<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Wed, 20 Aug 2014 02:48:40 -0400 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 02:48:40 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 23:08:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/Steve+Ballmer+Clips+1.JPG

Steve Ballmer on Tuesday left Microsoft's Board of Directors, citing new commitments as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a day after publicly stepping into his role with the team.

"The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is effective immediately," Ballmer wrote in his resignation letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of time."

Ballmer, who handed off the reins as CEO to Nadella in February, expressed confidence in the company’s future and said he is proud that "Microsoft has been my life's work."

"I bleed Microsoft -- have for 34 years and I always will," he wrote.

Ballmer bought the Clippers from Shelly Sterling, wife of former owner Donald Sterling, for $2 billion in May.

The deal was approved by the NBA and finalized Aug. 12 after a tumultuous court battle between the Sterlings.

Shelly Sterling said last week she is "thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner."

Ballmer introduced himself to thousands of Clippers fans on Monday during an energetic rally at the Staples Center that also featured several players and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Ballmer promised to keep the team in LA and to usher in an era of many victories.

"This is an amazing new day in Clippers history," Coach Doc Rivers said at the rally. "I couldn't be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization."

In a response to Ballmer's resignation letter Tuesday, Nadella thanked Ballmer for his time at the company and wished him success.

"I am sure that you will bring the same boldness, passion and impact to your new endeavors that you brought to Microsoft," Nadella wrote.

Ballmer remains a shareholder at Microsoft.

<![CDATA[Little League Star Mo'ne Davis on Sports Illustrated]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:25:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/monedavisap.jpg

Mo'ne Davis, the 13-year-old girl who's become baseball's breakout star, has become the first Little League player ever to make the national cover of Sports Illustrated.

Not that the Philadelphia eighth-grader needs any more firsts under her belt — not with her blinding 70 mph fastball, and certainly not with the Series shutout she threw last week, making her the first girl ever to throw a shutout in Little League World Series history.

Mo'ne, an honor roll student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, has helped make her team the Taney Dragons the first Little League team from Philadelphia ever to advance to the Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. 

But Mo'ne's sports goals extend far beyond baseball.

"To be honest, I never thought I'd be famous for baseball," she told Sports Illustrated. "I want to play basketball, and I could also do both basketball and baseball — but I really want to play basketball."

She one day hopes to play basketball for the University of Connecticut on a full scholarship, preferably as the point guard for the Huskies. Her mother Lakeisha McLean says she's confident her daughter can do it.

"When Mo’ne says she's gonna do it, she's gonna do it," McLean said.

Mo'ne will take the mound Wednesday in Las Vegas when the Taney Dragons take on the only other undefeated team in the Series, the Mountain Ridge team from Las Vegas.

--David Chang contributed additional reporting.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Gronkowski Wants to Play 16 Games]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:29:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/gronkowski-cleared-to-play.jpg

For all that Rob Gronkowski brings to an offense, the Patriots' tight end has struggled to stay healthy during much of his four NFL seasons. That reality has carried over to Year No. 5, where Gronk has spent much of the preseason recovering from an ACL injury he suffered last January.

He's taking part in full-team drills for the first time and the hope is that he'll be ready to go once the season begins, although that might be a tad ambitious.

"It's definitely huge to get it going again," Gronkowski said of connecting with Tom Brady in the 11-on-11 drills. "I've been working with Tom since I've been out here, but we haven't been doing it vs. the defense or anything. So it was good to be out there and 'Boom!' it was just like it was never missed before. He hit me. ...

"You just can't jump right into 11-on-11 action," Gronkowski continued. "You have to do 1-on-1s, getting your body [in form], getting your legs underneath you all before that. So that's why it was good to do everything I was leading up to it, so when I went out there today, I felt like I was prepared and ready to go."

Gronk announced last month that his plan was to play in all 16 games this season though coach Bill Belichick might have different ideas. First things first: Seeing if the tight end can take the field in the final two preseason games.

"I just love playing the game of football, so whenever they let me have a chance, I definitely want to play," Gronkowski said. "We're all on the same page. We'll see."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Whitmer Thought About Leaving UConn]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:35:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/whitmer_michigan.jpg

In many respects, Chandler Whitmer was an innocent bystander last season. He happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and took most of the blame when Paul Pasqualoni stumbled early in his third season only to get canned before October. By the time it was over, the redshirt junior was 0-4 after throwing for 896 yards, five touchdowns, six interceptions and completing 55 percent of his passes.

He was the face of all that was wrong with the offense even though he had very little to do with the team's inability to consistently move the chains, much less score.

Whitmer was set to leave the program this offseason but a change in coaching staff, attitude and perspective kept him in Storrs and even though Casey Cocrhan was named the starter for 2014, it appears to be the right decision.

"I was out of the door," Whitmer said, according to the Hartford Courant, but after talking to new coach Bob Diaco -- who was up front and frank with the quarterback -- Whitmer decided to return.

Basically, Diaco said that if he wanted to run the scout team, signal in plays to the starting quarterback, and work his way up to something more, he'd be gladly accepted. Otherwise, it might be in his best interest to move on. Whitmer accepted.

"I wanted to come back, set the record straight and not leave UConn the way things ended last year," Whitmer said. "I wanted to change my attitude. I grew as a man. I credit to that to coach Diaco, the way he has changed the culture. He has increased the love. It's very easy for me to be a better teammate."

"Every day since, he has repaired, rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates," Diaco said. "He didn't have to gain back [the coaches'] respect. He got it through his actions."

Cochran, who has dropped 30 pounds since last season, has taken on a new approach to preparing for the season.

"I've transformed my body," he said. "I have a different lifestyle now and it feels amazing. The misconception is if you work as hard as you can in the weight room and running, you'll have a good body. I brought in eating aspects, diet and sleep."

And now not only is Whitmer in the good graces of those playing alongside him, but also those responsible for determining who plays and who doesn't.

"Every day since, he has repaired, rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates," Diaco said. "He didn't have to gain back [the coaches'] respect. He got it through his actions."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[McCombs to Play at Rhode Island]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:32:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/lyle-mccombs-michigan.jpg

Lyle McCombs, who rushed for 1,115 yards as a freshman, left the UConn football program in June as the fourth-leading rusher in school history (2,681 yards). He also has 11 career 100-yard rushing games. New coach Bob Diaco made the decision to move on from McCombs and seems happy with the alternatives, starting with Max DeLorenzo.

Meanwhile, McCombs' college career will continue at Rhode Island.

He was one of five transfers to join the FCS program and he will be eligible to play this season.

We have brought them in to compete right away," Rhode Island Head Coach Jim Fleming said of the latest roster additions. "We think these are talented kids who will give us an opportunity to be more competitive. At the same time, we have a lot of guys who have been here who are already in position."

Back in June, Diaco offered these comments on McCombs' departure from the program: “Attending school at the University of Connecticut is a special privilege as is being a member of the UConn football team. With that privilege also come certain responsibilities and expectations. We wish Lyle only the best in his future endeavors as he moves on from UConn.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Casey Cochran Named UConn Starter]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:14:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

As far as quarterback competitions go, it didn't come with quite the intrigue of, say, Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer but first-year UConn coach Bob Diaco named a starter Monday night and it's Casey Cochran.

Whether Diaco would admit it publicly or not, the redshirt sophomore was the frontrunner heading into preseason practice based on his performance last last season. After sitting behind Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle for three months, Cochran started the final three games, leading the Huskies to their only three wins on the year.

And now, after a solid spring and even better preseason, Cochran will be under center when UConn opens the season against BYU.

Whitmer has been named a "key backup" ("I'm all in," the senior said, via the Hartford Courant) and it looks like Boyle will be redshirted.

"It was a fierce battle dating all the way back to winter conditioning," Diaco said. "[The final decision] was negligible in all categories. Casey has improved his physical traits to try to catch up to the physical traits of Chandler. Chandler's still better in those areas, in terms of being a player.

"In the intangible area, leading, communicating, mobilizing energy, creating unit and team power, Casey edged out Chandler. It's an exceptional trait Casey has. Through Chandler's maturity, his growth, he has made that a negligible difference."

A season ago, Cochran threw for 1,293 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his passes. The difference between Cochran and Whitmer during preseason practice, according to Diaco: 64 percent to 63.5 percent.

"There wasn't a lot of debate among the coaching staff," Diaco said. "There were definitely a lot of pros and cons in my own head," he told the Courant.

But it sounds like both Cochran and Whitmer will see time during the season despite the old coaching cliche that any team with two starting quarterbacks doesn't even have one.

"I don't see two different voices," the coach said. "We're all talking the same language. They just do different things better than the other guy. So when we're going to do those things in the game, why wouldn't we ask them to do those things?

"Hopefully it works out. If it doesn't, you guys will chase me down the street with flaming torches and pitchforks."

The Diaco era officially starts Aug. 29 when BYU comes to town.

<![CDATA[Mo'ne Davis Wants to Play for UConn]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:25:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP35427040879.jpg

Mo'ne Davis is one of the biggest stories ahead of the 2014 Little League World Series. And this isn't about a girl playing on the sport's biggest stage. It's about a girl dominating on the sport's biggest stage.

The 13-year-old's fastball regularly reaches 70 mph, and more than that, the eighth-grader is an honor roll student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in northwest Philadelphia. On the field, she's been integral to the success of the Taney Dragons, who are now headed to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Davis is believed to be the first African-American girl to play in the Little League World Series, but her sports goals extend beyond baseball. One day she hopes to take the court as the point guard for Geno Auriemma's Huskies. Her favorite players are Seth Curry of the Golden St. Warriors and Maya Moore, the former UConn great who now plays for the Minnesota Lynx.

“Is it in the realm of possibility? Absolutely,” Taney Dragons catcher Steve Bandura said (via the New York Daily News) of Davis suiting up for UConn. “She’s Steve Nash on the basketball floor. She sees everything. She always has a plan.”

There's plenty of time for Davis to fulfill that dream. For now, she's focused on helping her team win the LLWS. The fun continues Wednesday when Taney faces Las Vegas. And, yes, Davis is expected to be on the mound.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Notable Little League Graduates]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:29:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-tom-selleck-486432585.jpg From Vice President Joe Biden to Hollywood stars Adam Sandler and Danny DeVito, a look at some of the most famous Little League graduates.

Photo Credit: WireImage]]>
<![CDATA[Garoppolo Makes Case for Brady's Backup]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:16:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jimmy-garoppolo-ryan-mallett.jpg

There were some raised eyebrows when the Patriots used a second-round pick on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back in May's NFL Draft. Not so much because future Hall of Famer Tom Brady remains the unquestioned starter but because Ryan Mallett, once a third-round pick, is also still on the roster.

But Mallett, who was mentioned in trade rumors this offseason, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the assumption is that, one way or the other, he won't be in New England a year from now -- if not before then.

Whether that means the Patriots will try to trade Mallett in the coming weeks and months, or if they will release him outright is another matter. But for now, the coaching staff has to be impressed with how well Garoppolo's played through training camp and two preseason games.

Against the Eagles Friday, it was Garoppolo and not Mallett who served at Brady's backup. His first drive ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to James Develin. A drive later, Garoppolo hooked up with Brandon LaFell for a four-yard score. By the time his night was over, the rookie was 6 of 12 for 72 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a passer rating of 108.3.

“There is plenty of stuff to correct,” Garoppolo said after the game. “I’m a still a rookie, still learning as we go. There are always going to be things to correct and button up. But overall a good game, and good to get a W.”

But after an uneven showing in the first preseason game against the Redskins, Mallett played well too. He replaced Garoppolo as the No. 3 quarterback, but completed 7 of 11 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

“You get to play in the game. That’s all that matters,” Mallett said.” I just want to go out there and try to get better as a player. I feel like I did tonight. I have to just keep building on it.”

And that's the thing; the Pats and Bill Belichick could decide to keep three quarterbacks on the roster -- at least for the time being. Not only as insurance against (God forbid) losing Brady to injury, but because as the season progresses and starters get injured, the price on young, healthy, high-upside quarterbacks will be at a premium.

<![CDATA[No AAC Teams in AP Top 25]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:14:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco is the AAC's biggest cheerleader and for good reason: The conference exceeded just about everybody's expectations last year. But with the football season weeks away, the AAC is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Associated Press' preseason poll.

The AAC isn't represented among the top 25 teams. More troubling, perhaps: Every one of those 25 teams are Power-5 members. SNY.com's John Silver explains exactly what this means.

