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Josh Freeman: Tampa Bay Bucs' offense needs to 'get back to the basic'


By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

TAMPA — Bucs QB Josh Freeman admits he "hasn't played well enough to win," during the past couple weeks, when he's racked up a combined eight interceptions.

Which led Freeman to do some self-evaluation. What he said he found was that he and the offense need to get back to the basics and try not to do too much.

"Point blank, we just have to run the offense," Freeman said. "That's what we've been doing, and I hate to say, 'Slow it down.' But that's kind of what we need to do. If you look back to when we had that stretch where we were an extremely explosive offense, the stuff that we were doing wasn't anything out of the ordinary. We were doing our stuff. Obviously guys were making plays, but we were letting the system create the plays and you've got to keep that in perspective."

For Freeman, that means throwing it away sometimes as opposed to sitting in the pocket too long and taking the extra hit. It means sticking with his progressions.

He said the team tried to out-do itself at times following a mid-season, six-game stretch in which they averaged 33 points per game — during which Freeman had just three interceptions, and the Bucs won five of the games.

"Everybody has been pushing, everybody wants to go out and do well," Freeman said. "And and the end of the day, what allows you to do well is consistently running your stuff. You have these big games, you have these huge numbers and scoring all these points, and you feel like to maintain. To keep scoring this many points to one-up your previous performances, you (think you) have to put together some herculean effort, and you really don't. All you have to do is run the offense. Us being ourselves, us going out and just playing is good enough to win ball games."

PRO BOWL PROPS: Coach Greg Schiano said he was thrilled for DT Gerald McCoy, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection Wednesday night. "I hope this is a long stream of those types of things over the years," Schiano said. Schiano said there were certainly other Bucs players he believed were deserving, but said those type of awards may come more often with team success. "Usually what happens is (when) you win, even more guys get recognized," Schiano said. "If we win, there will be more of that to go around."

Rookie RB Doug Martin, WR Vincent Jackson and S Ronde Barber were chosen as alternates. "It's definitely an accomplishment," Martin said. "As a rookie, it's a great honor."

CLARK'S CALL: TE Dallas Clark believes the Bucs have a bright future. The question is, will Clark be part of it?

Clark, 33, who signed a one-year, $2.7 million deal in the offseason, has been productive, with 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns. And coming off two injury-plagued seasons, Clark has held up physically, playing in all 15 games.

But it appears he would have liked to have been more involved in the offense. "It's been a great first year, a phenomenal lockeroom, I loved the guys" he said. "It's been a lot of fun. Just would have loved to help out more. But you show up for work and do as much as you can."

When asked if he wanted to be back with Tampa Bay, Clark said "we'll see what the options are. ... But that's the offseason," he said. "Right now, we're focused on finishing the season on a positive note."

WRIGHT STUFF: Schiano said he's unsure if CB Eric Wright, who is coming off a four-game suspension, will play Sunday against the Falcons. But defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan acknowledged how much the team missed Wright, having lost all four games he had to sit out for violating the league's performance enhancing drug policy. "He's an NFL starting corner, and that's what we brought him here to do," Sheridan said. "It was a hit for us I think. The guys that have stepped in for him have done more than an honorable job."

PRACTICE REPORT: Bucs LT Donald Penn missed his second straight day of practice Thursday because of a non-injury-related personal issue. G Roger Allen (groin) also did not participate.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com

Tony Dungy speaks to Michigan as Wolverines prepare for Outback Bowl


By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

TAMPA — Before engaging in a two-hour workout in cloudless, crisp weather Thursday at Jesuit High, Michigan's players found themselves assembled around a prominent alum of a Big Ten rival.

Tony Dungy, who played quarterback at Minnesota from 1973-76 spoke to the Wolverines in an appearance set up by Michigan football media relations director Justin Dickens. Dungy and Dickens worked together five years in the Indianapolis Colts organization.

"Justin and Tony have a close relationship, and when you have a resource who understands about the game and preparing men for life, I think it's to an advantage for us to have him come in," Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said.

The gist of Dungy's message? "We'll keep that among the team," Hoke added. "It was powerful though."

NO REGRETS: Odds are, South Carolina fourth-year junior QB Andrew Clifford won't step on the field Tuesday once pregame drills conclude. Yet the seldom-used former Wharton High star said he wouldn't trade his four years in Columbia for anything.

A 2,200-yard passer as a Wharton senior in 2008, Clifford has thrown five passes — completing three — in his college career.

A onetime Gators devotee and son of a former University of Florida player, he signed with USC following a whirlwind courtship with Steve Spurrier, who needed a QB early in 2009 after Chris Smelley transferred.

"I wouldn't replace anything, especially being a part of all the firsts that we've accomplished at our school," said Clifford, who graduated in May with a degree in sports/entertainment management. "I wouldn't do anything different."

MCQUAY STOPS BY: Among the visitors to Michigan's practice Thursday was four-star Armwood safety Leon McQuay III, who said the Wolverines remain among his five college finalists. McQuay, also considering Southern Cal, Oregon, FSU and Vanderbilt, reaffirmed Thursday he'll announce his choice at the Jan. 4 Under Armour Game at Tropicana Field.

ODDS AND ENDS: Michigan has played (and lost to) the Associated Press' top three teams — No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State — on the road this year. ... Hoke shed no new light on the 2013 status of all-Big Ten P Will Hagerup, suspended from the Outback Bowl for a violation of team rules. ... In the bad-omen department, South Carolina is practicing at Jefferson High, same site it used prior to its 31-10 drubbing at the hands of Iowa in the 2009 Outback Bowl.


4,700: Pounds of food prepared for both teams and their traveling parties at Wednesday's Outback Steakhouse Team Welcome Dinner at the A La Carte Pavilion, including 750 pounds of sirloin steak and 1,200 pounds of cheesecake.

Captains corner: Shrimp is the key to winter game fish


By Doug Hemmer, Times Correspondent
Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's hot: Shrimp, live or cut, is the top bait during the winter as trout, redfish and sheepshead feed well on it. During the warmer times of the year shrimp fall victim to pinfish before game fish can locate the bait.

Trout: Free-line the shrimp on a bottom that has a mixture of grass and sand. During the warmest part of the day, rig the shrimp under a small popping cork and pop it to draw trout in.

Redfish: These game fish like docks in residential canals. Cast the shrimp under a dock using a splitshot to keep the bait from swimming around the pilings.

Sheepshead: These fish like places with barnacles or oysters. The best way to get them feeding is to toss small pieces of cut shrimp in the target area. The smell lures the sheepshead from the pilings. Put on a larger piece of cut shrimp, cast to the spot where you tossed the cut pieces and wait for your line to move.

Pro tip: Use a chum bomb to start a feeding frenzy in the targeted area. Place a handful of cut shrimp in a paper bag the size of a 12-ounce can. Then drop a large egg sinker rigged to a heavy rod into the bag and tape it shut. Lower the bag to the bottom and wait for the paper to soften. Give a few hard tugs on the rod to break open the bag and dump the shrimp.

Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.

Don't shrug off the silver seatrout


By Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor
Thursday, December 27, 2012

While chatting with a fishing buddy recently, the conversation, as usual, turned to redfish, trout and snook.

If a visitor from Mars stopped in a local bait shop and asked what's biting, he would probably be told to fish for the Big Three, the Axis of Envy for every inshore angler.

But there are other fish in Tampa Bay. On a recent angling expedition, as we sat anchored waiting for the fog to clear, charter boat captain Tim Whitfield showed me photos of his recent catches.

"Isn't this a beautiful silver sea-trout?" he asked. "They're all over the place, and nobody fishes for them."

The species is a member of the drum family but is sometimes confused with another family member: the sand seatrout. The sand seatrout is primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico (although it is often caught in the Atlantic waters of extreme southeastern Florida).

