Wizards

South Carolina DE Clowney sets sights on Heisman

South Carolina DE Clowney sets sights on Heisman

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's goal is to be sitting in New York next December as one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

``I believe a defensive player can win the Heisman next year,'' Clowney said.

Actually, he believes he can win it.

``That's my next thing, New York,'' Clowney said Monday night after the Gamecock's practice. ``Next season, I am going to come out and try to work harder than I did this season and try to get there.''

The consensus All-American was the Hendricks Award winner this year as the best defensive end in college. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won it. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was second and Clowney hopes he can become the first defensive player since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997 to win college football's most prestigious individual honor.

Clowney and the 11th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) are preparing for No. 19 Michigan (8-4) in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.

Clowney, the Southeastern Conference's sacks leader with 13, took large strides forward this season and Gamecocks defensive line coach Brad Lawing expects that to continue. Clowney is a homebody, Lawing said, who'd rather be with family and friends in his hometown of Rock Hill than jetting around the country and smiling for cameras.

Clowney told Lawing at the College Football Awards show in Orlando, Fla., he was simply happy to be nominated and wasn't concerned about trophies.

``It will to you next year, I promise you,'' Lawing responded.

Clowney, 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, was the country's top college prospect coming out of South Pointe High. Lawing remembers recruiting Clowney's high school teammates DeVonte Holloman and Stephon Gilmore - a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills last spring - when prep coach Bobby Carroll said there was a 15-year-old Lawing had to watch.

Lawing rolled through hours of tape at the high school and was amazed at Clowney's skill. ``Tell him he's got a scholarship'' to South Carolina, Lawing told Carroll.

Clowney was wooed by the country's powerhouse programs and selected South Carolina over finalists Alabama and Clemson on Valentine's Day 2011.

Clowney, though, was not an instant success. His technique was ragged and desire to work hard was inconsistent. He and Lawing butted heads plenty during Clowney's freshman season.

``Sometimes when you're 18, 19 years old, you think you know everything,'' Lawing said.

Clowney's commitment to get better increased this past offseason. He spent more time watching film, refining technique and studying the game. The results were evident.

He consistently beat double teams, often leaping opposing players to cause havoc in the backfield. Clowney's best game this year came in the regular-season finale, a virtuoso showing of 4 1/2 sacks of Clemson star Tajh Boyd in the 27-17 victory over the rival Tigers.

The performance resonated with people outside of South Carolina, too.

``Everywhere we went people were talking about that game,'' Clowney said.

Clowney's got a combination of size, speed and maturity that would make him the No. 1 draft pick in April if he were eligible, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said last week. ``I don't think there would be any doubt about that,'' Kiper said.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has long said Clowney would and should leave after his junior season as a likely first-round selection.

``He's gotten a lot of attention and he's handled it well, handled it very well,'' Spurrier said. ``We all know he's a three-year player, which is fine.''

Clowney's got goals to achieve, Lawing says. He's just eight sacks away from catching Eric Norwood for the school's all-time leading sacks mark of 29. Plus, Clowney would love bettering the single-season school marks of 13 sacks and 21 1/2 tackles for loss he's put up so far this year.

Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman winner, voted Clowney first on his ballot ahead of Manziel and Te'o. But Spurrier knows it would take a mega-season for Clowney to overcome the game's offensive stars who may vie for next year's Heisman.

Clowney smiles when asked if he's capable of pulling off that feat.

``It's a possibility,'' he said. ``I just keep playing my game, and I probably have a shot at winning next year.''

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.