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UCLA's Jim Mora gets 1-year extension through 2017

UCLA's Jim Mora gets 1-year extension through 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA coach Jim Mora agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2017 on Friday after revitalizing the Bruins in his debut season.

Mora led UCLA to nine victories, the Pac-12 South title and a Holiday Bowl berth just one year after replacing Rick Neuheisel at a school that hadn't won even eight games in a season since 2005.

The former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach adjusted splendidly to the college game, even beating crosstown rival Southern California while climbing as high as No. 15 in the rankings.

``What Jim Mora has accomplished in just one season as our head coach is remarkable,'' UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. ``The wins, the Pac-12 South championship and the bowl berth were accompanied by an equally impressive performance by the team in the classroom and in the community.''

The Bruins (9-5) lost their final three games, including two meetings with Rose Bowl champion Stanford before a 49-26 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. But the quiet finish didn't dampen the renewed enthusiasm for football in Westwood, where the athletic department has embarked on plans to improve its football training complex.

Mora said he's grateful to Guerrero ``for his commitment to me and my staff, and our shared belief that we are on the road to creating something very special.''

``I believe UCLA will win championships,'' Mora added. ``The 2012 team established a foundation which will launch us forward. Our staff, our returning players, our administration and the entire Bruin community are pulling together in an effort to win championships.''

Mora agreed to a five-year, $12 million deal at UCLA in December 2011 after nearly two years out of football following his firing by the Seahawks.

He was an unlikely hire for the Bruins, who had mostly chosen head coaches who were former Bruins players or assistants in recent decades. The school also hadn't hired a head coach with a defensive background in 40 years.

Mora hadn't coached college football in a quarter-century since a single season as an assistant at Washington, his alma mater. But Mora immediately hired an impressive staff led by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and then landed a strong recruiting class in less than two months on the trail.

Mora's success attracted national attention, including rumors linking him to interest everywhere from Tennessee and Auburn to the San Diego Chargers.

Along with an improved training complex, Mora's upcoming changes to the football program could include raises for his assistant coaches.

``Jim and I will continue to work closely as partners to enhance all aspects of the program moving forward so that we may continue to compete at the highest level,'' Guerrero said. ``We are thrilled with Jim's commitment to our student-athletes and to this university.''

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Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

As a member of the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal has had many battles with LeBron James over the years, first with the Miami Heat and now with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over the weekend, Beal got to experience having James as a teammate for the first time at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

It was an eye-opening endeavor. Beal got to see up close and personal James' abilities and his routine to maximize them. In a group of the best players on the planet, James stood out.

"It was surreal at first, just being around all the guys," Beal said. "Even just being on his team for two days, that was an unbelievable experience."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Beal, 24, is six seasons in to his NBA career and from experience has learned how to train for the rigors of an 82-game regular season. What James does at 33 years old to stay in peak form, however, is next level.

"To see his preparation, his focus and his mentality and what he does to take care of his body before and after games," Beal said. "That's the true testament to a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the game."

James actually assisted Beal's first points in the All-Star Game, a two-handed dunk in the first quarter. James attacked the rim on a fastbreak to draw attention, then found Beal with a dump-off pass for an easy bucket.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

It was an example of James' tricks of the trade. He is not just the most athletic player on the court, he is also the smartest when it comes to the game of basketball.

"His approach and his leadership and everything, it's top notch. It's crazy because you always play against him and to play with him, you get experience the other side of it," Beal said.

Beal, however, did note that much of what he gleaned from James was by watching him. At the end of the day, they are competitors and James isn't going to give away all of his secrets.

"He's not disclosing that information," Beal joked.

The Wizards happen to play James and the Cavs in their first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday night. Once again, Beal will be on the other side. 

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Walt Williams talks Wizards, his NBA career and life after basketball

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Walt Williams talks Wizards, his NBA career and life after basketball

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes was joined by former NBA player Walt Williams for a wide-ranging discussion. Williams talked about the Wizards, his show on NBC Sports Washington and his playing career.

Williams also projected the NBA prospects of Maryland Terrapins stars Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!