What’s going to happen is that a non-power 5 school, such as UCF out of the American, is going to have to go from preseason unranked in the polls to a major bowl berth. UCF brings back nearly everyone but QB Blake Bortles, and is the highest ranked non-P5 school just out of the Top 25 as the most receiving votes at an unofficial No. 26. If UCF can knock off Penn State in Ireland, it’s a safe bet they move into the Top 25. That’s good for the American.

It does show the hurdles of a non-P5 school however. From out of the Top 25 — unless the CFB committee just ignores the polls — it’s almost impossible to see how a non-p5 school jumps into the Top 4 and into the football playoff.

In July, Aresco addressed concerns about the AAC not being a Power-5 conference and basically it came down to this: The AAC might not be a "power conference" but it doesn't matter.

"We're not going to take a back seat to anyone," the commissioner said at the time. "We see the landscape as five plus one and we're knocking on the door and we eventually will knock it down. Our goal is to be in the conversation as the sixth power conference. I believe by virtue of our performance we already are."

Easier said than done, perhaps, but UCF, which beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl last season, ranks just outside the top 25. The Golden Knights might be the AAC's best hope this fall to change perceptions when it comes to Power-5 vs. everyone else.

<![CDATA[Banks Transferring to Penn St.]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:30:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/brianna-banks-transfers.jpg

Back in May, UConn announced that junior guard Brianna Banks was leaving the program.

"I decided to transfer because I feel like I need a fresh start somewhere closer to home,” Banks said at the time in a statement released by the university. “I really appreciate all that my teammates, coaches, and the university have done for me and I will miss everyone at UConn dearly.”

That fresh start will take place at Penn St.

Banks announced on Twitter Friday that she's headed to University Park, Pennsylvania. Due to NCAA rules, Banks, who played high school basketball in Georgia, will have to sit out the 2014-15 season before using her final year of eligibility.

During her three years in Storrs, Banks appeared in 90 games and averaged 14 minutes, 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds.

According to SNY.com's Carl Adamac, Banks faced Penn St. three times during her Huskies' career. Last Nov. she scored two points and added two assists; on Dec. 6, 2012, she had 10 points, and March 6, 2012 she scored two points.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a 24-8 record last season that ended in a regional semifinal loss to Stanford.

“Brianna showed great heart during her time with us, whether it was on the floor or during the rehab process,” coach Geno Auriemma said in May. “I wish Brianna nothing but the best in the future.”

<![CDATA[Former UConn Commit Chooses UCLA]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:25:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

Back in June, 6-3 point guard Prince Ali announced on Twitter that he had de-committed from UConn. At the time, Ali said "I made this decision because I feel like I committed a little too early and I wanted to reopen things.”

Over the weekend, Ali told Scout.com that he has committed to UCLA.

“I think it’s the perfect fit,” Ali said of the Bruins. “They’ve been recruiting me for a while. I’m very familiar with the coaching staff. I know what they want me to do when I get there and how they are going to play. I just feel more comfortable with them.”

“Coach (Steve) Alford is a great person and he’s always been honest with me and he followed me all of July,” he added. “That’s when I knew I was priority when he followed me around all of July.”

Ali was also considering Louisville and Georgia before settling on UCLA. Meanwhile, the Huskies received a commitment last month from class-of-2015 guard Jalen Adams.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Fan Suffers Cardiac Emergency at 49ers Levi's Stadium, Dies]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:59:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ambulancegeneric.jpg

A man has died after suffering a cardiac emergency during Sunday's San Francisco 49ers preseason opener against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium, the Santa Clara Fire Department said.

The report of a cardiac emergency came during the third quarter, Santa Clara Fire said. When stadium medical personnel reached the man in section 221, they treated him, administering CPR.

He was rushed to O'Connor Hospital, but was pronounced dead by emergency room doctors.

The 49ers issued a statement:

“The 49ers organization is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of our fans earlier today. We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family and friends in this time of sadness.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[White Sox Legend Hospitalized]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 16:27:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tlmd_minnie_minoso2.JPG

Chicago White Sox great Minnie Minoso was hospitalized after a fall from his boat, officials said Saturday.

Team spokesperson Scott Reifert confirmed Minoso was "pulled from the water [Friday] and taken to St. Joseph Hospital for tests."

The team talked with the 88-year-old baseball legend Saturday and Minoso reportedly said he is "feeling fine."

Reifert said Minoso will likely stay hospitalized for one more day to run more tests. He is expected to be released tomorrow.

Minoso is a fan favorite, and the first Cuban to play for the South Siders.

A nine-time All-Star outfielder and Gold Glove winner, he debuted at Comiskey Park in 1951 and played in parts of four decades with the team.

<![CDATA[MMA Fighter "War Machine" Arrested]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 13:44:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/war+machine+mug+ph+blue+bg.JPG

MMA fighter Jonathan "War Machine" Koppenhaver was arrested at a Southern California hotel Friday a week after an alleged confrontation with his ex-girlfriend, adult film actress Christy Mack.

Koppenhaver was sought by law enforcement for one week after allegedly assaulting Mack in Las Vegas on Aug. 8, according to the Simi Valley Police Department and the US Marshals Service.

He was wanted by Las Vegas police on suspicion of battery by strangulation, domestic battery, assault with a deadly weapon, coercion with force, battery substantial bodily harm, and open and gross lewdness, officials said.

Mack claims Koppenhaver left her with 18 broken bones in her face, a fractured rib and a ruptured liver. She shared photographs of the attack with NBC News and on her Twitter account.

He was arrested about 1:45 p.m. at the Extended Stay America Hotel in the 2400 block of Stearns Street in Simi Valley, police said. Police found cash and pizza inside his room.

"Police came, they used a battering ram to batter down the door," hotel guest Mary Casamento said. "We heard some loud thuds and banging, it sounded like chairs or furniture."

According to the US Marshals Service, Koppenhaver had been hiding out at the hotel for a few days.

Mack took to Twitter about the alleged confrontation.

Koppenhaver tweeted earlier this week about being "cursed" and that police "never believe me." He also tweeted Mack, saying he "can't believe what happened."

A person who identified himself as a Koppenhaver family spokesperson told NBC4, "The family does not have anything to say."

Koppenhaverwas awaiting extradition to Las Vegas. He faces multiple battery and assault charges.

NBC4's Kate Larsen contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Ventura County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Connecticut Open Tennis Tournament Kicks Off Friday]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 23:10:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tennis+center+new+haven.jpg

Two dozen of the world’s top female tennis players are going head-to-head this weekend at the Connecticut Open tennis tournament in New Haven.

