The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 11, 2001 · Page 26
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 26

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, April 11, 2001
Page 26
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D4 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2001 SPORTS THE SAUNA JOURNAL' JORDAN • MICHAEL JORDAN WiUhe return? Jordan remains '99.9 percent sure' he's not going to come bacl< By JOSEPH WHITE Vie Associated Press WASHINGTON — Once again, Michael Jordan downplayed the notion that he's planning a comeback. Once again, he left the door one- one hundredth of a percentage point open that it just might happen. . Responding to comments . made by fellow Washington Wizards owner Abe PoUin, the most authoritative source to date to give credence to the Jordan comeback rumors, the five-time NBA MVP told The Washington Post that his return is still very unlikely "I haven't wavered one bit from what I've been saying," Jordan said in Wednesday's edition of the paper "If I had to answer today, I'm 99.9 percent sure I won't play again. "I'm not going to come back as a showpiece. I wouldn't even think about it unless I thought I could maintain the level of play I had when I left. I'd only come back doing everything I always did. And I'm nowhere near that, nowhere close to that. I haven't played in three years." Jordan has already denied the comeback rumors several times over the past two months, but his .latest statement will do little to stop the speculation. Even some of his friends, such as golfing buddy and Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux, have not believed him. Lemieux, speaking Tuesday after a Penguins practice, said he had talked to Jordan in the last 10 days and made it sound like His Airness was all but ready to don the uniform. "He's going to give it a shot and he's working very hard," Lemieux said. "He's taking his time, he's taking a few months to get ready, but I'm sure when he gets back, he'll be the best player again." Jordan's denials have not been universally accepted in part because of the rather secretive manner he chooses to issue them, using one-on-one interviews rather than a public forum. But' a denial to a larger audience would close the door entirely, and perhaps that's something Jordan doesn't want to do. His former Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, said recently he thinks Jordan is contemplating a comeback but hasn't made up his mind. . "If he's putting himself up against professional players, I think he's waiting to see what he feels like when he's out there," Jackson said. "1 think he will have a parachute in case he doesn't want to do it, in case he feels like it's not worth it, in case he doesn't feel he can play up to the level he wants to." Jordan was the talk of the nation's capital on Tuesday, the day after Poll in went on television to reveal his "gut feeling" that "the odds are that he's going to come back" and play for Washington next season. "I didn't think he'd come back when I first heard the talk," Pollin said. "But when Mario Lemieux came back to the Penguins, it stirred something in Michael." A Jordan comeback would be ' bigger than that of Lemieux, one of the owners of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, who ended a 3%-year retirement in December Pollin's words were stunning, given the business relationship between him and Jordan. As the team's president of basketball operations, Jordan is answerable only to Pollin. Jordan also owns a small piece of the Wizards, and he would have to divest his ownership under NBA rules before returning to the court. The man who recruited Jordan to Washington 15 months ago, however, doesn't see a comeback taking place. Ted Leonsis welcomed Jordan to town on Jan. 19, 2000, making him a partner in a group that owns all of the NHL's Washington Capitals and a portion of the Wizards. "He owns a part of the Wizards, he owns a part of the Capitals," Leonsis told WTOP radio. "There would have to be lots of discussions between Michael and me, Michael and Abe, Michael and the league, and none of that is happening." •J T PRO BASKETBALL Pierce's new stature is an emerging star PAUL PIERCE HLE„ Points per game: 25.3 Rebounds per game: 5.4 FG percentage: 45.2 FT percentage: 74.3. TJiird-year Celtic lias been the buzz around the NBA By BRAD WEINSTEIN San Francisco Chronicle The Plaudits, like Paul Pierce's baskets, are coming from all directions. Phoenix coach Scott Skiles called him a "total package" of offense. Chicago coach Tim Floyd placed him in a category with Kobe Bryant. The NBA, after being roasted by the Celtics for a perceived slight of Pierce a week earlier, honored the third- year swingman as its player of the week for March 19-25 and, shortly thereafter, as its player of the month. No other compliment, though, was delivered as emphatically as one from someone who knows about running roughshod over the opposition. "Take this down. My name is Shaquille O'Neal, and Paul Pierce is the (expletive) truth," the Big Wqrdsmith said after Pierce scored 42 points in a recent game at Los Angeles. "Quote me on that, and don't take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn't know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth." The truth has not set the Celtics free of Indiana in the race (leisurely walk?) