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DT Hill motors through injury to power PSU line

DT Hill motors through injury to power PSU line

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Laid back and unassuming, Jordan Hill could easily blend in with the thousands of other students on the Penn State campus on a normal class day.

Make no mistake, the senior stands out on the football field. Not even a sore left knee can slow down the defensive tackle known for his relentless motor.

Catch him most any other time, and he's more apt to blend in with the crowd. He flashed a friendly smile after taking a well-earned break on the couch of the football team's lounge before a recent practice this week.

``I don't think about it as me not wanting to stop,'' Hill said. ``But I don't want to lose. For me to win, I have to play the best I can each and every play.''

A left knee injury two weeks ago during the 34-9 win at Purdue left Penn State fans wondering how long one of the team's respected senior leaders would be out of the lineup - if he returned at all. Hill was carted off the field.

A week later, he was back.

Entering this Saturday's game against Indiana, Hill is fourth on the team with 50 tackles, including five for losses and 2 1/2 sacks. He has an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

The Hoosiers defense might be struggling after losing 62-14 last week to Wisconsin, but they have a tough lineman of their own in senior Adam Replogle, who leads conference defensive tackles with 62 stops.

``He's a quality player, great off the field,'' Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said of Replogle. ``He's helped set a standard of how we want to improve.''

Hill, too, is a standard-bearer for Penn State.

Perhaps more importantly to coach Bill O'Brien's defense is that Hill consistently draws double teams that help free up other linemen and occupy potential blockers. It also helps the veteran linebacking crew Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson can make big plays - which made his status for last week's Nebraska game a big question mark.

Hill admitted he was in nagging pain during pregame warm-ups.

``I was hurting,'' Hill said. ``I looked bad moving around.''

He didn't start in the 32-23 loss, but Hill did play in the first half. Then his replacement, James Terry, also went down a leg injury and didn't return. Hill knew what he had to do in the second half.

``When James went down I said, `All right, I've got to go,'' he said this week, wearing sweats while relaxing in a chair with legs outstretched. There appeared to be no brace on the left knee.

Hill also wasn't wearing a brace during a 25-minute session of practice open to media Wednesday, when he looked limber taking part in stretches but was held out of drills.

Hill said he hasn't been limited this week. And even if he's hurting, he may not be the kind of player who divulges just how much pain he's in.

``When the younger guys are looking around, I can't be one of the guys panicking at all, no matter the situation,'' Hill said. ``Even if I don't know what's going to happen, I still have to be calm.''

His easy-going personality is the influence of his father, Larry, while growing up in the blue-collar Harrisburg suburb of Steelton, he said. Mostly playing baseball and basketball growing up, Hill picked up football in seventh grade also at the encouragement of his father.

The competitive edge was honed, in part, around pick-up games of basketball. Hill's cousin, Bucknell's 6-foot-3 junior point guard Ryan Hill, remembers one instance when Hill, teamed up with Ryan Hill's brother, Lloyd, on the local YMCA basketball court during a snow day.

Jordan set up the teams. Back then, Ryan Hill says he was a skinny 5 foot, 7 inches, and joined in the two-on-two game with a friend who also less than 6 feet. Jordan and Lloyd Hill, who is now an offensive lineman at St. Francis, Pa., both stood at 6-foot-2, Ryan Hill said.

``I felt the game was unfair because Lloyd and Jordan were on the same team,'' Ryan Hill said. In the end though, it turned out to be a lesson, too from his cousin.

``He said, `You just have to get the job done,'' Ryan Hill recalled.

It was no surprise to the family when Hill stuck with Penn State in July after the NCAA levied its strict sanctions on the program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The day fellow seniors Michael Zordich and Mauti gave an impassioned statement with about two dozen other players that they were staying at Penn State, Hill was on the golf course - where he was working as an intern. He was getting breakfast at a concession stand when he looked up at a TV to find Zordich and Mauti speaking.

``I didn't know what was going on,'' Hill said with a chuckle.

Hill said he would have been there, too, if he didn't have the internship.