The nine-day event, which falls just prior to the U.S. Open in New York, kicked off today and will run through Saturday, Aug. 23. The tournament is presented by United Technologies.

Tennis pros such as former world champion Caroline Wozniacki, defending titleholder Simona Halep and Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova will compete for a $710,000 purse at Yale’s Connecticut Tennis Center.

Play gets underway with the qualifying draws today and tomorrow, then continues through the week and closes with the quarterfinals on Thursday, semifinals on Friday and doubles and singles finals next Saturday.

Men’s legends James Blake, Andy Roddick and Jim Courier will take the court Wednesday and Thursday following the women’s action.

The tournament also includes special events and activities, such as Monday’s Military Appreciation Night to honor veterans and active service members; Aetna Kids Day on Sunday, which offers tennis clinics, giveaways and autograph sessions with the players; and a “Destination a Day” giveaway, in which fans can win trips to such prestigious tennis spots as Wimbledon and The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Grilled cheese, crepes, Venezuelan cuisine, baked potatoes, seafood, ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, pizza and salads are among the offerings at food trucks and carts around the venue. A new beer garden called the Baseline Tap House will also provide Connecticut brews like Stoney Creek IPA and Amber Ale and Thomas Hooker Blonde.

Fans can use the smartphone app “GoPago” to order food from anywhere at the venue and pick it up from an express line at the stadium concession stand.

According to tournament officials, the Connecticut Open is expected to bring New Haven tens of millions of dollars in revenue and an economic boost for vendors and local businesses. One construction company said it has the tournament to thank for more than half its yearly business.

"The culture is just one of shared ownership, and that makes everybody want to take it to the next level," said tournament spokesperson Anne Worcester.

More information on the tournament is available online or by calling the box office at 855-464-8366.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Frank Hoping to Master 2 Positions]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

One of the biggest changes to the UConn roster doesn't involve the arrival of a highly touted recruit or the transfer of a player from a big-name program. It very well could be Reuben Frank, the 6-4, 246-pound mountain of a man who transitioned from fullback to defensive end last season, and will play both end and outside linebacker in Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense.

That means he'll spend about half the snaps on the line of scrimmage with his hand on the ground at end, and the other half standing up as a linebacker. It's a lot to put on any player but Franks seems to be making the adjustment.

"Each day you see him show up more and more," Diaco said, via the Hartford Courant. "The edges are getting set better ... people are getting set faster because he's communicating faster. He's not limited or limiting the defense in any way. It's just early in camp, and I don't know, he may tell you himself, he might have been like "holy cow,' a little bit of frustration, because of the massive amount of jobs he needs to do. But he's getting it. He's doing a nice job."

Franks acknowledged that the transition hasn't been easy but that it's all starting to come together.

"It's been challenging in some ways and fun in others," he said. "I think it makes your football intelligence better, obviously. You have to be a vocal guy, make sure everybody is where they're supposed to be, doing what they're doing. And I've got to be ready to play hard wherever I am. I have to be one of the tough guys on the field."

The Huskies host BYU on Aug. 29 in the season opener.

<![CDATA[Freshmen Pushing for Playing Time]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:24:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

One of the silver linings to coming off a terrible season is that, this time around, there should be plenty of opportunities for young players to see playing time. And with first-year coach Bob Diaco now running the show, that likelihood increases further since he's not tied to any of the veterans partly responsible for the 3-9 record in 2013.

That brings us to Arkeel Newsome, who has been impressive through the first few weeks of practice.

"Speed, toughness, he actually has more body size than I anticipated," Diaco said, via the New Haven Register. "He is a little bit more stout and stronger than I was expecting him to be and he uses every pound of it. There are a lot of guys who play the game where their contact speed isn't as fast as they can run but he is running at full speed the whole time so that is a very positive trait that he has."

Then there's freshman running back Ron Johnson, who has also made a name for himself in recent weeks.

"Both (backs) have been great, both are big-time players - Johnson out of Florida and Newsome out of Connecticut," junior running back Max DeLorenzo told the Register. "It is great because you see them from day 1, footwork, they mess up some plays and now look at them practice 12, it is night and day and that is a good sign that they are improving every day and they have the ability to make plays."

DeLorenzo, who rushed for 367 yards and five touchdowns last season, is expected to see the brunt of the carries this season, but Diaco concedes that he won't rely on just one back.

“I see them all participating, all have different things they can run,” the coach said. “If I need to hammer a nail into a wall I get a hammer, I don’t use the back of a Phillips head screw driver….we have different jobs on offense. We are going to dial up the appropriate tool to do the job.”

In this scenario DeLorenzo is the hammer while Newsome is more of a change-of-pace back.

<![CDATA[Hope Is That Huskies Can Win Now]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:43:24 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+introduced.jpg

Everyone's excited to see what first-year coach Bob Diaco can do with a UConn team that managed just three wins last season (after an 0-9 start) and before that went 5-7 in both 2011 and 2012. Then again, there was some excitement about the direction of the program when Paul Pasqualoni was hired, though he arrived on campus after the 2010 season amid concerns from some fans that he wasn't the right man for the job.

Turns out, those concerns were justified but that, as the old saying goes, is water under the bridge. Now the question becomes: Can Diaco turn things around quickly? (We say "quickly" because the expectation isn't that at some point in the yet-to-be determined future Diaco will field a winner, but that it will happen ... well, almost immediately.)

Athletic Director Warde Manuel, who hired Diaco, isn't willing to put a number on it, but he obviously wants to see improvement from a group that underachieved during the Pasqualoni era.

“Nobody around me says success is winning four games instead of three,” Manuel said, via the Associated Press. “I’m not going to sit here and say that to you. But I know I have the right man for the job.”

The quarterback situation is obviously critical to any program's success and Diaco has to decide between Chandler Whitmer, Casey Cochran and Tim Boyle. Cochran led the team to its only three wins last season and he looked to be the most polished of the bunch. But that was under a different regime with different expectations .

Whomever ends up under center will have the benefit of throwing to Geremy Davis, one of the most underrated wide receivers in the American Athletic Conference. But for that to happen -- no matter who's throwing the pass -- will mean that the offensive line is much improved from a season ago. Diaco, who was previously an assistant at Notre Dame, didn't try to sugarcoat this fact.