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but it has prevented Boston sports fans from turning their complete attention to Nomar Garcia- parra's wrist and Carl Everett's insubordination. Pierce believed that he would progress "slowly but surely" this season after coming back from a Sept. 25 incident at a nightclub during which he was stabbed nine times and struck in the face by a bottle. In fact. Pierce has exceeded his own expectations and created even loftier ones for a ca- AP file photo Boston Celtics swingman Paul Pierce is turning heads in his third pro season. The former Kansas Jayhawlts standout and the 10th piQl< in the 1998 draft, Pierce helped the Celtics stay in postseason contention in March when he surpassed 40 points four times in a seven-game stretch. FleetCenter will have to suffice. Boston (35-43) is 2% games behind the Pacers (3740) largely because Pierce, 23, along with forward Antoine Walker, has relished the opportunity to play meaningful games in the final few weeks of the season. Pierce's impeccably timed scoring binge has reflected the Celtics' sense of urgency as they attempt to reach the postseason for the first time since 1994-95 and win a permanent job for coach Jim O'Brien, who is 23-20 since replacing Rick Pitino. "I haven't been in this kind of position at this time of the year, where we're fighting for the playoffs," said Pierce, a co-captain. "So we're playing for a lot more than we have in the past and it means much more. Because of that, when other players in the league are getting tired, I'm trying to elevate my game." reer on the fast track to stardom. "I am starting to realize what kind of potential I have," said Pierce, the 10th pick in the 1998 draft. "I feel like I can play pretty much with anybody in the league. "Who knows, maybe I'll be the leading scorer (in the NBA). I feel like I have the kind of ability where I can probably do that one day." In March, when Boston stayed in postseason contention. Pierce steamed like a bowl of New England clam chowder. He surpassed 40 points four times in a seven- game stretch, rising to be the league's eighth-leading scorer, and became the first Celtic to win the NBAs weekly accolade since Reggie Lewis in April 1992. "Are they going to give me a new car or something?" Pierce joked about the achievement. Standing ovations at the Spartans' Richardson, Irish's Murphy declare for NBA dreift Notre Dame center does not rule out returning for final year By The Associated Press Ail-American Troy Murphy is leaving Notre Dame for the NBA — maybe. Jason Richardson is gone from Michigan State — for sure. "This is something that I've thought a great deal about since the season ended. I feel that I owe it to myself to pursue this option," Murphy said in a statement issued Tuesday "I've discussed my future with some agents, and although I haven't signed with one, I feel that it is best to take advantage of this opportunity" Murphy who averaged 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, has until June 20 to change his mind and withdraw his name from the draft. If he does not sign with an agent, he could return to Notre Dame for his senior season. "By entering his name ... it gives him more time to evaluate what his stock will be," coach Mike Brey said. "Putting your name into the pool doesn't mean you're not coming back." Richardson, the leading scorer on Michigan State's Final Four team, knows he's not coming back, and by Wednesday he may be joined by teammate Zach Randolph. "I'm going to forgo my junior and senior season at Michigan State and pursue my career in the NBA," Richardson said. Richardson, who led the Spartans in scoring with a 14.7 average, made his decison after consulting with coach Tom Izzo on his draft prospects. "The consensus I got was that he would be a top 10 pick and that he could go as high as five," Izzo said. DePaul commitment Curry elects to go pro By The Associated Press EVANSTON, 111. — High school star Eddy Curry said Monday night that he will make himself available for the NBA draft. The 6-foot-ll, 290-pound player made the announcement following the EA Sports Roundball Classic, an aU-star game featuring some of the top prep players in the nation. Curry committed to DePaul last fall, but said then he might try to make the jump to the NBA if he thought he would go high enough in the draft. Scouts say he's expected to go in the top 10. In a discussion Monday afternoon with his parents. "Everything pointed to the NBA," he said. Curry was a McDonald's All-American, Parade Magazine player of the year, Illinois Mr. Basketball and a unanimous Associated Press All-State selection after guiding South Holland Thornwood High School to second place in Class AA basketball in Illinois. Curry, who averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds in the state tournament, would join Kevin Garnett, Leon Smith and Darius Miles as Illinois high school stars who went directly to the NBA. Curry had 26 points, seven rebounds and three blocks Monday night to lead the East to a 151-148 victory over the West in the EA Classic. Gagerz/ Select three from Big 12 Richardson became the first Michigan State player to turn pro as an underclassman since Magic Johnson left after his sophomore year in 1979. By Wednesday, he could be joined by Randolph, who scheduled a news conference at his high school in Marion to discuss his decision. Randolph would not divtdge his plans. "I'd rather wait until tomorrow to talk about everything at the news conference," he told The Associated Press. "I just talked to my family, my coach. It's just where my heart is at," he said of the decision. Randolph averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in less than 20 minutes per game as a Michigan State freshman. His high school coach, Moe Smedley, opposed Randolph's decision to go pro. "I spent probably the last two months advising against it," he said. "He always said he always wanted to play in the NBA and look out for his family and all this. "His mother didn't want him to go, either. I just think he's been influenced by the wrong people who want part of the action. Obviously, I can't prove that. It's all speculation. But somebody's been talking to him. "I don't think he's ready for the total package of the NBA," Smedley said. "As far as on the court, probably But I'm talking about the travel, the free time, it's just tough." FROM PAGE D1 you can't blame htm for that. Weekends he'Ube here and and! think we'll probably tqike him on our first road trip. He should be here to open our homestand." The 6-9 Walker was runner-up for player of the year honors in the Sun Belt Conference this past season. He averaged 17.0 points, but more impressively, shot 43.6 percent from 3-point range (61 of 140). "I really think he's a sleeper," Flax said. "He's skinny, but he can shoot the ball. He's not a banger, he stands more on the perimeter. He can shoot the three and he's a good kid. His agent has indicated he will be here." Rodgers is raw, according to Flax, but has potential. He averaged 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds last season. "He's got great hands and is left-handed," Flax said. "He's not explosive, by any means, but has good post moves. He'll get some minutes in a reserve role." Soyoye averaged 6.9 points and 6.6 rebounds this season for the Tigers. He attended Meridian (Miss.) Junior College before transferring to Missouri and played three games in the Bicentennial Center during the 1998-99 season in the now-defunct Thanksgiving tournament. "He is not an offensive player," Flax said. "He's big, he's strong, he'U defend on the post, he'U reboimd. He's the type, if he's going to make it in the NBA or the (NBA) developmental league, that needs the USBL. But I'm not sure this is exactly what he wants to do, even though his coaches know this is what he needs." The 6-6 Minor played at Barton Coimty before transferring to Baylor for his final two seasons. He averaged 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season. "Minor would put the finishing touches on a backup guard for us," Flax said. "It's going to be hard for him to come in and expect to be a starter. But he's got the size and he can get up and down the court." Carter, who haUs from Overbrook, averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Ichabods, who finished second in NCAA Division II. "Carter can shoot the ball from the perimeter," Flax said. "His problem is he can't create his own shot. You have to get him open because he doesn't have the quickness the rest of these guys do. But you give him the rock and let him shoot it, h4 can shoot it." I Flax said he tentatively plans to bring his players to town on April 20. They will be giveri physicals examinations on April 21 and begin