<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Tue, 05 May 2015 07:14:26 -0400 Tue, 05 May 2015 07:14:26 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Warriors' Curry Named NBA MVP]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 02:37:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/203*120/2015-05-04-steph-curry-mvp.jpg

As if he weren't likeable before.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry became the darling of the sports world on Monday during a news conference surrounding his new Most Valuable Player award, choking up with humility as he discussed how faith and family made him the player and man that he is today.

"It's a tremendous honor," Curry said, dressed in a blue suit and tie, noting that Jesus, his wife and his parents are the reasons for all the good that's ever happened to him. "I love playing basketball."

Curry, who set a single-season record for three-pointers made and led the league’s best regular-season team in scoring, assists and steals, won the 2014-15 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award, the NBA announced on Monday. He scooped up 100 of the 130 first-place votes from a panel of 129 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada, as well as the Kia MVP fan vote on NBA.com. In all, Curry won with a total of 1,198 points.

As the 27-year-old waited to speak at a Monday news conference in Oakland, he waved a gentle "hi," and received a standing ovation.

In his comments, he first thanked Jesus, and then his family, especially his wife, Ayesha, whom he met as a teen, before addding: "This hasn't sunk in at all. I'm on cloud nine. Today is a celebration for sure."

The 6-foot, 3-inch guard becomes the second Warriors player to win the award, joining Wilt Chamberlain, who was honored in 1959-60 when the franchise played in Philadelphia. 

"It doesn't take long after meeting him to know he's a special person," said Warriors General Manager Bob Meyers, speaking with emotion in his voice. Meyers noted "he does a lot when no one's watching."

Meyers also gave a special nod to Curry's parents, Dell and Sonya, whom he credited with raising an "amazing person." In February, for example, Curry was at the White House, helping with the president's Malaria Initiative. For the past three seasons, he's donated mosquito nets for every three-pointer he made to the United Nations "Nothing But Nets" Campaign.

"Forget about the three-point shots," Meyers said. "The best part about him is off the court."

Curry made 286 three-pointers, breaking his own NBA record of 272 set in 2012-13. He shot 48.7 percent from the field and ranked fourth in the league in three-point field goal percentage (44.3). Curry also led the NBA in free throw percentage (91.4), converting a career-high 52 consecutive free throws from March 9 to April 4.

At the news conference, Warriors coach Steve Kerr added that Curry is just so "quiet and humble off the court," which are qualities that  make him a great leader.

Curry will be given the MVP award, formally known as the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, on Tuesday at the Oracle Arena before Game 2 in the second playoff round against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Curry beat out Houston's James Harden, Cleveland's LeBron James and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, among others, for the league's most coveted individual award.

Curry helped the Warriors win a franchise-record 67 games by averaging 23.8 points (sixth in the NBA), 7.7 assists (sixth), a career-high 2.04 steals (fourth) and 4.3 rebounds, according to the NBA.

With Curry leading the way, Golden State became the 10th team in NBA history to win at least 67 games in a season. The Warriors scored 920 more points than they allowed with Curry on the court, the highest plus/minus for any player this season and an average of 11.5 points in his 80 appearances.

As part of its support of the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award, KMA will donate on behalf of Curry an all-new and more capable than ever 2016 Kia Sorento LX CUV to the East Oakland Youth Development Center, which develops the social and leadership capacities of youth and young adults.

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<![CDATA[Cowboys Did Homework on Byron Jones]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 09:36:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/471750938.jpg

Seven months ago, UConn was in the midst of a two-win season and Byron Jones' college career was already over thanks to a shoulder injury. On Friday, Jones was the 27th pick in the NFL Draft, thanks to the Cowboys, a team in desperate need of secondary help.

And while some in the national media consider Jones the beneficiary of a strong offseson workouts, NFL scouts, coaches and general manager know that Jones is a top-flight football player, long before he opened eyes with his ridiculous broad jump and vertical leap at February's combine. Take the team that drafted him, for example.

"We probably knew as much on him as anybody in the draft,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, via SNY.com. “Pasqualoni coached him and we had a scout who knew his position coaches and felt real good about our evaluation of Byron.

“He played two years as a safety and as well as what he can do at corner. So, that was pretty prominent in our decision to take him. It was hard waiting. But, it worked out for us. we were fortunate when you put in the cross hairs our team needs, type of player he is, our coaches were particularly on the table for him during our evaluation process.”

The Cowboys were so high on Jones that they weren't sure he'd last till the end of the first round.

"We had him rated high on our board,” Jerry Jones conceded. “He was in our top 15 and 16 players on the board.” There’s an urge as you watch 26 players roll out, there is an urge (to trade up). But that is the art of the process. Seriously, that’s the anxiety that is involved. We didn’t see a lot of trading possibilities, but we were keeping our eyes open in case a real bargain came along.”

And there's no easy Jones into the big pool. The Cowboys will throw him in the deep end and see what happens.

“We anticipate him starting out as a corner," Jerry Jones said. "Depending on health of secondary, moving him to safety is realistic.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Draft WR Geremy Davis]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 09:34:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-catch.jpg

It's long been known that cornerback Byron Jones would be drafted, the only question was how high. The Cowboys answered that question when they selected him 27th overall, joining running back Donald Brown as the only former Husky to go in the first round.

But five rounds later, Jones' teammate Geremy Davis heard his name called too. The Giants selected the wide receiver with the 186th pick.

"It's a blessing to be in the NFL," Davis told the Hartford Courant. "When I saw my name on the screen I was so happy. God is good."

Davis, who was one of UConn's most consistent players during his career, didn't care that he had to wait until Saturday to hear his name called.

"It didn't matter. I just wanted an opportunity to prove myself and I have that but regardless of where you're picked you're going to have to come in and work," Davis said. "I'm just glad the Giants gave me an opportunity."

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Davis leaned on former coach T.J. Weist to help him improve every aspect of his game.

