Baseball adventures: Making the game memorable – Sun Sentinel


One of America’s favorite pastimes is attending major and minor league baseball games, and with four major teams spring training in Palm Beach County, checking out a game is easier than ever.

Before you and your family head to the ballpark, consider how to make it a more memorable experience.

“If your child isn’t an avid fan of any particular team, choose one nearby that is having a good season or has several star players to keep it interesting,” said Chris Kemple, a minor league spokesperson. “Next, get on the team’s website to see which games offer special promotions for kids — either in giveaways, pre- or post-game events or discounted tickets.”

That’s what Deborah Rowe does. As former minor league team booster members, she and her husband have always enjoyed attending baseball games. “When our daughter came along, we wanted to give her that same opportunity,” she said. Her daughter is now 5. “Hannah and I sit at the computer and go over which games have special promotions so she can pick the ones she wants to see.”

To build excitement for attending games, play catch with your child, watch televised games together and discuss fundamentals of the sport. If your child hasn’t signed up to play in an area league, encourage participation.

Bill Mitchell has done this. By the time his son was 3, Mitchell was taking him to major and minor league games. “When our team wasn’t home, we’d watch the major leagues on TV,” Mitchell said of his now-11-year-old son. “He’d ask questions about the game, and we’d discuss different players and their positions. Now he’s a newspaper and internet guy. He loves to read the stats and go online to see how different teams and players are doing.”

Following teams online is easy.

“Nearly all major and minor league teams have websites with pages designed specifically for children. Some are simple, others are more detailed,” said Meghan Essman, a major league fan development and educational programs administrator. “The elaborate ones teach children about the team and the sport on their level. Some even have video clips kids can watch and word searches, coloring pages or wallpaper downloads.”

Spring training in February and March brings plenty of teams to South Florida. Websites such as springtrainingconnection.com/jupiter give families the details of the ballpark in Jupiter and the spring training schedules of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. For the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and the schedules of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, check out springtrainingconnection.com/west-palm-beach.

Families should also join team-affiliated kids’ clubs, which are a good way to introduce children to baseball and build enthusiasm for attending games. For a minimal cost, kids can join and receive discounted tickets, invitations to special events, newsletters, a membership card and team-related sundries.

Before leaving home, encourage your child to dress in team attire. Mitchell does this. “He has several team jerseys, so he’ll find out which one the team is playing in and wear his like it; he wears his cap, too,” he said of his son. “When he was younger, the players called him the bubblegum kid because he’d tote along a container of bubblegum and offer them some as they went onto the field. This made him feel really special.”

Some children make signs for their favorite players to cheer them on. Others do face painting, either at home or when they get to the park.

“I suggest kids bring along a glove in the event a foul ball heads their way,” Essman said. “Don’t forget your camera either.”

Whatever you do, arrive early. “Most stadiums open their gates 60 to 90 minutes prior to game start so patrons can find their seats, avoid food and concession lines, receive limited giveaway items and watch pre-game events and batting and infield practice,” Kemple said.

That’s how Hannah Rowe landed several signature balls. “We always arrive early so we can watch the team practice,” her mother said. “It’s also the best time to get the players’ autographs. One time before a game, Hannah was standing by the guardrail asking for autographs when a player came up and signed her ball. She was so excited and started hollering, ‘Look what I got! Look what I got!'”

Game programs can be used to enhance the experience, too, Kemple said. “They are usually filled with rosters, stats and profiles of home team players and may even contain a score card so children can learn to follow and record plays.”

Above all, bear in mind your child’s age and attention span. If he grows restless of watching the game, look for other activities to provide a diversion.

Most ballparks today offer non-baseball kids’ interactive games and activities such as bounce houses, playgrounds, speed pitches and virtual games. These may enable you to stay until the game ends so you can cheer your team on and take part in any post-game events, most of which are geared for families.

Although the Rowes arrive early for games, they almost always leave before that final out. “Hannah loves the whole ballpark ambiance, but by the seventh inning, she’s ready to go,” Rowe said. “I know as she gets older and learns more about the game, she’ll enjoy it even more. For now, she just likes watching the team play, seeing the mascots and special events and receiving the giveaways. It’s what keeps her coming back for more.”

Denise Morrison Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and has four grandchildren.



