<![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 Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:39:49 -0400 Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:39:49 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Browner Surprised by Increased Flags]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:38:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20131028-Seattle-Seahawks-St-Louis-Rams2.jpg

Coach Bill Belichick hopes to answer some questions about his team in the Patriots' third preseason game game on Friday night against the Panthers. But one issue the coach has no control over is the sudden increase in penalty flags resulting from the league's crackdown on illegal contact and defensive holding. It's led to a a substantial increase in flags thrown and it's left defensive backs wondering exactly how they're going to make it through the regular season.

That includes Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who arrived this offseason from Seattle, one of the NFL's best and most physical defenses.

"It was surprising how many flags they actually did throw," he said, via ESPN.com. "Some, I think, could be ticky-tack; there’s a lot of hand-fighting going on down the field with receivers and DBs all the time. They said they were going to do it and they did it. ... It’s just a part of the game. As a cornerback, it will have me more focused and in-tune with hand position and things like that, to tighten up my craft.”

Browner doesn't think the new emphasis on the old rules is a reaction to the Seahawks' defense manhandling of the Broncos' offense in last February's Super Bowl.

"I think every year they say that’s the emphasis. Last year, I know that’s what they told us going into the year," he said. "It will be interesting to see how lenient or how tough they’ll be on those calls once the regular season starts. ... Hopefully, in the regular season they don't call as many, but if they do, we just have to take emphasis on getting our hands right and the placement. Try to reduce the penalties, because those things can cost you a big game somewhere along in the season."

Browner also can't imagine that officials will continue to call penalties at the same rate during the regular season.

“I think it’s only a three-hour slot and window to play a football game, or else 'The Simpsons' are going to cut in, and the game might just cut off in the third quarter," Browner joked.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Adds Series With Ohio St., Arizona]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:35:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

UConn announced this week that its men's basketball team will have home-and-home series against Ohio State and the University of Arizona which will take place over the next four seasons.

The series with the Buckeyes will begin in the 2015-16 season in Connecticut, and the Huskies will visit Columbus in 2016-17. Both games are expected to be played in December.

UConn will travel to Tuscon in 2017-18 and the Wildcats will come to Storrs the following year. These games will also be in December.

More details via the news release:

"UConn is 2-3 all-time against Ohio State, but has not played the Buckeyes since its 64-58 victory on March 27, 1999, in the NCAA National Semifinals in St. Petersburg, Fla., as the Huskies went on to win their first National Championship. UConn’s other victory over Ohio State was also in a national tournament, a 72-67 triumph on March 30, 1988, in Madison Square Garden to capture the NIT Championship. UConn’s three losses to Ohio State came in 1983-84 in Columbus, in 1984-85 at the Hartford Civic Center, and in 1991-92 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Cincinnati.

"The Huskies are a perfect 5-0 all-time against Arizona, the most recent game a 65-63 thriller on March 26, 2011, in the NCAA West Regional Championship in Anaheim, Calif., advancing UConn to the Final Four in Houston, where the Huskies won their third national title."

<![CDATA[Maya Moore Named WNBA MVP]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:32:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/184006367.jpg

Before there was Breanna Stewart there was Maya Moore, the best player in college basketball who was the WNBA's first-overall pick in 2011. Now she's been named the league's most valuable player for 2014.

Details via the press release.

"For Moore, the reigning MVP of the WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile and the league’s 2011 Rookie of the Year, this is the first regular-season MVP honor of her career. The University of Connecticut product and two-time WNBA champion finished as the runner-up to Candace Parker in MVP voting a year ago and finished fourth behind winner Tina Charles in 2012.

"Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi (Editor's note: also a former UConn standout) finished second in the voting with 242 points (two first-place votes). ... This season, Moore guided the Lynx to a 25-9 record and the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs, despite the club being without injured All-Stars Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus for 23 and nine games, respectively.

"For the regular season, Moore played in all 34 games and paced the league in scoring (23.9 ppg), the third-highest average in WNBA history behind the 25.3 ppg and 24.1 ppg by Diana Taurasi in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

"(Moore) became the first player in league history to post four consecutive games of 30 or more points. She finished the season ranked atop the WNBA in made field goals (295) and was second in minutes (34.7 mpg) and free throws made (160). Moore placed eighth in rebounding (8.1 rpg), tied for third in three-point field goals made (62), fourth in free throw percentage (.884, 160-of-181), tied for fourth in steals (1.88 spg), sixth in double-doubles (10), and 20th in assists (3.4 apg). In addition to leading her club in scoring, Moore placed second on the Lynx in rebounding and assists, and third in blocks (0.82 bpg)."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[QB Coach Talks Cochran, Whitmer]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:31:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Casey+Cochran+1200.jpg

The Huskies' opener is a week away, and then the team takes the field for the first time under Bob Diaco to face BYU next Friday, redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran will be under center.

