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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and delcotimes.com. He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Utley hits every right note after Asche demotion

After falling,' 4-3, to Pittsburgh Monday, the Phillies chased Cody Asche to the minors, ordering him to learn to play left field.

That inspired a strong blast of leadership from Chase Utley, who made certain to drape his arm around Asche, who said every professionally correct thing, yet clearly was shaken by the move.

With Jeff Francoeur and Darin Ruf, Utley stayed with Asche for a long time, quietly giving him professional counsel and friendship.

This is what Utley, whose locker coincidentally is next to Asche's, said afterward:

“He's a good kid. He's a hard worker. I think he understands the situation and is going to go down there and have a positive outlook and try to be the best left fielder he can be.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to work at it and be a good left fielder. Obviously, we all know that his bat plays at this level. He's still learning, and that's what I like about him. He doesn't think he has it all figured out. He wants to continue to learn and get better.

“So obviously, we are all disappointed that he's not going to be around. And we will see him pretty soon.”

Asked if such leadership is central to his role with the Phillies, Utley said:

"“When you are in the moment, when you are in a situation like that, it can be difficult to see the big picture. As you play this game and be around long enough you can, at some point, see the big picture. So he is a teammate and a good friend. We are locker-mates. I will be disappointed not to see him for a little while, but like I said, he will be OK.”

Friday, May 8, 2015

Where to fight in Delaware County

Want to fight?
Here are three, open-to-the-public gyms in Delaware County where just such behavior is encouraged:

n Delco Boxing Academy, 38 S. MacDade Blvd., Glenolden.
Fee: $30 per month. Hours: 24 hours, with key access; trainers available after 4 p.m.
Owner Jason Rodden: “We have been open since January. Taking over a gym that had a few heavy bags in it and loading it up with boxing equipment and having 90 members in a matter of a few months, I would say, yeah, it has been very successful.”

n Must Fight Boxing Club, 504 Edgmont Ave., Chester
Fee: $50 per month. Hours: 4:30-8 p.m., Monday through Friday; Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Owner, Dan Mullarkey Sr.: “You come in, pay the membership fee. It's not rocket science. There can be 100 people in the gym, and two or three of them fight. There is nothing normal about being punched in the face. I have a lot of different people, from all groups. I've got one guy in here, he's 71 years old. I've got seven, eight guys who are 46, 48 years old, or in their 50s. And I have guys 13, 14, 15. I have about 30 members. It depends on the season, kids going down the shore, kids getting out of school. Some guys get a job, or go off to college.”

The Must Fight gym recently was used in the filming of the movie “Creed” the latest in the Rocky series.

n Winners Boxing Club, 2003 W. Third Street, Second Floor, Chester.

Fee: Free. Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Coach Patrick Pernsley: “You don't have to be from Chester. If you are willing to come down there, we will work with you. From 8 to 18, it's free form.”

All three gyms are available for male and female fighters.
    JACK McCAFFERY   

Some Delco fighters to keep an eye on

A strong group of amateurs have been making some noise in Delaware County boxing rings.
According to area trainers, these are some of the up-and-comers to watch:
 
n Steve Barnabei, 29, 160 pounds, Glenolden, Delco Boxing Academy
n Terrell Carroll, 19, Heavyweight, Sharon Hill, Delco Boxing Academy
n Steve Clarke, 24, Darby, 152, Delco Boxing Academy
n Steve Costello, 29, 178 pounds, Havertown, Delco Boxing Academy
n Malik Lee, 23, 140 pounds, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Frankie Lynn, 23, Heavyweight, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Dan Mullarkey Jr., 20, 141, Ridley, Must Fight Boxing Club
n Andrew McCoy, 23, 165 pounds, Upper Chichester, Must Fight Boxing Club
n Rasheed Pernsley, 20, 140, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Jamail Turner, 18, 163, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Jeffrey Turner, 18, 185, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
- JACK McCAFFERY

