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Dellavedova lifts Saint Mary's to new heights

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Dellavedova lifts Saint Mary's to new heights

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) From the moment he arrived at Saint Mary's as a shaggy-haired freshman from Australia with a multicolored mouth guard and an old-school game, it was clear Matthew Dellavedova would be something special.

In three-plus seasons with the Gaels, Dellavedova has backed that up with numerous school records and individual accolades, two conference tournament titles and NCAA tournament appearances, and an impressive stint as an Olympic starter matching up against NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Tony Parker.

Whether it's his court vision that allows him to see openings before they even develop, the passes that sometimes surprise even his teammates or the teardrop floaters and 3-pointers that have him on pace to be Saint Mary's all-time leading scorer, Dellavedova is the engine that drives the Gaels.

``He's as good as we've had. Just look at what he's done,'' coach Randy Bennett said. ``He continues to get better. That's a straight byproduct of his work ethic. He always has understood that he hasn't arrived. He's still trying to get better. He knows what it will take, it will take great attitude, hard work, be humble, those things.''

It's a fitting attitude for the Gaels' best player because it is the exact same approach Bennett wants for his program. After taking over a two-win team in 2001, Bennett has built Saint Mary's into a consistent winner with five straight 25-win seasons.

After years of chasing Gonzaga, the Gaels have caught up in the West Coast Conference in Dellavedova's first three seasons. Both programs won 36 conference games the past three seasons with each school taking one outright regular-season championship and sharing the third.

The Gaels won two of the past three WCC tournament titles, beating the Bulldogs in the final both times. In fact, after winning just three of the first 22 games against Gonzaga in Bennett's tenure, Saint Mary's has won four times in the past seven meetings, including a win in Spokane two years ago.

But there is no sense of satisfaction for Saint Mary's (12-3, 1-0) heading into the first meeting of the season against No. 9 Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0) on Thursday night in Spokane.

``They've done it for a long time,'' Dellavedova said. ``We're just trying to do our thing and keep getting better as a program ourselves because they've done it for so long. We're just trying to keep pushing hard to see how much better we can get.''

Having lost three times in the nonconference season, the Gaels have little margin for error if they want to make the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. A road win against a top 10 team like Gonzaga would go a long way toward cementing that goal.

While that may seem like a daunting task on the surface, Dellavedova has faced much tougher competition than that in the past year. Dellavedova is one of two college basketball players who participated in last summer's Olympics, joining the College of Charleston's Andrew Lawrence, a reserve for Great Britain.

But Dellavedova started all six games in London, running the point for an Australian team that won three games. He averaged 7.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 29 minutes per game against some of the top players in the world.

After posting three points, four assists and seven rebounds in a quarterfinal loss to the United States, Dellavedova even got some words of encouragement from Bryant.

``It gave me a taste of how good those guys are and how much you have to work to improve to get to that kind of level,'' Dellavedova said. ``Going against smart players who are physical, tall, it cuts down on your decision-making time. You have less space and time so you have to be sharper in your decision-making.''

Dellavedova has grown from that experience and is having his best season yet in college, posting career highs in points (17.4 per game), assists (6.7 per game), shooting (47 percent), 3-point shooting (42 percent) and foul shooting (91 percent). He is already the school-record holder in assists and 3-pointers and is on pace to break Daniel Kickert's career scoring record at Saint Mary's.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few called Dellavedova ``brilliant'' with the way he executes the ball screens that are so prevalent in Saint Mary's offense.

``It starts with him and it ends with him,'' Gonzaga star Elias Harris said. ``He's their main guy, and I agree with Coach Few that he's for sure one of the better guys in the nation when it comes to ball screen situations, the feel for a game and the way he reads the court and finds his teammates is incredible. It's really a load. It's hard, even as a team, to guard him. It's going to be a great challenge.''

But Bennett said Dellavedova's biggest skill might be his leadership and his ability to make his teammates better.

Bennett knew he was getting a good player when he got the commitment from Dellavedova. But after Dellavedova arrived, the Gaels realized they were getting so much more.

``I thought we should check his birth certificate because he played like a 25- or 30-year-old man, even as a freshman,'' said former Saint Mary's star center Omar Samhan, who played one season with Dellavedova. ``He just came in and had such a good feel for the game beyond his years. He always played beyond his years. That always stuck out to me.''

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

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NBA Rumors: Lakers reportedly waive DeMarcus Cousins

NBA Rumors: Lakers reportedly waive DeMarcus Cousins

After signing Markieff Morris to a contract following the former Wizard's buy out from the Pistons, the Lakers reportedly waived center DeMarcus Cousins to open a roster spot. 

Health has been a major issue over the last two years for Cousins. He hasn't played a game this year thanks to a torn ACL he suffered before the season, and he missed all but 30 games last year due to an Achilles injury he suffered with the Pelicans midway through the 2017-18 season. 

Before injuries robbed Cousins of the majority of his prime, he was arguably the best big man in the game. Prior to his Achilles injury in New Orleans, he was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 47% percent from the floor and 35.4% from three on 6.1 attempts per game. 

For the Wizards, Cousins could represent another low risk, high reward big man acquisition that the Lakers couldn't find any use for. Washington acquired both Thomas Bryant and Moe Wagner from LA for practically nothing and both have played well after their relocation to D.C. 

Also, John Wall played with Cousins at the University of Kentucky and both have mentioned a desire to play together again at some point. Neither player is expected to return from injury this season, so they could both go on an NBA revenge tour together alongside Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura. 

In the meantime, we'll have to wait and see what Cousins decides to do. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, Cousins won't officially be waived until Sunday. The team who claims him will be able to offer him up to $4.2 million in salary this summer. 

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Three things to look for during the Orioles first spring training game Saturday

Three things to look for during the Orioles first spring training game Saturday

Baseball isn’t quite in full swing yet. But it’s close enough. 

The Orioles will open up their spring slate of games on Saturday against the Braves in North Port, Fla. It’s both the first game of spring training for both teams. 

The game can be listened to on Orioles.com or on the MLB At-Bat app. 

So here are three things to pay attention to during the first game of the spring: 

1. The starting pitching

The pitching was, to be frank, atrocious last season for the Orioles. 2020 doesn’t figure to showcase a large jump, either. 

Baltimore will start Chandler Shepherd against the Braves, a pitcher who started three games last season in Baltimore. He allowed 23 hits and 14 earned runs in 19 innings pitched and posted a 6.63 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

Ty Blach will pitch in relief of Shepherd. Blach pitched in five games last season for the Orioles and threw 20 ⅓ innings with an ERA 11.32. 

While neither will likely make the Opening Day roster, it’ll give an interesting look at what could be in store for the rest of spring training in Sarasota. 

2. How much the prospects play

For most major league clubs, there’s not much to get excited about for the first few games of spring training. The Orioles, though, are in a bit of a unique circumstance. 

In the second year of a rebuild, the Orioles are placing their future in the hands of younger prospects, meaning there’s always a chance for a few players to stand out in the first weeks of camp. 

While the lineups aren’t known yet, both for Saturday’s game and for the immediate future, getting a glimpse at some of the younger prospects like Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson, and DL Hall is what fans have been clamoring for. 

3. The return of baseball

It’s not the return of baseball in the truest sense of the phrase.  

The Orioles aren’t going to play their top of the line prospects, or their major league club. But the first game of the spring means that baseball, officially, is back for Baltimore. 

Even though the 2020 season almost assuredly won’t be one that resembles any kind of contention, the Orioles hitting the field once again is always an exciting time.

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