"There’s just not a whole bunch of dudes there that are going to be able to play competitive, winning football for 12 games this season,” he said, before adding that the unit is improving.

By how much is the question.

The coach also spoke about the importance of playing in front of a jam-packed stadium. Rentschler Field, which holds 40,000 people, regularly saw fewer than 31,000 show up for Huskies' games last season. And while there are no plans for permanent expansion, UConn is considering the idea because, ultimately, they'd love to make the leap to one of the Big-5 conferences, which we all found out recently, has everything to do with the success of the football program.

“I want to get to a point where we fill it up and then, yes we know some of the things are necessary for expansion and at the appropriate time we will expand if necessary,” Diaco said. “What am I going to do, add 10,000 seats and not sell out the seats we already have? That’s not good business.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Griswold Woman to Sing at Red Sox Game]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:20:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/Fenway+Park+sign+Tom+Basdekis.jpg

A Griswold woman will be making a dream come true on Sunday afternoon when she performs the national anthem before thousands of fans at Fenway Park.

Sharon Brouillard will be singing during Connecticut Day at Fenway before game three of the Red Sox-Astros series.

Brouillard, a Norwich native who lives in Griswold and works for Mystic Seaport, often sings at Seaport events, including ceremonies commemorating the Charles W. Morgan, according to Congressman Joe Courtney.

After hearing her sing, Courtney connected her with the Red Sox organization about the possibility of singing at Fenway.
“Having heard her perform numerous times at Mystic Seaport, I was happy to connect her with the Red Sox and I know she will make us all proud—just like the Morgan’s restoration and voyage did this summer."

“I am humbled and honored to be able to represent the State of Connecticut for Connecticut Day at Fenway,” Brouillard said in a news release. “As a long-time Red Sox fan, this is indeed a dream come true for me.  Bucket List item…Check!  Go Sox!”
First pitch is at 1:35 p.m.
“We are pleased to welcome Sharon Brouillard to Fenway Park to sing the national anthem as we celebrate Connecticut Day,” Red Sox EVP/COO Sam Kennedy said in a statement. “Her performance provides a way for us to show our appreciation to the fans we love in the Constitution State.”

<![CDATA[Teens Broke Into Miami Heat Star's Home: Police]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 20:39:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/081414+ray+allen.jpg

Police are investigating after a group of teenagers broke into the home of Miami Heat free agent Ray Allen early Thursday, officials said.

The group of seven teen had been attending a party next door when they decided to go to the Coral Gables home around 2:30 a.m., Coral Gables Police spokeswoman Kelly Denham said.

The teens, who believed Allen and his family weren't home and said they thought it would be "cool" to go in the house, entered through an unlocked back door, Denham said. Allen's wife and kids were sleeping upstairs but were awoken by the commotion, Denham said.

"She heard people walking up the stairs and that's when she yelled out to them, "what are you doing in my house?" Denham said. "As soon as they heard that, they fled the house."

They told some parents what had happened and the parents drove them to the police department to report what happened, Denham said.

"They stated that they did enter the home," said Denham. "They were there to see where Ray Allen had lived. They honestly thought that he had moved from the house."

The teens were questioned for several hours but released. They could face misdemeanor trespassing charges if Allen's wife decides to press charges, Denham said.

Denham said the teens saw a bunch of boxes and furniture covered up in the home and said they thought Allen had joined LeBron James in leaving the Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Allen, who spent the past two seasons with the Heat, is a free agent and hasn't said whether he'll retire or play another year.

Police said the seven teens involved were "crying" and "terrified." The teens have not been arrested for trespassing because an officer must witness the incident. The group hasn't been arrested for burglary either because there was no forced entry, no intent, and nothing was stolen.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bostonian Launches Etsy-Style Site for Sports Fans]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:56:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sports-etsy-87771483.jpg

A Boston resident is hoping to change the online shopping game for sports fanatics. In an effort to connect buyers with story-focused sports memorabilia and original sports-themed pieces, Chas Wagner launched an online store called Rally.
“Whenever I’d wear an old sports jersey, my friends would ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ and I like that compliment,” Wagner said. He'd become increasingly interested in vintage sports apparel, what he calls, “products with a story or a personality behind them.” After realizing original and vintage sports items were hard to find, Wagner opened the online store.
Wagner likens his site to Etsy, a marketplace for artisans to sell and showcase items they’ve made themselves, with the difference being that Rally sells sports-themed items exclusively. Distinct from most online marketplaces, Rally provides independent designers with an outlet to sell their merchandise, giving graphic designers like Elliot Gerard, of White Plains, New York, an opportunity to showcase their work. Rally now has 15 original creators and accepts vintage pieces from users. 
In addition to designers, Rally depends on everyday users selling their vintage and historic sports paraphernalia. Wagner said he aims to build a community and conversation based on sports.
“I value stuff that takes me back to my childhood, Wagner said, It’s not just a Derek Jeter jersey. It’s thinking, ‘I remember being in Yankee Stadium with my dad and I’ll never forget it.’” 
Rally’s focus is to collaborate with artists and users looking to sell not just their vintage items, but their stories.
Wagner said he has plans to expand their web-based outlet into brick-and-mortar stores in the distant future. He envisions the spaces to "feel like a museum” and hopes to make them a venue for sporting events, for speakers and athletes to share their stories and for artists and designers to showcase their work. In the immediate future, Wagner is working on creating a mobile app for the site.
Rally products are found exclusively on the site, meaning you won’t find its merchandise in Dick’s Sporting Goods or City Sports. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Look at Connecticut's Semi-Pro Football Teams]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:19:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/semiprofootball081214.jpg J.W. Stewart introduces you to one of the nine semi-pro football teams in Connecticut. They don't get paid, but they show up each week for the love of the game.]]> <![CDATA[DeLorenzo Ready to Carry Load]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:26:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/max-delorenzo-2013.jpg

Back in June, two seasons after earning Freshman All-American honors with the Huskies, running back Lyle McCombs left the team, leaving a gaping hole on the depth chart. Except that the reality is that McCombs struggled through his sophomore and junior seasons. And while some of the blame lay with the offense -- and the offensive line, in particular -- the good news is that if first-year coach Bob Diaco can get the o-line sorted out, the running game will benefit -- no matter who is in the backfield.

As it stands, redshirt junior Max DeLorenzo is the frontrunner. Not only did he rush for 367 yards and five touchdowns last season, he's the only back on the roster to have rushed for a touchdown for the Huskies. But at 5-11, 210 pounds, DeLorenzo arrived in Storrs as a freshman without a true position or much in the way of faith from the coaching staff about what he could bring to the team.

