Votto #19 after scoring against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fifth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on May 28, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. MLB players across the league are wearing special uniforms to commemorate Memorial Day. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)(Staff Writer)

The Cincinnati Reds made two changes to their roster prior to the start of a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs. 

Scott Schebler was placed on the bereavement list and replaced by fellow outfielder Phillip Ervin, who was called up from Triple-A Louisville. 

Schebler, who has been on a hot streak since moving into the leadoff spot, will be inactive for at least three days but no more than seven. 

Without Schebler, interim manager Jim Riggleman put shortstop Jose Peraza at the top of the order for game one against the Cubs. 

The team also sent down struggling reliever Wandy Peralta, who has a 19.10 ERA in his last 10 appearances

Kyle Crockett was called up from Louisville to take Peralta’s place. 

>>RELATED: What’s gone wrong with Wandy Peralta?

A left-hander from Virginia, Crockett was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2013. 

He appeared in 107 games for the Tribe (all as a reliever) from 2014-17 with a 3.44 ERA. 

This year for Louisville he has a 4.00 ERA in 23 relief appearances. He has struck out 23 and walked five. 

Ervin began the season with the Reds, hitting .211 with three RBIs and five runs scored in 16 games. 

The 2013 first-round pick is hitting .221 with no home runs, 10 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 27 games for the Bats. 

In addition to those moves, the Reds released Tony Cruz, who was with the Bats.

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