Transfer M'Baye eager to chip in for Sooners

Transfer M'Baye eager to chip in for Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) After a long journey brought on by his dream to play in the NBA, Amath M'Baye finally feels right where he belongs at Oklahoma.

M'Baye left his native France because he thought playing college basketball in the U.S. would give him a better chance of getting to the NBA. It led him to a prep school in California, then a stint at Wyoming before he transferred to play for Lon Kruger with the Sooners.

While M'Baye pursues that goal of making it to the next level, Oklahoma believes he could be one of the missing pieces in getting the program back to the NCAA tournament after a down stretch that included NCAA sanctions and Jeff Capel being fired. And M'Baye believes in Kruger, who he got to watch as an opponent in the Mountain West and jumped at the chance to follow him to Oklahoma.

``Everywhere he's been, the program ends up with success. There's no mystery, there's no magic. He works the right way,'' M'Baye said. ``When you look at the players we've got and the recruiting class coming in, I don't see how we could not play well. There's no reason for us not to play well. There's no excuses.''

It starts with M'Baye, who had to sit out last season because of the NCAA's guidelines on transfers. He averaged 12 points and a team-best 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore for the Cowboys and feels he wasn't nearly as complete of a player back then.

``I was not very comfortable outside the paint when I was in Wyoming,'' M'Baye said. ``I could do stuff but it wasn't my strength. I think I kind of expanded my game. I feel comfortable in the post and outside the paint, I've got more tools to work with. I've got more weapons to be a threat on the defenses.''

M'Baye is finding his comfort level with the Sooners after a whirlwind few years. He didn't start playing hoops unit his mid-teens, then made the decision to leave home after meeting coach Babacar Sy from Stoneridge Prep (Calif.). He was lightly recruited and signed with Wyoming to follow best friend and fellow Frenchman Arthur Bouedo.

``A lot of things went good but not everything was great. We lost a lot of games and my coach (Heath Schroyer) got fired,'' M'Baye said. ``I pretty much knew I was going to leave before my coach got fired. But my coach got fired, and I started looking for new teams and new schools.''

M'Baye could be a key addition for Oklahoma, which was lacking manpower while going 15-16 and finishing eighth in the Big 12 in Kruger's first season. Kruger is also counting on contributions from freshmen Je'lon Hornbeak, Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield. Freshman C.J. Cole and junior college transfer D.J Bennett will redshirt.

``Especially when we got into the Big 12, we really couldn't press like we wanted to because we were only playing seven or eight guys,'' senior forward Romero Osby said. ``Now that we've got the chance to play 10 guys, 11 guys maybe, we've got a decent chance to really get out and pressure people and not even worry about getting fatigued. Just play through it and know that you'll get a chance to rest.''

The Sooners open the season at home Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Monroe with the hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. They've had three straight losing seasons since that appearance in the regional finals.

``The opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament is the goal of every player and every team in the Big 12, and that should be our goal, too. That would be an indicator of success, for sure. We haven't been there for a while, no question, but that's a realistic and a healthy goal. We're not downplaying that,'' Kruger said.

``That's the goal we want our guys to have every year, and I think this year is more legitimate, more reasonable that perhaps just a year ago.''

A measure of the impact M'Baye could have came when teammates voted him a team captain, along with seniors Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald, before he even played a game. M'Baye is anxious to show what he can do, and his mother is coming in from France to watch him play in an exhibition game Friday night. Until now, she's only been able to watch his practices online - a new addition for Oklahoma this fall.

``I think the journey through life makes me appreciate life even better,'' M'Baye said. ``I've been through a lot of stuff and I think every year I'm in a better situation.''

``I couldn't have landed anywhere better than here,'' he added. ``It was a tumultuous ride but I think at the end of the day, I landed exactly where I want to be.''

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."