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Bandwagon growing for long-overlooked Hurricanes

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Bandwagon growing for long-overlooked Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) A burly man with a big grin hollered in support of the Miami Hurricanes, his voice standing out even amid the crowd's clamor.

``I heard somebody scream my name when I was shooting a free throw,'' guard Shane Larkin said. ``I looked, and it was Warren Sapp. I was like, that's crazy.''

Even for a 300-pound former NFL star, there's still room on the Miami bandwagon. But it's growing fast.

The No. 25-ranked Hurricanes (14-3, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are alone atop the league standings at 5-0, their best ACC start. A rare capacity crowd of 7,972, including Sapp, turned out for Miami's latest victory, a 90-63 drubbing of No. 1 Duke on Wednesday night.

``This is my fifth year here, and I've never ever seen the gym like that before,'' center Reggie Johnson said. ``It was special. Hopefully we can keep it going.''

The sellout was only the 10th in the Hurricanes' 10-year-old on-campus arena, and another full house is expected Sunday when they play rival Florida State.

``That's our goal - to get people excited about our program,'' coach Jim Larranaga said. ``It's the first time in the university's basketball history that we've been able to create that kind of buzz. This school is not necessarily known as a basketball school.''

Larranaga has the Hurricanes on the rise in only his second season with the school, and their success is welcome tonic as the athletic department awaits the results of an NCAA investigation that began more than a year ago.

The Hurricanes cracked the ranking this week for the first time in three years. The victory over a No. 1 team was their first ever.

``It's something that has never been done before, and the guys are very excited about it,'' guard Durand Scott said. ``But we know this is just now. We've got more to work on, and more that's ahead of us. Now everybody is going to see Miami as `that team.' We've got to come out every game like it's the last.''

The Hurricanes' schedule ranks among the toughest in the nation. Their six-game winning streak includes three road league victories, and they beat No. 13 Michigan State at home in November. They appear likely to make the NCAA tournament for only the second time since 2002, thanks to a team that is deep, big and experienced.

Larranaga, who led George Mason to a Final Four berth in 2006, preaches aggressiveness on defense and balance on offense. Scott, Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones are solid perimeter players, while 6-10 Johnson, 6-10 Julian Gamble and 6-11 Kenny Kadji are forces inside.

Gamble is a sixth-year senior; Scott, Johnson, Kadji and McKinney Jones and are also seniors. The five have started 282 games for the Hurricanes.

``They've got some great fifth- and sixth-year players, old guys who are really good and accustomed to playing together,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

The 292-pound Johnson, an intriguing NBA prospect, gave the Hurricanes a lift when he came off the bench against Duke after being sidelined since Dec. 18 with a broken left thumb. He hadn't been able to practice but called Larranaga on Wednesday morning with the surprising news he was ready to return.

``He basically was jumping through the phone,'' Larranaga said. ``He was so excited that the doctors cleared him to play. I didn't think he was going to be back until some time in February.''

Johnson gives the Hurricanes extra heft as they head into the heart of their ACC schedule. With Duke and No. 18 North Carolina State the league's only other ranked teams, this might be the year to shake up the conference's traditional hierarchy.

And so the bandwagon grows, in South Florida at least. But the perennially overlooked Hurricanes aren't certain how much the win over Duke helped their national reputation.

``Who knows, man,'' Johnson said. ``Some people probably still don't believe. But we believe in ourselves. As long as we believe in each other, we're fine.''

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Bradley Beal gifts Langston University basketball team new Nike gear

Bradley Beal gifts Langston University basketball team new Nike gear

Bradley Beal is in the midst of the best season of his career with the Wizards, and on Thursday he took his performance off the court a step further. 

In a video posted by Langston University Men's Basketball coach Stevie Taylor, it appears the Wizards' star shooting guard gifted the entire team with brand new Nike gear for the season. 

Beal then responded on Twitter, wishing the team the best of luck with their new shoes and accessories. 

This comes after Beal and John Wall handed out a ton of turkeys to the local community ahead of Thanksgiving next week. 

Beal has already deserved his salary two times over with his play on the court this season, but his involvement in the community and his contributions to basketball programs like Langston just goes to show his development as a leader for the Wizards' organization. 

For the Wizards' sake, hopefully they can build a team around Beal and Wall that will make the former want to sign another extension in two years. 

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Derrius Guice understands why Redskins fans are frustrated, but he's looking ahead

Derrius Guice understands why Redskins fans are frustrated, but he's looking ahead

Derrius Guice is a very positive person. Unfortunately, he's playing for a team right now that's shrouded in negativity.

The Redskins have played 10 games this season, and they've walked off the field as losers in nine of those contests. They've gotten rid of their head coach, and many are wondering how many other major changes will come.

And when it comes to the fans, many — if not most — are furious with the direction of the franchise. Guice is noticing that, too.

"It just sucks when I score, or someone else scores, and our team posts a picture to Instagram or Twitter and everything under it is just, 'Fire this, fire that, we suck," Guice told JP Finlay in a 1-on-1 interview on the Redskins Talk podcast. "That doesn't help anything."

The running back understands that frustration. However, he wants those who are angry to know one thing: While this current roster is obviously responsible for the 2019 issues, they aren't responsible for the two-decade-long slump that's affected the organization.

"I'm new here," Guice said. "I understand some of these fans have been here 20-30 years, but like, there's a lot of guys on this team that are new. Y'all can't bring all that negativity to us like we've been here 20 years. I don't think that's fair to us players."

That's what makes this situation so difficult for those on the field and those who watch those on the field. Fans have been on this unsatisfying ride for far too long, yet most of the players hopped on a stop or two ago. 

So people who post those hateful comments or send those angry DMs are doing so because they've seen a handful of free agency and draft classes bust, and because they've seen numerous coaches come in and fail, and they've been lied to repeatedly about how "close" the Redskins are. They aren't necessarily trying to take it out on Guice or Dwayne Haskins or Landon Collins, it just appears that way.

Guice, for one, is trying his best to improve how he handles that side of being an athlete. He's also choosing to focus on those who've stayed on his side through what's been a trying first couple of seasons in the league.

For all the negativity he encounters, he's grateful for those who remain positive like him.

"A guy that's been there two years and has only played two real games, there's a lot of fans that have still never left my side since I got drafted," Guice said. "That's something I always have to cherish."

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