MMA pro fighter Brandon 'QuickDraw' Lowe hits big time with Shamrock FC 303 – Alton Telegraph




BETHALTO — Brandon Lowe’s first love is wrestling, but mixed martial arts (MMA) could make “QuickDraw” a household name.

Lowe’s first professional main event fight — Shamrock FC 303 — happens Friday; with professional MMA fighters weighing-in Thursday. Lowe made his pro debut in 2015 fighting for Bellator.

Shamrock FC 303 takes place at the River City Casino against Trevon Crawford in the weight class of featherweight (145 pounds). Thursday’s weigh-ins are free, but Friday’s main event tickets cost from $50 to $200. The event is for all ages. Weigh-ins also will be giving away free prizes.


More Information

<p><strong>If you go:</strong></p><p><strong>What:</strong> Shamrock FC 303, featuring MMA pro fighter Bethalto&#8217;s Brandon &#8220;QuickDraw&#8221; Lowe in the main event</p><p><strong>When:</strong> 7:30 p.m., Friday</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> River City Casino, 777 River City Casino Blvd., St. Louis</p><p><strong>Info:</strong> Thursday&#8217;s weigh-ins are free; doors at 5:30 p.m. Friday&#8217;s main event tickets cost from $50 to $200. Both Thursday and Friday&#8217;s events are for all ages. Weigh-ins also will be giving away free prizes.</p>


“Fighting as a pro definitely gets you more recognition,” Lowe said of his transition from an amateur. “People see the main event on a big professional organization, and it will definitely help out my name recognition even more. If all goes well, I’ll be hoping to be fighting for a title at the end of the year.”

He loves MMA fighting due to its competitive aspect, but also because of its similarity to wrestling.

“It’s a one-on-one sport and it’s the closest thing to wrestling,” Lowe noted.

Lowe, 27, originally from Wood River, now of Bethalto, started practicing mixed martial arts 10 years ago.

The East Alton-Wood River High School graduate is back in the game since his last fight in September, when he took a beating in the first round due to several leg kicks, but won.

The Bethalto resident took one month off to train after that fight, coming out ahead, to take on his first main event as a professional. He’s fought in main events before, but as an amateur.

“The wear and tear is not easy,” Lowe said Tuesday to The Telegraph. “I wrestled four years before MMA, so after 14 years, you get used to it. I’m sore a lot. It’s something you have to deal with. Luckily, now, there’s more science behind training.”

For relief, he relies on self motivation, as well as traditional salt bath soaks, which help with inflammation; saunas; and, hot tubs; in addition to newer remedies, such as cryotherapy, which is local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy, and NormaTec Pulse Recovery System, which helps faster recovery between workouts by reducing muscle soreness and improving circulation.

“I feel really good, confident,” Lowe said about Friday’s main event, from which his original opponent backed out.

“It’s an appreciative feeling to be noticed,” he said. “The last fight was ‘Fight of the Year’ and put me on a steamroller, continuing the momentum.“

Lowe’s professional MMA record is 3 and 1.

Last Sept. 22, Lowe beat Malcolm Smith for Shamrock FC 295. This fight was awarded “Fight of the Year,” by KnuckleJunkies.com. Lowe won in the second round by TKO, or technical knockout, earning him his third straight win.

Lowe recently signed a three-fight contract extension with St. Louis-based Shamrock FC. The professional company’s vice president is Rob Donaker and its owned by Jesse Finney, chief executive officer. Shamrock FC 303 will be Lowe’s first fight of the said contract extension.

Lowe began MMA fighting when he was a high school senior when he took his first amateur fight.

In 2013, he fought for Bellator.

“I would like to really get back with them,” he said. “Shamrock has a deal with Bellator, so I have a good chance.”

Lowe also loves his full-time job at World Wide Technology as a lab technician.

He works straight days Monday through Friday and trains at night at the War Room in Wood River, Head Nod Squad in Pontoon Beach and, sometimes, at the Hit Squad in Granite City.

“I tried full-time fighting for a while, but it doesn’t pay enough,” he said.

Lowe’s brother, Ty Bechel, is his manager.

“Brandon has loved this sport for years,” he recalled. “I have watched him mold himself into a superb, professional athlete in the sport of MMA. We have plans of working toward getting him to Bellator MMA (second largest MMA promoter) or the UFC (largest MMA promoter).”