“I always getting passed over,” DeLorenzo said Monday, according to SNY.com's John Silver. “(The coaching staff) know what type of back I am. It’s funny, I came in and I was one of eight or nine tailbacks. Now look at us? It’s hard, but you have to keep grinding put your nose into it. Flashy, not flashy, big plays or no big plays. You just get the ball and move the chains. Points. That’s productive. These coaches know what a running back does. You are going to break them sooner or later.”

And the old adage about not judging a book by its cover certainly holds here. No, DeLorenzo will never be mistaken for Adrien Peterson in terms of his physical stature or breakaway speed, but that doesn't mean he can't be a starting running back for an FBS school.

“I can be the guy, be the productive back and produce,” he said. “What I did last year, I thought I moved the chains and put points on the board. That’s what’s being productive is. You can’t stop the run, you can’t win games.”

UConn will likely feature a running backs-by-committee approach which means that, along with DeLorenzo, Josh Marriner, Arkeel Newsome, Ron Johnson and even Jazmarr Claxx could see carries.

“I see them all participating, all have different things they can run,” Diaco said. “If I need to hammer a nail into a wall I get a hammer, I don’t use the back of a Phillips head screw driver….we have different jobs offense. We are going to dial up the appropriate tool to do the job.”

<![CDATA[Foxx to Help in Return Game]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/deshon-foxx-2013.jpg

First-year coach Bob Diaco has made it clear that he hopes that speedy senior Deshon Foxx can be a down-field threat in the passing game, but he'd love for Foxx to also cause problems for opponents in the return game.

"We have a nice collection of return specialists that will be things that opponents will have to contend with. Deshon Foxx has got really good hands, he is the fastest player on our team and one of the quickest," Diaco said, via The New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "He is aggressive and courageous and has high football intelligence so he should be a nice decision maker for us on kicks and punts.

"(Foxx) can catch, he is not out there dropping the ball. He has soft hands and he has real focus. He works at the game,it is important to him and he will be a weapon. He is a hard guy to tackle, I am looking forward to him playing the games."

Just how bad was the return game last season? Fuller explains: "there were 123 teams playing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and only Nebraska, Georgia and California averaged fewer than the 3.1 yard per punt return that the Huskies managed." Kickoff returns weren't much better; UConn ranked 106th with 18.7 yards per return.

Foxx didn't return punts in 2013; Lyle McCombs handled most of those duties but he is no longer with the team.

"I am very excited," Foxx said. "I am glad that the coaches chose me to go back there and try to help the team out with momentum. Sometimes if we have a bad game and it is a close game, one punt return can change it up and change the whole momentum of the game. I keep working every day to try to perfect the punt catching and the kickoff catching and just try to make sure I will be a benefit to the team," he told the Register.

<![CDATA[Blackhawks Won't Play "The Stripper" Song]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:45:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/HAwks_UC_-jkozik.jpg

An online push to ban the song "The Stripper" from being played at the United Center during Chicago Blackhawks hockey games appears to have worked.

The organist traditionally plays the song during the "Shoot the Puck" promotion when an obviously attractive woman participates.

Blackhawks President John McDonough told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday that starting with the upcoming season, the song will no longer be played.

Blackhawks brass were asked about the song at the recent fan convention, and a #BanTheStripper hashtag was picking up steam on Twitter.

Some have also called for a revamp of the scantily-clad Ice Crew, but McDonough told the newspaper that it's "very common throughout the league," and that the team is discussing ways to make female fans feel more welcome at the United Center.

In other words, the Ice Crew is likely safe for now.

Photo Credit: Flickr.com/ jkozik]]>
<![CDATA[Court Denies Sterling's Appeal to Halt Clippers Sale ]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 23:08:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tlmd_donald_sterling_clippers_v_stiviano.jpg

A California appeals court on Wednesday denied Donald Sterling's latest effort to halt the historic $2 billion sale of the LA Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The Court of Appeal rejected Sterling's petition for emergency relief to unwind the sale of the Clippers because "the sale has closed."

"There is nothing for this court to stay," the ruling read.

"Shelly is thrilled that her decision to sell the Clippers to Steve Ballmer has been upheld by the Court of Appeal," Shelly Sterling's lawyer Pierce O’Donnell said in a statement Wednesday.

The move was Sterling's last legal maneuver to block the record-breaking team purchase negotiated by wife Shelly Sterling, a sale that was officially completed Tuesday.

"While we have no doubt Donald Sterling will appeal to the Supreme Court, we are beyond thrilled and gratified and supremely confident that this is now over and done and Steve Ballmer is the undisputed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers," Ballmer's attorney Adam Streisand said Wednesday.

Shelly Sterling said she was initially given her husband's blessing to sell the team, but Donald Sterling later refused to sign the deal and challenged in court her right to negotiate the sale.

The path to approval appeared clear after a judge in the case ruled against him last month.

<![CDATA[Ambulance Rushes Injured Rock Cats Player Off Field]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:47:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rock+cats+collision_1200.jpg

An ambulance carted Rock Cats centerfielder Byron Buxton off the field after he collided with rightfielder Mike Kvasnicka during a Wednesday night game against the Bowie Baysox at New Britain Stadium.

The players slammed into each another while chasing a ball into centerfield. Both men were down for a period of time after the collision.

Team officials say Buxton, the top prospect for the Minnesota Twins, suffered a concussion and was unconscious for 10 minutes after the impact. He has been treated and released.

Last night was his AA debut with the New Britain Rock Cats. Team General Manager Terry Ryan, who was there to see it unfold, said Buxton will be out for seven days. It's unlikely he'll play again this season, which ends in just a couple weeks.

"This was so unfortunate for him to have that collision," said Anne Provera, of West Hartford, who was in the stands. "I cried, I felt so bad. It's very sad."

MLB.com reports that Buxton was alert and talking as he was loaded into an ambulance.

Ryan said Kvasnicka is being treated for a left hip injury. Both players were taken to a local hospital.

<![CDATA[NBA Files Response to Sterling Lawsuit]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 23:08:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/6P_YAMAMOTO_STERLING_CHURCH_web_1200x675_271966275727.jpg

The NBA countersued former Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust on Monday, arguing the high-profile spectacle over Sterling's racist comments and the resulting sale of the team hurt the league.

