CBS Philly: Will Cummings Gives Temple Opportunity To Win The American

With just two games remaining in the regular season for the Temple, the Owls are living on the bubble despite owning 20 wins. If the Owls are to play tournament basketball this month, senior guard Will Cummings will be a big reason why. The Jacksonville native, once named the American Athletic Conference player of the week, will play a key role as Temple looks to finish the season on a string note.

Cummings has averaged 33.8 minutes and 13.8 points per game this season and he has been trustworthy from the free throw line with a 77.5 free throw percentage. Twice this season, Cummings has added double digits from free throws, and this is one reason why. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy should want to see his senior guard take it to the basket often. Cummings should refrain from taking three-point shots though, as he is just 14-of-78 from beyond the arc.

Will+Cummings+Brooklyn+Hoops+Holiday+Invitational+N96azL3d9CKlEarlier this season, Cummings joined the 1,000-point club, the 50th player in Temple history to reach such a milestone. Cummings has not been able to achieve so much alone of course. This season he and teammate Jaylen Boyd have showed some good chemistry, making for a nice 1-2 combo on occasion for Temple.

Because of his stats, Cummings is hardly a household name outside of Philadelphia, but that does not mean he does not have the respect around the conference. Former Philadelphia 76ers head coach Larry Brown, now the head coach at SMU, certainly has paid attention to what Cummings means to the Owls.

“I don’t think Cummings gets any credit around the league,” Brown recently said, according to Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “You hear of all different guys, but he is great. I love the way he plays.”

When a coach with the basketball mind of Brown pays that kind of respect, that should carry some weight. Brown has always been a coach who wants his teams to play basketball with a certain team philosophy. This is hard to do in a sport that can be dominated by one player, the way Allen Iverson once did under Brown. With the Sixers. Cummings embodies many of the qualities Brown likes to have on his team. Cummings can run the offense and distribute the ball to his teammates, and he can take advantage of his opportunities when given. Cummings is not going to light up a scoreboard or pad his number sin the box score after the game, but he will play the right way.

Cummings and Temple face a road contest at East Carolina and a home finale against Connecticut before the American Athletic Conference tournament gets underway next week. Temple can lock in the third seed in the conference tournament with a pair of wins, although the regular season championship will be out of reach as Tulsa and SMU take the regular season championship race down to the final game. Last month against East Carolina, Cummings had 17 points, six assists, two steals and two blocks. He was seven-for-seven on his free throw attempts as well as Temple sent the Pirates home with a 66-53 defeat. Another performance like that might be enough to put Temple in the win column once more.

This was originally published by CBS Philly.

CBS Philly: Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard Emerges As Big East Player Of The Year Favorite

Villanova has a respectably rich basketball history, yet it is home to just two Big East Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year winners. Kerry Kittles won the honor during the 1994-1995 season and Randy Foye took the player of the year honor during the 2005-2006 season. Villanova may well be on pace for a top seed in the Big East and perhaps even the NCAA Tournament in March, but do they have a Big East Player of the Year Candidate on the roster? Possibly.

“In an informal poll of Big East head coaches, more than half told that the 6-foot-6 guard would get their vote,” Adam Zagoria of said this week. That 6-foot-6 guard he was referring to is Villanova’s own Darrun Hilliard.

Darrun+Hilliard+Providence+v+Villanova+awxQ00hsEwUlA glance at the Big East stats may not show it, but Villanova guard Darrun Hilliard is having just about as good a season as any player in the conference. Being named the top player in the Big East may not be a given for Hilliard in a year with some stiff competition with Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs and Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera making strong cases for the consideration, but Hilliard is widely respected throughout the Big East as one of the top players in the conference. He helps fuel Villanova’s offensively balanced charge, and he is coming up big at the best possible time. If this were NBA Jam, the play-by-play announcer might say Hilliard is heating up.

Earlier this week, Hilliard proved once again just how capable he could be playing the role of go-to guy and hero for Villanova. On senior night at Villanova, the Wildcats looked to have an easy go of things against Providence, home to two of the top players in the conference itself. With Providence applying pressure on the Wildcats, Hilliard stepped up and shrugged aside an off-the-mark first half with a strong showing in the second half. As Providence took momentum into the halftime break and started the second half on the same pace, Hilliard took advantage of free throws and got in the zone from beyond the three-point line. Soon enough, with Hilliard locking in, Villanova saw a single-digit lead balloon into a 20-point advantage. After the game, Hilliard distributed the credit to his teammates, as he so often does on the court during a game.