Lowe’s amateur MMA record is 11 and 5; and, he won four different title belts (Former PCL Lightweight Champion, NFA Featherweight Champion, Spires Featherweight Regional Champion, Unified Midwest Title Featherweight Champion).

Lowe’s sponsors are DCS Cleaning and Handyman Services; Whole Street Productions; Damsel In Defense; Rep. Jenn Hausman; Totally Trips Travel Agency; HW Armory; Head Nod Squad; Grand Piasa Body Art, with Tattoos by Kirby; Sherer Chiropractic Center (Godfrey); and, Celsius Cryotherapy.

Follow Lowe at www.facebook.com/brandonquickdrawlowe, Twitter @quickdrawmma1 and Instagram @quickdrawmma.

Reach Jill Moon at 618-208-6448 and Twitter @jill_moon.



So Which Is It, NBA: Is Sports Betting Going To Help Your Bottom Line Or Not? – Legal Sports Report


NBA betting impact

There’s a lot of questionable information and dissonance coming from the NBA and Major League Baseball when it comes to sports betting legalization.

The two pro sports leagues have insisted it’s either their way or the high way, thus far, when it comes to new wagering laws that are being considered if the US Supreme Court strikes down the federal ban.

They’re not getting their way with a West Virginia sports betting law that is about to be enacted. They are still lobbying in plenty of other states, however.

But apparently, the leagues don’t have their talking points lined up on whether sports betting is going to help them economically.

The NBA appears to be confused

The NBA and MLB have been pushing back on the idea that they’re due for an economic windfall should sports wagering become widely legal in the US.

TV ratings and the amount of time fans spending watching broadcasts is almost certainly going to increase in that scenario. How much benefit they will actually get is certainly up in the air, but to say there’s none is pretty disingenuous.

The first take on this from the NBA

Here’s Scott Ward, representing the NBA and MLB as a lobbyist, from a hearing in the WV legislature last month on the idea that leagues will benefit. This was in a response to a question from a lawmaker asking why should West Virginia give the leagues a “sports betting integrity fee” — a one percent tax on handle payable to the leagues — when they stand to benefit anyway:

“I’ve heard this a lot, that people are going to bet and then they’re going to watch the games, and you are going to get so much more money from people watching the games. I think that’s based on a faulty premise. And there’s really no data to support that. And here’s the faulty premise. The premise is that if you bet on a game, you’re going to watch the sport.

Well in order for that to grow, we’re talking about a large illegal market that exists now. So let’s assume also those people are now watching sports because they’re betting. So in order for us to have additional eyes, and for this large amount of money come to us, we have to find people who 1. don’t watch sports right now and 2. don’t bet right now. That’s not your market to come and bet. So I think that faulty premise that underlies that we’re going to get a bunch of money from people watching really just doesn’t exist.”

To boil all that down: Ward says the NBA and MLB aren’t going to get much out of sports betting in terms of organic economic impact.

But what, the NBA also said this…

Here’s Commissioner Adam Silver in 2015:

“It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that,” he continued. “Putting aside whether or not we’re actually actively involved in any of the betting, it creates more engagement. We all know as fans if you have, even like a gentleman’s bet or a $5 bet with your friend on a game, all of a sudden you’re a lot more interested.”

Here’s what some folks from the NBA are saying about the possible impact, in a story by the New York Business Journal:

The league has no assurance that the structure will play out, but even without it, every team is seeing green. Many already receive sponsorship dollars and ad support from casinos.

That seems to imply that the opportunity for the league is not “nothing.”

(Let’s also note that the black market is not nearly as big as Tatum implies here. The American Gaming Association puts the total amount wagered illegally in the US at about $150 billion. An estimate from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming puts the illegal market at about $50 billion in terms of handle. And revenue from those two figures is just a fraction of the total amount wagered, in any event.)

It would help if the NBA and MLB wouldn’t go over the top

The NBA and MLB know sports betting is going to help their bottom line, no matter what they say publicly. That’s with or without “integrity fees” or royalties or whatever you want to call the money the leagues want states to give them.

Silver didn’t pen his editorial years ago solely based out of integrity concerns. Whether he thought that getting an “integrity fee” eventually was a slam dunk we don’t know, but he clearly knew it would be good for business.