Monday, April 6, 2015

Noel a gamer, other Sixers notes

NEW YORK >> Injured late in his only college season at Kentucky then unavailable for his entire NBA rookie year, Nerlens Noel entered this season with a reputation to correct. Sunday at Madison Square Garden, he made one more substantial stride in that direction.
A night after suffering a swollen eye and reporting blurred vision after a collision in Charlotte with Noah Vonleh, Noel was cleared to play for the Sixers against the Knicks … and, as usual, answered the call.
“I'm feeling good,” Noel said before the game. “I'm going to go out here and play hard and do what I've got to do.”
So there Noel was, reporting no deficient vision and playing his 74th game of the season, his 70th as a starter. He has missed just four games and none since an upper respiratory infection cost him a Jan. 21 appearance against the Knicks.
“He had blurred vision but we iced it,” Brett Brown said. “He went overboard getting treatment so he could play. And we are excited to have him back.”
With the troubles at Kentucky, then with his redshirt rookie season, there would be a burden on Noel to prove he was not brittle.
As the Sixers entered their final five games, that was no longer an issue.
“The candid conversation that we have with our players daily is that there are no healthy players in the NBA,” Brown said. “And there especially are no healthy players in the NBA in April. So the sports science and the accumulation of effort that people put into their bodies through the course of the season enables them to play in April at a high standard, and then May and, we can dream, June.
“So the education has been for our 20-year-olds to be able to navigate through an NBA season and to keep on track with your body. And for Nerlens at 214, 216 pounds to play the quantity of games at the position he plays, that's a statement about durability first. And I also think it's a toughness that has enabled him to do that. Because he, too, like everybody, has been injured. And he could have shut it down and he didn't.”
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Jason Richardson (left knee) did not play in Charlotte, but was available Sunday.
“I'm good to go,” Richardson said. “I can't go two games in a row. They wanted me to sit out yesterday and play today.
“I could play two games in a row. But just to be safe it isn't really worth the risk of doing that.”
Richardson, 34, had not played since 2013 before rejoining the Sixers in February. Entering the game Sunday, he had played 16 games, starting 14.
“Since I have been back, I think I have only had three or four practices,” the 14th-year veteran said. “We haven't really practiced that much. So it doesn't make sense to even try to attempt it.”
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Knicks coach Derek Fisher said he watched the NCAA's Final Four casually, even mixing in a workout during the games, missing key parts, keeping perspective, insisting that it is difficult to project how any college player will translate to the pros.
Brown will watch the NCAA Final Monday a different way.
“Through business eyes,” the Sixers' coach said. “I love the sport. I get as much a kick out of watching my son's 10-year-old team, and I'm serious, this may sound sad, as I do coaching here. I just love watching my kid play. You watch basketball at all levels. You watch that game (Monday) and you think ahead. You are going to think about what might happen with some of the players on the court who could be a part of our team. Who knows?”
NBA rules prohibit Brown from discussing college players by name.
“At this stage of my coaching career, it is more than saying, 'This is a great game,'” Brown said. “I don't see it predominately through that lens as much anymore. I am guessing and dreaming and projecting out.”
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NOTES: Luc Mbah a Moute was not scheduled to play Sunday. “We wanted to give his shoulder a rest,” Brown said, “and his body a rest.” … Thomas Robinson (knee) was also unavailable, Brown said … Isaiah Canaan (sprained right foot) did not dress … The Sixers' next game will be Wednesday against the visiting Washington Wizards.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Top 10 Big 5 NCAA Tournament games in history

By JACK McCAFFERY


Two national championships. Four championship-game appearances. Ten Final Fours. Such has been the NCAA Tournament haul for Philadelphiaa's Big 5 programs.
That success suggests multiple NCAA Tournament achievements, in early rounds and late, in modern and not-so-modern times.
Here, though, is one for the Top 10 NCAA Tournament games involving Big 5 teams. Let the critical rollouts unravel:
1. Villanova 66, Georgetown 64, April 1, 1985: The Wildcats shot 22-for-28 from the floor, 22-for-27 from the line and stunned the No. 1-seeded Hoyas for the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
With no three-point shot or shot clock at the time, Rollie Massimino concocted what is widely considered the most effective single-game plan in NCAA Tournament history, controlling the pace and keeping the game close enough to steal, even though the Wildcats had entered the tournament with 10 losses.
Dwayne McClain led the Wildcats with 17 points, but it was the 5-for-5 shooting of Harold Jensen that defined the moment.

2. La Salle 92, Bradley 76, March 20, 1954: Trailing, 43-42, at halftime, the Explorers dominated the second half to win Philadelphia's first NCAA championship in Kansas City. All-American Tom Gola was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, scoring 19 points in the final. But Frank Blatcher and Charles Singley scored 23 points apiece in the championship game.