This Thursday, quarterbacks coach Don Patterson talked about what he expects from Cochran and senior backup Chandler Whitmer.

"The players will tell you that they have great confidence in both of those guys," Patterson told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "I think Chandler and Casey, it has been a very good competition, it has been a very smooth competition. I think they understand, because we talk about it, but we as a group of quarterbacks we are a team within a team and our job to make sure that this team has great quarterback play regardless of injury which means they all have to be able to play and all have to fulfill their role. If you happen to be third team then your mentality has to be that you are two plays away and stranger things have happened. You have to get ready for the game, that is the hard thing to do if you are a second or third team quarterback, because there is a lot of preparation and yet you may not get on the field.

"I think it is not secret because I know Bob mentioned that Chandler is going to play against BYU so there is no doubt about it. How much, we don't know, it depends on game situations. We obviously had a lot of confidence in him and even more important than what we think, I think the players have a lot of confidence in him. I know there are fans who wonder if he deserves (to play) but he has to be able to take snaps to be able to play better than he played for us in the past and I am confident in saying 'yes, I am confident that he will play better than he played in the past.'"

For Patterson, the quarterbacks's job, while not necessarily easy is pretty straightforward.

"The first thing you have to do is not beat yourself. It sounds simple but the University of Alabama always has a quarterback that doesn't get Alabama beat and that is the first thing we have to do is not beat ourselves," he said. "Every ball we ever throw in practice is charted, they can tell you but they have thrown 15 picks out of 852 passes here in camp, that is pretty good. One interception every 60 snaps."

We'll find out shortly if the Huskies can carry that practice performance over to the games.

<![CDATA[Huskies Talk Cochran's Mullet]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:35:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/caseymullet082114.jpg UConn has named Casey Cochran as their starting QB, but it is the mullet he's wearing that has everyone talking.]]> <![CDATA[Charges Filed Against Teens Who Entered Ray Allen's Home]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 03:18:46 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/081414+ray+allen.jpg

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office filed trespassing charges against the seven people who walked into former Miami Heat star Ray Allen’s home last week.

Coral Gables Police originally said they were not filing charges against the teenagers. The teens were identified by police as: Ernesto Romero, 18; Jonathan Ramirez, 19; Kevin Ramos, 18; Alana Garcia, 18; Christian Lobo, 18; Angel Sanchez, 18; and Jorge Guerrero, 18.

Coral Gables Police said the group of seven teens was at a party next door when they decided to enter Allen’s home through an unlocked back door in the early morning hours of August 14. Allen wasn’t home, but his wife and children were sleeping inside and were awoken by the commotion.

The teens ran from the home after Shannon Allen, Ray’s wife, yelled at them, according to Coral Gables Police. In a 911 call made by Shannon Allen, she described the teens’ actions as if they were on a tour of the home.

“They were like, if they were on a tour, pointing out stuff,” Allen told the 911 dispatcher. “Like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this picture. Oh my God, look, he’s got a flat screen TV.’”

The Allens met with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office this week to give statements on the incident and to push for charges to be brought against the teens.

The Allen's attorney, Gregory Victor, gave a statement Wendesday afternoon that read:

"Ray and Shannon have been advised that the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office has filed Trespass charges against the 7 intruders to their home. The determination as to what specific charges to file was entirely within the discretion of the State Attorney's Office and the Allen's are satisfied with both the decision to prosecute and the charges being pursued. The Allen's are thankful that no one was hurt and they are appreciative for all the support they have received from their community."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Cheers Mo'ne Davis at LLWS]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:56:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP35427040879.jpg

Some hard-hitting Las Vegas batters may have gotten the better of Philadelphia's Taney Dragons at the Little League World Series on Wednesday, but Taney fans' confidence in their team, led by pitching phenom Mo'ne Davis, didn't flag on Twitter.

Taney lost to their Nevadan rivals 8-1, despite plenty of impressive plays — including a hit from Mo'ne in the fourth inning that helped give the Dragons their first run of the game, and an impressive sliding catch by Zion Spearman. Fortunately Taney isn't out yet. They play Chicago Thursday night for a shot at the U.S. Final.