The NBA and MLB — and indeed all sports leagues — deserve and should be given a seat at the table when it comes to sports betting laws. But they need to tone down the rhetoric. Originally the integrity fees were supposed to go toward integrity. Now they’re supposed to be paid to the leagues for any number of reasons. That they should be compensated for “spending billions of dollars” putting on games is one of the silliest talking points I’ve ever heard; pro sports leagues aren’t running games for charity.

It’s possible for the leagues, gaming interests and state lawmakers to have a civil and rational discourse about sports betting without being disingenuous. Let’s hope that happens before it’s too late to create better policy in states around the country.



Queen Elizabeth II rakes in whopping $9M racing her beloved horses – USA TODAY


Everybody knows (in Britain, at least) that Queen Elizabeth II is a keen judge of horses and loves — absolutely LOVES — the sport of kings, horse-racing. And she’s got more than nine million reasons why.

It turns out that in more than 30 years of racing, the elderly queen in sensible shoes has been a real winner: She’s claimed 452 race wins (out of a total of 2,834 races) for her horses, a winning percentage of 15.9%, according to data compiled by MyRacing.com, a British racing news-and-tips site that analyzed public records of the British Horseracing Authority.

The data were made public Tuesday, ahead of the popular Cheltenham Festival racing meet in Gloucestershire, where the prize money is second only to the Grand National steeplechase in Liverpool.

“The Queen has earned a total of $9,372,441 from her horses, her highest annual total being in 2016 when she earned a whopping $775,325,” according to a press release from a spokesman for the site, Dominic Celica.

He said the data were cross-referenced against data from the horse-racing authority for accuracy. 

Buckingham Palace did not respond to request for comment from USA TODAY. The palace rarely comments on the queen’s private interests.

Queen Elizabeth II receives the winning trophy from her second son, Prince Andrew Duke of York, after her horse Estimate won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot June 20, 2013. (Photo: Alastair Grant, AP)

Based on her wins, Her Majesty placed 11th for 2017 in the list of owners whose horses have won the most during a season, Celica said. However, she has yet to win a race in 2018. 

The list of owners who have won the most in prize money, which go back to 1894, show the queen was first in winnings in two years, 1954 and 1957, and placed 23rd in 2017, the most recent year of data, Celica said.

Right about here we should point out there’s a reason horse-racing is called the sport of kings — because only kings and sheiks and billionaires can afford the wildly expensive pastime. Moreover, a figure south of $10 million is a drop in the bucket for the British monarch, one of the richest women in the world.  

So she’s not racing for the money. The queen, who turns 92 in April, is a lifelong lover of horses (and corgi dogs), respected for her knowledge of breeding and performance, famous for her morning perusal of The Racing Post, and for her near-religious attendance record at Royal Ascot, which she has rarely missed since her first one in 1945.

The five-day annual extravaganza, which brings out brightly-plumed royals and toffs alongside ordinary punters, is said to be her favorite. The queen’s first win there came two weeks after her 1953 coronation when her horse, Choir Boy, won the Hunt Cup.

In 2013, her horse Estimate won the Gold Cup race at Ascot, the first time in the two centuries of the race it has been won by a reigning monarch. She was delighted. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Valuable and Versatile, Arizona's Deandre Ayton Leads College Basketball's New Breed of Big Men – Sports Illustrated


This story appears in the March 12, 2018, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.


Unfolding into a navy-blue leather chair, Arizona’s colossal freshman, Deandre Ayton, leans forward, crossing his right leg over his left to better unlace his white Nikes. It’s mid-February, and minutes earlier the Wildcats had polished off USC at Tucson’s McKale Center to take control of the Pac-12. Despite that achievement, something is eating at Ayton, and in a Bahamian lilt tinged with indignation, he’s eager to express it. To move this mountain of a man, it seems, all you have to do is question his competitiveness.

“I’ve been hearing I have no motor,” he says. “No motor? I don’t know what that even means. I’m playing my heart out. This thing has just been bugging me.”

The indolence rep has followed Ayton since high school, possibly because, he admits, “I’d get bored.” But after leading the conference in scoring (19.7 points per game, through March 1), rebounding (11.1) and double doubles (20)—and becoming the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA’s June draft—Ayton figures that notion should be treated as dismissively as a defender on the left block. “It’s just another chip on me,” he says, acknowledging that coach Sean Miller will “throw it out there to get me mad and start my engine.”

