Former USC star sees career take off in Orlando

first_imgDeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic comprise two-fifths of the tight-knit fraternity of former USC basketball players currently competing in the NBA.Change of scenery · After only averaging 5.5 points and 15.9 minutes per game with the Philadelphia 76ers as a rookie, Nikola Vucevic, the former No. 16 overall 2011 draft pick, is nearly doubling those totals with the Magic. – Photo courtesy of USC Sports InformationBefore a mid-November game between DeRozan’s Toronto Raptors and Vucevic’s Orlando Magic, the two former Trojans reminisced about their lone season as collegiate teammates.According to Vucevic, “DeMar said, ‘Man, you have come a long way. When you were a freshman, nobody knew who you were, and you did not play a lot. Now you are starting in the NBA.’”“I did not really think about it until then,” Vucevic said.With DeRozan starring for the Trojans during the 2008-09 season, Vucevic averaged only 2.6 points per game as a skinny freshman. He struggled to earn playing time and was still adjusting to American culture after arriving from Montenegro the year before.DeRozan declared for the NBA after only one year, and Vucevic began to blossom under Kevin O’Neill, who had replaced Tim Floyd as USC’s coach.“I pushed him every day,” O’Neill said, “because I knew he could be better.”Vucevic put on muscle and developed his outside shot and was named the 2010 Pac-10 Most Improved Player. The next year he was named to the All-Pac-12 first team and led the Trojans to the NCAA tournament.He went on to be selected by the Philadelphia 76ers as the 16th pick in the 2011 NBA draft.Traditional rookie hazing was far from the only grief Vucevic received from his 76ers teammates last season.Playing alongside four players who competed at Pac-12 schools — California’s Francisco Elson, Washington’s Spencer Hawes, UCLA’s Jrue Holiday and Arizona’s Andre Iguodala — Vucevic received numerous reminders that his Trojans were struggling through a 6-26 season without him.“[USC] did not win a single game against those teams,” Vucevic said, “so I had to do a lot of extra favors for the veterans.”On the court, Vucevic averaged 5.5 points in only 15.9 minutes per game. Despite his limited action, he played well enough to attract the attention of the Orlando Magic, who acquired him as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.Vucevic was working out when he received a call from his agent informing him to pack his bags for Orlando.“I thought it was a good opportunity for me,” Vucevic said in the Magic locker room before Sunday’s game against the Lakers. “I knew I could have a chance to play on such a young team.”Vucevic has excelled, starting all 16 games for the Magic. He is averaging 9.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, statistics that prompted several of his former USC teammates to draft him on their fantasy teams.“He is in a great situation,” O’Neill said. “If he was on the Lakers, he would not be putting up those numbers.”Vucevic has scored in double figures in all 10 games, when playing more than 26 minutes this season.“He is a very talented big man,” Magic teammate Arron Afflalo said. “You can see his growth mentally from last season in terms of how hard he plays.”Vucevic no longer has O’Neill shouting in his ear during practices, but has nevertheless been able to maintain a consistent level of intensity.“The Magic coaching staff pushes me hard,” Vucevic said. “Probably not as much as [O’Neill], but they are working me hard so I get better every day.”New Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has noticed Vucevic’s work ethic and praised the center’s offensive potential.“I love coaching him and his approach at practice everyday,” Vaughn said. “He can shoot the basketball and he is very skilled offensively.”With Vucevic playing so well, on-court reunions with DeRozan could soon become commonplace — and fierce.“[Vucevic] can really dribble, pass, and shoot,” O’Neill said. “He has the chance to have a long, successful career in the NBA.”last_img read more

Gyan made permanent Black Stars captain

first_imgGhana coach Kwesi Appiah has announced that Asamoah Gyan has been appointed permanent captain of the Black Stars.This follows the decision to elevate John Mensah to the role of a General captain of the senior national team.“I have the pleasure of announcing that defender John Mensah has been elevated to the General Captain of the Black Stars,” Kwesi Appiah said in a statement.“Subsequently, I have appointed Asamoah Gyan as the permanent captain of the Black Stars.“John Mensah remains an integral member of the Black Stars.“I urge all players to give the necessary support to Asamoah Gyan to help Ghana achieve success in our future challenges.”last_img read more