"[He] helped me a lot; I love that guy and still talk to him to this day," Davis told the Hartford Courant last week. "He's just a technician and you see how many wideouts he dealt with and helped contribute to their game. He did the same thing when he came to UConn, from the little things — from a stance standpoint, how to catch the ball, where to tuck the ball away from the defender — and a bunch of other things. All of it has helped my game so much from where it was."

Now Weist couldn't be happier for Davis.

"His unselfish character and humility allow him to be grateful for the chance to show what kind of player he is," Weist said. "He knows this is his opportunity and he's going to take full advantage of it. The Giants got a great player and an even better man. I'm very proud of his play on the field and even more of how he lives his life."

Davis is expected to meet his knew employers on Thursday.

"I never talked to them throughout this whole process, but I'm glad they were watching me from afar," Davis said. "I'm just really excited right now."

<![CDATA[Report: Sterling Gibbs Could Be Headed to UConn]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 09:32:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP463092600188.jpg

The Huskies are a team in transition. They're not necessarily rebuilding, but with Ryan Boatright headed for the NBA, and an upperclassman leadership void, coach Kevin Ollie has his work cut out for him.

Freshman point guard Jalen Adams will help immediately, and the hope is that Sterling Gibbs can do the same -- with the added bonus of the veteran leadership me mentioned above. Gibbs announced last week that he's leaving Seton Hall to play his fifth year elsewhere. According to 247 Sports, elsewhere will be UConn.

The 6-2 combo guard averaged 16.7 points per game last season to go along with 3.8 assists. He also led the Big East in three-point shooting percentage (45).

Gibbs began his college career at Texas before transferring to Seton Hall. Last season was a rocky one for Seton Hall; the Pirated finished 16-15, the locker room was reportedly unsettled, and Gibbs was suspended two games for hitting Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono in the face with his forearm.

"We didn't want to do this, but it was just a tough situation,"Gibbs' father, Temple Gibbs, told the Asbury Park Press. "It was something he felt he had to do for his state of mind."

Gibbs would join 6-7 Shonn Miller as the Huskies' second transfer this offseason. Miller played previously at Cornell, and he will also use his fifth year of eligibility in Storrs.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ducks Beat Flames 3-0]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 00:47:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/161*120/5-3-15+Anaheim+Ducks.jpg

Matt Beleskey scored early in the game, and Hampus Lindholm added a critical insurance goal in the third period as the Anaheim Ducks picked up a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series.

Nate Thompson scored his first goal of the postseason to seal the shutout, and the Ducks took a 2-0 lead in the series as they won their sixth consecutive playoff game.

The Ducks got off to a white-hot start in the game as they racked up a slew of scoring chances early, but Karri Ramo was up to the task as he started his first ever playoff game for the Flames. Ryan Getzlaf had a great chance early on a 2-on-1 rush, but a glove save from Ramo kept it out of the net. Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler each had chances as well, but neither one would go as the game remained tied.

About seven and a half minutes into the contest, the constant pressure finally resulted in a goal for the Ducks. Kesler broke into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush, and his saucer pass across the ice landed perfectly on Matt Beleskey’s stick, and he buried the easy wrist shot to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

The Ducks got two power plays as the first period wore on, but they ultimately weren’t able to capitalize. Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler each got good scoring opportunities on the man-advantage, but neither could convert as the Ducks maintained a one-goal lead through 20 minutes of play.

In the second period of play, the Ducks’ dominance of the game’s tempo went out the window, and the Flames took control of the pace. They got two power plays and racked up 12 shots on goal during that period, but Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen made several spectacular saves as the Ducks kept their lead intact despite the onslaught.

The third period opened with the Flames still on a power play, but Anaheim was able to kill it off with relative ease. The two teams traded early scoring chances in the period, with Corey Perry getting the best chance of all through a screen from the high slot, but Ramo made a great save with his arm and kept the Calgary deficit at one.

With about eight minutes to go in regulation, the Ducks got a critical insurance goal to take a 2-0 lead. Lindholm received a gorgeous pass from Perry in the offensive zone, and he did the rest as he ripped a shot past Ramo to give the Ducks a two-goal edge in the contest.

The Flames pulled their goaltender with about two and a half minutes to go in regulation, but the move quickly backfired as Nate Thompson was able to get the puck in the neutral zone and flip it down the ice into the cage to put the Ducks ahead by a score of 3-0.

The Ducks will try to take a commanding 3-0 series lead on Tuesday night as they head up to Calgary for Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. local time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kane Scores Twice as Blackhawks Beat Wild 4-1]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hawks+kane+game+2.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks got two goals from Patrick Kane as they knocked off the Minnesota Wild by a score of 4-1 on Sunday night in Game 2 of the teams’ best of seven series.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp also scored goals for the Blackhawks as they won their third consecutive postseason game.

The Blackhawks started out the game with some incredible defense as they only allowed one shot attempt in the first seven minutes of the game, and their offense did some good work of their own. Teuvo Teravainen generated a scoring chance with a quick zone entry, but Patrick Sharp’s shot was snared down. Patrick Kane nearly picked up a breakaway a few minutes later, but Michal Rozsival’s stretch pass slid just out of the forward’s reach.

A Thomas Vanek penalty gave the Blackhawks a power play later in the first period, but they were unable to score as they generated just one shot on goal. Kane and Brad Richards got even strength chances a few minutes later, but neither would go as Devan Dubnyk continued to stay strong in net.
Andrew Shaw got a chance as the horn sounded to end the period, but Dubnyk was able to knock it away with his leg pads to keep the game scoreless through 20 minutes of play.

The second period opened up with both teams tightening up considerably on defense, and scoring chances were few and far between. Niklas Hjalmarsson had a great one near the midway point of the period as his shot was stopped by Dubnyk, but the momentum for the Hawks was short-lived as Andrew Shaw committed a cross-checking penalty during his pursuit of the rebound, and the Wild got their first power play of the game.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, Chicago was able to seize momentum right back as they took the lead. Ryan Suter turned the puck over at the half-boards, and Marian Hossa was able to fly down the ice and retrieve it to set up a 2-on-0 rush. Jonathan Toews got a feed across on the play, and while his initial shot was stopped, the puck bounced off of Dubnyk’s stick and rolled across the goal line to make it a 1-0 lead for the Blackhawks.