3. St. Joseph's 49, DePaul 48, March 14, 1981: John Smith scored a layup with three seconds left, on a pass from Lonnie McFarlan on the baseline, and the Hawks stunned the top-seeded Blue Demons in a second-round game in Dayton.
Skip Dillard, renowned as a good free-throw shooter, had missed a front-end of a one-and-one, the Hawks pushed the ball and created the winning play.
The Hawks defeated Boston College in their next game, but fell to Indiana, leaving them short of the Final Four. But with the NCAA Tournament gaining televised popularity at the time, their upset was an earlier definition of what has become known as March Madness.

4. UCLA 68, Villanova 62, March 27, 1971: With a chance to catch UCLA in between the Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton eras, the Wildcats fell just short when center Steve Patterson went for 29 points and the Bruins won a fifth consecutive championship in Houston.
Howard Porter bagged 25 points --- and the Most Outstanding Player designation --- for the Cats.

5. San Francisco 77, La Salle 63, March 19, 1955: Trying to defend their national championship, the Explorers were stung by 24 points from K.C. Jones and 23 from Bill Russell in the NCAA Final in Kansas City. Singley scored 20 and Gola, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, added 16 for La Salle.

6. Penn 72, North Carolina 71, March 11, 1979: Though the Quakers would win twice more, their second-round victory over the Tar Heels in Raleigh, N.C., signified their march to the Final Four.
Tony Price provided 25 points --- that, and a defensive rebound and long outlet pass to James Salters, who scored, was fouled and completed a three-point play for a four-point lead late.

7. Temple 60, Canisius 58, March 17, 1956: At the Palestra, the Owls rolled into the Final Four when Guy Rodgers scored 22 points.

8. Temple 69, Dartmouth 50, March 15, 1958: In Charlotte, N.C., Rodgers scored 17 points and the Owls reached the Final Four for the second time in three years.

9. St. Joseph's 96, Wake Forest 86, March 18, 1961: Also in Charlotte, Bill Hoy scored 20 and the Hawks advanced to their only Final Four.

10. Villanova 78, Pitt 79, March 28, 2009: In Boston, Scottie Reynolds' jump shot with two seconds left sent the Wildcats to the Final Four. Dwayne Anderson led the Cats with 17.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Some Sixers notes

Finally recovered from a kneecap injury and a resulting injury to his foot, Jason Richardson was delighted to play in his first NBA game since Jan. 18, 2013 Friday.
“I'm super-excited, man,” the 34-year-old shooting guard said before the game. “I might have gotten four hours of sleep last night because I was so excited to get up and just realize that I am here.”
For reasons practical and inspirational, Brett Brown chose to include Richardson in the starting lineup. With that, there was an irony: On the day after the Sixers tried to move way forward in their program with frenzied trade-deadline activity, they turned to their most tenured player.
“I brought him into my office an hour ago and say, 'Jason, we're going to play you and I want to start you, how do you feel about that?'” Brown said. “And to look at him, you just get goosebumps. Because he is a man with a resume that he has still looking like a child playing his first game.
“For us to introduce him and playing him again is an incredible message for all of us.”
Richardson has been with five organizations and is a 44-percent career shooter. To come back so late in his career for a team in a youth movement was considered among his longest shots of all.
“I'm a veteran,” he said. “So I know not to force it too much. I just want to get out there, get warm, get involved in the game, add some energy out there and just play ball.”
Brown's plan was to limit Richardson to one four-minute shift per period.
“He told me I was starting and I said, 'Seriously?'” Richardson said. “It was his call. I didn't want to be unfair because I hadn't had the work in. But he said he would take care of that aspect of it and he wanted to start me.”
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Isaiah Canaan was in the Wells Fargo Center Friday, but he remained a passed physical away from starting for the Sixers at point guard.
“I am a competitor,” Canaan said. “I am not going to back down to anybody. I was born a winner and that's how I like to be. And I will go out there and leave it all out on the court and do whatever the coaches and my teammates ask of me and do whatever I can to help.”
Brown anticipates starting the second-year guard from Murray State Sunday in Orlando.
“That kid can score the ball,” Brown said. “And he has a body like a Jameer Nelson. And he played with Robert Covington (in Houston last season). I asked Robert to tell me about him. He said, 'Coach, he competes.' And then you go look at what he does in a skill package, and he can shoot.”
In two seasons with the Rockets, Canaan shot 38.5 percent from three-point range.
“We all know when we start playing with Joel (Embiid) and Nerlens (Noel) and some other players, we are going to have to sprinkle some perimeter players into the game,” Brown said. “That's the game. You have to put the ball in the hole from the perimeter. And he can do that.”
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The Sixers' deal with Denver Thursday essentially yielded them a first-round draft choice in exchange for lifting the burden on the Nuggets to pay JaVale McGee for the rest of the season … and $12 million next year, too.
For that, it was expected that McGee was just a moveable piece, likely to be bought out of his contract. That was not the case Friday when the 7-0 center showed up, climbed into uniform No. 1, declared himself ready to play and promised to hang around for a while.
“I don't want to get bought out,” the 27-year-old veteran said. “It's not a positive thing. You don't get all of your money when you get bought out. So it doesn't make any sense for anybody, unless they are older and want to go to a contender or something like that. I'm not that old. I just want to play basketball.”
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Tim Frazier was signed to a second 10-day contract and started at the point Friday. He had played three games for the Sixers, starting twice and collecting 26 assists.
Last week, he started in the D-League All-Star Game.
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Not surprisingly, Brown endorsed Hinkie's decision to move Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels.
“I am going to miss those guys,” he said. “I appreciate the effort they put in. They gave A-plus effort. They were great teammates. And they showed tremendous improvement.
“It's an example of a club making extremely difficult decisions and having the guts to make extremely difficult decisions in order to get to someplace special.”  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Berube supports Hextall's plan