Spaulding celebrate golden double

first_imgSpalding High School is delighted with its double success at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships last week. According to girls’ team coach Megan Wilson-Copeland, the school family is elated after Kimone Campbell and Dwayne Moore anchored their respective 1600-metre medley teams to victory on Saturday inside the National Stadium. Wilson-Copeland said the school is in celebration mode.With Campbell extending a big lead, Spalding smashed the girls’ record in 3 minutes 57.58 seconds. The Wilson-Copeland-coached unit made history by being the first to go under 4 minutes in Girls’ Championships history. In the very next race, Moore carried Spalding to the gold medal in the boys’ race.The double win made Spaulding the first team to win both medley relay gold medal since Boys’ Championships and Girls’ Championships were merged in 1999.Minutes after a happy session of morning worship at the school, Wilson-Copeland said, “Words cannot explain how kids, teachers, the principal, other staff members of the school feel, they’re really excited and they’re in a celebration mode at the moment.”She explained why Spalding targeted the medley at the Championships.NOT SURPRISED”I knew that I had a small team, a well-rounded but small team, but with the individual events, when I looked at the 800 especially with Kimone Campbell running through the rounds, it’s really rough,” she related. “So I wanted to take off the pressure off her and instead of getting three or four points from her, I knew I could get 12 points using her on a medley.”Campbell had clocked two minutes 12.20 seconds for fourth place in the Class Two 800 metres at the recent staging of Central Championships. With that in mind, the coach isn’t surprised that Campbell controlled the anchor leg. Her split time was 2:13.4.Wilson-Copeland reported that similar thinking led boys’ team coach Milton Sargent to give Moore the responsibility of running the final leg.Told that Moore, who took third place in last year’s Class Two 1500 metres final, covered his leg in 1 minute 53.8 seconds, she had nothing but praise for him.”He’s an excellent athlete, short in stature but big in heart,” she chimed. She commended the Spalding quartet for winning against some of the top boys’ teams and for doing better than everyone else expected. “I guess this is a surprise for everyone,”, she surmised.Among those following in the footsteps of former Spalding star Simoya Campbell were Gizelle Shaw and Cheriece Cope. Shaw took third place in the Class One 800m and Cope finished second in the Class Three equivalent.last_img read more

Stay of proceedings after Jaspal Atwal accused of uttering threats

first_imgSURREY, B.C. — The BC Prosecution Service says it won’t pursue a charge of uttering threats against the man who sparked a political firestorm when he attended an event during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India last year.The prosecution service says it has directed a stay of proceedings for Jaspal Atwal on a charge unrelated to Trudeau’s state visit.Atwal’s lawyer Marvin Stern said in May 2018 that a charge of uttering threats was laid against his client following an alleged argument in April.Atwal was convicted of trying to kill an Indian cabinet minister during a visit to Vancouver Island in 1986, but has said he has since renounced terrorism.Critics said he should never have received an invitation to the state event in Mumbai, where he was photographed in February 2018 with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.The prosecution service says the stay was directed in court on June 7 after it receiving new information and determined the charge approval standard could no longer be met.It says in a statement that the standard requires Crown counsel to consider whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and whether the public interest requires a prosecution.“As new information is received, Crown counsel continue to evaluate whether the evidentiary standard is met or the public interest continues to require a prosecution. If, at any stage, this standard is no longer met, the prosecution cannot proceed and a stay of proceedings is entered,” the service says.Reached by phone Monday, Atwal called the charge “bogus.”“I didn’t threaten him,” he said.Stern could not immediately be reached for comment but said last year the complainant in the case was a broadcaster at a Punjabi radio station and that Atwal would “vehemently deny” the alleged events.The Canadian Presslast_img read more