The silver seatrout, however, is found primarily along sandy or mud bottoms in the Gulf and the Atlantic. It is slightly smaller than the sand sea-trout, though a 12-inch, 1-pound specimen of either species would be considered a great catch.

The silver seatrout is the smallest of the various Florida seatrout species, which include the state's most popular sport fish, the spotted seatrout, and the weakfish, a species primarily found in the Atlantic Ocean.

Silver seatrout feed on both fish and shrimp but tend not to be as discriminating or cagey as the more popular spotted seatrout.

"A lot of anglers look down their noses at silver trout," said Dave Walker, a Tampa guide who has been catching silvers in local waters for more than 40 years. "But this time of year, if you're looking to put some food on the table, you won't find a better fish."

In fact, silver trout have long been valued as a "fish fry" favorite. There are no bag or size limits for silver trout, so as long as you are willing to clean them, there will be no shortage of people to eat them.

"The trick is finding the big ones," Walker said. "Sometimes you have to weed through the little ones just to find one worth keeping."

The average silver seatrout usually weighs less than 8 ounces, whereas its cousin, the spotted seatrout, is common to 4 pounds on the west coast and even larger on the east coast.

If you're wondering how big is big, the state record for spotted seatrout is 17 pounds, 6 ounces. Anglers call those monsters "gator trout" or "yellow mouths" because of the distinctive coloring associated with the mouths of big trout.

While the spotted seatrout is usually found on the grass flats, silver seatrout tend to congregate where there are steep drop-offs, such as ship channels and around bridges. They're a schooling species, so once you find them, the action will be nonstop — until your arms get tired or something comes along to ruin the bite, such as sharks or bottlenose dolphin.

Silver seatrout will hit a variety of live and artificial baits, though the rig of choice is often a lightly weighted jig (1/8- to ¼-ounce) tipped with a piece of dead shrimp. If targeting silver seatrout sounds too easy, like catching fish in a bucket, and you want more sport, try downsizing the line to 6- or even 4-pound test. You will agree, that's entertainment.

Once you master the silver sea-trout scene, perhaps you'll want to try another seldom-sought species, the black sea bass. This structure-loving battler is a lot of fun to catch and it makes for a great fish sandwich.

Suncoast Orthopedic claims slow pitch title


By Derek J. LaRiviere, Times Correspondent
Thursday, December 27, 2012

The West Hernando Athletic Club for Seniors wrapped up the first half its Men's Slow Pitch Softball League season on Dec. 14 with Suncoast Orthopedic winning the first-half championship.

Suncoast Orthopedic (21-6) dominated league play ahead of second-place Minerva's Hair Salon (15-10). C's Pub (14-13), Rookies Sports Bar (11-15), American Legion (9-17) and Economy Insurance Mart (8-17) rounded out the standings.

Members of the team include: Lee Byers, Jerry Flannery, Bobby Sardiello, Angel Larragoity, Gerry Rivera, Cesar Mendez, Bob Gill, Charlie Fisher, Jim Pulver, Dennis Fagan, Tony Passanesi, Bobby Bair and manager Tom McCain.

The second half of the season begins on Jan. 7.

UMPIRE CLINICS: The Hernando-Sumter Umpires Association has scheduled a series of baseball/softball umpiring clinics.

The clinics are designed to train anyone who wants to become an umpire, and also can help seasoned umpires improve. Clinics will take place Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 at the Anderson Snow Sports Complex in Spring Hill, Jan. 27 at Ernie Wever Park in Brooksville, and Feb. 3 at Ridge Manor Park in Ridge Manor.

The sessions are open to men and women 16 and older. All clinics will start at 10 a.m.

Visit hernandosumterumpire.com to register. For information, call (352) 593-6998 or send email to clinics@hernandosumterumpire.com.

HERNANDO BOWLER EXCELS AT HUDSON: Spring Hill resident Mike Morrison, a regular at Hudson Bowl, tossed his first career 800 series in the center's Brunswick Classic League on Dec. 13.

With games of 278, 300 and 222, the 48-year-old lane veteran captured an elusive U.S. Bowling Congress honor score that many never achieve. The perfect game he threw in the second game of the series was the sixth of his career and his second of 2012, having rolled the first on March 1 in the same league.

Morrison also competes in the Pasco P.M. Tires Plus League in Hudson on Tuesdays.

BROOKSVILLE BULLDOGS BASEBALL: The Brooksville Bulldogs will be holding sign-ups for the coming season on Jan. 5, 19 and 26 at Kennedy Park in Brooksville.

The Bulldogs compete in both the Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth leagues with age groups from 9 to 18 years old. Travel players are welcome as well.

Registrations will be taken from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on each of the dates.

For information, contact Bruce Price at (813) 714-1054 or bruce67price@hotmail.com.

CROOM ZOOM TRAIL RUN: The Croom Zoom Trail Run will take place Jan. 5 on the trails in the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest.

The event will feature three distance courses — a 100K, a 50K and a 25K.

All race participants will receive T-shirts with awards for the top finishers and trophies for the overall male and female winners.

For information or to register, visit croomzoom.com.

FIREARMS SAFETY CLASSES: The Hernando Sportsman's Club will be offering firearms safety classes.

The next regular class dates will be Jan. 5, Jan. 19, Feb. 6, Feb. 16 and March 6. A firearms safety course for females will be on March 16.

All classes will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at sportsman's club, 16121 Commercial Way, north of Weeki Wachee.

The course will cover lessons about the basics of firearms safety around the home as well as an introduction to pistol safety, parts and operation, an introduction to ammunition, the fundamentals of pistol shooting, an introduction to pistol shooting from the seated and standing positions, and an introduction to pistol cleaning and storage.

Classes include instruction, live-fire training on the range and a lunch break.

Cost is $60. Completion of the class also provides required documentation to apply for a Florida concealed carry permit.

Advance registration is required. Call (352) 597-9931. For information, visit hernandosportsmansclub.com.

TENNIS CLINICS: Ace Performance Tennis is offering QuickStart drills every Monday at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill.

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., players will take part in drills and games designed for beginners, using the U.S. Tennis Association-approved strategies for 60-foot court players. The fee is $10 per player.

Ace Performance Tennis also offers Ladies Night Out from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Monday at Delta Woods Park.

For $10 per class, women of beginning and intermediate skill levels can learn to play in a fun social setting.

For information, call John or Louise Downey at (352) 666-0658 or visit louisedowney.usptapro.com.

TOURETTE SYNDROME GOLF TOURNAMENT: The Plantation Golf Resort in Crystal River will host the inaugural Tee Off for Tourette Celebrity Golf Tournament on Feb. 1 and 2.

Proceeds will benefit the Tourette Syndrome Association of Florida, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping individuals and families living with Tourette's syndrome. The money will help send children to an annual camp, where they can be with other children with Tourette syndrome and can make new friends.

The basic entry fee is $500 per four-player team, which includes a hole sign and recognition in the tournament program, as well as greens fees and a cart. Other sponsorship levels include gold, platinum and event.

For $1,000, a sponsor receives the same features as with the basic fee, plus a plaque commemorating the event. For a platinum fee of $2,500, a corporate sponsor gets two four-player teams. The event sponsor fee of $5,000 includes three four-player teams and the privilege of playing the round with one of the celebrities signed up to be on hand.

Individual hole sponsorships are $250. Individual players can play for a cost of $100 per golfer.

Among the celebrities expected to appear are former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, American Idol Season 9 contestant Dave Pittman, Kansas City Royals minor leaguer Nick DelGuidice and sports artist John Prince.

For more information, contact event chairman Gary D'Amico at (352) 527-2938 or gary78@tampabay.rr.com.

Contact Derek J. LaRiviere at derekjlariviere@gmail.com or (352) 584-6337.

