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The Eagles have found Reid's replacement

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The Eagles have found Reid's replacement

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Moments after Chip Kelly's plane landed, he was handed a new Eagles visor and received a warm greeting from fans gathered at the airport.Welcome to Philadelphia, Coach.The Eagles hired Kelly on Wednesday, just 10 days after he decided to stay at Oregon. The 49-year-old Kelly, known as an offensive innovator, becomes the 21st coach in team history and replaces Andy Reid, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 4-12 season.He'll be introduced at a news conference Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Eagles' practice facility."The challenge is what I was excited about and that's why I came," Kelly told a group of reporters upon landing in Philly. "I was sold on the Eagles the first time I met them, it was my ties to Oregon that made it hard. But the Eagles are the Eagles. This is the NFL."My dream is to just win, and with the Eagles, this was the best opportunity for me to win. I never thought a long time ago that I was going to be able to coach in the NFL but I'm excited about the opportunity."General manager Howie Roseman gave Kelly the white Eagles visor, the trademark hat he wore at Oregon. Kelly then got a glimpse of what this team means to this city.Not only were Roseman and president Don Smolenski waiting for him on the runway -- they arrived with a police escort -- there were fans, decked out in green, waiting outside on a cold, dreary night."I know it's a rabid fan base," Kelly said. "I hope they don't boo me. It's an exciting time and I'm ready to get to work."Kelly, who was 46-7 in four years at Oregon, interviewed with the Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in a two-day span after leading the fast-flying Ducks to a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 3.The Eagles are known to have interviewed 11 candidates, including two meetings with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. All along, Kelly was thought to be Philadelphia's first choice in a long, exhaustive process that took many twists."Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles," owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. "He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team."On the day he fired Reid, Lurie appeared to be describing Kelly when he said he wanted to find a "real smart, forward-thinking coach" who is "strategic, a strong leader, very comfortable in his own skin."The enigmatic Kelly reportedly was close to signing with the Browns after a long interview Jan. 4. He met with the Eagles for nine hours the next day, setting up a soap-opera scenario in which the Eagles were competing with Browns CEO Joe Banner, their former president and longtime friend of Lurie who left the organization after a falling out. But that roller coaster ended when Kelly opted to remain -- temporarily -- in Eugene, Ore.The Eagles interviewed two other high-profile college coaches -- Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly. Both elected to stay with their schools.Bradley was considered by many to be the leading contender, though former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and former Ravens coach Brian Billick were in the mix.That all changed when Kelly had a change of heart.Kelly built Oregon into a national powerhouse in a short time. The Ducks went to four straight BCS bowl games -- including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago -- and have won three conference championships.Kelly originally went to Oregon in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, where he started devising the innovative hurry-up offense the Ducks are known for now.Oregon finished last season 12-1. The team was ranked No. 1 and appeared headed for another shot at the national championship until a 17-14 loss to Stanford Nov. 17.Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens said Wednesday that Kelly called him at 7:15 a.m. PST to tell him he had changed his mind: "He wasn't sure if that opportunity would present itself again, so he felt this was the right one at the right time."Mullens now faces a coaching search amid recruiting season."I've turned the page," Mullens said. "I was surprised when I got the call this morning, but as the leader of this organization, my focus is on moving forward and that's what we're doing. I'm laser focused on what's next, and that's finding the right fit to lead Oregon football."It's unknown whether the possibility of NCAA sanctions based on Oregon's use of recruiting services factored into Kelly's reversal. He indicated in Arizona that he isn't running from anything."We've cooperated fully with them," he said. "If they want to talk to us again, we'll continue to cooperate fully. I feel confident in the situation."Kelly doesn't have any pro coaching experience, but aspects of his up-tempo offense are already being used by New England and Washington.The Eagles fired Reid after two forgettable years. A late flurry brought the team to an 8-8 finish last season, but this season, Philadelphia endured an eight-game losing streak, and dropped 11 of its final 12. A 3-1 start soon washed away, and Reid's 14-year tenure ended not long after. Within a week, Reid was Kansas City's new coach.Still, Kelly has tough shoes to fill. Reid won more games than any coach in franchise history and led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five conference championship games and one Super Bowl berth.Kelly and the Eagles have the No. 4 overall pick in the draft as well as some talented players on offense who could fit his scheme. Running back LeSean McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin seem like ideal matches. Quarterback Nick Foles, however, isn't."I've never run the zone read," Foles said after the season. "I'm more of a dropback guy. I've been under center. I've been in the gun. If I can adapt, I want to. But I'm not a zone-read quarterback. Some people are gifted with different things. That's just not one of my skill sets. I can work on the speed in the offseason and get better with that. But I've always been a dropback guy in the pocket. I've been able to make plays on my feet throwing the ball or running for a first down."On the other hand, Michael Vick could be perfect. But it's unlikely the Eagles would want to pay the 16 million they'd have to shell out for an injury-prone quarterback, who will be 33 next season.Kelly had high praise for Foles after Oregon beat Arizona 56-31 in September 2011."I'll tell you what; I'm glad Nick Foles is graduating," Kelly said at that time. "I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid's a warrior. He's as good as anyone in the country."Others interviewed by Philadelphia were former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Atlanta assistants Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong, former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.The first Eagles to react to Kelly's hiring on Twitter were defensive players.Defensive end Brandon Graham wrote: "Happy to have Chip Kelly!! Now it's time to get to work!"Safety Kurt Coleman wrote: "Welcome Chip Kelly to the Eagles family. Can't wait to see what he brings to the team in 2013!"As he walked by the fans at the airport, Kelly, dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt, stopped to sign some autographs and share some laughs with the faithful.It indeed was a long journey. But if Wednesday is any indication, Kelly appears to fit right in with Philadelphia.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.