Craig Berube met with the press before the Flyers-Blue Jackets game Tuesday.

This was the conversation:

On struggles of the top line:

“It's not that they are not doing their part. There's more to it than just scoring. Everybody looks at them to score. But they have been playing pretty solid defensively and doing other things, too. So that's very important in the game. And this time of year, you need all kinds of people to produce --- and big goals at big times. Because they are going to get checked, those guys, hard. So there is not a lot of room for them. They are going to get the best matchups every night from the other team. And it is important that the other guys are producing and helping out.”

The GM said he wouldn't make a trade just to make the playoffs this year. How does that make you feel?

“He didn't say that. He said he didn't want to give up a young asset. I don't blame him. I wouldn't either. I like our team. I liked it last year, too, at the deadline. Same thing. This team can play. And when they play together, and as of right now, the roll they are on right now, they are a good team. They can play against anybody.”

A player like Raffl, what about his versatility?

“He does a lot of different things for the team. I said I've always liked him at center. He's a good, strong skater. He has the puck more and does good things with it in the middle of the ice. And any role I give him, he does it. He enjoys the game. He's a good, all-around hockey player.”

Decision to keep MacDonald out of the lineup?

“They are all tough. Those are tough decisions with the defense. We've got eight healthy 'd', and they're good players. It's just unfortunate that a couple of them have to sit. But it's a team game and they've just got to be ready to go when called upon.”

You are not losing any … Del Zotto was on the fence, and came back … Mac has been in the league longer …

“They all want to play. I respect that. And when they are not playing and are not happy, I respect that, too. They shouldn't be. But they are part of this team. They've got to be good teammates. That's the bottom line.”

When you are setting a defensive lineup, are you looking at balancing the puck-movers, the stay-at-home guys, etc.?

“That's all part of it. There's different things that come up at different times that we look at. Opponents. How certain players are playing.”

Raffl injury? Until that happened, he was playing great. How much did it set him back?

“Injuries are funny. A lot of times they come back from injuries and they look good right away. And the first two or three games after the injury, there is a lot of adrenaline and things like that. It wears off a bit as the speed and conditioning really set in. It's hard to get game-related in practices. And that's the biggest thing. That's a challenge. I think it's important that we manage Raffl's minutes and keep him as fresh as we can, I believe, and build up and not over-use him and wear him out early on here since he's been back.”

Is he is equally as comfortable on the wing as he is at center?

“I think he probably prefers center. I think some of these guys, it's more freedom, skating, and being involved in it more. But he'll play any role we want. He does a good job either way.”

If you make the playoffs, you will go in as a hot team.

“Let's talk about tonight and that's it. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, OK?”

On Eric Desjardins

“Him and Kimmo remind me a lot of each other, the way they think the game and play the game. Just a real heads-up player. Obviously a winner. Quietly does his job. Just shows up every day and works. He takes it on the ice and leads by example on the ice. A very, very good defenseman. Very under-rated.”

What was he line in the room, off the ice?

“A quiet guy, but if you wanted to know something, or if a player wanted to learn something or talk to him, he was always open, a very nice guy, and he would talk to you. But he saved his talking for the ice. He really wasn't a rah-rah guy or a talker off the ice. But like I said, he led by example --- a very intelligent player. Played hard. Good defenseman. He just had an unbelievable stick. That was his biggest asset --- that and his brain.”