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Joe Santoro: Sports fodder for a Friday

Joe Santoro
Sun News Service

Back in March we thought this offseason was going to be a quiet one for the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team. There was, after all, just one senior on the roster and nobody was expected to leave the program early for the NBA. Well, so much for an easy, breezy, hazy, lazy spring and summer. Richie Phillips announces that he is physically unable to play and ends his career. Ahyaro Phillips gets arrested and leaves the program. Head coach Mark Fox runs off to Georgia and takes assistant coach Kwanza Johnson with him. Recruits Mark McLaughlin and Steven Bjornstad decide they don’t want to come to Nevada after all. Malik Cooke asks out of his scholarship and wants to go home. We turned our backs for a moment and the Wolf Pack suddenly turned into an NBA D-League team, with players and coaches coming and going almost every week. That’s why new head coach David Carter deserves a free pass this year.

The most intriguing of the Wolf Pack’s new faces is the 6-foot-5, 222-pound Malik Story. You might remember Story from that amazing Artesia High (Lakewood, Calif.) team that played four games at Galena High in the 2006 George Maldonado Classic. Story was the third best player on that incredible prep team behind guard James Harden (a likely NBA lottery pick this month) and power forward Renardo Sidney (a Mississippi State recruit). Story, who will redshirt in 2009-10, scored 33 points combined in two Artesia victories over eventual Nevada Class 4A state champ Galena and Luke Babbitt back in December 2006 (Babbitt had 25 in each game). Story, who is accustomed to playing a supporting role, is a physical guard who will complement Babbitt and Armon Johnson very well in two years. The big question with Story, who played at Indiana last year, is whether or not he will actually stick around long enough to play for the Pack. His history in high school and college suggests that could be a problem. Stay tuned.

Former Wolf Pack baseball player Ryan Church might be better off leaving the New York Mets when he gets the chance. Church missed third base in the top of the 11th inning on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers (he should have scored easily on a triple by Angel Pagan) and became the symbol of the underachieving, undisciplined Mets the next day in the New York media. One story called Church “not mentally tough” and added that Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel never really liked Church. Stay tuned.

Poor Blake Griffin. He has a wonderful college basketball career and makes himself the obvious No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. So what happens? The Los Angeles Clippers earn the No. 1 pick. Talk about D-League teams. Then again, if the Arizona Cardinals can get to the Super Bowl, the Clippers can certainly get to the NBA Finals, right? All I know is that this will be the best NBA draft in three years. No Wolf Pack underclassmen will hear their name called.

Do you think the NBA can survive a Denver Nuggets-Orlando Magic showdown in the Finals? Would anybody watch? Of course not. But don’t worry. It will be Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The officials will make sure of it.

Officiating is yet another reason why the NHL playoffs are the best postseason in all of sports. The officials swallow their whistles in the postseason and only call the obvious infractions. The players decide the Stanley Cup. In the NBA, the TV ratings pick the winners.

Jon Gruden is going to replace Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football. Big deal. Is there still an NFL game televised on Monday nights? Kornheiser, though, was horrible. He knew absolutely nothing about the two teams playing in front of him and he wasn’t funny. You know, like a typical sportswriter.

John Calipari is collecting five-star recruits at Kentucky. His latest is 6-4 point guard John Wall of Raleigh, N.C. The Wildcats have enough talent for two teams and both would finish in the Top 20 and get to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. That’s why Calipari flopped as a NBA head coach. The NBA has a salary cap. The NCAA doesn’t.


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