Minnesota responded perfectly with some tremendous scoring chances of their own, but Corey Crawford made a couple of his best saves of the playoffs to stop them. Kyle Brodziak got in on a breakaway that Crawford was able to stymie, and then Matt Dumba put a shot on net a few moments later that Crawford stopped. Zach Parise looked as though he would score on the rebound, but Crawford kicked over at the exact right moment and stopped that shot as well to keep Chicago in front.

With about 20 seconds remaining in the period, a careless turnover by Thomas Vanek turned into a Chicago goal. Duncan Keith retrieved the loose puck and fired a gorgeous stretch pass up the ice to Kane, and the Hawks’ sniper ripped a wrist shot past Dubnyk to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 edge after two periods of play.

Michal Rozsival’s late penalty in the second period ended up coming back to bite the Blackhawks as they surrendered a power play goal early in the third. Matthew Dumba did the honors on the play as he fired a shot over the glove of Crawford to make it a 2-1 game about a minute into the frame.

With about 12 minutes to go in regulation, the Blackhawks got a huge insurance goal to put some distance between themselves and their opponents. Teuvo Teravainen chipped in a gorgeous pass near the blue line, and Patrick Sharp skated freely toward the net. His wrist shot evaded Dubnyk on the rush, and in the blink of an eye the Hawks were up by a score of 3-1.

Kane added an empty net goal with about two minutes remaining in the game, and the Blackhawks took down the game and grabbed a 2-0 series lead over Minnesota.

The Blackhawks will try to extend their series lead again on Tuesday night when the teams meet again up in the Twin Cities. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Defeat Spurs]]> Sun, 03 May 2015 04:05:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Clippers-Spurs-Game-seven_5-2-15.jpg

In a down-to-the-wire Game Seven, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 111 to 109 Saturday night to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

In the first quarter, the visiting Spurs got off to a quick start and jumped out to an eight-point lead within the first six minutes of the winner-take-all finale to an incredibly entertaining series. However, the Clippers fought back with Matt Barnes and Chris Paul leading the way.

Barnes would hit four of his first six shots to finish with 10 points in the opening quarter. However, Paul's five points and three assists, which helped the Clippers regain the lead just shy of nine minutes into the game, were immediately overshadowed by the point guard grabbing his left hamstring and looking distraught on the bench.

Paul would spend the final couple minutes off the court, and the Spurs would again take hold of the lead with San Antonio's bench starting to find a rhythm. When the first 12 minutes expired, the Clippers trailed by two points with their star point guard in the locker room.

However, LA managed to stay in the game with Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford stepping up to fill the void. Griffin and Crawford contributed 13 points and 12 points, respectively, in the first half to lead the home team to a two-point advantage at the intermission.

With regards to Paul, the point guard managed to return to the contest about halfway into the second quarter. He was diagnosed with a strained left hamstring, and the 29-year-old managed to add another four points and two assists at the end of the first half. At least in the first half, Paul and the Clippers appeared to avoid disaster.

For San Antonio, Tim Duncan scored 13 points to lead a balanced attack that featured five Spurs tabbing at least eight points in the first half.

In the third quarter, Paul continued to find his range and quickly hit a couple three-pointers to give the Clippers a six-point lead. Almost immediately, the Spurs responded with a couple shots from distance. The seesaw act on the scoreboard that had occurred all series long appeared would continue into the second half of the deciding Game Seven.

With about four minutes to play in the third quarter, Paul would again grab his hamstring. Clearly, the star point guard was playing through the injury, but a buzzer beating three-pointer to end the third quarter proved the point guard could still shine.

With the shot at the buzzer, the Clippers would lead by one point entering the final quarter. The back-and-forth would continue in the final chapter to a memorable series. With 10 minutes to play, the Clippers and Spurs were again level on the scoreboard. Spurs guard Danny Green, who had struggled for most of the series, finally found his shot in the deciding game. His 16th point on the day put the visitors up by four. After 26 lead changes on the day, the Spurs would take a four-point lead into the final six minutes of Game Seven.

Just about a minute later, J.J. Redick would hit a three-pointer and the Clippers and Spurs would enter the final straightaway tied at 97-97. With the game nearing its conclusion, a couple of suspect foul calls set the stage for the Clippers to get a final shot. Paul hit an incredible banking floater that would account for the 31st lead change of the game. The Clippers took a 111-109 lead with 1.0 seconds to play.

The Spurs would get a shot up, but that shot would not fall, and both coaches spoke graciously of their opponents following the game. 

"It was a great stuff, a great series," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said following the game. "So, congratulations to them. I'm really happy for them."

Notes: Griffin finished with a triple-double: 24 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he would guess Paul would not be ready to play for Game One of their second round series. Next, the Clippers face the Houston Rockets.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight Causes "Electronic Overload"]]> Sat, 02 May 2015 23:47:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20150501+Concussion+Fights.jpg

Cable providers of one of the biggest television events, the much talked about Mayweather versus Pacquaio boxing match, is having some problems.

Boxing fans went to Twitter to express frustration when they weren't able to get the $100 pay-per-view on their television.

Time Warner Cable and Charter both tweeted that they were addressing the problem immediately.

HBO's Jim Lampley announced that the much anticipated boxing match is being delayed due to an "electronic overload," according to the New York Times.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[International Star Scratched From Derby]]> Sat, 02 May 2015 14:41:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP206080702346.jpg

International Star was scratched from the Kentucky Derby early Saturday, leaving 18 horses to run for the roses.

Owner Ken Ramsey said a problem was discovered in the colt's left front foot, likely an abscess. The veterinarian who checked out International Star didn't like the way he jogged inside the barn and once the blacksmith removed the colt's shoe, a warm spot on the inside of the foot was found, Ramsey said.

International Star topped the point leaderboard that determined the 20-horse field for the Derby, having swept the three major preps at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He is trained by Mike Maker and was to be ridden by Miguel Mena.

"It's a devastating blow to come this far," Ramsey said in a statement. "I thought I had a decent shot at winning the race."

