Acting Miami AD Blake James embracing challenge

Acting Miami AD Blake James embracing challenge

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) Blake James will move into his new office Monday morning, and the title on his University of Miami business cards is changing.

Other than that, James is hoping for business as usual.

The Hurricanes' new acting athletic director said in a telephone interview Saturday night that he's eager to try to lead Miami through what will likely be a difficult few months, especially with NCAA sanctions looming as the result of a lengthy investigation that has examined, among other things, claims by a former booster that he provided dozens of athletes and recruits with impermissible benefits over an eight-year span.

``There's challenges in every one of these jobs,'' James said from Chicago, where he was watching the Miami-Notre Dame football game. ``I wouldn't look at this job any differently than any other one in the country. Everyone has challenges; you just address things and you move forward. ... I know I'm ready for the challenge and I was honored to take it on and I'll continue to carry the baton as long as they want me to be that person doing it.''

James is expected to be a serious candidate to assume the role on a full-time basis. The university has not revealed any timetable for hiring a replacement for Shawn Eichorst, whose hiring to be the athletic director at Nebraska was announced on Thursday.

James was on his way to the airport on Thursday, ready for his trip to Chicago, when he said university president Donna Shalala contacted him with the news that he would be the acting director.

``I'm very honored and very excited, and I'm looking forward to moving forward,'' James said.

Eichorst was hired in April 2011, not long before the news broke that Miami was under NCAA investigation, a probe that originally revolved around allegations made by convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, who piled athletes and recruits with cash, dinners, nightclub visits, yacht rides and other gifts. Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding the Ponzi scheme.

It's unclear when the sanctions will come, though it's now most unlikely that the probe is settled before the start of 2013.

Speaking with reporters at Soldier Field on Saturday night, James said that in his previous role, he ``wasn't involved with the NCAA issues.''

It was believed very few Miami senior staff members were directly involved with developments related to the joint NCAA-university inquiry, with Eichorst being among them.

``That's something I know as an institution we're on top of and we'll continue to move forward as a program,'' James said.

While the unknown - how severe the sanctions will be - is a cloud over Miami, James said there also is much that the department can point to in a positive sense these days as well.

``Whirlwind, that's a term I've used to describe the last few days,'' James said. ``It's been a great weekend to walk around Chicago and just see the Hurricane faithful here. I don't know the exact number of Hurricane fans, I know we sold 20,000 seats and I would say as many as I've ever seen in all my years around the program were used by Miami Hurricane fans. We have a great showing here. The last few days, it's been hard to keep up with everything.''

James had been Miami's Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development and Ticket Operations before the promotion, also overseeing some Hurricane sport programs. This is his second stint at Miami; he spent about eight years there starting in the early 1990s, and returned to the Hurricanes in 2010 after serving as Maine's athletic director for five years.

``Monday morning, I'll switch offices and look at what we have on our list of things to accomplish and we'll continue to move forward,'' James said. ``The only difference for me is the involvement I have in that list is much greater. I'm not going to make a bunch of changes on Monday. We're going to stick to the plan we have.''


AP Sports Writer Rick Gano contributed from Chicago.


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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short.