OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Six weeks ago, it looked as though Virginia might not even qualify for its conference tournament, let alone the NCAA tournament.
Look at the Cavaliers now.
They're baseball national champions for the first time after finishing a magnificent postseason run with a 4-2 victory over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
"This team was a crazy ride this year," said coach Brian O'Connor, who was born in Omaha. "Certainly, we had a lot that went against us through the year, but this team found a way and got into the NCAA tournament. It's an amazing example of what you can do if you put your mind to it, play for each other and have each other's backs.
"Not many people thought this could happen. I couldn't have forecast it. But we're darn glad we're sitting up here with this trophy."
The top NBA prospects gathered in Manhattan today to speak with the media ahead of tomorrow night’s draft. But for many of the soon-to-be-pros, the event doubled as a high-profile reunion between former teammates, old friends, and long-time rivals.
Here’s what a few of the future NBA-ers had to say about each other:
Justise Winslow (Duke, forward) on Jahlil Okafor (Duke, center):
“Over the past four or so years, getting to know him, getting really close with him, Team USA and then you go to Duke and become brothers, become champions… It’s just been fun, having someone with a very common experience as you coming through the same situation and going through the same experience. It makes it a lot easier, just having someone that you know so well here.
During a fifth-grade game against his childhood friend, Denzel Livingston discovered his talent as a shooter. It had been a down game for Livingston, but now he just needed to find a way to get the ball in the hoop one final time.
As the clock wound down, a lucky bounce put the ball in Livingston’s hands. He made the shot, and, as Denzel’s older brother Jarel recalls, “We all went crazy. We just picked him up and ran all over the court.”
Last December, a 21-year-old Livingston took part in a similar celebration when his tiny university, San Antonio’s Incarnate Word, flew into Lincoln, Nebraska, and defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Ten Conference. The stunning victory made ESPN's Sportscenter and put UIW — which two years ago wasn't even a Division I program — on the map nationally.
Now Livingston hopes the momentum he picked up as a senior in college, when he ranked fourth in the nation in scoring, will be enough to get his name called at the NBA draft on June 25 in Brooklyn.
Kris Bryant has not seen the billboard in person, at least not in full. Sometimes while standing in the on-deck circle at Wrigley Field, he'll glimpse a sliver of it. On the billboard he's posing in his Cubs uniform, adjusting his cap, in front of a backdrop of exploding bright colors, like a superhero. "It's cool," he says, "but I'm not rushing out there to take a selfie of myself in front of ... myself."
He is the most ballyhooed prospect since Bryce Harper, a power-hitting prodigy, the rarest of commodities in this era of fire-breathing pitchers. And yet it's almost jarring how grounded Bryant seems. In five quick years he's gone from being a straight-A student (save for a single B+ in precalculus) at Bonanza High in Las Vegas, to an aspiring dentist on the premed track at the University of San Diego, to the starting rookie third baseman and cleanup hitter for the Cubs. The 23-year-old looks younger than he does on the field. He is towering and wiry-strong (6'5", 215 pounds), but he doesn't have gym-built muscles. ("I don't like to lift," he says, "I'm more focused on the skill aspect of the game than, well, looking good.") He is quick with a smile and a big laugh, and his face — long, dimpled, blue-eyed — is a lot friendlier than it is when he stands in the batter's box, waiting to unleash what many expect will soon be the most intimidating home run swing in baseball.
Just six days after he lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy, and three days after he paraded through the streets of Oakland as a champion, Golden State Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry was introduced as the new head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Gentry, who was last a head coach in Phoenix, from 2009–13, brought great enthusiasm to his introductory press conference, making it clear that he believes this Pelicans team is, well, ready to take flight.
It wasn’t pretty, but the United States Women’s National Team’s stifling defense powered the squad past Colombia, 2-0, in the first World Cup knockout game. The win sets up a quarterfinals match with world No. 16 China.
Forward Alex Morgan found the net in the 53rd minute, breaking a scoreless stalemate. Midfielder Carli Lloyd added a penalty-kick goal in the 65th minute, ensuring the US’ advancement to the next round.
Breakaway, Alex Morgan’s autobiography, is the story of how an eight-year-old girl who liked soccer went on to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport.
At the beginning of the book, we read about the traumatic injury Morgan suffered while playing soccer at the age of 17. She tore her ACL, a ligament in her knee, during a scrimmage.
I think she wanted to tell this part of the story first because she wanted to convey to her readers that if something bad happens to you, you can work hard to overcome it — just like she did.
As the book continues, Morgan describes her life as a child. Her dad wanted her and her two older sisters to play softball, but after a few years of that (and of Morgan being the star player on the team), she decided she wanted to play soccer.