Same ol' Spurrier


By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

TAMPA — The concessions to age are mostly subtle. Steve Spurrier's golf handicap has spiked modestly, and he now runs exclusively on a treadmill. He even has less velocity on his visor, not that he ever really flings it anymore.

"I've got some arthritis in my dang fingers," said Spurrier, whose 11th-ranked South Carolina team began game-week preparation for the Outback Bowl at Jefferson High on Thursday. "It's not bad, it's just enough to make you think something's wrong."

From a chronological perspective, the head Gamecock is no longer a spring chicken. Stephen Orr Spurrier — Heisman Trophy winner, Bandit Ball creator, Gainesville icon and all-time winningest coach in South Carolina history — turns 68 in April.

Yet an autumn full of tee times remains on a distant horizon. While the ol' ball coach may not be able to shoot his age, he isn't acting it either.

Professionally, Spurrier, presiding over the golden age of Gamecock football, may be 67 going on 47.

"Physically, and hopefully mentally, I'm the same as I was 20 years ago," said Spurrier, who had right knee-replacement surgery in January.

"I actually work out more now than I did 20 years ago. As those health magazines say, exercise is the only fountain of youth out there."

With each double-digit winning season in Columbia, Spurrier seems to get a bit younger.

A year after leading the Gamecocks to their first 11-win season, he'll try for the repeat Tuesday as South Carolina (10-2) faces No. 19 Michigan (8-4) at Raymond James Stadium. He has won three in a row against Georgia, four in a row against Clemson.

His 2013 recruiting class is widely ranked among the nation's top 20.

"He's just out there having fun, man," Gamecocks All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. "He just loves the game. I think he loves being around it and just likes to win, so there's no telling how long he'll be in it."

A dozen years ago, the notion of Spurrier possibly still coaching as a septuagenarian seemed outlandish.

While still at Florida in the late 1990s, when expectations were at an apex and recruiting battles with Bobby Bowden and Butch Davis were at their fiercest, Spurrier indicated he didn't picture himself coaching past 60.

The two miserable seasons with the Redskins certainly didn't add years to his coaching life.

"When you do something strictly for money, usually it doesn't work out," he said. "I can't coach football 11 months a year. It's too much. I can't watch tape, go visit free agents."

Nonetheless, as 60 came and went, Spurrier — grandfather of 11 — discovered his zeal for coaching hadn't faded with his birth certificate.

He found a utopian landing spot in Columbia, mired in football mediocrity for generations. After modest success initially, Spurrier has flourished at a school where the passion for football is searing and the expectations aren't suffocating.

As the wins accumulate, his competitive edge seems to get sharper than his one-liners.

"He's such a competitor," said former longtime UF sports information director Norm Carlson, one of Spurrier's closest friends for nearly a half-century. "What's that saying, the ecstasy of victory and agony of defeat? That's something he loves. He loves to compete. I don't think he could see himself sitting back and playing golf every day."

At least not at this juncture. The Gamecocks' eight consecutive years of bowl eligibility and five consecutive seasons of at least seven wins under Spurrier are unprecedented. His 65 wins are the most in school history, joining Bear Bryant as the only coaches to own the school record for wins at two SEC schools.

And there's no reason to stop now; Spurrier recently got a two-year contract extension through 2017.

"I've really got a stress-free life," he said.

"It's stressful during games a little bit trying to call plays and all that. . … But as far as lifestyle, we grind it out August through the bowl game. … And then recruiting now, all the players come in the summer. They come on their own. We've got all our commitments already."

So the fun-n-young forges on.

"He's a competitor," said USC director of football operations Jamie Speronis, who has worked with Spurrier since 1990. "You know him. He's going to compete as long as he's having fun competing."

Tom Jones: Weird stories of 2012


By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

We've all followed the major stories in sports over the past year: Lance Armstrong, Bountygate, the NHL lockout, the various championships won by various teams and individuals. But today we look back at some of the more interesting yet no-so-famous stories of 2012. We have good guys and bad guys, stories that will amaze and entertain you. Here are some of our favorite weird, bizarre and goofy stories of the year.

Worst idea

A German man decided to send photos of his privates to German Olympic high jumper Ariane Friedrich. Bad idea. Not only is she a world-class athlete, she is a cop. Friedrich posted the photos on Facebook, then pressed charges against the creep.

But he's a good 'driver'

Golfer Jose Maria Olazabal was racing to get from the Masters to the next tournament on his schedule. Literally. Olazabal, who missed the cut at Augusta, was pulled over in Georgia for doing 97 mph on a rural road. That meant a fine of $621. But it's good to be a pro golfer. Olazabal paid cash for his ticket and continued on his way.

I think I would have just watched it on TV

We never believe the dog-ate-my-homework excuse. But in this case, it really happened. A Seattle man lost his four tickets to the Masters because his Swiss mountain dog ate them. He induced the dog to drink hydrogen peroxide, which didn't harm the dog but made him throw up. The man then taped the tickets back together and was able to attend the tournament.

Those are fightin' words

It's common for fans of rival teams to get into arguments, and sometimes even throw a punch, but this one takes the prize: A 78-year-old Kentucky basketball fan got into a scrap with a 71-year-old Louisville fan while the two were waiting to get treatment at a dialysis clinic. But like good sports fans, they refused to press charges against the other.

So, what are you up to these days?

We love those "Whatever happened to … " stories. But this is the all-time best one: Suzy Favor Hamilton has the most shocking post-competition career ever. The three-time American Olympic middle-distance runner was recently discovered to have been a $600-an-hour call girl in Las Vegas. Hamilton, married and a mother of a 7-year-old daughter, said on Twitter: "I realize I have made highly irrational choices, and I take full responsibility for them. I am not a victim here and knew what I was doing."

Putting out the fire

New York Jets superfan "Fireman'' Ed Anzalone, who used to rile up the home crowd with his chant of "J-E-T-S," decided to Q-U-I-T after the team's embarrassing 30-point loss to the Patriots on Thanksgiving night. He said he would no longer attend home games because "confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common.'' Once again, the action in the stands at Jets games is more interesting than the action on the field.

Click here for 'like'

A high school football coach in Ohio meant to send naked pictures of himself to a Facebook friend. But he posted them for all to see. He next had a status update for his Facebook friends along the lines of "I was fired from my teaching and coaching job.''


Bet you never thought being big was bad in football. But the Mesquite (Texas) Pee Wee Football Association banned a 12-year-old because he was just that — too big. In a league with a weight limit of 135 pounds, Elijah Earnheart was just a little over the limit: 6 feet 1, 297 pounds.

Maybe he should've played Blinded by the Light

A 21-year-old intern serving as the disc jockey for a Florida State League baseball game between Daytona and Fort Myers was ejected by an umpire. How come? After a controversial call, he played Three Blind Mice over the public address system. Apparently the men in blue didn't find it as funny as everyone else. Not only was he given the heave-ho, he was fined $25 by the league.

An incredible journey

A soccer ball covered in Japanese writing washed up on the shore of Middleton Island in Alaska. It is believed to have been debris from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March. The Japan Times reported the ball belonged to a 16-year-old high school student whose home was swept away.

Head games, Part I

A Canadian hunter camping in Ontario accidentally shot himself in the head when he tried to kill a mouse with the butt of his rifle. The good news: The bullet just grazed him, and he was hospitalized briefly. The bad news: Upon his release from the hospital, he was charged with careless use of a firearm. Geez, don't you think the story itself was punishment enough?

Heads games, Part II

Robin Yount, below, is still delivering great shots well after his Hall of Fame playing career with the Brewers. His latest target was Cubs manager Dale Sveum. In a Dick Cheney moment, Yount accidentally hit Sveum in the head with shrapnel while the two were quail hunting in Arizona. Fortunately, Sveum is okay, though he is still manager of the Cubs.