Ramsey and his wife Sarah are among the sport's leading owners and breeders.

"There's nothing major wrong with the horse whatsoever," he said. "We think we'll probably have him ready to come back for the Preakness, but time will tell."

The second leg of the Triple Crown will be run May 16 in Baltimore.

Five of the Ramseys' horses set to run Saturday were scratched, including three in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Derby undercard. One of them was Stephanie's Kitten, trained by Chad Brown. The others were Scrumpdilicious (trained by Joe Sharp) and Coalport, also trained by Maker.

"That's an issue between me and Chad Brown," Ramsey said. "I won't get into that in the press but none of the three in the Woodford Reserve will be running in our colors today."

The Ramseys have three others set to run, including Thankyou Marylou in the Humana Distaff and Luck of the Kitten in the American Turf.

The No. 1 spot in the Derby starting gate will be left open and all the other horses will move over so there are no gaps in the gate.

International Star is the second Derby horse to be scratched. El Kabeir dropped out Friday because of a sore foot. Earlier in the week, the owners of Stanford decided not to run their colt.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bob Baffert Has Two Race Horses in Derby]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 18:34:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob_baffert.jpg

Bob Baffert hopes he's celebrating in the winner's circle at the Kentucky Derby. He just doesn't know which horse or owners would join him.

After all, the trainer has the two top favorites for Saturday's race.

American Pharoah, owned by Egyptian Ahmed Zayat, is the early 5-2 favorite for the 141st Derby off an eight-length victory in the Arkansas Derby.

Dortmund is the 3-1 second choice. He's owned by India-born Kaleem Shah, now a U.S. citizen whose pride for his adopted country is evident in the red, white and blue silks his chestnut colt wears.

"Coming in here we feel really strong," Baffert said. "If you get beat, the fall is pretty steep."

American Pharoah dominated his competition leading to the Derby, winning his last four races by a combined 22 1/4 lengths. Baffert calls him "brilliant," but he's yet to be tested in the kind of fractious conditions the Derby offers. He will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who won last year aboard California Chrome.

"If American Pharoah breaks a step slow, he's going to find himself in a situation that he has not faced before," said Mark Casse, who trains 30-1 shot Danzig Moon.

Dortmund stands an imposing 5 feet, 8 inches from the ground to near his shoulder blades and is a son of 2008 Derby winner Big Brown. He is undefeated in six races against tougher competition than his stablemate faced. Martin Garcia works out American Pharoah in the mornings but rides Dortmund in the race.

"This is an exciting, exciting field," Zayat said. "It's fun to have the best of the best running against each other."

A full field of 20 was reduced to 19 for 1 1/4-mile race after El Kabeir was scratched Saturday. His left front foot was bothering him Friday and the colt trained by John Terranova was sore coming out of his stall the next day. His absence means Calvin Borel, a three-time Derby winner, won't ride.

Todd Pletcher brings three horses to the race: Carpe Diem, the 8-1 third choice; Florida Derby winner Materiality; and Itsaknockout, fittingly running on the same day as the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas.

"We're ready," Pletcher said. "Let's go."

Materiality didn't run as s 2-year-old and no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without racing as a sophomore. His pedigree suggests he could overcome the jinx: his sire Afleet Alex won the Preakness and Belmont in 2005.

Blue Grass winner Carpe Diem cost $1.6 million and a win in the Derby (worth $1.4 million) would help his owners recoup most of their investment. John Velazquez clearly saw something in the colt because he chose to ride Carpe Diem instead of Materiality in the Derby. But he will have to overcome the No. 2 post; getting away from the starting gate quickly could minimize the chance of getting trapped inside.

This year's field is deep and talented, and absent Baffert's dynamic duo, there are other horses with solid credentials who in a different year would be more highly regarded.

Among them:

—Mubtaahij, an Ireland-bred trying to win the Derby by preparing outside the U.S. and then traveling halfway around the world to reach Louisville. He won the UAE Derby by eight lengths and his South African trainer Mike de Kock is highly regarded.

—Firing Line, a colt that twice had photo-finish defeats to Dortmund before winning the Sunland Derby by 14 lengths in track-record time.

—International Star, a versatile colt that swept the trio of Derby preps at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He has tactical speed to get good position, helpful in a crowded race. "He's razor sharp and rarin' to go," trainer Mike Maker said. "Show up at 5:45 tomorrow and he'll put all your questions to bed."

—Frosted, the Wood Memorial winner, is owned by a member of the ruling family of Dubai. Godolphin Racing is 0 for 7 in previous Derby tries, but this time Sheikh Mohammad had his horse prep in the U.S.

—Upstart beat Frosted in the Holy Bull and finished second behind Materiality in the Florida Derby.

Baffert jokes that it's been so long since the last of his three Derby victories in 2002 that he doesn't remember. He knows, though, what a horse must do if it is to wear the garland of red roses.

"You need to get a decent post, break well, get the trip," he said. "It's the toughest field I've been involved in since Silver Charm (in 1997)."

American Pharoah, Dortmund, Carpe Diem and Materiality have combined to win 17 of 19 races, including a 10-0 mark this year.

"The hype is over with," said Ken Ramsey, who owns International Star. "It's time for potential to develop into performance."

<![CDATA["A Bit Experimental": 1st-Time Derby Trainer Faces Extra Challenges]]> Sat, 02 May 2015 18:23:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ky-derby-467883162.jpg

One wildcard contender in Saturday's Kentucky Derby didn't have an easy journey to Churchill Downs. Mubtaahij's entry into the race touched off a 24-hour trek from Dubai to the U.S., with plenty of hurdles along the way for him and his trainer, Mike de Kock.

De Kock, one of South Africa's premier trainers, has won races on four continents, but Saturday will be the first time he'll have a horse race at Churchill Downs. If that weren't challenge enough, de Kock cannot give Mubtaahij his regular food, and it's the first time the colt is racing in the U.S.

“I don’t think there’s a massive amount of expectation,” de Kock, 51, told NBC of his 3-year-old thoroughbred, whose name means "elated" in Arabic.