Whether it’s hoops, a locker room dance-off or which Wildcat has the largest portion on his dinner plate, Ayton insists, “I’m a little crazy. Just competing always.” And with March Madness about to tip off—and even more controversy swirling around his team—he has the ideal opportunity to show how serious he is about the game.

A Feb. 23 ESPN report on the FBI’s investigation into college-basketball corruption stated that among the 3,000 hours of phone calls intercepted by the feds, Miller talked with Christian Dawkins—a runner for NBA agent Andy Miller, who is at the center of the case—about paying $100,000 to ensure that Ayton would sign with the Wildcats. That news came five months after assistant coach Emanuel (Book) Richardson was arrested for his part in a bribery scheme uncovered by the FBI, and just one day after junior shooting guard Allonzo Trier was ruled ineligible for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. (Arizona successfully appealed the ruling, contending that a remnant of the substance Trier tested positive for in September 2016—and for which he served a 19-game suspension in ’16–17—was to blame.)

Ayton and his family denied receiving any money, and the university released a statement stating that he “abided by all applicable rules and regulations and is fully eligible to participate.” He was on the court for a 98–93 overtime loss to Oregon on Feb. 24, scoring 28 points and grabbing 18 boards.

Miller did not coach against the Ducks, but he returned to the team in time for the 75–67 win against Stanford on March 1. He maintains that ESPN’s reporting was incorrect: He never met Dawkins until after Ayton had committed to Arizona. (SI has independently confirmed the latter statement.) Miller added that he has never knowingly violated NCAA rules while coaching the Wildcats.

It was the strangest week in program history, but the Wildcats still clinched at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title in spite of it. As Miller has said, “This team goes where Deandre goes.”


Born in Nassau, Ayton was discovered at a basketball camp in the Bahamas as a 6’8″ 12-year-old and then attended high schools in San Diego and Phoenix. The summer following his freshman year he put up 18 and 17 for a Bahamian team called the Providence Storm in a one-point exhibition upset over North Carolina—yes, that North Carolina—draining a go-ahead three for the win. Shortly afterward, recruiting sites dubbed him the nation’s top prospect, and he arrived in Tucson as the highest-rated freshman (No. 3 in the class of 2017 based on composite rankings) of Miller’s eight-year tenure.

Standing 7’1″ with a 7’5″ wingspan, Ayton has dimensions that echo Joel Embiid’s. All square shoulders and rippling limbs, he insists he had never lifted a weight before last July. “Facts,” he says. He’ll tell you he weighs a comically lean 260 pounds with just 5.4% body fat. “I used to get butterflies when I’d see big dudes,” Ayton says. “I don’t get butterflies no more.”

The notion that Ayton would be nervous is amusing, given his physical power, quick-twitch agility and improving ball skills. While he delivers punishment with his back to the rim, he can unleash an unblockable jump shot when he feels like it. (He’s 10 of 31 from three-point range this season.) “I don’t see how you can pass on that,” says one Eastern Conference executive. “For me, the thing with him was playing hard,” says another scout. “I’ve seen what I needed to see.”

Ayton headlines an exceptional group of freshman big men with modern skill sets who are relishing the chance to debunk the adage that great guard play is the key to winning titles. Duke forward Marvin Bagley III, who was briefly Ayton’s high school teammate at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, missed four games with a sprained right knee but returned on Feb. 24 and scored 19 points in a 60–44 win over Syracuse. Jaren Jackson Jr. has emerged as a two-way force for Michigan State, making stunning strides since November. And the shot blocking of Mohamed Bamba has turned Texas into an elite defensive team.

The NBA’s stylistic revolution has been well-documented, with the success of the Warriors and the Cavaliers spurring a ripple effect of wide-open offenses and three-point barrages. Small ball, however, may be a bit misleading. There will always be a correlation between size and utility on the court. And at every level of hoops, post players are evolving to take on new responsibilities.

“For years, people saw how skilled big kids were in Europe, and I think coaches were able to start to really bang that drum here in the States,” says one former general manager. “It’s really evident now that the earth-mover, back-to-the-basket big is a thing of the past. If you’re a big dude, you better be able to guard in space. That’s a very rare thing. I think that’s why people are so excited about the top of this draft.”