In its response to the antitrust lawsuit Sterling filed in June, the league asked the court to enforce an indemnification of the NBA for losses incurred as a result of the leaked recording of Sterling making discriminatory comments about minorities and the subsequent legal wrangling to remove him as an owner of an NBA team.

Sterling was fined $2.5 million and banned for life from any association with the Clippers or the NBA. He susequently agreed to a sale before reversing course and fighting his wife Shelly in court to block any deal to divest of the Clippers.

“This matter has caused devastating and incalculable harm to the NBA and its teams, as well as sparked an intensely adverse public reaction,” the claims reads.

The NBA's suit asks for compensation foor costs incurred while investigating the recording of Donald Sterling’s discriminatory statements, the cost of enforcing its ban and the legal costs of the lawsuit.

The response also argues that because Donald Sterling was removed from the Sterling Family Trust by his wife Shelly as part of the saga to sell the Clippers, he no longer has any interest in the company that technically owned the team, and therefore cannot sue on its behalf.

The league also used the claim to continue to distance itself from Sterling's statements recorded by then-companion V. Stiviano.

"Mr. Sterling's discriminatory views toward African Americans and 'minorities' in general, as well as his demands of a female acquainance that she not associate publicly with African Americans or 'minorities,' or bring them to Clippers' games, are antithetical to the [NBA's] most basic values, principles, and purposes," the league said in its suit.

The NBA announced Tuesday that the sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer has been completed.

<![CDATA[UConn Men Unveil Non-Conference Schedule]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:50:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

The UConn men's basketball team announced its 2014-15 non-conference schedule Monday and it by matchups against ACC powerhouse Duke and a rematch with Florida.

The schedule includes six home games, two road games, and four games at neutral sites.

Nov. 4: The first of two exhibition games, this one against Division II Southern Connecticut State University.

Nov. 9: Assumption, another Division II school, comes to town for the second exhibition game.

Nov. 14: Regular-season opener at home vs. Bryant University.

Nov. 20-23: For the first time, the Huskies will take part in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Their first opponent: College of Charleston. On Nov. 21, UConn will either face Dayton or Texas A&M. Two days later, their opponent could be George Mason, West Virginia, New Mexico, or Boston College. The tournament will be televised on ESPN.

Nov. 30: The Huskies host the University of Texas.

Dec. 5: Yale visits UConn.

Dec. 14: A post-exams matchup with Coppin St.

Dec. 18: Duke and UConn meet at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ.

Dec. 22: Columbia comes to UConn

Dec. 28:
Next up: Central Connecticut

Jan. 3: UConn travels to Gainesville to face Florida, whom they beat twice last season, including a Final Four matchup

Jan. 17: It's off to Palo Alto, Calif., for a matchup with Stanford.

<![CDATA[UConn WRs a Strength Heading into Season]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:48:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-catch.jpg

While the quarterback situation remains up in the air, whomever ends up under center when the Huskies face BYU in the opener, they'll have plenty of pass-catching options to choose from.

There's senior Geremy Davis, whom first-year coach Bob Diaco thinks can be a difference-maker.

“He may not run the very fastest time, but he doesn’t use that for separation or ability to get open,” Diaco said last month. “He has unique traits, he reminds me of Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt, not at that level, but that body. He’s hard to cover.

“He’s more physical than the defensive backs who will try to cover him and faster than the linebackers. He catches everything in his catch radius.”

Diaco continued with the praise this week.

"He's got some very unique traits," the coach said of Davis. "He reminds me of Michael Floyd (the former Notre Dame star now with theArizona Cardinals) or (Larry) Fitzgerald at Pitt, that kind of guy. He's hard to cover. He wins a lot of individual match-ups. He's more physical than the defensive backs that are going to try and defend him and he's faster and quicker than the linebackers that will try and cover him."

But there's also junior Deshon Foxx, a burner who should help in the downfield passing game, not to mention redshirt freshman John Green and junior Kamal Abrams.

"I think that we're going to be a great wide receiver group," Foxx said Monday, according to the Connecticut Post'sChris Elsberry. "I think that everyone comes to work every day and they work as hard as they possibly can. They work on technique, they work on hand-eye coordination and they work on getting out of their (route) breaks. We all try to coach each other and vice versa. I feel like the experience that we had last year, we all know each other and we know what everyone can do. We all know that each person can make the catch that's thrown to them."

Foxx continued: "We've got competition and, of course, competition is going to bring out the best in you. I love the competition, I love how everyone is competing for a spot."

<![CDATA[Diaco Not Ready to Name Starting QB]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

With the season opener 17 days away, the clock is ticking on who will end up under center when the Huskies face BYU. As it stands, two weeks of practice hasn't done much to separate redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer, redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran and sophomore Tim Boyle.

"All but a few rep differences, they're basically about the same in participation and blend," first-year coach Bob Diaco said, adding that the next few days will be critical in determining a favorite heading into the regular season.

"We need to continue to add to the overall evaluation so that we can find some kind of separator to make this decision," the coach continued. "If we had to make [the decision] today, it would be very hard to make. No one player at this point had clearly separated. Each one has had their particular moments of things that are very, very positive, and things that are very negative. We're pleased with all three. The quarterback position won't be a position that prevents us from winning."

Whomever ends up under center this much is certain: Interceptions are a non-starter, both literally and figuratively. Diaco made that clear earlier this summer when talking about the position.

"I'll hand it to the back 55 times, seriously, then we'll have a chance," he said at the time. "If you turn the ball over you have no chance."

<![CDATA[Ballmer "Humbled and Honored" to Be Clippers Owner]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 23:51:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/489614221.jpg

The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is complete, NBA officials said Tuesday after months of legal battles involving long-time Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his wife.

The finalization of the $2 billion transaction already approved by NBA owners marks the end of Donald Sterling's run as the league's longest-tenured owner and the beginning of a new era for the Clippers and their fans, who remained loyal during what Ballmer described as "some extraordinary times."

In a statement issued Tuesday, the NBA said: "The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team. The NBA Board of Governors previously approved the sale and Ballmer is now the Clippers Governor."

"I'm really, really happy that it was sold today. I hate losing the team, but it’s going to a wonderful person who's going to make us all proud," Shelly Sterling said during an afternoon press conference. "I know he’s going to bring a championship to this city."