Mubtaahij is considered a wildcard, but his trainer and experts say he deserves to be running in the field headed by champion American Pharoah and unbeaten Dortmund, along with strong contenders like Frosted, Carpe Diem, Materiality, International Star and Firing Line.

"This is definitely one of the toughest Kentucky Derbys that we’ve seen in quite some time, but Mubtaahij still deserves to be in the field," NBC Sports' racing analyst Randy Moss said. "The way he won the UAE Derby, the ease with which he won it, the acceleration that he showed made it pretty much a no-brainer that at least they ship him over and give him a try. I don’t think it’s an impossible task at all."

But running in the Derby's crowded field of 20 horses will be a new experience for Mubtaahij. The colt has only ever run in much smaller fields, so it's anyone's guess how he'll fare in Louisville, de Kock said.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do. I can’t even venture a prediction," de Kock said. "But he does have a very sound mind, and I’m relying on that."

Long Voyages With New Food

Mubtaahij, owned by the Dubai emir's cousin Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Saeed Al Maktoum, arrived at Churchill Downs Monday night after an epic trans-Atlantic journey that began April 15. After a 24-hour trip from the United Arab Emirates to Amsterdam to Chicago, the horse spent the last few weeks quarantined and training for a few days at Arlington Park in Chicago.

"It's just a long time on the road," de Kock said. “He’s coming out of 37 degrees Celsius [about 98 degrees Fahrenheit] in Dubai into Chicago, where it was one or 2 degrees overnight."

And now that the colt is in Louisville, he has to adjust to a new diet; he can't eat his regular feed in the U.S., because it's not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). De Kock says the change in what he's been eating since he arrived stateside hasn't affected his mood or appetite, but there's no way to tell now how it may affect his run Saturday at the Derby.

Mubtaahij will also be the first horse in a decade to compete in the race without Lasix, the blood-thinning drug that all other Derby thoroughbreds are given to protect against exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. If he should win, he'd be the first Lasix-free Derby champ since Grindstone in 1996. De Kock says Mubtaahij doesn’t need the medication.

"I don’t see it as disadvantage, and it wouldn’t be an excuse, either,” de Kock said. “I feel that the horse doesn’t have a problem with bleeding, and I just don’t want to give the medication because everyone else is giving it."

The colt has also never raced on a track in the U.S., though he has run five times in the past five months, capturing the $2 million U.A.E. Derby on March 28 and earning a chance to compete across the Atlantic. He has four victories in five starts on dirt, after performing poorly in his first two career starts on turf.

Intense Pressure in Louisville

Still, the pace of the Kentucky Derby will be a challenge for Mubtaahij, according to Moss, because it and other major horse races in the U.S. are run at a faster pace than the races in Dubai this year, the U.A.E. Derby in particular. Jockeys at the Kentucky Derby get more aggressive in the first part of the race than they might ordinarily in a mile-and-a-quarter race.

"When you have a 20-horse field, there’s added pressure on the riders to get positioned and avoid being put in a situation where they run in a middle of a big crowd of horses, and you get bumped around," Moss explained." It definitely will be faster — much faster than what Mubtaahij has encountered in Dubai."

The speed and the large contender field aren't the only challenges. The level of noise at Churchill Downs on the day of the race can be overwhelming to any horse. They can get stressed and frazzled, becoming more quickly fatigued.

“There is no way to prepare a horse for it,” Moss said. “For the most part, race horses are trained in pretty bucolic settings, without a lot of stress. There aren’t very large crowds anymore even for a lot of the major races, so when they get to Churchill Downs and they hear 150,000 people on the Kentucky Derby day, it’s a completely foreign experience for the racehorses.”

De Kock joked that he’s probably picked the worst year to attempt to run in the Kentucky Derby, but he considers it a fact-finding mission.

“If this works really well, we hope to repeat it,” de Kock said. “It’s all quite a bit experimental, but we do know we have a lovely horse.” 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Betting on an Underdog? Try These 5 Derby Hopefuls]]> Sat, 02 May 2015 09:18:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*126/AP648411810136_0_Derby.jpg

Hoping to unearth a Kentucky Derby winner at a price?

We got your long shots right here.

We're talking the next Giacomo, who won at 50-1 and returned $102.60 for a $2 win bet 10 years ago. We're talking Mine That Bird, who won at the same odds in 2009 and paid $103.20. We're even talking Animal Kingdom in 2011, who won at 20-1 ($43.90), and I'll Have Another, who won the next year at 15-1 ($32.60).

Favorites Orb and California Chrome came through the past two years, and 5-2 top choice American Pharoah could make it three in a row Saturday.

The 20-horse field is said to be one of the toughest in years, but there are five horses at 50-1 odds, six at 30-1 and two at 20-1 — 65 percent of the field.

Here goes nothing — or maybe something big:

1. Frosted, 15-1: If trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is right, he's got his horse pitch perfect at the right time. So many issues all seemed to clear up when this gray colt won the Wood Memorial by two lengths under his new rider Joel Rosario — who won the 2013 Derby with Orb. Good post (No. 14), good trainer, good rider and very wealthy owners, Godolphin Racing. Not your ultimate long shot, but double-digit odds are always tempting.

2. Far Right, 30-1: We were loving El Kabeir in this spot, but tenderness near his left front foot discovered Friday morning knocks him out of consideration. So we're turning to Far Right, winner of the Smarty Jones and Southwest and a distant second to American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby. The upside is three-time Derby winner Mike Smith has the mount. He's among the most tenacious riders in the business, and knows his way around Churchill Downs, even from post No. 19. Smith's Derby win came aboard Giacomo in '05 and he'll be riding in his 21st Run for the Roses. Trainer Ron Moquett is a Derby rookie but has seemed even-keeled all week.

3. Itsaknockout, 30-1: Sold on the name. Plus, don't you have to go with at least one of trainer Todd Pletcher's horses? His top horse is 8-1 with a lousy post, the other is 12-1 with only three previous starts ... so here we are. Plus, who can resist the cross-promotion with the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight? Luis Saez aboard? Not great, but he's 3-for-4 with the bay colt if you include the victory in the Fountain of Youth after first-place finisher Upstart was DQ'd to second for interference in the stretch. He was a distant fourth in the Florida Derby, but that's why he's a long shot.

