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Jones, Te'o, 2 of college football's good guys

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Jones, Te'o, 2 of college football's good guys

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Alabama center Barrett Jones was hobbling toward the plane, awkwardly clutching crutches and a bag when a helping hand reached out.

``Here, let me get this for you,'' said Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker.

Just a show of good manners from one of college football's best to another as they started an awards circuit that took them from New York to Houston to Orlando. And now they'll meet again, even farther south in the BCS championship Monday.

Jones and Te'o are the most acclaimed players on teams with national honors galore, and their upbeat personalities give college football just what it needs right now - an image boost - after being hit wave upon wave of scandal from State College, Pa., to Miami over the past couple of years.

Both players could be drawing sizable NFL paychecks right now, but they opted to stick around for their senior seasons and wrap up degrees. It's no coincidence that their teams have wound up here playing for a national title.

Te'o's answer Thursday to why he stuck around was telling. Representing Notre Dame, his native Hawaii and his teammates is ``one of the biggest pleasures and honors that I get.''

``And to just be an example to (Hawaiians) of somebody who made that leap of faith to leave the rock just for a few years and to find comfort in knowing that Hawaii will always be there,'' said Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up. ``You can do a good amount of service to the state by sacrificing a few years away from home to help live your dream, and by you helping to live your dream, you help other people's dreams seem that much more real.''

It almost sounds too good to be true.

But teammates, coaches, friends and even acquaintances insist Jones and Te'o are just what they seem: good guys with strong faiths who work hard on and off the field.

They're not just Boy Scouts, though. OK, Te'o actually is an Eagle Scout.

He's also a rugged player who overcame the loss of two loved ones this season. Jones looks like a 6-foot-5, 302-pound version of the kid next door with his boyish blond hair, but he also gutted out most of the Southeastern Conference championship with a sprained left foot.

Te'o has even been known to write poetry, reciting a sizable poem during a talk last summer at Honolulu's newly formed Downtown Athletic Club.

``It was really well done,'' said Bobby Curran, a Honolulu radio show host who was emcee for the event. ``When do you see vicious linebacker types reading poetry? The kid is so self-assured. He didn't have any hesitation. There was no awkwardness or embarrassment or any of that.''

Jones grew up learning the violin and memorizing dozens of Bible verses, and was a pretty darn good Scrabble player. He spends his spring breaks on mission trips overseas to places such as Haiti and Nicaragua.

Tide coach Nick Saban has called the lineman ``as fine a person as you're ever going to be around - me or you or anyone else - in terms of his willingness to serve other people.''

Like Te'o, he says and does the right things.

Without profanity. ``He's never cursed,'' insists Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy. ``Ever.''

Adds right tackle D.J. Fluker: ``There is not a dark side'' to Jones.

Their accomplishments almost have to be divided into on the field and off the field for brevity's sake.

Te'o is the first player to ever get a clean sweep of the following litany of awards: Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik, Maxwell, Lott and Walter Camp player of the year.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Te'o has responded to all that hardware by practicing harder than he had all season.

``For as talented a player he is, he's a better person,'' Diaco said, adding that his star defender is ``happy, full of life.''

``On a day where maybe as a coach you might be feeling a little down or maybe slightly distracted with the world's problems, Manti is easy to see, look at and see his face and immediately be energized,'' Diaco said. ``So that's just the kind of guy that he is.''

Te'o is an Academic All-American with a 3.324 GPA in design.

Te'o, a Mormon, showed his character when his girlfriend and grandmother both died within a few hours of each other. He had huge games against Michigan State and, the next week, against Michigan on the day his girlfriend was buried.

``Courageous, is one of the best words I can come up with to describe him,'' said Mickey Standiford, a member of the Mormon church in South Bend attended by Te'o, who is close with Standiford's family.

``To face those adversities and be able to still focus and have that determination, I think, to want to succeed for them. He wanted those games to be tributes to them. He didn't want it to be about him and the fact that he was out there doing it. It was more that he wanted to bring light to them. Courageous, determined, focused and just family is the most important thing to him.''

Jones won the Outland Trophy as a left tackle last season, the Rimington Award as the nation's top center in 2012 and the Campbell Trophy, the Heisman's academic equivalent.

He just finished graduate school in accounting.

``I just feel like I've been gifted with a mind that enjoys school and enjoys learning,'' Jones said. ``I wanted to leave with a master's degree. That was my goal the whole time.''

He made a strong impression on Rich Houston, director of Alabama's master of accountancy program. Houston taught Jones in advanced auditing in the fall of 2011, a discussion-heavy course that students call ``the current events class.''

``The class was at 8 in the morning,'' he said. ``He was always there, and he was the No. 1 participant in class in terms of both quantity and quality. And that includes having some fairly high-profile people in the accounting profession come into the class. He would ask great questions of those people, engage in conversation.

``Even if he wasn't an athlete, I'd be saying all the same things about him. Just what a really, genuinely good kid he is.''

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two guys have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

Don't expect a big role for Ramon Sessions with Wizards after signing as free agent

When Ramon Sessions was last with the Wizards, he was the primary backup point guard behind starter John Wall. Now back with the team on a 10-day contract, he is expected to play a much more muted role.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke of Sessions as the fourth-string point guard, not only behind Wall who remains out to recover from left knee surgery, but also behind Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier. The presence of Sessions should not affect Satoransky's minutes as the replacement starter and it doesn't sound like Frazier is in jeopardy of moving down the depth chart, either.

"I don't know how many minutes or opportunities he will get, but with the way he holds himself I feel comfortable if we need him in a pinch," Brooks said. "We have some coverage now if one of our guards goes down or gets in foul trouble."

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Brooks mentioned Sessions' ability to play some at shooting guard if needed. He also praised Sessions' penchant for getting to the free throw line. Sessions has averaged 3.9 free throw attempts in just 23.5 minutes per game. That's highest among active players who have averaged 24 minutes or less in their career.

Sessions played well for the Wizards down the stretch of the 2014-15 season and in the 2015-16 campaign. As a member of the Wizards, he averaged 9.2 points and 3.0 assists per game.

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

He has played for eight different teams, but has always felt a connection to Washington.

"It just always felt like a place I could end up back one day," he said. "People always ask me, being on so many teams, 'what's the home team to you?' I always come back to the Wizards. It was a place I was only here a year-and-a-half, but it feels like much longer than that with the run we had and the fans and the support I get when I come here."

Exactly how long Sessions will be here is unclear. He couldn't crack the Knicks' rotation earlier this season and has a lot to prove. Still, he's excited for the opportunity.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS