A Good Start for Shoni

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

It was like 2013 all over again. Former Louisville guard Shoni Schimmel was dominating the court by scoring a lot of points, making insane shots, and breaking records. Only this time it was for the WNBA All-Star Game.image

Shoni’s East squad beat the West 125-124 in the first All-Star game to ever go into overtime. She broke the scoring record for the All-Star Game with 29 points, which was previously held by Candace Parker with 23 points. She added eight assists and became the first rookie to be named MVP.

And, of course, being Shoni, she had several highlight reel moments, including a reverse layup over the 6’8” Brittany Griner, whom she made an almost identical shot over when Louisville upset Baylor in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Shoni is poised to have a monumental professional career, but she isn’t even a regular starter for the Atlanta Dream yet. Imagine what will happen when she peaks.


Peyton Siva & Josh Harrellson Released by Pistons

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

Much to the disappointment of Louisville and Kentucky fans alike, the Detroit Pistons released Peyton Siva and Josh Harrellson from their roster on Monday. Both players were adored by their respective colleges for over-achieving and having likeable personalities, but they were also both second-round picks who had a lot of proving themselves to do.peyton-siva_1byii6kwkg1o810tq11cd2nvgq

After this year’s draft, the Pistons got a first-round pick in guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and a veteran center in Aaron Gray. With Detroit’s 15-man roster now overcrowded, it was inevitable that some existing players were going to have to leave to make room for the newcomers. Siva wasn’t given too many chances to show what he was capable of in the beginning of his rookie season, and got sent to the D-League a couple of times. However, his play in the D-League was impressive, and he even played pretty well when he got called back up at the end of the season. He also had a solid performance in the Summer League, averaging 10 points and five assists, but Siva’s small stature is a big disadvantage to the 6’6” Dinwiddie.NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic

Harrellson only averaged 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game last season, and only saw action about 10 minutes per game. A back injury kept him out of Summer League play completely. His size also probably had something to do with his dismissal. At 6’10”, he’s not as dainty as Siva, but Gray is a 7-footer, which is hard for any team to pass up.

So what’s next for Siva and Harrellson? Both could try to get picked up by another NBA team, which obviously would be the ideal choice, but there are a lot of guys in the same position fighting for spots on a roster. The other two options would be the D-League or playing overseas. Playing for a team in Europe would most likely result in a higher salary, but being in the D-League means being closer to the NBA. Siva does have a baby due pretty soon, so that will undoubtedly be a huge factor in deciding if he wants to stay in America or uproot everything and move to another continent.

Whatever both guys choose to do, they’ll continue to make Louisville and Kentucky fans proud by being awesome and staying classy.


The Reds Need to Make a Deal

Ben Zobrist

BY CHRIS HAAS

The Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 yesterday en route to their 8th series win in 9 tries. The Reds’ furious run coincided with a Brewers collapse and now the Reds sit just 1.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. The Brewers held a healthy 7.5 game lead over the Reds as recently as 2 weeks ago before losing 9 out of 11 games before the break.

The Reds aren’t the only team in the NL Central to have picked up ground on the struggling Brewers. The always-formidable St. Louis Cardinals are only a game back and the young Pittsburgh Pirates are 3.5 games back, well within striking distance.

The NL Central has become the most competitive division in baseball with 4 teams boasting winning records. There’s no question that if the Reds win the division, they will have earned it.

The Reds have to be extremely pleased about what’s transpired in the win-loss column as of late but not everything is hunky-dory in Cincy. The Reds star and leader Joey Votto is back on the disabled list with the same knee injury he’s battled all season long. Even when he’s been on the field, his numbers have been un-Votto-like. His .255/.390/.409 line in 2014 is relatively unimpressive considering his .310/.417/.533 career line that made him a perennial MVP candidate. Even if Votto returns this year (not a given), the Reds’ can’t bank on receiving his usual production.

The Reds received more bad news when second baseman Brandon Phillips tore a ligament in his thumb while diving for a groundball last week. He will miss at least 6 weeks recovering from the injury. The Reds will be without their 3 and 4 hole hitters for the foreseeable future. Even worse, the star duo will be replaced by the defensive-minded Ramon Santiago at second and the light-hitting Brayan Pena at first. Santiago and Pena are fine role players but they know they aren’t capable of replacing the offensive production of Votto and Phillips. Even more worrisome, it’s not as if the Reds offense was tearing up the league when their stars were healthy. The Reds have scored 377 runs, good for 19th in total offense.

