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Cubit relishes reclamation project at Illinois

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Cubit relishes reclamation project at Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Bill Cubit says he enjoys a reclamation project, and has made much of his career as a football coach out of them.

``I enjoy seeing kids who maybe have not been successful and giving them a plan and all the sudden they're successful,'' the new Illinois offensive coordinator said Wednesday, two days after being hired. ``That's kind of been my whole career.''

The former Western Michigan head coach takes over an offense at Illinois where not much went right last season. The Illini were 2-10 (0-8 in the Big Ten), lost their last eight games and scored 16.7 points a game, last in the conference.

Cubit said he has met with some of his players, including his quarterbacks. His message? You don't want to live through that again.

``Hey look, you went through that last year, it's gone, it's over, but you know, you never want to go back,'' he said. ``So how do you go to the next level? You've got to give every ounce of your energy.''

Cubit is still figuring out what kind of offense he'll run but expects to be more balanced than the generally pass-heavy teams he had at Western Michigan. He sees promise in Illinois' running backs, who include Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson. They combined for 883 yards on 206 carries last season.

Cubit also likes the no-huddle offense he used with the Broncos, something Illinois fans often saw under former coach Ron Zook. It could be summer before Cubit chooses a starting quarterback between Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole. Both started games last fall.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman hired Cubit to take over the offensive after co-coordinator Chris Beatty was fired. Billy Gonzales, who shared the coordinator duties, will coach wide receivers.

The Broncos fired Cubit after they finished 4-8 last season.

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Follow David Mercer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidmercerap

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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

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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