4. Mr. Z, 50-1: Why would Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas even enter this colt, who has only a maiden win to his credit? Well, as rival trainer Nick Zito likes to say, "If you don't run, you can't even lose." And with that logic, Lukas' long shot becomes intriguing. The colt seems to be his own worst enemy — he lugged outside in a race, veered out in another, and what may have been a last-gasp measure, has been fitted with blinkers to keep focused. While he has lost 11 in a row, he's finished in the top three in seven graded stake races, most recently third in the Arkansas Derby. And, two of Lukas' four Derby wins came with long shots — Charismatic (31-1) in 1999 and Thunder Gulch (24-1) in 1995.

5. Firing Line, 12-1: Caught! Technically not a true long shot — but we're hoping his odds increase once betting begins. If not, oh well. Cashing in at current odds won't be hard to take. The colt was beaten twice by a nose by Dortmund, then won the Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths. Jockey Gary Stevens is looking for his fourth Derby win, and first since 1997 with Silver Charm.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cowboys Compare Jones to McCourty]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 10:42:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/byron-jones-cowboys-1st.jpg

It's been a meteoric rise for Byron Jones, whose final college season was cut short because of a shoulder injury. On Thursday night, the former Huskies cornerback went to the Dallas Cowboys with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

And while it's unfair to call Jones, who lit up the combine and his pro day, a workout warrior, it's understandable why the national media hadn't heard much about him until February. But the Cowboys were well aware of Jones and they have confidence that he'll upgrade a secondary that struggled much of last season.

"You've got to have guys who cover in this league," Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' executive vice president, said, via ESPN.com. "Certainly, Jones helps us out here. He's a big, tall corner and you don't get taller at corner unless you pick them tall. He certainly can do it and we feel good about him if he's playing corner and we feel good about him if he's playing free safety. And I think the McCourty analogy is good."

That would be Devin McCourty, the Patriots former first-round pick who had success early in his career at cornerback before moving to safety, where he's now one of the top players at that position. And it sounds like the Cowboys could have similar plans for Jones.

"A lot of times you project to another position. He has the physical traits to play safety even though he's played cornerback the last few years," coach Jason Garrett said. "What he gives us is you see him play free safety for two years with two good cornerbacks when he was a younger player. ... I do believe it's a realistic projection for him to play cornerback and also play free safety. He has the athletic ability, the experience and he's one of those guys with great upside."

Jones was the fourth cornerback taken in the first round, and he's the second UConn player to go in the first round after running back Donald Brown was selected by the Colts back in 2009.

<![CDATA[Ducks Roast Flames 6-1]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 01:52:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/209*120/471743258.jpg

Corey Perry had two goals and two assists and the Anaheim Ducks routed the Calgary Flames 6-1 on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and three assists, and Matt Beleskey, Patrick Maroon and Emerson Etem also scored for the top-seeded Ducks, who had a seven-day layoff following their first-round sweep of Winnipeg.

Game 2 is Sunday night back at Honda Center, where the Flames haven't won since the 2006 playoffs and have lost 20 consecutive regular-season games since January 2004.

The six goals tied a Ducks playoff record. Frederik Andersen made 23 saves, losing his bid for his first NHL playoff shutout when Sam Bennett ended the scoring with 10:44 remaining.

Jonas Hiller, who was pulled by coach Bob Hartley in Games 2 and 6 of the Flames' first-round series against Vancouver, stopped 11 of 14 shots before he was yanked again with a 3-0 deficit after Perry carried the puck out from behind the net and jammed it past Hiller's stick at 2:13 of the second period.

The game was still scoreless when the sellout crowd of 17,174 unleashed derisive chants of "Hill-er! Hill-er!"

Hiller spent his first five NHL seasons with Anaheim and became a free agent last summer after the Ducks decided not to re-sign him. The Flames inked him to a two-year, $9 million contract, and he finished the regular season 26-19-4 with a 2.36 goals-against average.

Hiller appeared in 26 postseason games with Anaheim and started 22 of them, going 12-12 with a 2.29 GAA and three shutouts. But he was edged out on the depth chart by Andersen and John Gibson after the Ducks were bounced in the second round last year by eventual champion Los Angeles.

Just 2:05 after the opening faceoff, Andersen stopped center Josh Jooris on a breakaway after Jakob Silfverberg lost control of the puck inside the Calgary blue line and fell down.

Beleskey opened the scoring at 10:17 of the first period after overcoming two penalties that were called against Perry less than 4 minutes apart for cross-checking and high-sticking.

Defenseman Hampus Lindholm's wrist shot from about 5 feet inside the blue line went wide of the left post, but Kyle Palmieri played the carom off the end boards and quickly backhanded the puck to an unchecked Beleskey in front of a wide-open net with Hiller out of position.

Maroon, who plays on the Ducks' top line with Perry and Getzlaf, made it 2-0 less than 3 minutes later when he redirected Getzlaf's backhanded centering pass from the left corner with David Jones checking him in front of the net.

Etem converted a rebound of Beauchemin's slap shot from the right point at 10:11 of the second after Karri Ramo replaced Hiller in goal. Perry and Getzlaf ended the scoring with power-play goals 1:18 apart during the first 2:32 of the third period.

Anaheim was 3-1-1 against Calgary during the regular season and finished 12 points ahead of the Flames in the conference standings. The only other time these clubs met in the playoffs was in 2006, when the Ducks won their opening-round series in seven games.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Carmelo Anthony Marches in Baltimore Protest]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 23:09:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/carmelo+in+baltimore+credit+aaronmmaybin.jpg

Knicks star player and longtime Baltimore resident Carmelo Anthony took part in a Freddie Gray protest in the Charm City on Thursday, according to reports.