Weirdest injuries

In one of those "Wait, what?'' moments, Spurs star point guard Tony Parker, left, sustained a scratched retina when a fight broke out in a New York nightclub between the entourages of singers Chris Brown and Drake.

Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle sustained a cut on his left (pitching) thumb trying to open a jar of mayonnaise before a game. He still pitched but gave up two runs in a 4-0 loss.

The most pathetic injury, however, goes to Giants and former Rays star first baseman Aubrey Huff. He sprained his right knee jumping over the dugout railing to celebrate the perfect game of teammate Matt Cain.

Sign here, please

High school golfer Caroline Inglis easily shot the best score at the Oregon Class 5A state tournament. But she was disqualified because she signed an incorrect scorecard. She wasn't too broken up and said everyone knew she won, including her father, Bill. And no, Bill wasn't upset, either. When he was in high school in 1971, his high school team was disqualified from the state tournament because someone signed an incorrect card. That someone — Bill Inglis.

In this corner

Here's your strangest funeral of the year. The great boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho was shot and killed in November. At the funeral, his mistress of more than 20 years kissed his body, igniting a full-scale brawl between her and Camacho's wife and sisters.

You deserve a break today

Big man Joakim Noah was criticized by even his team when he chucked up a 3-point try with 3.8 seconds left and his Bulls leading the Magic 99-93. But cut the former Gator a break. All Noah was trying to do was feed his hometown fans. Those with tickets stubs get a free Big Mac from McDonald's whenever the Bulls score 100 points in a game. His coach was mad, and so was the Magic. Fans left unhappy, too. Noah missed the shot.

Coolest guy

Royals rightfielder Jeff Francoeur is one of our favorites. Last year he taped a $100 bill to a baseball and threw it into the stands for fans to buy themselves beverages. This year he had 20 personal pan pizzas delivered to the folks sitting in the rightfield seats in Oakland.

Matt Patchan, De'Ante 'Pop' Saunders leaving Florida Gators football team


By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

GAINESVILLE — The tumultuous football careers of Florida offensive lineman Matt Patchan and safety De'Ante "Pop" Saunders have ended, with both deciding to transfer.

"I just think they needed a fresh start," coach Will Muschamp said.

Patchan, an Armwood High alum, declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday. The redshirt junior has earned his undergraduate degree and is expected to transfer to Boston College where his former UF offensive line coach Steve Addazio is the head coach.

Patchan began as a defensive tackle in 2008, but did not finish the season due to a leg injury. In 2009, he moved back to offensive line, playing four games before being sidelined the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. He missed all of 2010 due to injuries, then played seven games last season before sitting out the Gator Bowl with a pectoral injury.

Saunders played in eight games, with seven starts, this season. The sophomore was suspended the first two for disciplinary reasons and didn't play in the final two regular-season games. Muschamp said two weeks ago that Saunders would not play in the Sugar Bowl. He appeared in 12 games as a true freshman in 2011, starting nine. He had 44 tackles and three interceptions in 20 games.

"Nothing against Florida or Coach Muschamp, but I just needed a fresh start," Saunders told the Gainesville Sun. "The top school I'm considering right now is Louisville" (coached by former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong).

Wild finish lifts cincinnati: Brendon Kay threw for 332 yards and a Belk Bowl-record four touchdowns, and Cincinnati capitalized on Duke's inept play at the end to beat the Blue Devils 48-34 in Charlotte, N.C.

Duke (6-7) was positioned for the go-ahead score — and its first bowl victory since 1961 — but fell apart in the final 80 seconds. With the score tied at 34, Blue Devils running back Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincinnati 5 with 1:20 left and Bearcats defensive lineman John Williams recovered. Kay then hit tight end Travis Kelce on an 83-yard touchdown strike down the middle with 44 seconds left for the go-ahead score.

Cincinnati (10-3) sealed it on the next series when Maalik Bomar crashed into Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, forcing a deflection that fellow linebacker Nick Temple returned 55 yards for a score.

Renfree threw for a Belk-record 358 yards, and the teams combined for a Belk-record 1,114 yards.

San jose state wins military: David Fales was 33-of-43 for 395 yards and two touchdowns as No. 24 San Jose State beat Bowling Green 29-20 in the Military Bowl at Washington. Attendance was 17,835. Fales led a drive that set up Austin Lopez's 27-yard go-ahead field goal with 4:43 left, and after a fumble recovery, De'Leon Eskridge clinched it with a 1-yard run for the Spartans (11-2). Bowling Green (8-5) took a 20-19 lead with a 68-yard touchdown drive with 10:26 left. How do these Spartans compare with the 1937-40 teams that all won 11 or more games? "We'll play 'em," interim coach Kent Baer said.

Barkley done at Southern cal: Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley will not play in Monday's Sun Bowl because of a sprained throwing shoulder, ending his college career. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek will start. Barkley owns 20 school records and 10 Pac-12 records. He is the conference's leader in total offense (12,214), yards passing (12,327), completions (1,001), TD passes (116) and combined rushing and passing TDs (122). "I'm at peace,'' he said. "I know that whatever the case is right now, I can make it into a great case come April (in the NFL draft)."

Alabama: Center Barrett Jones is still not practicing because of a sprained foot sustained in the SEC title game.

Basketball: New Mexico upsets No. 8 Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Alex Kirk scored 15 and blocked Sean Kilpatrick's shot just before the buzzer, preserving New Mexico's 55-54 win over No. 8 Cincinnati. New Mexico (13-1) rallied in the second half behind its 7-foot center, who hit a 3, got a team-high seven rebounds and blocked Kilpatrick's jumper off an inbounds play. UC was trying to go 13-0 for the sixth time.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Josh Freeman: Tampa Bay Bucs' offense needs to get back to basics


By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

TAMPA — Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he "hasn't played well enough to win" during the past two games, in which he racked up a combined eight interceptions.

After some self-evaluation, Freeman said he and the offense need to get back to basics and avoid trying to do too much.

"Point blank, we just have to run the offense," Freeman said. "That's what we've been doing. And I hate to say 'Slow it down,' but that's kind of what we need to do. If you look back to when we had that stretch where we were an extremely explosive offense, the stuff that we were doing wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

He said the team tried to outdo itself at times following a midseason 5-1 stretch in which the Bucs averaged 33 points per game and Freeman had just three interceptions.

"Everybody has been pushing; everybody wants to go out and do well," Freeman said. "And what allows you to do well is consistently running your stuff.''

PRO BOWL PROPS: Coach Greg Schiano said he was thrilled for DT Gerald McCoy, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection Wednesday. Schiano said other Bucs were deserving but awards may come more often with team success.

"Usually what happens is (when) you win, even more guys get recognized," Schiano said. "If we win, there will be more of that to go around."

Rookie RB Doug Martin, WR Vincent Jackson and S Ronde Barber were chosen as alternates. "It's definitely an accomplishment," Martin said. "As a rookie, it's a great honor."

PRACTICE REPORT: Bucs LT Donald Penn missed his second straight day of practice Thursday because of a personal issue. G Roger Allen (groin) also did not participate.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

Sports in brief


Times wires
Thursday, December 27, 2012


Americans rout Germans 8-0 at Juniors

UFA, Russia — Alex Galchenyuk and Riley Barber each had a goal and two assists as the United States routed Germany 8-0 Thursday at the world junior championships.

U.S. goaltender John Gibson stopped 19 shots through two periods. He was replaced by Jon Gillies, who made seven saves. The Americans are tied for first place in Group B with Canada. The Americans play at 9 a.m. today (NHL Network) against Russia, which has three Lightning prospects on its roster.

