Redskins

The Bruce Weber era begins at Kansas St

The Bruce Weber era begins at Kansas St

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Just about everyone is back this season for Kansas State - except the coach.

Frank Martin is gone to South Carolina, and former Illinois coach Bruce Weber has taken over. Returning players will be the key as Weber tries to prove that a couple of lean years in Champaign were an aberration.

He's off to a good start so far, having successfully ``re-recruited'' 12 lettermen, including six who started 10 games or more for the Wildcats in 2011.

Seniors Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez and Martavious Irving all have considerable experience, and other players have logged meaningful minutes. McGruder led the team in scoring and 10 other categories last season; he and Henriquez were named to the Big 12's all-defensive team.

``You feel good that you're not kind of starting over,'' Weber said. ``Even though it's a new coach and new system and new staff, you've got a group that's been together.''

Retaining that group was a crucial first step for Weber, and the players say they are buying into Weber's way.

McGruder pointed out that his new coach has developed players who went on to play professionally. McGruder hopes to be the next name on that list.

Angel Rodriguez got a phone call from former Illinois guard and NBA star Deron Williams, who was in a situation similar to Rodriguez's when Weber took over for Bill Self in 2004. Williams told Rodriguez he never regretted staying at Illinois and playing for Weber.

Players all liked what they heard about the coach, but his genuine demeanor and impressive resume were what sold them.

``His words were what I wanted to hear, but that could come from anybody,'' Rodriguez said. ``I guess I just looked at his basketball career as a coach, and I talked to my people, and I felt like it was the right decision to stay here.''

In addition to positive reviews and first impressions, Kansas State players found even more to like about their coach after seeing him in action during the team's summer tournament in Brazil.

Many consider Weber exceedingly mild-mannered in comparison to fiery Martin. When one of the overseas matchups began to get out of hand, Weber showed that he might have a little more fire in him than people realize.

In a game against Tijuca Club that included an astounding 78 free throws, Weber got ejected during the fourth quarter for protesting a foul that went against his team. This surprised everyone, and it worked in Weber's favor.

``He came in with an identity of a passive coach,'' Henriquez said. ``He proved to me right there that he's not as passive as he looks.''

With confidence in their coach, and with the bond between Weber, the staff and the players growing daily, the next issue on the docket is leadership.

While Weber sees leadership by example, vocal direction seems to be lacking.

``Somebody's got to grab it. Somebody's got to be a leader,'' Weber said. ``We've talked a lot about holding everybody accountable, whether it's going to class, getting to practice, playing the intensity level, listening to coaches, saying the right things in the locker room. All that stuff kind of adds up and can be very, very important.''

There are some obvious candidates. McGruder puts in as much time as anyone and plays hard nonstop. Rodriguez is the point guard, the floor general. Will Spradling understands the system perhaps better than anyone else. Weber could see any of these guys taking the reins.

For that to happen, though, someone has to speak up.

``Right now that's the main thing that we're working on,'' Spradling said. ``We don't really have anybody that's vocal enough. (McGruder)'s never really been that vocal type of person. That's something that he's working on too. It could pretty much be anybody.''

In the meantime, the seniors will continue to lead by example - and for now, that is OK.

``They're not as vocal as I'm sure they will be in the future, but they work hard,'' assistant coach Alvin Brooks said. ``If they work hard, nobody else has any choice but to work hard because they've been through it before, and they've won a lot of games for Kansas State, so that's going to do nothing but help us get better as a team.''

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5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition. 

When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason. 

The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.

  1. QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
  2. Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot  of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for. 
  3. STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
  4. Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job. 
  5. Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them. 

* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program. 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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