The Reds general manager, Walt Jocketty, is aware of the team’s offensive woes and he’s not afraid to move prospects when there is a missing piece on the MLB roster. The Reds could use help at second, first, and the outfield. Of course, the Reds won’t make three trades for all three positions. A better option would be to find one player that can play all three positions. Also, the Reds budget is at its upper limit, so the player would need to be affordable. Lastly, the player would need to hit, since offensive production is the Reds biggest need. Who fits all of these needs? The Ray’s Ben Zobrist.

The budget conscious Rays are 44-53 and will be looking to sell. Zobrist is on the last year of his contract, which makes him attractive trade bait. He makes a reasonable 7 million dollar salary, so money should not be a hindrance for the Reds.

He’s a utility-man extraordinaire, having played 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, RF, and CF all at the major league level. He could help the Reds all over the diamond. He’s a veteran (34 years old) and has had extensive playoff experience with the Rays. He’s hitting .266/.352/.401 with 6 home runs which is only slightly below his career numbers. His .352 On Base Percentage (OBP) would be especially welcome to a club that currently has a pitiful .309 OBP.

The Reds need to strike while the iron is hot and bring Ben Zobrist to town. The Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals certainly won’t lay down in the NL
Central.


Tim Howard Exits World Cup As American Hero

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

He leapt, he stretched, he punched and he volleyed, but not even the force field of defense that is Tim Howard could keep the Belgians from scoring twice, thus ending the Americans’ run in the 2014 World Cup. The final score was a painstakingly close 2-1, with all three goals coming in extra time.

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While the outcome was disappointing, Howard managed to break a World Cup record with an astonishing 16 saves. The Internet collectively freaked out after his legendary performance, and someone even edited Wikipedia to say that he was the United States Secretary of Defense. The hashtag #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave went viral, and photoshopped memes of Howard leaping to save things like Mufasa falling to his death in The Lion King surfaced. Howard earned Man of the Match in two of the four U.S. games. At age 35, this was likely his last World Cup appearance, which highlights the unfortunate fact that the Americans are a team that relies very heavily on its defense, and doesn’t have a strong enough midfield to control the game and generate offense. Howard may be the equivalent to having a brick wall in front of the goal, but he can’t score points too (even though he did do that once).

Losing Jozy Alidore to a hamstring injury in the first match of the World Cup was a huge blow to the offense, and while Clint Dempsey was extremely effective, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann used a one-forward system most of the time. This made it difficult for Dempsey to get a lot of chances, especially since the midfielders couldn’t seem to hold onto the ball.

One of the biggest questions going into the World Cup was how Klinsmann was going to do. Major positives are that the U.S. advanced out of the Group of Death, and young players like Julian Green, John Brooks, and DeAndre Yedlin played so well. However, the decision to leave Landon Donovan off the roster still has some people questioning his judgment. There were undoubtedly some times when the U.S. needed a burst of offense (especially without Altidore), and two of the players that Klinsmann chose over Donovan, Chris Wondolowski and Brad Davis, failed to do anything effective. Wondolowski had a chance to tie the score against Belgium and give the U.S. another chance at advancing, but instead he launched the ball over the top goal post. That’s an inexcusable shot to miss, and Donovan could have made it in his sleep.

Overall, Americans should be proud of how their team performed on the biggest stage in sports. They exceeded the expectations given to them, and the new wave of young players showed that they are promising. 2018 might be a good one.


Local Stars and the NBA Draft

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BY CHRIS HAAS

Player: Julius Randle 6’9 Power Forward

College: Kentucky

Drafted: First Round, 7th Pick by Los Angeles Lakers

Julius Randle didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called on Thursday’s NBA Draft but In Julius’ mind the wait was long enough.His message for the 6 teams that passed on him- “They’ll regret it.” The Lakers were pleasantly surprised to find Randle available at the 7 spot. The Lakers coveted Randle’s toughness and competitive spirit, two traits that his new teammate Kobe Bryant is said to possess as well. Randle was labeled as one of the most NBA ready players in the draft, thanks to his large frame and advanced feel for the game. Randle’s ability to contribute right away is a boon for the Lakers, who are never afforded the luxury of a down year. Sound familiar? Randle’s experience on the biggest stage in college basketball at the University of Kentucky will
surely help him thrive on the biggest stage in the NBA.

What to expect in 2014-2015: Randle will likely start at power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. If he continues to bully opponents at the next level, expect loads of rebounds per game and a real chance at Rookie of the Year honors. Only the Bucks’ number 2 selection, Jabari Parker, is in a better position to contribute out of the gate.

Player: James Young, 6’6 Shooting Guard

College: Kentucky

Drafted: First Round, 17th by Boston Celtics

Kentucky fans caught glimpses of Young’s upside in his freshman year. At times the lanky lefty looked so silky smooth from long range, you’d think he would never miss again. On the other end of the court, however, there were times when Young couldn’t stop an opponent if his life depended on it. The Celtics are aware of both of these qualities. Young can shoot and he can’t play defense (yet). The Celtics are gambling that Young can develop into an elite shooter and an average defender. With youth on Young’s side, it appears they made the right move in rolling the dice.

What to expect in 2015: Young was drafted as a project, so he will likely see limited time next year. The Celtics are not in a realistic position to
compete for a title as their roster currently stands, so they will take their time getting Young into the regular rotation.

Player: Russ Smith 6’1 Guard

College: Louisville

Drafted: Second Round, 47th by New Orleans Pelicans.

Like the 2012 Final Four game between Louisville and Kentucky, Russ Smith and Anthony Davis will be playing on the same floor in New Orleans. I think if these two beloved local stars played for a Louisville franchise, it would end the debate on whether Kentucky could support an NBA team. But that’s a different story and unfortunately, the New Orleans Pelicans are not the Kentucky Colonels.

Russ Smith overcame a great deal of adversity on his path to the NBA. He was not one of Rick Pitino’s star recruits. In fact, most publications didn’t evenbother rating him. He did not come in and dominate as a freshman like some of the behemoths at Kentucky do. His freshman year was so disappointing he strongly considered transferring to Manhattan. The small guard never believed his detractors and the rest is history. A couple of All American teams, all conference teams, two conference championships, two final fours, and a National Championship later, Russdiculous is laughing his way to the next level.

What to expect in 2015:

Russ Smith will be given a chance to contribute off the bench in his rookie season. He will need to play under control and prove he’s capable of penetrating against larger competition. Smith’s natural defensive prowess will help offset his lack of size on defense. But let’s not kid ourselves, ultimately the Pelicans will be making checks out to Russ for one reason: buckets. If it all goes to plan we will be seeing Russdiculous highlights on Sportscenter for years to come.


Russ Smith is a Pro

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

Russ Smith has done it again. The undersized and overlooked kid from Brooklyn has defied the odds placed against him, and is now a New Orleans Pelican in the NBA.22067682_BG1

When Russ was a tiny freshman with an injured ankle, and was the backup for Elisha Justice, exactly no one thought, “that guy is going to win us several conference championships, take us to a Final Four, win a national championship, become an All-American, leave this school as a Louisville legend, and then get drafted to the NBA.”

Instead, most people probably thought, “that guy is going to transfer to a mid-major school, ” or “who is Russ Smith?”

The thing is, Russ was painfully close to leaving Louisville, and the school probably would not be boasting as many accomplishments had he transferred. Russ had said before that ex-Louisville player Rakeem Buckles (who ironically did transfer due to a series of injuries) was one of the main people who influenced him to stay at U of L. Another key role player in his decision was his father, Big Russ, who trained with him the summer after his freshman year. They did ungodly workouts involving running several miles in combat boots with a backpack full of bricks. They put up hundreds of jump shots. Big Russ called it “the lab.” Russ got bigger, stronger, and better, and returned to U of L as Russdiculous. This transformation was extremely unexpected to U of L fans, and they had no idea what hit them when Russ became the first player to score more than 20 points in the 2011-2012 season when he dropped 24 against Memphis.

Despite an obvious drastic improvement, Russ still had people doubt him. He went on to make all his haters bite their tongues by becoming the fifth highest-scoring player in program history, and the team’s first consensus All-American in two decades. Now he’s a professional athlete.

He still has a lot to prove if he wants to keep his name on an NBA roster, but doubt makes Russ Smith stronger. He’ll be just fine in New Orleans.


USA Draws With Portugal in Most Frustrating Way Possible

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

If someone had told me that the final score of Sunday’s USA vs. Portugal game was going to be 2-2, I would have been extremely happy with that outcome. However, when the final whistle blew, and the draw was official, I wanted to sink into the couch and never come out.a7364be912e04e2ddceb856fdb541d90_crop_north.jpeg

Portugal scored the first goal of the match just five minutes in, with Nani easily getting the ball past the USA defense. That seemed to be the wake-up call the Americans needed, as they controlled most of the rest of the game. However, right before halftime, the ESPN feed went out in the Louisville area, so all many viewers were left with was a black screen and nothing but audio, courtesy of Time Warner Cable. Of course, USA scored both of their goals while the picture was out, with Jermaine Jones nailing one in from outside the box on a corner kick to equalize the match in the 64th minute. Then Clint Dempsey, broken nose and all, scored a goal with his pelvis to bring the Americans ahead 2-1 with nine minutes remaining. Things were looking good for Jurgen Klinsmann and company. They just had to hold on for 14 more minutes (five minutes of stoppage time were added), and the Americans would automatically be through to the knockout round, and Portugal would be packing their bags.