In Group A, Lightning prospect Tanner Richard had three assists, two on goals by Mike Kunzle, to help Switzerland to a 7-2 victory over Latvia. Switzerland is tied for first with Finland and Sweden.


Beckham mulls his next team

Nearly a month after leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy with an MLS Cup title, David Beckham is considering "a number of serious proposals" but is in no rush to find a new team, his management company said.

The 37-year-old midfielder has been linked to clubs in France, Australia and Asia, but the former England captain has said it's unlikely he will return to the Premier League. He has reportedly ruled out a move to Australia's A-League.

Beckham also played in Spain and Italy.


Baseball: Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, 64, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge, two months after police found him asleep in his truck in a suburban Chicago cornfield. Fisk, who hit a 12th-inning homer for the Red Sox that won Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, was sentenced to one year of court supervision and must pay $1,250 in court costs. He also must undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling.

Sailing: Wild Oats XI won the Sydney to Hobart, Australia, yacht race for the sixth time, breaking its own record time. The supermaxi skippered by Mark Richards crossed the finish in 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds; that's 17 minutes faster than the 2005 mark for the 723-mile race.

Speed skating: Olympian Jilleanne Rookard won the women's 3,000 meters and Emery Lehman took the men's 5,000 on the first day of the U.S. Long Track National Championships in Kearns, Utah.

Tennis: Third-ranked Andy Murray lost 6-3, 6-4 to Janko Tipsarevic in the opener of the World Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tipsarevic faces Nicolas Almagro, a replacement for Rafael Nadal (stomach virus). David Ferrer defeated Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4 to set up a semifinal against top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

Damian Cristodero, Times staff writer; Times wires

Analysis: Tampa Bay Bucs rookie class gets mostly good marks


By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

TAMPA — Long before the Bucs kicked off their season, even months prior to the start of training camp, came an important time for the franchise.

The final weekend in April might one day be remembered as a pivotal moment in Bucs history. That was when the team made the selections that make up the 2012 draft class, one the club hopes serves it well for years to come.

For their part, the group arrived with big plans.

"None of us came here to lose," said safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall selection out of Alabama. "You can see it in the competitiveness of all the guys."

With Barron, Doug Martin, Lavonte David and other rookies nearing the end of their initial seasons, it presents an opportunity to assess their contributions so far and their roles going forward.

SS Mark Barron

The first of the team's two first-round picks, Barron is the Bucs' third-leading tackler with 87 total stops, including four for losses. It's arguable he didn't have the splash hoped for from a player drafted with the No. 7 pick overall, but one thing that can be said of Barron is he has been solid.

Because free safety Ronde Barber often plays closer to the line of scrimmage than Barron, he frequently is relegated to the back end. His strengths, coming out of Alabama, were seen as his hitting and tackling abilities.

But starting 16 games as a rookie is always a good thing.

"The experience in general was great," Barron said. "I got great experience and that's something I can grow from."

OUTLOOK: Here to stay

LB Lavonte David

It's likely no Buccaneer will ever wear No. 55 again, the jersey worn by sure Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks. But there are times when No. 54, second-round pick David out of Nebraska, makes you wonder if he might one day be discussed in the same conversations as Brooks. His cat-quick, sideline-to-sideline style is matched by his understanding of the game that allows him to function at a veteran level.

A handful of rookie mistakes have cropped up, but David's potential for growth is tantalizing.

OUTLOOK: Here to stay

LB Najee Goode

This fifth-round choice from West Virginia has appeared in just two games, but the Bucs see potential, influencing them to keep him on the active roster despite his limited use.

"He's been (inactive) most weeks but was up last week, and I thought he played well on special teams," coach Greg Schiano said. "He's a guy that I think has promise."

Much of that is assessed during practice, where Goode has had a chance to show his abilities against the starting offense while on the scout team.

OUTLOOK: Need to see more

S Keith Tandy

The preseason is never a great indicator of anything, but don't discount Tandy's team-leading 24 tackles in the exhibition season. The sixth-round pick out of West Virginia hasn't gotten consistent playing time on defense during the regular season, but his play on special teams has been valuable.

One reason the team sees Tandy as an important piece is his flexibility. He has spent this season working as a safety but also has the ability to play nickel cornerback.

OUTLOOK: Favorable

RB Michael Smith

You wouldn't know his name from watching games on Sundays — he has been activated for just one game this season — but the seventh-round choice out of Utah State seems to have made quite the impression on Schiano.

"I think Mike's got promise," Schiano said. "Most of the time you see him on the (scout) team, but he's done a really good job. … He really shows that he's got some stuff."

The Bucs have had three other running backs active on most Sundays, precluding Smith from playing. But his speed and power are intriguing to the team.

OUTLOOK: Favorable

CB Leonard Johnson

There was a time when no one would have predicted that Johnson would even make this list. Undrafted, he first had to earn his way onto the roster via a tryout in rookie minicamp. Then he had to make the final roster.

Eventually, Johnson earned the opportunity to play a sizable role due to injuries and suspensions.

The Clearwater native has had ups and downs while defending many of the NFL's top-flight receivers, but his fearlessness allowed him to have an impact: three interceptions and 38 tackles while starting five games.

"He made plays," Schiano said. "It's not like he just kind of filled in."

OUTLOOK: Very good

RB Doug Martin

If you like your running backs to break tackles, records and opponents' hearts, then Martin is your man.

He did it all for the Bucs this season: churned out tough yards in short yardage; made long, game-breaking runs; and caught 45 passes for 454 yards.

Currently the NFL's sixth-leading rusher, Martin has a team rookie record 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns. But it's his less-obvious traits that also appeal to the Bucs. Martin has handled the ball 336 times and has fumbled just once, on a play against Carolina that was arguably ruled incorrectly by officials.

OUTLOOK: Here to stay

Brittany Lincicome, Gary Koch headline First Tee event at Babe Zaharias Golf Course


By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

TAMPA — As Brittany Lincicome lined up her second shot at the second hole Thursday, a brute of an oak tree about 30 feet away blocked her path to the green.

The perfect opportunity, playing partner Gary Koch figured, for a little good-natured fun.

"You told me you could hit a hook," Koch said loud enough for spectators at Babe Zaharias Golf Course to hear. "Come on, these people want to see shots. Show us your big hook."

So Lincicome, from 150 yards, calmly steered her ball right-to-left to the fringe of the green.

"That's what it was about," Koch said later. "We're out here to have a good time and, hopefully, entertain the people a little bit for a good cause."

The fourth annual Battle at the Babe included eight pros, seven with local ties, split into four teams for a pair of four-ball matches to raise funds for the First Tee of Tampa Bay, which provides kids with educational and character-building programs tied to golf.

The locals: LPGA players Lincicome and Cindy LaCrosse; former LPGA player Sally Dee; eGolf Tour player Brad Brunner; T.J. Heidel, head pro at Tampa's Rogers Park Golf Course; Koch, a former PGA player now on the Champions Tour and an NBC golf analyst; and Jay McNair, also of Rogers Park and a former contestant on the Golf Channel's Big Break II. He filled in for PGA player John Huston, who has a bad shoulder.

LPGA player Kris Tamulis of Naples also participated.

For the record, LaCrosse and Brunner beat Lincicome and Koch. Tamulis and Heidel beat Dee and McNair.

Really, though, the results were secondary.

"I grew up in First Tee," said Heidel, who in 2009 started the Battle at the Babe as the pro at Babe Zaharias. "To be able to create something that enables me to give back is a dream come true."

Said Lincicome of Seminole, a five-time LPGA champion: "Anything you can do to raise money for the kids is a blessing. It's an honor to do what I do every day, and just to be able to give back my time a little bit and raise money for such a wonderful cause, it's kind of a no-brainer."