“It is just a testament to my teammates, I give all the credit to them,” Hilliard said following the win over Providence. “Just like when we were in Butler I give all the credit to (Ryan) Arcidiacono, I just shot the ball. They found me, they got me the ball all I had to do was the easy part: shoot the ball.”

This is not the first time a Jay Wright-led team has shared this philosophy. Wright’s teams have always focused on sharing the ball and finding multiple players to contribute. This is not Norman Dale coaching Hickory to the Indiana state championship, but if all goes to plan, Wright’s Wildcats could be heading to the Final Four with Hilliard serving as the leader of the ship. It just so happens the Final Four will be played in the Hoosier state, in Indianapolis.

“Statistically, he’s probably the worst player on this board, but that’s mostly because Villanova is so well-balanced,” Sam Vecenie of said this week when discussing Big East Player of the Year candidates. “He steps up big time in the biggest moments (his 31 and the game-winner against Butler stand out), knocks down shots efficiently, and might be the best defender on the best defensive team in the league. He’s a very real candidate for the award,” Vecenie believes.

As is the case with Villanova spreading the ball around the court, Hilliard may end up lacking in the stats department to be recognized as Big East Player of the Year – but he certainly has caught the eye of those watching. Last year’s most improved player in the Big East, sharing the honor with teammate Daniel Ochefu, knows he is a better player this year, too. Ask if he feels he gets the attention he deserves as an individual due to Villanova’s offensive identity, and Hilliard shrugs it aside.

“I don’t really strive to get individual recognition personally,” Hilliard said in a profile piece published by the Big East recently. “Here everyone gets the praise and no one is singled out for being the guy who carried the team that day. We’re not about that. We’re about the five guys on the court who can have a balance and a chemistry that can make the team successful.”

It is Hilliard’s unselfish attitude that allows Villanova to continue to march forward into March as a legitimate Final Four threat.

This was originally published by CBS Philly.

NCAA restores the roar, and 112 wins

The time is 1:06 p.m. on a Friday. I texted my father, who I assumed may have been on his lunch break at the time.

“NCAA restored all of Penn State’s vacated wins,” I sent.

“Just saw that. It’s about time,” my father, a long-time season ticket holder despite actually being a graduate of West Chester University, responded. “Now… where’s that statue?”

One thing at a time I suppose.

The NCAA announced Friday it had reached an agreement with Penn State and Pennsylvania state officials following a week of negotiations that will restore all vacated wins stripped from Penn State during the sanctions of 2012. All wins ranging from 1998 through 2011 have now been put back on the record books, with 111 going to Joe Paterno and one to Tom Bradley. Paterno, for the second time, is now Division 1 college football’s all-time winningest coach.

The agreement between the negotiating parties comes with some stipulations, which have already been approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees;

  • Penn State agrees to commit a total of $60 million to activities and programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse and the treatment of victims of child sexual abuse.
  • Penn State acknowledges the NCAA’s legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter.
  • Penn State and the NCAA will enter into a new Athletics Integrity Agreement that (with concurrence of the Big Ten) includes best practices with which the university is committed to comply and that provides for the university to continue to retain the services of Sen. George Mitchell and his firm to support the university’s activities under the Athletics Integrity Agreement and in the areas of compliance, ethics and integrity.

Penn State was initially fined a penalty of $60 million as part of the hefty sanction terms levied on the program in the summer of 2012. I have been on record of suggesting that if there is only one portion of the sanctions that Penn State ultimately fulfills, it should be the fine as a gesture of good will towards a worthy cause. Here’s hoping that money is used properly to spread awareness of child sexual abuse.

Everything else after that is some mumbo jumbo that essentially allows the NCAA to avoid getting grilled in court at a time when the NCAA has a number of issues it actually has authority to control brewing.

Penn State already had scholarship limits lifted and was given a chance to perform in the postseason two years earlier than initially planned due to positive reports from George Mitchell in his annual reviews of the university and athletics department.

So, now what?

Continue reading full story on Nittany Lions Den.

Student Section: A memo to college football captains

The honor of being named a team captain comes with a burden of responsibility to uphold the image of the team, and in college sports, the university as a whole. Being named a team captain by your peers comes with great pride and is not to be taken for granted. Presenting the best your team and university have to offer and representing both on the field puts players in a spotlight for many good reasons. Unfortunately, this season has seen some captains take their positions for granted with signs of poor sportsmanship.