Wednesday night, supporters from their hometown and far beyond took to Twitter to cheer on Taney with the hashtag #BelieveInDragons.

Before the game, Philly's big-league, grown-up teams had offered their support, too:

 So did state-wide leaders:

 One fan had a helpful reminder to over-eager fans, though, that they're just kids, after all:

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Rock Cats Pay Off $164K in Stadium Taxes Owed]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 08:14:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rock+cats+generic.jpg

The New Britain Rock Cats have paid back more than $164,000 in taxes owed on their stadium lease, securing the team’s ability to play there in the 2015 season, according to a news release from the mayor's office.

According to the release, team owner Josh Solomon sent New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart a check for $164,569.26 owed to Berlin. The team had until Sept. 1 to pay up or face the possibility of eviction.

Now the team will continue to play in New Britain through next season and will has avoid an additional $5,000 penalty, the release says.

New Britain had been paying Berlin $30,000 per year in lieu of stadium taxes, but the team's lease called for the Rock Cats to begin paying taxes July 1.

According to a statement sent from Solomon to the Hartford mayor's office, the Rock Cats have never been required to pay property taxes on the stadium until this summer.

Solomon wrote that the Rock Cats were placed on the Berlin tax roll in 2013 and were asked to pay more than $320,000 in annual property taxes, but that New Britain appealed and requested that the stadium be exempt since the building is municipally owned.

After the Rock Cats' plan to move to Hartford was publicized, New Britain settled with Berlin and agreed to a $160,000 real estate tax "without the Rock Cats' consultation or participation," according to Solomon.

"We continue to believe that Berlin's tax assessment of $160,000 on the Rock Cats and the City of New Britain [is] entirely unfair, representing an approximate 1000% increase over what the team had previously paid each year," Solomon said in the statement.

"Because this also represents an especially undue burden on the taxpayers of New Britain, the Rock Cats today met with Mayor Steawrt and provided the City with a $160,000 payment. We will continue to pursue the appropriate steps necessary to appeal and reverse this unfair decision and we're pleased that the City of New Britain has no objection to our course of action," Solomon said.

The team’s parent company, New Britain Double Play, has filed a lawsuit against Berlin in an effort to reduce the bill. The suit is still pending.

“As long as they have paid what they owe to New Britain, I wish them well in their pending litigation with Berlin. My goal was protecting our taxpayers and our relationship with our neighbor, and that has been accomplished,” Stewart said in a statement Wednesday.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Boyle Embraces Redshirt Opportunity]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:33:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/TIM_BOYLE_100913.jpg

Tim Boyle was in an untenable situation last season. As a true freshman, and on a team in turmoil, he was thrust into the lineup after Paul Pasqualoni was fired four games into the season. The results were disastrous.

Boyle was 0-4, with no touchdowns, eight interceptions, and he completed just 44 percent of his passes. In fact, first-year coach Bob Diaco thinks the decision to play Boyle, who clearly wasn't ready, was an awful one, and it has something to do with the coach's decision to redshirt Boyle in 2014.

“All-in-all, if we can, we will protect him,” Diaco said Monday, via SNY.com. ” He is a 4 to play 3, That will allow us to create separation between years from him and the other guys. It’s the best thing for him and his interests. If it is possible, we will make every effort (to redshirt).”

Boyle sounds like he fully embraces the decision.

“It will be huge for me and my game,” the sophomore said. “I have learned this past camp and spring that getting mental reps is a huge part of development as a football player. Seeing things in practice on the sidelines… will help prepare mentally. I am getting ready to play games this year. It’s not like I will be taking taking a year off…I am going to be ready to go.“

The move not only benefits Boyle, who can have time to grow into the job, but it also creates separation among UConn's QB class; Whitmer will graduate after the season, and next year Cochran will be a junior and Boyle and transfer Bryant Shirreffs will be sophomores. They'll be joined by freshman Tyler Davis.

<![CDATA[Diaco Takes Risk With 2-Headed QB]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:30:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+introduced.jpg

In Bob Diaco's mind, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, at least when it comes to naming a quarterback. That's why he announced Casey Cochran as his starter -- before adding that Chandler Whitmer will also see plenty of playing time.

It's an interesting decision if for no other reason than we've seen it before under Paul Pasqualoni. During Whitmer's first year, he started 12 games, but also gave way to QB Scott McCummings, a wildcat specialist. The system rarely worked, partly because the wildcat hadn't been effective for some time, but also because of the old saying, "to have two starting quarterbacks is to have none."

