Redskins

Wilbekin wreaks defensive havoc for No. 8 Florida

Wilbekin wreaks defensive havoc for No. 8 Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Scottie Wilbekin is one of Billy Donovan's best defenders.

Now and ever.

Florida's junior point guard showed his defensive prowess last week by shutting down Texas A&M's Elston Turner and Missouri's Phil Pressey in lopsided victories that extended the team's winning streak to six games.

Turner, coming off a 40-point game at Kentucky, managed four points on 1-of-10 shooting. Pressey, one of them more dynamic point guards in the country, finished with two points on 1-of-7 shooting and had a career-high 10 turnovers.

Wilbekin wreaked havoc on both of them.

``It's unbelievable,'' teammates Erik Murphy said Monday. ``The guy just comes out and guards. I don't think I've ever played with a guy who can guard on the ball like that on any level - high school, AAU or college.''

The eighth-ranked Gators (14-2, 4-0 Southeastern Conference), who play at Georgia on Wednesday night, lead the league in just about every defensive category. And Wilbekin has been the key to the whole thing.

``He's always hung his hat on being a great defender,'' Donovan said. ``That's always been important to him. Our defense has gotten better and he's got a lot to do with that. As a point guard, it's probably somewhat changed our team's mentality a little bit going out there and defending the way we have.

``And it certainly starts with your point guard because he's picking the ball up from the press, he's out there at the top and he can set the stage. ... I don't need to motivate him to play defense. It's important to him.''

Donovan had high praise for Wilbekin on Monday, putting him in the same defensive class as former players Justin Hamilton (1999-2003) and Corey Brewer (2004-07).

Wilbekin spent the last two years playing behind Erving Walker, getting a few minutes here and there while showing glimpses of potential.

Walker left Florida ranked fourth on the program's all-time scoring list (1,777) and first in assists (547). No doubt, he was one of the more consistent players in Donovan's 17 seasons in Gainesville.

But the Gators might be better with Wilbekin running the show.

They certainly are better defensively.

Wilbekin is averaging 8.3 points, 4.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He's never going to touch Walker's career marks, but consider this: Walker had one 10-assist game in four years, including three as a starter. Wilbekin has posted two double-digit-assist games this month.

``He's been good in terms of getting in the lane and making good decisions,'' Donovan said. ``His offense continues to grow. He takes good shots. He takes open ones. He's a good finisher at the basket, and when he gets down the lane it kind of opens things up for us.

``A lot of times, when Erving would get down the lane, he would bet swallowed up. He would leave his feet sometimes, would drive me nuts, whereas I think Scottie can get down the lane and he can finish at the rim a little bit better.''

Still, Wilbekin's defense is getting most of the attention.

The 6-foot-2 Wilbekin doesn't have the height or reach of Hamilton or Brewer. But his quick feet, fast hands, gritty style and instincts make him a tough defender.

And he's contagious.

Center Pat Young, guard Mike Rosario and others feed off Wilbekin's defensive intensity. And guard Kenny Boynton, who has been the team's top defender in recent years, seems to be benefiting most from Wilbekin's play. With Wilbekin taking on the toughest defensive assignment, Boynton is able to rest more than usual on that end.

``He's impressive,'' Boynton said. ``He's taken over that role, and it says a lot about how much he's matured in a year.''

Wilbekin was suspended to start the season, missing the first three games for an undisclosed violation of team rules. But he's rebounded as well as Donovan expected and really settled into his role as a defensive stopper.

And with Wilbekin leading the way, Florida hasn't allowed any opponent to reach 70 points this season. And in four SEC games, the Gators are giving up just 48.7 points.

``Scottie's playing amazing right now,'' Young said. ``In my book, he's the best point guard I've ever played with.''

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 4: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: