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Aggies return to Kyle Field to face Sam Houston

Aggies return to Kyle Field to face Sam Houston

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) If Texas A&M needs a reason to illustrate why it can't take Sam Houston State lightly, the Aggies only need to look back to earlier this season.

The scrappy Bearkats, last year's Championship Subdivision runner-up, led Baylor 20-10 at halftime before the Bears rallied for a 48-23 win.

``They're not going to be awestruck or anything when they come in here,'' Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.

The ninth-ranked Aggies (8-2) host Sam Houston State on Saturday, a week removed from a 29-24 victory over then-No. 1 Alabama.

Hangover effect, coach? Letdown a possibility?

``We've got a lot to play for right now,'' Sumlin said. ``I met with the seniors (Sunday) and really had a great conversation with them. We've been through a stretch and they've got two more games in their career at Kyle Field.''

It is Texas A&M's first game at home since a loss to LSU on Oct. 20. Since then, the Aggies have reeled off wins at Southeastern Conference opponents Auburn and Mississippi State before beating the Crimson Tide in a stunner.

Texas A&M isn't content with what it has accomplished so far. The Aggies finish their SEC schedule next week against fellow league newcomer Missouri, and also have a bowl ahead, making the possibility of their first double-digit win total since 1998 within reach.

``We feel like we haven't made a statement yet,'' Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore said. ``We're not looking at: `OK, we beat Alabama.' We're looking at how we can finish off the season. Let's finish strong. Don't get complacent. Don't look at anybody as a lesser opponent ... it's not about the other team, it's about us.''

Sam Houston State has already clinched a share of the Southland Conference title this year and brings a seven-game winning streak into the game. This is their final regular-season game before they return to the playoffs next week.

``Obviously we've got our hands full this week,'' Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz said. ``A&M is big, fast, strong, well-coached and going to be playing with a lot of confidence after beating the No. 1 team at their place.''

Fritz said his team is looking forward to the challenge, and that College Station being only about 50 miles from their campus adds a little bit more excitement.

``We really don't have anyone who was recruited by schools of that level,'' Fritz said. ``Some of our transfers we have, they transfer in here because people of that level didn't think they could play where they were at. It's a motivating factor for our guys to go in and see how they stack up against the best.''

Likely the biggest test for Sam Houston State will be trying to contain freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, since few teams have done it. Manziel is second in the nation in total offense with more than 379 yards a game. He has 2,780 yards passing and 18 touchdowns and has run for 1,014 yards and 15 more scores.

The Heisman Trophy hopeful threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more by halftime in A&M's other game this season against an FCS opponent - a 70-14 win over South Carolina State.

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has enjoyed watching Manziel grow this season.

``He's his own worst critic,'' Kingsbury said. ``If he's not perfect in every throw, he wants it to be. That's not something you can coach into a kid. He either has it or he doesn't. He wants to be the best. I hope he continues to get better. That's up to him how good he wants to be. He definitely has the skill set and potential to get better and better.''

The Aggies will look to limit Sam Houston's run game to control this one. The Bearkats have ran for more than 300 yards five times this season, including a season-high 405 two week ago.

The attack is led by Timothy Flanders. Flanders is the school's all-time leading rusher and has 22 100-yard games in his career and 1,087 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns this season.

``This team is good,'' Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. ``They are not going to come in here in awe. They are going to try to come in here and beat us and we're going to have to play.''

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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