NCAA

Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins heading to the NFL

Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins heading to the NFL

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson record-setting receiver DeAndre Hopkins is heading to the NFL and skipping his final season of college.

Hopkins said on Twitter on Thursday that while he enjoyed his time with the Tigers, he is ready for the next level. Clemson athletics spokesman Tim Bourret confirmed that Hopkins is making himself eligible for the NFL draft in April.

``It is tough to leave because this is my home, this is the place I wanted to play since I came out of the womb,'' Hopkins said in statement from the school. ``But, I feel it is best for me and my family to take my talents to NFL at this time.''

Hopkins had a been a solid performer his first two seasons, but broke out in a big way this past fall with a school record 1,405 yards receiving on 82 catches. His 18 touchdowns were an Atlantic Coast Conference record.

He closed his college career in impressive fashion with 13 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns in a Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory over LSU. Hopkins made a sliding, 26-yard catch on fourth-and-16 to keep the Tigers game-winning drive alive in the 25-24 win.

Hopkins play this season has him going in the late first-round in several NFL mock drafts, projections apparently too good for him to pass up.

``It's been one hell of a ride tiger nation but I'm takin my talents to the next level (tag) nfl,'' Hopkins tweeted.

Hopkins spoke with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney several times before making his decision.

``I fully support him,'' Swinney said.

The coach said Hopkins would make an exceptional NFL player.

``He has the best hands and ability to catch the ball in traffic I have seen in a long time,'' Swinney said.

Hopkins established Clemson career records with 27 touchdown receptions, 12 100-yard receiving games and 3,020 total reception yards. He is second in total receptions with 206 for his 39 career games. The 191-yard game in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was his sixth 100-yard game of the year, tying the Clemson single season mark. He caught at least one pass in each of his last 36 games to tie Jerry Butler's (1975-78) record.

Hopkins also tied the Clemson mark for touchdown receptions in a game with three on two occasions this year, once against Ball State and once at Duke. Twice he scored three touchdowns in under nine minutes.

On Wednesday, ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd chose to return to Clemson instead of jumping to the NFL. The Tigers still feature former All-American wideout Sammy Watkins, who'll be a junior next fall.

Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and North Carolina State overcame a second-half scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in a 53-51 victory against Virginia on Monday night.

C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

Viginia (12-6, 4-4) used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State scoring drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. But Jericole Hellems hit a 3-pointer for N.C. State with 3:38 left and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Markell Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems' putback gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded.

UP NEXT

The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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