On November 1, new Big Ten member Maryland made its first trip to Penn State’s Beaver Stadium since 1992. Before Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, the Terrapins and Nittany Lions played almost every season dating back to 1960. Maryland had not beaten Penn State since 1961, and the last time the Terps avoided a loss to their neighbors north of the Mason-Dixon line came in the form of a tie in 1989. The Terrapins got off the bus in State College with a chip on their shoulders, and off-season comments made by former Maryland assistant coach James Franklin to Penn State alums and fans in the state of Maryland certainly added some fuel to the fire that Randy Edsall and his program would burn.

As the two Big Ten East rivals took the field, Maryland players got in the faces of Penn State players, starting a bit of a pushing and shoving match that was very uncommon to see in Beaver Stadium over the years. After things settled down, the team captains from both teams arrived at midfield for the pregame coin flip. As the Penn State captains extended their hands to their Maryland counterparts, this happened:

Maryland Captains Refuse Handshake

Maryland ended up having the last laugh with a late field goal giving the Terrapins the win, but after the game the college football world looked past the result and focused on the nonsense before the game. Even in victory, Maryland managed to give the program and university a black eye. Following the win, Edsall and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson apologized for the pregame antics of their players. A couple of days later, the Big Ten issued a public reprimand of Maryland and the actions taken by the captains — Stefon Diggs, P.J. Gallo and Sean Davis.

Diggs was also suspended for one game for making contact with a Big Ten official during the pregame confrontation out of the team entrances. Maryland alternates team captains on a week-by-week basis. The Terps have not used Diggs, Gallo or Davis as a team captain in the two games since this incident at Penn State. You would hope that the attention given to this show of poor sportsmanship and ridiculousness would have sent a message to players across the country that this is frowned upon and ends up making you look silly. For the most part, you are probably right. Somehow, though, the message was never delivered to Central Michigan.

Continue reading the full story on The Student Section.

CBS Philly: Jeremy Maclin needs to embrace being number one receiver

The following is an excerpt from a player profile written for CBS Local Sports, which appears on CBS Philly and other CBS Local websites.

When the Philadelphia Eagles stunned the NFL world by cutting ties with Desean Jackson, the question was “Why?” For those digging a bit deeper, the question was quickly “How?” How are the Eagles going to replace Jackson in Chip Kelly’s offense? Simply put, they cannot, but the focus will now be on Jeremy Maclin to embrace being a No. 1 receiver for the first time since he entered the NFL.

The success of the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles will be dependent on the ability of quarterback Nick Foles to avoid making mistakes and keep his calm demeanor in the huddle and on the field. The running game should be more than capable of taking the pressure off the Pro Bowl quarterback, with LeSean McCoy ready to prove why he believes he is the best running back in the game and newcomer and veteran Darren Sproles looking to mix things up as well. The tight ends will continue to develop in Kelly’s offense and will be relied upon with regularity this season, because the wide receiver position is quite a question mark entering the 2014 season in Philadelphia.

Maclin, entering his sixth season in the NFL and fifth on the field after missing the entire 2013 season due to injury, is ready to get back on the field and contribute. His ability to stay healthy and even his work ethic have been thrust under a microscope this offseason, and perhaps for good reason. Maclin has developed a bit of a fragile reputation, through no fault of his own of course, but when a player carries such lofty expectations and is expected to make up for the lost production of a key offensive weapon, that is all fair game. The pressure is on for Maclin to not only prove he is capable of being a full-time, go-to receiver for Foles, but also that he can lead younger receivers like NFL draft pick Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt and last year’s additions like Ifeanyi Momah.

Continue reading full story on CBS Philly.

Not a good day for the Phillies, but college football is coming


It was a a rough day as a Phillies fan on Thursday. Sure, the Phillies toppled the Washington Nationals, 10-4 in D.C., but Cliff Lee left the game early with his elbow causing problems once again and the trade deadline went by with nary a move out of the Phillies front office. Cue the rage.

I put together a quick Photoshop this morning (seen above) to go with a post on Macho Row sharing my thoughts and reactions to what went down, or what did not go down, yesterday. The image is based off an image from one of my favorite books as a kid, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I took out the teddy bear from the original illustration, replaced it with a Phillie Phanatic. I also replaced Alexander’s head with Ruben Amaro’s face, and then added a 2008 World Series championship banner for good measure.

Here is the original image from the book…

For me though, August 1 is a good day because for the first time since January I can look forward to college football being played this month. I shared some happy thoughts on No 2-Minute Warning this morning.