And Diaco knows he's taking a risk by going this route.

“They just do different things better than the other guy,” he said, via SNY.com. “When we are going to do those things in the game, why wouldn’t we ask the guys to do those things? (not doing that) doesn’t make sense to me. ...

“Hopefully, it works out,” Diaco added. “If not you guys will be chasing me with torches and pitchforks. “

Pasqualoni and former offensive coordinator George DeLeone can confirm as much.

For now, though, Diaco remains convinced that Chandler and Whitmer together give the Huskies their best chance.

“We can play winning football with either one,” he said. “The staff, led by me, feels strongly that they both have pluses in their game. The dynamic of starting Casey with Chandler coming into play utilizes both of them as a plus for our sum total.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Casey Cochran's Hair Gets National Attention]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:35:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Casey+Cochran+1200.jpg

The news that coach Bob Diaco had named Casey Cochran the starter made the rounds in the local papers and blogs that cover the team and the AAC. But Cochran also made national news when Deadspin.com featured Cochran's ... mullet.

The set up: Diaco held a press conference to announce his quarterback plans and he had his quarterbacks join him. And Cochran's coiffure stole the show.

Deadspin's Samer Kalef writes: "Look at that thing. That's not a haircut; that's the 1984 CMA Awards. You see hair like that and you wonder if there's a Fiero parked nearby. If that hair could talk, it would say: "Get back in the house, Lurleen. I'm handling this." It's wonderful. Please don't cut it, Casey."

And the UConn blog, ADimeBack.com, adds: "That, my friends, is a mullet and a mustache from UConn’s starting QB. ... A mullet that clearly says 'my mom did not OK this' and a mustache that looks like the thing I had on my face in 8th grade before my dad made me shave. ... I can’t pretend to analyze how this will impact his on-field performance. I don’t have the football or trichological knowledge to speculate.

"But I know this: BYU comes to town next week and this is as clear an honor code violation as I’ve ever seen."

<![CDATA[How Star Little League Team Taney Dragons Got Their Start]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:56:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP35427040879.jpg

Twenty years ago, the league behind the Taney Dragons started with three parents, a coach and a permit to play on a Philadelphia field.

Now, the youth baseball team is the subject of national media frenzy thanks to its remarkable Little League World Series run and star pitcher Mo'ne Davis' 70 mph fastball.

“The kind of attention we’ve had has absolutely been mind-boggling," co-founder Ellen Siegel said.

Siegel is one of the five original founders of the Taney Youth Baseball Organization, which was formed back in 1994 by a group of locals who wanted to create a different kind of team for the city's children.

“We wanted to be inclusive and allow girls to play,” Siegel said. “We also wanted players who weren’t as skilled to be allowed to play with the very skilled players. We wanted to be instructional which was our biggest point. Game, scores and winning weren’t as important as teaching all the kids proper mechanics, good sportsmanship, teamwork, camaraderie and knowing the game.”

The decision to create a co-ed squad paved the way for the team's roster to incude 13-year-old Davis, whose series shutout and spunk have landed her national headlines and a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She's set to pitch again tonight, when the team goes up against Las Vegas.

Siegel, a clinical psychologist who serves on the league’s board of directors and helps administer the league’s registrar, website and Facebook page, still remembers the league’s humble beginnings at the Markward Recreation Center on 400 South Taney Street in Philly.

“We practiced there and we’d have scrimmage games there and it was so wonderful to have something in our neighborhood with our kids,” Siegel said. “Then we thought it would be wonderful if we started a league of our own.”

While the Markward Rec Center served as the home field, neighborhood parents and kids had a different name for it that ended up sticking.

“All the neighbors called it Taney Field because it’s on Taney Street,” Siegel said. “I don’t think anyone really knows the real name. If you ask anyone where Markward is they’ll say, ‘what?’ If you ask them where Taney is they all know. That’s where we got our name.”

The league remained a local attraction for nearly two decades until last year, when they officially joined the Little League.

“We’ve always had the same kind of rule as Little League which is you need to play on your intramural team during the season,” Siegel said. “Then after that there are tryouts for the select tournament teams. The select, more competitive team will play after our regular season is over.”

With the tremendous success of the Dragons and the national attention they’ve gained, Siegel says the league's popularity may become a problem.