Instead Michael Bradley lost the ball at midfield. Christiano Ronaldo, whom USA did a great job keeping at bay until this moment, crossed the ball across the American box to find a wide-open Silvestre Varela. With. Ten. Seconds. Left. Also, the cable started working again just in time to see this goal. I’m blaming the outcome entirely on Time Warner.

After Ghana tied with Germany, and USA tied with Portugal, Group G is still completely up for grabs. USA and Germany are tied for first place with four points each, and Ghana and Portugal each have one point. Both the USA and Germany just have to tie each other to advance, but if the Americans lose, that gives Portugal and Ghana a glimmer of hope. Even if Portugal wins against Ghana, they will have to depend on goal differential to determine if they qualify. Given that Germany mopped the floor with them 4-0 in their opening match, things aren’t looking great for the Portuguese. If USA loses to Germany, Ghana and Portugal need to tie for the Americans to be guaranteed to advance.

USA will play its last match in the group stage Thursday at noon.


Stars Finally Align for the Reds

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BY CHRIS HAAS

The Cincinnati Reds are finally healthy and ready to strike. Joey Votto has returned from a strained knee injury and co-ace Mat Latos is back in the fold. The Reds now have their full projected opening day lineup for the first time all season.

Latos made his first start of the season at Milwaukee on June 14th. He looked sharp as ever, throwing 6 shutout frames while allowing a paltry 2 hits. Latos replaced Tony Cingrani in the rotation. Cingrani has scuffled at times in his sophomore campaign and will pitch as the long man out of the bullpen for the time being. Latos will enhance an already solid starting rotation. The Reds 4th and 5th starters are now Alfredo Simon and Mike Leake. Simon has been a pleasant surprise and leads the National League in wins, right ahead of perennial all-stars Zack Grienke and Adam Wainwright. Leake has a sub 4 ERA out the Reds 5th spot. If this were 2002, the Reds would be happy to have Leake as their ace. The Reds have an enviable starting rotation and one less excuse for this club to continue to hover around .500.

The rotation has not been the problem though, it is the Reds offense that has been the downfall of this club so far in 2014. The Reds have compiled a measly 266 runs this season. That ranks them 28th out of 30 teams in MLB. Ouch. Some of the underachievement can be attributed to injuries. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Devin Mesoraco have all missed time on the DL. They have all since returned so the Reds offense can no longer blame their mediocrity on injuries.

Nor can they blame lead-off hitter Billy Hamilton. Billy had some growing pains in the start of his first full season. He hit just .245/.280/.330 in April and .260/.301/.351 in May. In June? He’s hitting a blistering .356/.391/.576. He looks more comfortable by the day and is developing into the spark plug the Reds need atop their lineup. His defense has been outstanding since day one. Fangraphs has pegged Hamilton at 10.5 defensive runs saved, making him the best defensive center fielder in baseball thus far in 2014.

Who is the problem then? Its certainly not third baseman Todd Frazier, he’s hitting .279 with 16 homeruns. Frazier deserves to join Johnny Cueto on the National League All-Star team. The Reds offensive woes can’t be placed on the shoulders of catcher Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco has a batting average north of .300 with 10 homeruns. The Reds holes have come from unlikely players: Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. Bruce is hitting .211 in limited time, Phillips has an On Base Percentage of .307, and Votto is hitting an un-Votto-like .273 batting average. They have hit a combined 16 homeruns, the same number Frazier has hit by himself. These guys get paid (extremely well) to carry the club. They have not carried their weight so far in 2014.

The good news is baseball statistics tend to regress to the mean. In the case of Phillips, Votto, and Bruce they each have track records that suggest they will hit and hit well. The early-returns on Votto since his return from the DL are encouraging. He has hit 10 for 32 (.313), demonstrating he’s a more than capable hitter at even 90% health.

Expect to see Votto, Phillips, and Bruce ease toward their career norms, which the Reds offense will welcome with open arms. If the offense picks up, the now- healthy Reds are capable of a tear right here and right now.


Can the U.S. Advance Out of Their Group?

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

It wasn’t looking pretty for the United States when they got put into a group with Ghana, Portugal, and Germany for the 2014 World Cup, but now the Yanks are looking like they have a decent chance to advance out of the group stage and onto the knockout round. Of course, there’s still a lot of soccer to be played, but their 2-1 win over Ghana, and Germany absolutely dominating Portugal 4-0 has the U.S. in a pretty good position.

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The way the group stage works is that every team is guaranteed to play every other team in the group, and are awarded points based on their performance. Wins are worth three points, ties are worth one, and losses are worth nothing. The two teams with the most points advance to the knockout round. In the their opening game against Ghana on Monday, Clint Dempsey scored within 30 of the match, giving the Americans a quick edge. But when Ghana’s André Ayew scored in the 82nd minute, it seemed like the U.S. was going to have to settle for a singular point. Instead, an unlikely hero arose for the Yanks, and 21-year-old John Brooks made it 2-1 with a header off a corner kick in the 86th minute. It was almost as surreal as the game-winning goal Landon Donovan scored against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. Brooks himself was overcome with emotion, as he fell to his knees and face planted as his teammates gathered around him in celebration.

The current standings in Group G are: United States: 3, Germany: 3, Portugal: 0, Ghana: 0.

So what has to happen for the U.S. to advance? Obviously if they beat both Germany and Portugal (that would be a miracle), they win the group and move on. They could also beat Portugal and draw with Germany, which would guarantee them at least a tie for first place in the group. If they beat Portugal, but lose to Germany, things could get tricky. They would still probably advance, but that’s assuming Ghana doesn’t ruin the party by upsetting both Portugal and Germany (unlikely). They could even draw both games and move on, but if they draw with Portugal and lose to Germany (which is my prediction for the remainder of the group stage), they’re not so safe, again, because of Ghana. There could even be a four-way tie if the U.S. loses to Portugal and draws with Germany, and Ghana draws with Portugal and beats Germany. Confused yet? You should be. Soccer requires thinking.

Anyway, beating Ghana absolutely had to happen if the U.S. had any hope of making it out of their group. The Americans will take on Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal Sunday at 6.


Unrest in Brazil Leading Up to the World Cup

BY RACHEL SHULHAFER

Brazil lives and breathes soccer. They perfected it. No other country can claim to have the amount of iconic names on the backs of their jerseys that Brazil can, both presently and in the past. Argentina has Lionel Messi; England has David Beckham; Spain has Andres Iniesta. But Brazil boasts Ronaldinho, Romario, Socrates, Ronaldo, Zico, and of course Pele, who was named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other country. The sport is like a religion there. So wouldn’t it make sense for Brazilians to be psyched to host a month-long party with the world’s best players? In the weeks leading up to kickoff, there have been strikes, cops shooting protesters with rubber bullets, and graffiti splattered outside stadiums with messages like “FIFA GO HOME.”

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Anti-World Cup graffiti in Brazil

By now, most people know that FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is a corrupt, greedy, and money-sucking entity that isn’t too concerned about the country in which they’re hosting their monstrous event, because they will still pocket billions of dollars while leaving the host country more in debt and inconvenienced than it was before FIFA descended upon them.

For example, seven new multi-million dollar stadiums, and five renovated ones, were constructed for the World Cup, and only the World Cup, meaning they’re in use only a handful of times. One new stadium is still not finished three days before England and Italy are set to kick off inside of it on Saturday. Of course, Brazil is getting the blame placed on them for not getting it completed on time, but the decision to build the stadium in the city of Manaus probably has quite a bit to do with the difficulties they’re having. Manaus is far away from Brazil’s other populated cities, and is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. It’s mostly inaccessible by car or train. The parts to build the stadium were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and then down the Amazon River. Plus the hot and humid climate makes it a questionable place to play a rigorous sport in the first place.

However, the lack of finished dressing rooms should be the least of everyone’s worries. Transportation workers are on strike until they get the pay raise they are demanding. Instead they are just getting tear gassed, and rich foreigners are pissed that the line at the train station is too long.

Another big issue is that Brazil’s budget for the World Cup was $13.3 billion. That’s a lot of money to spend so that millionaires can come kick a ball around in some of the most impoverished areas of the country. A lot of people assume that the host country makes money off the World Cup, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. According to America’s Quartly, the World Cup generates about $3.5 billion in revenue, with most of that money going to FIFA, not Brazil. South Africa, which hosted the 2010 World Cup, spent about $3.9 billion on the event, with $1.3 billion going towards construction costs alone.

Regardless, Brazil will be in the international spotlight for the next month. Have fun hosting the Olympics in two years, Rio.