A dose of reality for the Philadelphia sports fan

Watch sports long enough and you will come to understand certain things will never change. Some observations I have made over the years are as follows;

1. Philadelphia fans will never hear the end of the Santa Claus story, booing Donovan McNabb or any other tired story that is painfully and all-to-easily resurfaced by lazy national or local media from outside Philadelphia.

2. All fans will boo their own players under the appropriate conditions, regardless of locale.

3. Philadelphia fans are negative and will not shy away from booing players on the teams they root for.

The recent leading question served to DeSean Jackson on a platter by a reporter from CSN Washington has caused a stir on the local sports radio airwaves on 94 WIP and 97.5 The Fanatic. It is no surprise because those on the radio have also been served an easy talk radio topic to fill hours of conversation. Jackson was led to being able to take a shot at Eagles fans, at least that is how it has been interpreted, and he praised Washington fans. What else would you expect from a puff interview piece during training camp by the newcomer to the team? The intent of this question and response is to poke a stick at a rival team’s fans and sin the praises of the new fans.

Nothing Jackson just said in tat specific segment was false or misleading. Not. A. Word.

I am as loyal of a Philadelphia sports fan as they come, at least I like to think that is the case. I can also let my optimist side run wild with the best of them, although I also like to pull in the reigns and give myself a dose of reality. Sometimes I think the vocal portion of the Philadelphia fan base needs a dose of reality as well. So here are two hard truths about the Philadelphia fan, as I see it.

We are a loyal and dedicated fan base, but there is a fair portion of bandwagon fans. Guess what, it is the same in every city in America. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and when someone does suggest you are a front running city, just take a look at the attendance at Phillies and Sixers games before you go on a rant about how great you really are.

We do boo your own players. Often it is deserved though, and it is only a sign of how much we genuinely care about and want to be winning. If you are going to get in a huff about someone daring to say you boo your own, pay close attention to what is happening with Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon (although Papelbon clearly brings it on himself). We are a city that expects results. If a $25 million a year player is struggling on a nightly basis, he is going to hear it. This is the nature of sports. Those players do not get automatic cheers included in their contracts. That contract is with the team, not the fans. If a player cannot understand that, then the problem is on them and not the fans. And you know what, 10, 15 years or so down the road when a player like Ryan Howard returns for an anniversary celebration of the 2008 World Series, there will not be a boo in the stadium.

After all, he’s not Adam Eaton.

We are pretty paranoid. The city gets up in arms to react and defend ourselves as fans and as a city every time a former player or national media member or local columnist drags up Santa Claus, Michael Irvin’s injury or throwing batteries. Hey, if you’re going to say something about us, you better be prepared to back it up and receive a counter argument. Unfortunately, the counter argument always gets left in the dark of the minds speaking out with their tired and stale criticisms of the city. Yes, those things happened in Philadelphia. Bad things have happened in other cities too, sometimes worst things. But there is one thing we should take from all of this. Opinions of those unwilling to admit when they go overboard or lack doing original research will never change. Wasting your energy trying to combat it is often a futile effort. The best thing you can do is let the haters go on hating and you can rejoice even more when times are good.

We know Philadelphia is a great city and the surrounding region is a great one. We know we are a great sports community. We don’t need anyone else to validate that for us.

Desean Cowboys Haters Gonna Hate

Helmet sticker to The 700 Level.

Taking the soccer plunge by adopting three teams

I have caught a mild case of soccer fever. The World Cup did that to me, even though the United States failed to advance past the first of the elimination rounds. With another World Cup in the books, I wanted to see if I can get myself to pay some closer attention to some of the other soccer going on. I have tried this before but I am giving it another shot by picking a few teams to adopt for some sort of rooting interest, which I hope will keep me checking for updates.

Everton_F.C._(2014–)Rather than just adopt my local Major League Soccer team and end there, I wanted to be sure to pick up a European team, since that is where all the talent is from what I have gathered. That led me to picking a team from the English Premiere League. After gathering some recommendations and thoughts by many on Twitter, as well as doing my own brief research, I landed on Everton. Having US goalie Tim Howard as its goalkeeper helped get me to making that decision, given Howard’s impressive performance in the World Cup. Apparently Landon Donovan claims to have been a fan of Everton as well. So that is good company, right?

I wanted to pick up an EPL team because matches are regularly on in the United States at convenient times for me to watch, whether on Saturday mornings or during the week. How many Everton matches I will be able to watch is something I will have to check on at a later time, but this is the team I am going to go into this year’s EPL season following.