“We’re already getting so many requests to join us next year and we don’t have open registration until January,” Siegel said. “We’re worried about the influx of how many people would want to play because we can’t accommodate. We already had 73 teams this year from ages 3 to 16. We don’t have places for them.”

Siegel hopes the league will receive offers for more fields for the teams to play on.

“We’re in a situation where we don’t own our own fields, like a suburban league,” Siegel said. “We use Philadelphia Parks and Recreation fields.”

Regardless of what happens with the increased interest or with Thursday’s game, Siegel is confident the spirit of the league, defined by unity rather than winning, will remain high for years to come.

“We care about each other,” Siegel said. “Taney families, even on regular teams bond together and help each other out. To me that’s the essence of what we’re all about. The sense of community.”

To donate to the league, visit the Taney Youth Baseball Association website.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ridley Knows He Can't Fumble]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:04:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP108561485871.jpg

A season ago, it was a problem that haunted Patriots running back Stevan Ridley all the way to the bench. In the Patriots' second preseason game, Ridley fumbled again, bringing back a flood of bad memories and concerns about what it means for the future.

Never mind that the Pats recovered, or that it's the preseason and stats don't matter, for Ridley -- and coach Bill Belichick -- it's bigger than that.

"When I go back and watch the play, and the ball is out again, Week 2, it kind of sucks,' Ridley said this week, via ESPN.com. "But it's football, man, and I can't get down about it. I can't harp about it. That's why you have preseason. I'm just going to keep on working and keep on pushing."

On the fumble against the Eagles, Ridley appeared to be down. But again, that's not the point.

""It's too close to call, man. Either way, I need to avoid those plays in general," he continued. "There's nothing really else to be said about it. ... I hated it. It was a sick feeling for a second. We looked at the play, it is what it is, but either way one out is too many. But I'm not going to harp on that. I'm going to learn from it."

So how exactly does Ridley learn not to fumble?

"That's what I'm still trying to figure out," he said. "Getting tackled by a few defenders, it's football, they're taught to go after the ball and attack it. It's just staying alert, being conscious of that, and trying to get two hands on it. That's really all you can do."

To Ridley's credit, he understands why the media asks questions about something he'd prefer to forget altogether.

"I'm just thankful it's preseason," Ridley said. "It was a close call and the ball was out, but it could have been down, could not have been down. Guess what? If it's in my hands, you don't have to answer that question.

"Either way, I'm man enough and am going to stand up here and do what I do. Like I say, it's another Monday that I'm out here and I'm in pads and I'm back to work today. So I just have to learn from it and keep it moving and not sulk on that.

"I will try not to have the issue and this be the topic the whole year this year because I think I can do a few other things that you all can write about, and hopefully have some good things to say," Ridley continued. "Either way, I have to own up to it and that's what it was."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bank Forecloses on Dwyane Wade's Suburban Chicago Home]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:01:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DWade+Tie+Bar.jpg

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade makes millions of dollars a year playing basketball, but it appears that money hasn't been going toward his home in Chicago's south suburbs.

According to documents obtained by NBC Chicago, The PrivateBank and Trust Company is attempting to foreclose on Wade's $1.2 million home in the 1600 block of E. 158th Street in South Holland.

Wade is listed as the owner of the home, along with his ex-wife Siohvaughn Wade. The former couple engaged in a bitter, public divorce in the which the basketball star was granted custody of their children.

According to court documents, the former couple owes almost $541,000 on the home, including close to $1,500 in late charges, and monthly mortgage payments had not been made on the home from November 2013 to July 2014.

Wade's attorney's sent a statement Wednesday. 

"Dwyane Wade and his ex-wife Siohvaughn Funches reached a financial settlement in July 2013, which included Ms. Funches being awarded the Chicago home in which she resides.  Mr. Wade had provided a very generous settlement to Ms. Funches to continue to live a wonderful lifestyle and maintain the home mortgage payments he previously paid before the settlement was reached. As the sole homeowner, Ms. Funches defaulted on the mortgage and the home is now under foreclosure with the bank. We will take the necessary measures to affirm Mr. Wade is not responsible for the home’s foreclosure since he was absolved of all financial responsibility when Ms. Funches was awarded the house.”

The 7,847 square foot home has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a theater and exercise room, a guest house, in-ground pool and of course, a basketball court.

Siohvaughn Wade is believed to be the occupant of the home.

Wade is now engaged to actress Gabrielle Union.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![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]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:35:37 -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]]>