workouts that day The season begins April 29 with a game at Dodge City The home opener is slated for May It against Lakeland, Fla. : Hughes resurfaces Tom Hughes, the Cagerz's vice president of basketbaU op^ erations and head coach the last two seasons, has joined the Dodge City Legend and was on hand for the team's draft Tuesday as a consultant. Hughes resigned his post with the Cagerz last July to become president and head coach of the Salina Rattlers of the International Basketball Association last winter. Although no official announcement has been made, it is widely thought the Rattlers wiU not return next season after posting a 9-31 record and averaging under 200 fans in paid attendance. Legend selects a legend Dodge City chose Claflin native and Southwest Missouri State AU-American Jackie StUes in the second round of the draft (19th overaU pick). She led the nation in scoring this season with a 33.3 average and became the leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,393 points. "Jackie StUes is an unbelievable athlete and a better person," .Legend general manager Tom Nelson said. "She has family involved with the Legend ownership and attended Legend games last season. • "After talking with her about the draft, she was very excited about the possibilities of joining the Legend in some capacity" StUes won't be breaking nevf ground in the USBL. Nancy Lieberman-Cline played 4Ci games in two seasons with the" Springfield Fame and Long Island Knights. Saudia_ Roundtree, Cheryl Miller,' Cheryl MUler, Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo were also drafted into the league. The Legend drafted Iowa State forward Paid Shurley in the,first round. KU / Signed four in fall; WSU to sign one FROM PAGE D1 recruiting experts. The addition of Pasco and Canby should provided much-needed help in the middle, where they must replace starting center Kelvin Howell and backup Joe Leonard. KU standing pat AU is quiet on the recruiting front for the Kansas Jayhawks, who have one scholarship to give after signing four high school players during the early signing period in November There has been talk the Jay- hawks may sign a big man this spring, but nothing is expected this week. The Jayhawks return six scholarship players next season — Drew Gooden, Nick CoUison, Kirk Hinrich, Jeff Boschee, Jeff Carey and Bryant Nash — and wiU bring the four scholarship players signed last faU — Aaron Miles and Michael Lee of Portland, Ore.; Keith Langford of Fort Worth, Texas, and Wayne Simien of Leavenworth. Sumner Academy all-state guard Jeff Hawkins plans to walk on at KU and is expected to be redshirted next season before earning a scholarship for the 2002-03 season. KU will have at maximum 11 recruited scholarship players next year against the limit of 13, meaning KU coach Roy Williams could again reward walk-ons Brett Ballard and Chris Zerbe with one-year scholarships. Those two players would not count against the new NCAA rule that limits coaches to five signees in one year,and eight over a two-year period because they arrived at KU before that rule went into effect. Shockers to sign one Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon expects to sign one player during the spring period. The Shockers have been actively recruiting Seward County guard Thaydeus Holden aU winter, but aren't alone. Oklahoma, Creighton and Illinois are also involved. ; The 5-foot-ll Holden averaged" 22.5 points and 4.0 rebounds this past season. Jamar Howard, a 6-5 foward who led Miege to the Class 5A state championship last month, is high on the Shockers' list. Howard also is being pursued by Southwest Missouri State and Nevada along with Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri- Kansas City Turgeon signed four high school players in November and has just one scholarship to offer during the spring signing period. South Carolina hires Odom By The Associated Press COLUMBIA, S.C. — Wake Forest's Dave Odom took the job as South Carolina's basketbaU coach Tuesday after the school's first two choices turned it down. "I think this was the first time I've ever been in the Car- olma Coliseum and been greeted <vith applause," Odom said as about 200 fans cheered. Odom, who spent 12 years at Wake Forest, said he met briefly with South Carolina's players. He asked them to "give me a chance to be then- friend first, get to know me first, and then I hope they'U want me to be their coach." TIME TO ENROLL Get The Latest Stuff Ages 8-17 Site: KWU, Salina 30TH ANNUAL Kansas Premier Boy's & Giri's Sports Camps 'Boy's Basketball •Girl's Basketball 'Girl's Volleyball "The Skill BuUders" I For Info: Ask Your Coach Or Call 827.^229 I

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