Shelly Sterling negotiated the $2 billion deal with Ballmer and signed an agreement May 29. Shelly Sterling said she was initially given her husband's blessing to sell the team, but Donald Sterling later refused to sign the deal and challenged in court her right to negotiate the sale.

The path to approval appeared clear after a judge in the case ruled against him last month. During an interview earlier this month, Ballmer was cautious about calling the team his own -- despite the court ruling --  but issued a statement Tuesday in which he praised Clippers fans for their patience and expressed excitement about the future of one of the league's most-promising franchises.

"I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers," Ballmer said in a statement. "Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA."

Ballmer plans to meet with fans Aug. 18 when the team has scheduled a Fan Festival at Staples Center.

Shelly Sterling said she is "thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner."

Attorneys for Sterling and Ballmer said the deal was finalized at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said at the news conference that Donald Sterling had filed a petition opposing the sale. O'Donnell called it a "desperate act" and said he was confident the court of appeals would not take the case.

The legal quarrel continued until late last week when Donald Sterling's petition with a state appeals court requesting an order blocking the proposed sale was denied. An attorney for Ballmer said the sale was completed after the court order was signed.

"Judge (Michael) Levanas signed his court order authorizing the sale even if Donald Sterling filed an appeal and we were ready," attorney Adam Streisand said in a statement Tuesday. "Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered."

Donald Sterling, who purchased the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million, has been under pressure since April to sell the team since the release of recorded conversations with companion V. Stiviano that included racist comments. The wealthy real estate mogul chastised Stiviano for bringing black men to Clippers games.

The NBA commissioner moved to oust the 80-year-old Sterling in the days after the recording's release as fans, current and former players and others called for action.

The league put those efforts on hold pending a decision on Shelly Sterling's ability to sell the franchise. The transfer to Ballmer hit a stumbling block when Donald Sterling contended he had been duped by his wife into submitting to medical tests as part of a plot to have him ousted from the trust so the sale could move forward.

Two doctors examined Donald Sterling and determined him to be mentally incapacitated. At issue during the trial of Sterling v. Sterling was whether Shelly Sterling acted within guidelines established by the Sterling Family Trust when she negotiated the deal, which the judge refused to block.

The trial included several outbursts from Donald Sterling, who lashed out at his wife, her attorneys and his attorneys. He also vowed to sue the league until the day he dies.

An attorney for Donald Sterling, Maxwell M. Blecher, said Tuesday his client will not be issuing a statement regarding the NBA's announcement.

Photo Credit: GC Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Women Unveil Non-Conference Schedule]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

The UConn women's basketball team unveiled their 2014-15 non-conference schedule Friday. It includes 12 games, highlighted by matchups with long-time rivals Stanford and Notre Dame.

Of the 12 games, four are at home, three on the road and five at a neutral site.

After two exhibition games against Division II teams -- Nov. 1 vs. West Chester University (coach Geno Auriemma's alma mater) and Nov. 9 vs. Post University -- the Huskies will face UC Davis in its preseason opener on Nov. 14.

Then, three days later, it's on to Stanford in a rematch of last year's Final Four game, which UConn won going away, 75-56, on its way to its ninth national title. The Cardinals finished last season ranked No. 6 in the country.

The home opener is set for Nov. 23 when Creighton comes to town. Then it's down to Florida over Thanksgiving to take part in the Gulf Coast Showcase. UConn opens the event against the College of Charleston on Nov. 28.

On Dec. 6, the Huskies are off to South Bend to face one of the few teams that has consistently given them trouble in recent years. Former Big East member Notre Dame will be their opponent in the Jimmy V Classic in a game that will be televised on ESPN.

Two weeks later, on Dec. 21, the Huskies face UCLA at the Mohegan Sun Arena as part of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Women's Holiday Showcase. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Eight days later, UConn hosts Duke, who finished last season ranked ninth in the country.

Other games include DePaul (Dec. 19), St. John's (Jan. 4), and South Carolina (Feb. 9).

<![CDATA[Kevin Ollie Has Recruiting Edge]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:09:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

One of the many benefits to winning a national title is that it gives you instant cred in the recruiting game. Not that coach Kevin Ollie needed any; by all accounts, he's a tireless worker on the recruiting trail, but in the competitive business of finding good young basketball players, every advantage help.

And high school players are taking notice.

"[Ollie] is different because he's up front with you," says 6-6 Dwayne Bacon, whom the Huskies have shown a lot of interest in (via the Hartford Courant). "He'll tell you what plans he has for you coming in, and this is coming from a national championship coach."

Another UConn target, Carlton Bragg, a 6-6 forward from Cleveland, added: "The way they develop players, they just came from a national championship ... how they all came together when it was hard. ... "[Ollie] plays open, brings players into the family," Bragg said. "I love his coaching style."

Also not overlooked: How well the program develops guards. Tremont Waters, a 5-10 point guard told the Courant: "All the point guards they produce are doing well, doing bigger things," he said, "and Shabazz Napier graduated, which is very important to me. ... [Ollie] is an open guy. He forces you to get comfortable and [doesn't] make it seem like it's only basketball; he wants you to be part of the family."

UConn may not land all -- or any -- of these players but the message is clear: Ollie is well-respected not just for his ability to coach, but to connect with the kids and their families. It's a huge advantage in a very competitive business. And, right, flashing that national championship ring doesn't hurt either.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Commit Collier Wins US Gold]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:50:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

It's not unusual for members of Geno Auriemma's UConn team to represent their country during the summer. It's also not unusual for future Huskies to don the red, white and blue, which is exactly what 2015 commit Napheesa Collier did over the weekend when she helped the United States U-18 national team defeat Candada 104-74 to win the gold medal in the FIBA Americas tournament.

Collier had 18 points and six rebounds in the route of our neighbors to the north.“I feel awesome. It feels awesome to play and win for the USA,” she said, according to SNY.com.

Meanwhile, teammate A'ja Wilson, considered one of the best players in the 2015 class and future South Carolina Gamecock, added 25 points and 11 rebounds and earned Most Outstanding Player honors.

“All my teammates deserve MVP,” Wilson said. ” They are great girls on and off the court. To be chosen is a great feeling, and I’m blessed to be in this position.”

The U.S. went 5-0 in the tournament, winning their games by an average of 44.8 points. The gold medal was the team's seventh straight in U-18 play -- and eighth overall -- and the U.S. is 48-2 in FIBA Americas championship play dating back to 1988.