Celtic_FC.svgJust for kicks, I decided to pick a team from some other European leagues as well, even if it means never getting a chance to actually see them in action. From the Scottish Premiere League I decided to adopt Celtic FC. Why? I like the logo, given my Irish background, but I have actually seen this club play. I watched Celtic FC take on the Philadelphia Union of the MLS in the Union’s first year. I covered the game and happened to catch some rough video of flares being set off in PPL Park. I uploaded that to YouTube and CBS 3 asked to have me one for a brief video interview that aired on the evening news a day or two later. As it turned out, I got scolded by a Union media contact for the interview and was threatened to have my media credential pulled because of it. Whatever. Go Celtic FC.

Also, this sort of sealed the deal for me…

Since I was picking teams from the homeland of my ancestors, I hastily decided to follow the Shamrock Rovers on Twitter to keep my soccer fix going. This gave me a team from Ireland and the League of Ireland to keep tabs on, but if any team falls of my radar I would guess it may end up being the Rovers at some point. We’ll see. I like the name and the logo (with some striking similarities to Celtic FC), so we will see how it all goes.

Philadelphia_Union_2010.svgLiving in the Philadelphia area, calling the Philadelphia Union my Major League Soccer team was a no-brainer. Hey, I was there for the first game in franchise history, so this is only natural. Besides, when it comes to sports in this country, I will always pull for the local team.

I know at least a bit about this team already, although I admit to having passed on coverage of it since I stopped covering matches on an old blog years ago. The regular season is already in play so I have some catching up to do with the Union. I am not ready to say you will find me down on the Delaware River wearing a Union scarf and chanting songs while following the lead of the Sons of Ben, but I am here to say I am no longer going to overlook the Union in the Philadelphia sports scene.


Coming soon: A look back at the college football team that hooked me

I am a sports nut today, but I did not always used to be that way. I credit two specific teams for sparking my interest in sports, and it just so happens they remain the two teams I am probably most invested in today. The 1993 Phillies opened my eyes to the joys and the pains that come with sports. The summer of 1993 was a memorable one for me as the Phillies, for the first time in my life really, became a baseball team worth watching. The magical ride went all the way to Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, leaving me a very disappointed boy in the end. Regardless of Joe Carter’s historic home run off Mitch Williams, I was hooked and ready to explore more of the sports world. I started to pick up more interest in football but it was the 1994 Penn State team that put me over the edge.

In retrospect, I suppose I was a bit of a bandwagon fan. In my defense, my dad did have season tickets to the Phillies and Penn State, so it was bound to happen sooner or later. The 1994 Penn State team came along at a perfect time for me as well. Baseball had gone on strike in 1994, leaving me stranded just as I was starting to dig deep into the sport. Fortunately college football was coming into view and I was led to believe Penn State was going to be pretty good that fall. I just did not know exactly how good.

Penn State went undefeated in 1994, the second season as a Big Ten member. I attended all but one home game that season, if I recall correctly (although I did attend the Temple road game at historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia). I talked about that team every Monday before Algebra class with a fellow Penn State fan and had some smack talk for my Notre Dame neighbor in home room. Nebraska may be recognized today as the national champion from that season and the debate over which team was better that season continues to this day, at least for me. Remember, this was in the age before the BCS and the College Football Playoff. There was no way for Penn State and Nebraska to settle the score on the field. Part of that was what made college football so great, but it was a fatal flaw as well.

This season is the 20th anniversary of that 1994 season, and I want to take time throughout the fall to look back at the team that ignited my college football interest. So every Wednesday this season I will be posting a new retrospective post on Nittany Lions Den, taking a look at each game of the 1994 season from the Saturday night opener in Minnesota all the way through to the Rose Bowl victory over Oregon. My intent is to relive the developments of each game, but also look back at how I experienced each game. I still have the programs from most of those games in my collection

The first post is tentatively scheduled to go live on the morning of September 3 on Nittany Lions Den, marking the 20th anniversary of the first game of the 1994 season for Penn State. Each post will coincide with the 20th anniversary of each game that year as well, with the exception of the 1995 Rose Bowl, which is scheduled the week of the Big Ten Championship Game this December.

It should be a lot of fun, and I hope it is something you find some enjoyment in as well whether you are a Penn State fan or not.

I am not one to judge, so if this is your thing…

Want to go see a movie tonight? How about a summer sci-fi blockbuster action flick with and some romantic comedy with some partial nudity? Well, that certainly sounds like a lot to cram into one movie, but apparently it is out there…