Laura Beuhring, director of golf at Babe Zaharias, said she hopes next year's event will feature 12 players. Heidel said he believes it can grow to 16. To facilitate that and draw a bigger crowd, the date will be moved to between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Thursday, despite some admitted offseason rust, the pros, in front of a crowd of about 150, put on a pretty good show.

Brunner of Tampa, who holds the Babe Zaharias course record of 58, sank a 35-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole.

Koch of Tampa cut the corner on No. 7, a 362-yard dogleg right, and drove the green.

But Lincicome's second shot on No. 2 after Koch's challenge was the shot of the day.

"He put me on the spot with every single person in the crowd," Lincicome, 27, said, laughing.

"And she hit the shot," Koch, 60, said with approval.

"I did," Lincicome added. "That was exciting."

Friday's college football bowl games


Times wires
Thursday, December 27, 2012


Independence Bowl

Who: Ohio (8-4, 4-4 MAC) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)

When/where: 2; Shreveport, La.

TV: ESPN; ; 98-7 FM, 1010-AM

Line: Louisiana-Monroe by 7

Notable: Ohio RB Beau Blankenship (school-record 1,500 rushing yards, 11 TDs) has rushed for at least 100 yards eight times. Louisiana-Monroe has a school-record 59 TDs — 31 passing, 24 rushing, four on defense.

Russell Athletic Bowl

Who: Rutgers (9-3, 5-2 Big East) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 ACC)

When/where: 5:30; Orlando

TV/radio: ESPN; 620-AM

Line: Virginia Tech by 2

Notable: Virginia Tech redshirt junior QB Logan Thomas has been inconsistent (17 TD passes, 14 INTs) but led the team in rushing yards (526) and TDs (nine). Rutgers is ranked 14th in total defense (321.25 yards), led by senior LB Khaseem Greene, the Big East defensive player of the year. Sophomore Jawan Jamison is the third Rutgers player since 1976 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Who: Minnesota (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) vs. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12)

When/where: 9; Houston

TV/radio: ESPN; 620-AM

Line: Texas Tech by 13

Notable: Texas Tech QB Seth Doege is fourth in the nation in yards passing with 3,934 and second with 38 TD passes. Minnesota ranks 11th in the nation in pass defense (178.5 yards) and has given up 300 yards passing only once.

Nets fire Johnson for falloff


Times wires
Thursday, December 27, 2012

NEW YORK — Coach of the month in November, out of a job by New Year's.

The Nets have elevated expectations this season, and a .500 record wasn't good enough. Coach Avery Johnson was fired Thursday, his team having lost 10 of 13 games after a strong start to its first season in Brooklyn.

"We don't have the same fire now that we did when we were 11-4," general manager Billy King said. "I tried to talk to Avery about it, and we just can't figure it out. The same pattern kept on happening."

Assistant P.J. Carlesimo will coach the Nets (14-14) on an interim basis, starting tonight. The Nets might reach out to other candidates but for now the job is Carlesimo's, King said. The GM wouldn't comment on a report the team would contact former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

The decision to dismiss Johnson was made with owner Mikhail Prokhorov, King said.

"I didn't see this coming," Johnson said. "Fair or unfair, it's time for a new voice, and hopefully they'll get back on track."

Game highlights: Kevin Durant scored 40, and Russell Westbrook had eight of his 16 points in overtime as the Thunder beat the Mavericks 111-105 for its 11th straight win at home.

Around the league: Heat guard Dwyane Wade will sit out tonight's game against Detroit after the NBA suspended him without pay for flailing his leg and making contact with the groin of the Bobcats' Ramon Sessions on Wednesday. … Lakers center Dwight Howard was fined $35,000 by the NBA for a flagrant foul Wednesday against Denver's Kenneth Faried. Howard was ejected after he jammed his hand in Faried's face.

Thunder 111, Mavs 105, OT

DALLAS (105): Da.Jones 0-2 0-0 0, Marion 5-12 4-4 14, Kaman 7-14 3-3 17, D.Collison 13-22 2-2 32, Mayo 1-7 1-3 4, Nowitzki 3-11 2-2 9, Brand 3-5 0-0 6, Carter 3-10 0-0 9, Douglas-Roberts 2-5 0-0 4, Crowder 1-2 1-1 4, Do.Jones 2-5 1-1 6. Totals 40-95 14-16 105.

OKLAHOMA CITY (111): Durant 13-28 10-10 40, Ibaka 7-10 5-8 19, Perkins 0-6 0-0 0, Westbrook 7-20 2-3 16, Sefolosha 3-7 0-0 8, Martin 6-12 4-4 18, N.Collison 0-1 2-2 2, Thabeet 1-2 0-1 2, Jackson 2-7 0-0 6. Totals 39-93 23-28 111.

Dallas 29 16 36 17 7— 105

Oklahoma City 21 22 30 25 13— 111

3-Point GoalsDallas 11-24 (D.Collison 4-4, Carter 3-6, Do.Jones 1-1, Crowder 1-2, Nowitzki 1-4, Mayo 1-5, Marion 0-1, Douglas-Roberts 0-1), Okl City 10-25 (Durant 4-8, Jackson 2-4, Martin 2-4, Sefolosha 2-6, Westbrook 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsDallas 55 (Marion 9), Okl City 61 (Ibaka 17). AssistsDallas 22 (Marion 7), Okl City 23 (Westbrook 10). Total FoulsDallas 19, Okl City 18. TechnicalsDallas three second. A18,203.

Girls basketball: Freedom advances to division semifinals of Queen of the Palms tournament


By Thomas P. Corwin, Special to the Times
Thursday, December 27, 2012

FORT MYERS — The Freedom girls basketball team worked on execution all season up until Christmas Day, and in the Patriots' first game after the holiday they perfected it.

Freedom's command was never in doubt as the Patriots easily won 57-27 over St. John Lutheran of Ocala in the opener of Emerald Division play at the Queen of the Palms tournament Thursday afternoon in Fort Myers.

Taylor Emery and Faith Woodard each scored 24 for the Patriots, who now face the winner of the late game between Palm Beach Central and Miami Monsignor Pace in the division semifinals at 8 tonight.

The Patriots jumped out to a 20-6 lead after one quarter.

Despite the lopsided final score, Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke was pleased by her team's hustle on both ends of the floor.

"I loved that intensity I saw out there," Pacholke said. "We've worked hard on executing our offense and defense all season long, and just about everything went perfectly (Thursday). We knew St. John Lutheran would be a challenge, and we were ready for it."

Aside from Woodard and Emery, Freedom needed only two other players to enter the scoring column.

Jalaysha Thomas scored 12 for the Saints.

"Everything came from our defense," Pacholke said. "Once we committed to playing defense, the offense improved immediately right after that. The most important thing on defense was that we hustled. They got after the ball and created a lot of turnovers. We were well-prepared coming into this tournament."

SEFFNER CHRistian 72, GAINESVILLE BUCHHOLZ 67: Seffner rallied in the Diamond Division thanks to timely free throw shooting by Jaitesha Hanson in the fourth and a stingy defense.

Henson scored 28, including 18 on free throws, as the Crusaders erased a 10-point deficit and beat Buchholz.

The Crusaders play at 5 p.m. today in the Diamond Division semifinals against either Ryle of Union, Ky., or Plantation American Heritage. Sabrina Whiting also chipped in 22 points.

"We came into the game focused on being disciplined," said Seffner coach Greg Fawbush. "It was a matter of executing our game plan. Davina Mounds and Chelsea Clark for Buchholz really made their shots today, but overall our defense played well. The important things for us was we scored when we needed it. We demand that players be disciplined in our program, but these girls are disciplined themselves. They show up at 6:30 a.m. in the gym every day ready to play."

In other games involving Tampa Bay-area schools, Cape Coral beat Armwood 51-16, Fort Pierce beat Tarpon Springs 74-72, Pensacola routed Tampa Bay Tech 69-32 and Clearwater topped Sarasota 34-31.