Anthony wore a "Cassius Clay" shirt as he marched with other protesters, urging calm and patience after violence broke out in the city earlier this week following the death of Gray, a man who died from spinal injuries while in police custody on April 19, Newsday reported.

"This is my community," Anthony told CNN's Ryan Young. "But it's not also my community, it's everybody's community. It's America's community."

Anthony said he came to talk with people and urge them to focus on rebuilding the city in the wake of looting and arrests.

"We're going to get the justice that we want," he said. "It's going to take some time." 

Anthony sounded off in an Instagram post on Monday, urging protesters to "build up our city not tear it down."

Following Gray’s funeral Monday, dozens of police officers were attacked while stores were looted and several buildings set ablaze. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a State of Emergency in the height of the violence Monday evening and the National Guard was called in to restore order.

“To see my city in a State of Emergency is just shocking. We need to protect our city, not destroy it,” Anthony wrote in the Instagram post.

In the post, Anthony said he thinks the protesters should fight for what they believe in but added, "it takes no time to destroy something. But, it can take forever to build it back up."

"If not yourself, then Think about the youth. How this will impact them. Let's build our city up not tear it down," he said.

Anthony was born in Brooklyn but moved to Baltimore when he was 8 years old. He was one of the region’s top high school players before playing his senior year at the basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in southwest Virginia.

Photo Credit: @aaronmmaybin/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA[2015 NFL Draft: Top 10 Picks]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 08:04:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/464649042.jpg These are the NFL Draft's top 10 picks for 2015]]> <![CDATA[Triple Crown: Baffert's Tough Losses]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:40:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/487627597.jpg

Before Bob Baffert won the Kentucky Derby for the first time, he lost.

Oh brother did he lose. Cavonnier, 1996, remember?

Sure, he's won the world's great horse race three times. Only three other trainers have won more in 140 runnings. And, the Hall of Famer is pumped for a fourth with the two favorites for Saturday's Derby, unbeaten Dortmund and the sweet-striding American Pharoah.

Seize the moment is Baffert's mantra. Don't think about those glorious wins by Silver Charm in '97, Real Quiet in '98 and War Emblem in '02. And for sure, don't even mention the losses. Three of them with favorites, one by a nose, and another with the horse he calls the best he's ever trained. Of course, that tune could change by Saturday night.

Some of Baffert's coulda, woulda, shulda Derbys.

1. Cavonnier, 1996: Showing up at Churchill Downs with his first Derby starters (Semoran was the other), Baffert begins what has turned into an annual spring break at Barn 33. He's not the main attraction — that would be favorite Unbridled's Song and his trainer Jim Ryerson. But those who chat with the white-haired, former quarter-horse trainer from Arizona come away smiling from one-liners and with a good story. The race? Cavonnier has the lead, then D. Wayne Lukas' Grindstone pulls alongside and there's a duel to the finish. Too close to call. Photo. Baffert thinks he wins. Then he isn't sure. Then the official results: Grindstone takes it by a nose in the closest of calls. Even after three failed Triple Crown attempts in the Belmont Stakes, the trainer still calls this "the toughest beat of my career."

2. Point Given, 2001: Not only does Baffert now have two Derby wins, he's saddling the 9-5 favorite in a bid for No. 3. Point Given enters the race off a win in the Santa Anita Derby. Starting from the outside post on a hot, humid day, Point Given doesn't appear to like the hard racing surface, has to run hard to stay in contention early, gets as close as second but fades to fifth as Monarchos powers home to victory. Point Given goes on to win the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell Invitational and Travers and is voted Horse of the Year. Baffert has said if there ever was a horse that should have won the Triple Crown that didn't, it's Point Given.

3. Bodemeister, 2012: Five weeks after a heart attack in Dubai, the trainer is at Churchill Downs to watch his 4-1 favorite Bodemeister. The horse takes the lead early, opens up by three lengths and looks like a winner before 15-1 long shot I'll Have Another blows past him in the final sixteenth-of-a-mile and wins by 1 1/2 lengths.

It's the third time in four years owner Ahmed Zayat finishes second in the Derby. He also owned '09 and '11 runners-up, Pioneerof the Nile and Nehro. The owner sends out American Pharoah, El Kabeir and Mr. Z on Saturday.

4. Pioneerof the Nile, 2009: Enters with a four-race win streak. The 6-1 third-choice leaves from post 15 and moves into second, a half-length behind pace-setter Join in the Dance with a quarter-mile to go. But that's as close as he gets because 50-1 shot Mine That Bird is completing a remarkable run from 12th to first, leaving Pioneerof the Nile 6 3/4 lengths back in second. Baffert, like just about everyone else, has no idea what horse was zooming into the lead.

5. Lookin At Lucky, 2010: The chance to win is lost three days before the race, when the colt draws the inside post. Expected favorite Eskendereya had been withdrawn earlier in the week, and Lookin At Lucky is the lukewarm 6-1 top choice. However, the 2-year-old champion is roughed up at the start, gets bumped into the rail early on and it's over. Super Saver wins, Lookin At Lucky runs sixth.

"I quit watching him after the first bump," Baffert says after the race. "He was done."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Football Unveils New Uniforms, Helmets]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 11:28:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/new+uconn+helmet_1200.jpg

For the second time in three years, the UConn football team will have a new look. According to the school, Bob Diaco's Huskies will sport new helmets and uniforms in 2015.

"The new look is sporty and sleek while maintaining a traditional, collegiate feel," the school said in a press release.

You can judge for yourself below.


And here are more photos. The Huskies will officially unveil these (sigh) puppies in the Sept. 3 season-opener against Villanova.

Photo Credit: UConn Huskies/YouTube
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<![CDATA[Vegas Gives Huskies 50/1 Odds to Win Title]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 11:01:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Longs odds have never meant much to the Huskies. The last two national championship teams (2011 and 2014) weren't highly thought of heading into the season. In fact, no one paid them much attention midway through the season either. It wasn't until they caught fire in the conference and NCAA Tournaments that people took notice.