While their defensive abilities are varied, Ayton, Bagley, Bamba and Jackson—all 6’11” or taller—are athletic enough to contest on the interior, attack the basket and knock down threes. “It’s a whole new generation,” Ayton says, citing Pelicans stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins as his inspirations. “The key word is versatility.”


Lauri Markkanen, a star forward for Arizona in 2016–17 who now plays for the Bulls, would know. “There’s not too many guys in the league that can’t shoot a midrange shot or a three-pointer,” he says. The 7-foot Finnish sharpshooter was drafted seventh last year largely because of a skilled faceup game, and his early NBA success sets a positive precedent for this year’s crop of forwards. Markkanen has become a fan of Ayton’s game. “[Deandre] does a bit of everything,” he says. “He can really shoot the ball, and he’s a monster inside.”

Like Markkanen, Ayton will also have to make his biggest improvement on D. NBA teams see him as a center, but Arizona lists Ayton as a power forward. It’s understandable given how much time he spends alongside plodding 7-foot, 245-pound Serbian senior Dušan Ristić. Miller’s decision to play with a size advantage has forced Ayton out of his comfort zone, challenging him with a wider variety of assignments than anyone else on the team.

While the Wildcats are among the top dozen scoring teams in the country, their defensive efficiency ranks 99th on kenpom.com. “We’re a much better offensive team than defensive—that’s the truth,” Miller admits.

In an 82–74 home loss to UCLA on Feb. 8, the Wildcats came out flat, and Ayton struggled to keep up with crafty 7-foot midrange ace Thomas Welsh and post Gyorgy Goloman, occasionally looking lost running around screen after screen. “Deandre just didn’t have his usual energy and bounce,” said Miller. “We weren’t talking, we weren’t communicating,” Ayton adds. “I put that all on me.” A tough 24 hours of meetings, film sessions and teamwide gut checks followed.

“Dudes are coming at me every day, I’m playing different positions on the defensive end,” Ayton says. “I’m really working on that, because that’s the next level. In the league, everybody can dribble.” The demands of the modern game aren’t lost on him: “Guarding ball screens, there’s a lot of one-on-one. You really have to have a lot of pride in guarding your man, especially off the ball.”

Chris Coduto/Getty Images

In the 81–67 win over USC two nights later, Ayton looked like a different player. He drained jumpers, unleashed a left-handed pirouette from the high post and threw down a backdoor lob with uncanny ease. But the biggest change was evident in his defense: He aggressively tracked three-point ace Bennie Boatwright on the outside and harassed star forward Chimezie Metu in the paint. Ayton contested shots, recovered on screens and never stopped moving his feet. “His defense sets the tone for a lot,” Miller said after the game. “When he’s playing like that, with energy, it’s not [just] his shot blocking, it’s his quick movement away from the basket.”

Even when he’s not perfect, Ayton’s production has been a stabilizing force in a year when little has gone according to plan for SI’s preseason No. 1. Richardson, who had been a member of Miller’s staff since 2009 at Xavier, has been charged with accepting $20,000 from Dawkins and financial adviser Munish Sood to steer Arizona players who turn pro to use their services. (Richardson and Dawkins have pleaded not guilty; Sood has not been indicted.) On the same day the feds came to Tucson last fall, Rawle Alkins, Arizona’s top perimeter defender, broke his right foot. He returned on Dec. 9 and has averaged 13.7 points and 2.8 assists, but is still working toward peak form.

Ayton knows he needs a higher gear for the NCAAs. “I’ve been double-teamed my whole life,” he says. “I know when a double team’s coming, I know what side the guy’s coming from, I know how to dribble out of it.” And as the clock ticks down on his D-I career, the Wildcats still have plenty of problems to solve.

While it was always clear that Ayton’s stay in college would be brief, he insists that thoughts of the draft are on the back burner (but his homework is not). Before games he has taken to ending warmups by flinging dainty, half-court granny shots at the rim. It is a sight to watch, a man that large getting so excited about something that silly. Whether it takes two attempts or 10 to find twine, a roar of adoration from the student section chases him back into the locker room, arms aloft. “I know when the time is right to compete and get serious,” Ayton says. That’s versatility.