Boys basketball: Lakewood rips Seminole at Northeast tourney


By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — There are times when Lakewood's fastbreak offense goes too fast, which causes rushed shots, errant passes and missed opportunities. So Spartans coach Anthony Lawrence Sr. stressed execution at practice over the past few days.

It all came together against Seminole on Thursday in the first round of the Northeast Holiday Tournament.

Anthony Lawrence Jr. and Jared Gregory stepped back and buried 3-pointers. They also slashed to the basket for layups. The passes were crisp. The turnovers were few, and the opportunities to score points in bunches were there.

The result was a 69-49 victory for the Spartans.

"We've been working real hard on having greater execution on offense," Lawrence Sr. said. "It can be controlled chaos at times on offense.

"But we have a lot of guys that put the ball in the basket, and I thought we did a lot of good things out there."

Lakewood (11-1) took control from the start as Lawrence Jr. and Gregory swished 3-pointers to help it go up 11-5 in the first quarter. By halftime, Lakewood was ahead 32-22.

The Spartans added to their lead in the second half and were up by 20 for most of the fourth quarter.

Gregory finished with 23 points, including three 3-pointers. Lawrence Jr. had 20 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Lakewood has managed to get off to a fast start despite not having Jacobi Boykins, who fractured his neck in a car accident two months ago.

But Lawrence Sr. said Boykins could be cleared to play next month.

"That would be big for us," Lawrence Sr. said. "But we've been playing well as a team.

"And we had a goal coming in to win this tournament, and this was the first step."

The Warhawks could be without Matt Cassity for the rest of the tournament.

Cassity, the team's leading scorer, was called for two technical fouls against Lakewood and could be suspended for the next two games. There was no timetable for a decision.

The Spartans play Boca Ciega in a semifinal at 8:30 tonight.

The Pirates (12-1) beat Clearwater 69-59. Boca Ciega was led by Dallas Moore, who scored 33 points, including six 3-pointers. His performance came after scoring a combined 83 points in three games at last week's Bright House Tournament.

"It's been the Dallas Moore show, but we can't just be a one-man team," Pirates coach Randy Shuman said.

"We're not hitting on all cylinders right now."

Tampa Prep faces Wharton in the other semifinal at 7 tonight.

The Terrapins (12-0) beat host Northeast 78-46. It didn't take long for Tampa Prep to take control. The Terrapins led 20-14 after the first quarter and were ahead by 38 at the start of the fourth. Josh Heath led Tampa Prep with 17 points.

The Wildcats (11-0) withstood a late rally to beat St. Petersburg Catholic 53-50. SirPatrick Reynolds had a team-high 14 for Wharton. Through three quarters, the Wildcats led 42-34. The Barons, led by Ryan Green (20 points), outscored Wharton 16-11 in the fourth but fell short.

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@tampabay.com

Ex-Yankee, Ray Hideki Matsui retires


Associated Press
Thursday, December 27, 2012

NEW YORK — Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui retired Thursday from professional baseball, saying he is no longer able to perform at the level that made him a star in two countries.

The 2009 World Series MVP with the New York Yankees and a three-time Central League MVP with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants struggled in a brief stint with the Rays last season and recently made up his mind to call it a career after 20 years — the first 10 in Japan.

Despite choosing to make the announcement in New York because the city was special to him, the nearly hourlong news conference was conducted only in Japanese and was broadcast live to his home country, where it was 7 a.m. Friday. A Japanese reporter translated portions of the event for the four American baseball writers in attendance.

Before he left for New York in 2003, Matsui told his fans in Japan that he would give his life to playing in the major leagues, give whatever he had, the reporter said. "Today is the day he put a period to that."

In front of more than 15 cameras and dozens of Japanese reporters, many of whom detailed every aspect of his career in the United States, the outfielder/designated hitter gave a 12-minute speech before answering questions for about 40 minutes more, betraying little emotion except for that sly smile he flashed during his playing days.

Nicknamed "Godzilla," Matsui was already perhaps the most popular player of his generation in Japan when he signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Yankees.

While Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki appeared to shy away from the attention, Matsui walked right into the spotlight and embraced the scrutiny.

Playing for the Yankees was, "one of the best things that happened to him in his life," the Japanese reporter quoted Matsui as saying.

No. 55 was a monster for New York, too. Always cool under pressure, Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium and matched a World Series record with six RBIs in his pinstripe finale seven years later — during the clinching Game 6 of the 2009 Series.

"I've had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with. I have a lot of respect for Hideki."

In his career with New York, Matsui made two All-Star teams and hit .292 with 140 doubles and 597 RBIs. He played in his first 518 major league games after playing in 1,250 straight games in Japan.

In his first remarks after breaking his wrist and ending that streak in 2006, he apologized for getting hurt. Matsui returned four months later and went 4 for 4.

Matsui was known for being stoic but he also had a sense of humor, and he got a good laugh Thursday, telling the crowd that he doesn't like to use the word "retirement" because he will play pick-up baseball.

Still, Matsui ruled out competing this year in the World Baseball Classic or joining a team in Japan again.

"He was not confident he'd be able to play at the level he played at 10 years ago," the reporter said.

In fact, Matsui still has not decided on what to do next.

Matsui hit 21 homers for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 after New York didn't offer him a new contract, but his numbers fell off considerably after that. He slumped to .147 (14 for 95) with the Rays in 37 games before being released.

Overall, Matsui batted .282 with 175 homers and 760 RBIs for the Yankees, Angels, Oakland Athletics and Rays. In Japan he had a .304 career average with 332 homers and 889 RBIs in 1,268 games.

"Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for. He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most," Yankees general managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family."

Matsui said he first started thinking about the Yankees when he became a professional and his manager with the Giants told him to aspire to be a player like former New York center fielder Joe DiMaggio.

Then in 1999 — three years from free agency — Matsui went to Yankee Stadium to watch a game and was "astonished" at the level of play. He thought to himself that he would "like to become a player that would be capable of playing at Yankee Stadium," the reporter translated.

Matsui arrived in New York after a season in which he hit 50 homers for the most well-known team in Japan, and fit right in.

"Hideki came to the Yankees as a superstar and immediately became a team favorite. Not only for his talent but for the unselfishness he brought to the game every day," said MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre, who was Matsui's manager for his first five seasons in New York. "Hideki Matsui is a winner and I was proud to be his manager."

Sports on TV/radio


Times sports staff
Thursday, December 27, 2012


College basketball

Providence at Brown, 7 p.m., NBCSN

Baylor at Gonzaga, 8 p.m., ESPN2

Jacksonville at Indiana, 8 p.m., Big Ten

Missouri at UCLA, 10 p.m., ESPN2

College football

Independence Bowl: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 2 p.m., ESPN; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., ESPN; 620-AM

Meineke Car Care Bowl: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech, 9 p.m., ESPN; 620-AM


World junior championship: Russia vs. United States, 9 a.m., NHL


Magic at Wizards, 7 p.m., FSN; 1010-AM

Nuggets at Mavericks, 8:30 p.m., NBA


College basketball

Western Michigan at N.C. State, noon, ESPNU

Santa Clara at Duke, noon, ESPN2

Presbyterian at South Carolina, 1 p.m., BHSN

Florida State vs. Tulsa, 2 p.m., Sun Sports; 1040-AM

UNLV at North Carolina, 2 p.m., ESPN2

Women: FAMU at USF, 2 p.m., 1010-AM

Auburn vs. Illinois, 2:15 p.m., Big Ten

Kentucky at Louisville, 4 p.m., Ch. 10

Women: Connecticut at Stanford, 4 p.m., ESPNU

Air Force vs. Florida, 4:30 p.m., Sun Sports; 620-AM

Chicago State at Ohio State, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten

Xavier at Tennessee, 6 p.m., ESPNU

George Mason at USF, 7 p.m., BHSN; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

Central Michigan at Michigan, 7 p.m., Big Ten

Washington at Connecticut, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

Butler at Vanderbilt, 8 p.m., ESPNU

College football

Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. Rice, 11:45 a.m., ESPN

Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse, 3:15 p.m., ESPN; 620-AM

Fight Hunger Bowl: Arizona State vs. Navy, 4 p.m., ESPN2; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon State, 6:45 p.m., ESPN; 620-AM

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU vs. Michigan State, 10:15 p.m., ESPN


Raptors at Magic, 7 p.m., FSN

Hornets at Bobcats, 7 p.m., NBA

Wizards at Bulls, 8 p.m., WGN

Celtics at Warriors, 10:30 p.m., NBA



Jazz at Clippers, 9:30 p.m., NBA


Bucs at Falcons, 1 p.m., Ch. 13; 103.5-FM, 620-AM

Texans at Colts, 1 p.m., Ch. 10

Jaguars at Titans, 1 p.m., 1040-AM

Dolphins at Patriots, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 10

Rams at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., 1010-AM

Packers at Vikings, 4:25 p.m., 98.7-FM

Raiders at Chargers, 4:25 p.m., 1470-AM

Cowboys at Redskins, 8:20 p.m., Ch. 8; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

TV: BHSN: Bright House Sports Network; FSN: Fox Sports Net; NBCSN: NBC Sports Network

Sugar Bowl divides Joyer family loyalties


By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — A few days before the college football bowl announcements were made, Kamran Joyer contacted his younger brother Hunter to tell him there was a chance that Kamran's Louisville Cardinals might be selected to play Hunter's Florida Gators in a bowl game.

Yeah, right, Hunter thought. Afterall, the projections he had been seeing had Florida playing Oklahoma. "I really kind of just shot that down, didn't really give it a shot," Hunter Joyer said.

Turns out, the older Joyer was right.

When No. 3 Florida and No. 21 Louisville meet in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, the little boys who grew up participating in "fiercely competitive" backyard football games, then spent two years as teammates at Wesley Chapel High, will for the first time in their lives become adversaries on the field. Hunter Joyer is a sophomore starting fullback for the Gators, while Kamran Joyer is a redshirt junior offensive lineman at Louisville.

"I think it's crazy," Hunter Joyer said. "It's going to be. I don't even really know how to explain it. I've never really experienced anything like this but it seems like one of those special moments, kind of like Tiki and Ronde Barber, Eli and Peyton Manning. I kind of feel like them, going through the same thing they've gone through. It's pretty special. I'm just hoping we come out with the win so I can brag about that."

The two have been each other's biggest supporters for as long as they can remember. On his bye week this year, Kamran, 22, traveled to Gainesville to watch Hunter, the middle of three boys, play. Hunter, 19, tries to catch any Louisville game on TV that doesn't conflict with the Gators' schedule, saying "I'm so happy to see him get the chance to do what he loves." But deep down, they are typical brothers. Case in point — after the bowl selections were announced, Hunter did what any little brother would do: He pulled out his best trash talk.

"He called me and told me I was Gator bait," Kamran Joyer said. "He said he was looking forward to playing. I told him the same thing, then I told him to watch out. As soon as he got word of the game, he started talking crap."

All in fun, of course. Kamran said his Louisville teammates have been asking what it feels like to be playing against his brother, and trying to gauge his excitement. Both Kamran and Hunter said they find it hard to explain the emotions surrounding the game.

"It's really special," Kamran said. "I'll definitely talk about it for a long time. I'll even tell Hunter's children about it one day. I might even change the story and tell them that we won if we lose, just to make it sound better. It's going to be crazy. I don't know what to expect."

The brothers and their family understand the unique opportunity the game presents and are planning to make it a special family affair. About 20 members of the Joyer family are expected to make the trip to New Orleans. A family friend has designed shirts representing both Louisville and Florida for the family to wear as they battle torn loyalties. It is, the Joyers said, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"The planets just lined up in just the right arrangement," said Kirsten Joyer, Hunter and Kamran's mom, who admits she was both "elated and horrified" when she initially heard Florida and Louisville would play. "Everything lined up exactly the way it was supposed to. This was intended to happen. It was just serendipity. It was meant to happen. We're going to be in New Orleans with the whole family, and this will be the first time that we've been together as a family in awhile. It's going to be a great experience."

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Bradenton's Ace Sanders pays big dividends for South Carolina Gamecocks


By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2012

TAMPA — If it wasn't going to be the national championship game, Tuesday's Outback Bowl is exactly where South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders wanted the Gamecocks to be bowling, just a 35-minute drive from his home in Bradenton.

It's just another happy return for the former Manatee standout, whose punt-return prowess earned him Co-Special Teams Player of the Year honors in the SEC, part of a breakout season for the speedy Gamecocks junior.

"I can't ask for more," Sanders on Friday morning from the Tampa Convention Center, his garnet No. 1 jersey draped across his legs. "The location is perfect. Good weather, all my family is here. Everybody gets to see me play."

As Sanders prepares to take on Michigan and the nation's No. 2 pass defense, he takes great pride in the total lack of size among South Carolina's top receivers. He's just 5 feet 8 and 175 pounds; Bruce Ellington is 5-9, 197 and Damiere Byrd is 5-9 and 168.

"We like it that way. With defensive backs, people don't know. You don't like to chase little guys around the field," Sanders said. "We don't get tired. ... Having them follow us around the field, they'll come up and tell you, 'Y'all slow down.' "

Michigan has faced its share of speedy offensive skill players this season, but the Wolverines are aware of the quickness they'll face from the Gamecocks and the need to keep those players from changing the game by breaking loose for big gains.

"They aren't very big. They're 5-8, 5-9, but they're solid ballplayers, good frames. They've got a lot of speed on that side of the ball, and I think it starts with Sanders," Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs said. "They have good hands, run good routes, but they're most dangerous in space, after the catch. Our motto all year is 'Don't give up the big play.' If they're going to score, make them drive down the field. Bend, but don't break. It's much easier said than done, but they've got talent on that side of the ball, that's for sure."

With Alshon Jeffery now with the Chicago Bears, Sanders has also emerged as a top receiver for the Gamecocks, with a team-high seven touchdown catches after totaling four in his first two seasons. He has submitted his name to the NFL's advisory board for underclassmen to get a better sense of where he might go if he were to enter the NFL draft, but made it clear Friday he's just curious at this point.

Punt returns had been a weak spot for South Carolina — when Sanders took one 68 yards for a score against East Carolina last year, it was the team's first punt-return score since 2003. He had an electric 70-yard return (opening with a fumble, no less) in the Gamecocks' 35-7 rout of Georgia, and just missed another with a 49-yard return against Missouri where he stepped out of bounds inside the 5-yard line.

"Once you get that first one, you see the whole demeanor of the punt-return team change: We got one. That means we can do it again," said Sanders, careful to thank his blockers for his success. "They're pumped up more than I am to get back there. They get me going."

Sanders has averaged 14.5 yards on punt returns, good enough to rank third nationally, and he reset a 41-year-old school record with 363 return yards, doing so on 12 fewer returns than Dick Harris needed in 1971. The Outback Bowl has had just two punt returns for touchdowns in its history — Georgia's Brandon Boykin did so last year, and Michigan's Derrick Alexander did it in 1994. Boykin's single-game record of 92 yards (set on a single return) is well within Sanders' reach.

"Everybody has the mindset that we can break it at any time," he said. "In past years, everybody didn't understand how big special-teams was. This team now, they know we can do it again, so they go hard every time. They say "We're going to block. You just do the running."

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