So with that in mind, here are the extremely early odds for the 2016 national champion, courtesy of Bovada:

Duke: 10/1
Kentucky: 10/1
Michigan State: 10/1
North Carolina: 10/1
Maryland: 14/1
Kansas: 16/1
Iowa State: 18/1
Virginia: 18/1
Arizona: 20/1
Gonzaga: 20/1

So UConn isn't in the top 10, which certainly seems reasonable given how last season unfolded. But they're not as far down the list as you might expect. As of this week, they're 30th, with 50/1 odds, which is up from 75/1 odds they were looking at on April 8.

Of course, this means little six months out from actual basketball, but it doesn't point to the Huskies' need play more consistently next season, a chore that gets even tougher when you include trying to replace Ryan Boatright. The hope is that freshman Jalen Adams can help fill that role.

<![CDATA[UConn Football Ranks Near Bottom in FBS]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 10:13:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-diaco-boise-state-sept.jpg

If anyone can save UConn's football program it's Bob Diaco. The problem -- and this is something he's pointed out pretty much since arriving on campus in Dec. 2013 -- is that it's a multi-year process.

Last year's two-win season offered a glimpse of what fans could be in -- in the near term, at least -- and unless the Huskies find a quarterback, we could see more of the same in 2015. Which explains why the Orlando Sentinel's preseason FBS rankings have the Huskies at 120th in the nation. As has been the case in recent years, team strengths lie on the defensive side of the ball -- "... the team welcomes Florida State transfer E.J. Levenberry to join experienced linebackers Marquise Vann and Vontae Diggs."

Meanwhile, questions remain on offense, particularly at -- you guessed it -- quarterback.

"The lack of a true starting quarterback will undoubtedly be the biggest issue for the Huskies to tackle in August along with addressing the passing game following the loss of Geremy Davis, who tallied 2,292 career yards and seven touchdowns at UConn, depth at the running back position and continuity on the offensive line."

Not surprisingly, the outlook is decidedly grim heading into next season, which shouldn't come as a surprise to people paying attention.

"UConn still faces a long climb toward joining the conference elite and a tough schedule certainly won’t do much to help the win column," the Sentinel explained. "Seven of the first nine opponents on the Huskies’ 2015 schedule boasted winning records last season. UConn’s nonconference schedule is challenging, with road contests against BYU, Missouri and a home game against Army."

That doesn't mean Diaco won't continue the rebuilding process, just that these things take time.

<![CDATA[Punching Back at Life's Challenges]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 08:33:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/232*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-01+at+8.30.47+AM.png ]]> <![CDATA[Darras to be Different]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 10:35:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/nicodarras042915.jpg UConn pitcher Nico Darras is unique from his pitching motion to his California slang.]]> <![CDATA[Geremy Davis Hoping for NFL Shot]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:53:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-catch.jpg

Cornerback Byron Jones could be the only UConn player selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, which runs from April 30-May 1. But wide receiver Geremy Davis, who had a solid college career under some trying circumstances -- namely, playing in one of the least productive offenses among FBS schools -- could be a pleasant surprise for the NFL team that gives him a shot.

To prepare for the unknown -- Davis will likely be a late-round pick and he may even go undrafted -- the former Huskies standout has been seeking advice from his former Huskies offensive coordinator, T.J. Weist.

"[He] helped me a lot; I love that guy and still talk to him to this day," Davis told the Hartford Courant. "He's just a technician and you see how many wideouts he dealt with and helped contribute to their game. He did the same thing when he came to UConn, from the little things — from a stance standpoint, how to catch the ball, where to tuck the ball away from the defender — and a bunch of other things. All of it has helped my game so much from where it was."

Under Weist's tutelage, Davis caught 71 passes for 1,085 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. But Weist wasn't retained after the season and Davis, who battled through injuries in 2014, wasn't nearly as productive.

"Geremy is hungry," Weist told the Courant. "And when I say hungry, I'm talking about guys who will work. Guys who will truly work on their own, work at their craft, because when you get to the league, that's the best talent in the world and the best ones work harder than anybody. If you don't have that work ethic, you don't have that hunger, you're going to get left behind. There's so many examples of great athletes who get left behind because the game doesn't mean enough to them, and they don't work hard enough or work hard in the offseason, but I truly believe Geremy Davis has that hunger and fire and love of the game to succeed."

In a draft where several top prospects can't seem to steer clear of trouble, Davis is appreciative of the opportunity, one he doesn't plan to squander.

"I've been waiting all my life," he said. "Growing up, I just wanted the opportunity, but to actually have the opportunity now ... I'm just being patient and trusting in God that wherever I end up I'll make the best of it."

<![CDATA[Byron Jones Still Flying Under Radar]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:35:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/byron+jones+uconn+cornerback.jpg

Not many people outside the American Athletic Conference know exactly what to make of Byron Jones. After a mind-blowing workout at the February NFL Combine, he's been labeled a "workout warrior," mostly because most folks on the national stage don't watch a lot of UConn football.

And we get that -- it's not the SEC, or the Big Ten or the ACC, and Saturdays in the fall are devoted to those teams in those conferences. But that doesn't make Jones anymore workout warrior than Marcus Mariota or Todd Gurley. The only difference is that those of us who were watching -- and that includes the man who recruited him -- have known for some time that Jones is a special player, a fact that we didn't need confirmed by a 40-yard dash or a broad jump.

"He had that injury, and he still put in the work and showed what he was able to do," former UConn coach Randy Edsall, now the coach at Maryland, told Sporting News. "It doesn’t surprise me. I knew he was a really hard worker. ... "He's a kid that hasn’t changed in the five years since we recruited him. You want a lot of guys like Byron Jones on your team."

Jones is listed at 6-1, and his athleticism makes him attractive to, well, all 32 teams. The only question is whether he will be a first-round pick.

"You see the trend shifting over to bigger and longer cornerbacks," Sherman told Rolling Stone recently. That definitely plays in my favor, kind of like I came at the right time. But yeah, you use your length as much as you can at the line of scrimmage, use your size, obviously that length and size becomes an advantage when the ball is up in the air: you can go up and get it. I'm just excited to get an opportunity to play in a league where the trend is going over to longer cornerbacks."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>