``When I had my (preseason) meeting with Coach O'Brien,'' he said, ``I told him the only way I'd leave this program is if there wasn't going to be any more football.''

That wasn't the case, of course, and Penn State has had a better-than-expected season in part because of Hill and the talented defense.

``I'm playing next to one of the toughest, fastest and best defensive tackles I've ever seen play,'' said redshirt freshman Deion Barnes, who has emerged at defensive end this season. ``Playing through injury and adversity, he's probably one of the best players I've ever played next to.''

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Follow Genaro Armas athttp://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

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USA Today Sports

Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura was introduced to the sport of basketball at 13 years old after spending his childhood on the baseball diamond, emulating Ichiro Suzuki, as many kids in Japan do. Just eight years later, Hachimura has charted his own path as the first Japanese-born lottery pick in the NBA after the Washington Wizards drafted him at No. 9 overall.

That trajectory is important to note when considering Hachimura's age. He is 21 years old, which is on the older side for an NBA draft prospect in the age of one-and-dones. But, you could say he's only eight in basketball years.

That's not a technical term used by NBA front office executives, but the fact Hachimura is a "late bloomer" was one of the biggest selling points for the Wizards. That's how interim team president Tommy Sheppard described him on several occasions the night of the draft and the day after. And even majority owner Ted Leonsis referenced it when asked about the pick in an interview with the Washington Times over the weekend.

While reason may suggest a younger player has higher upside, the Wizards are looking beyond simple age. In Hachimura, they believe they have a player who could benefit from not having the year-round strain of AAU basketball in his past.

"When you come to the game a little bit later, maybe you don't have some bad habits that you accumulate. You don't have a lot of extra miles," Sheppard said. 

"Those kinds of things resonate with us. You have to be healthy to play in the NBA, and there are so many players in this particular draft that for whatever reason, there are a lot of sad faces tonight because I think medical held a lot of people back. He has a clean bill of health, and that's exciting to us."

Sheppard could have been referencing any number of prospects who carried the label as an injury risk into draft night. With the ninth overall pick, the Wizards took Hachimura over Duke's Cam Reddish, who has several red flags, injuries among them. In the second round, they passed on Oregon's Bol Bol, who had a stress fracture in his foot, in favor of Admiral Schofield.

But health isn't the only potential benefit of picking up the game at a later age. Sheppard alluded to the development of bad habits. He thinks Hachimura is more of a blank canvas for the coaching staff and that could work in their favor long-term.

Sheppard made a comparison for Hachimura that was interesting for several reasons.

"With [Raptors forward] Pascal Siakam, you see what happens when guys come to the game a little late and what he was able to do. It's not the same, but if you ask me of someone who's story his reminds me of, it could remind you of something like that," Sheppard said.

Siakam's name was invoked over and over during the pre-draft process but more often to draw a parallel for Sekou Doumbouya of France. Sheppard was more so comparing the development track for Hachimura than the playing style, but it holds some weight.

There have been some famous cases of late bloomers in NBA history. Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Joel Embiid reportedly didn't start playing basketball until high school.

Duncan may be a good example of avoiding bad habits, as he is considered one of the most fundamentally sound players of all time. Olajuwon might be the most skilled big man in NBA history, and Embiid has a chance to become an all-time great.

What gives the Wizards hope that Hachimura will reach his potential and someday enjoy breakout success like Siakam has is his work ethic. The Wizards did deep background research on Hachimura, including through discussions with his college coach, Mark Few of Gonzaga.

They believe they found something in Hachimura that other teams may have overlooked.

"The things that you hope for and that you're optimistic about, they seem to be there. So, we're excited about that," Sheppard said. "It's really up to Rui and how bad do you want to be good?"

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US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

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US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

REIMS, France -- Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks and the United States set up a much-anticipated quarterfinal meeting with host France at the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Spain on Monday.

Rapinoe's first came in the seventh minute to the cheers of the U.S. supporters melting in temperatures that reached nearly 90 degrees at the Stade Auguste-Delaune. They were quieted a short time later when Jennifer Hermoso tied it up for Spain with the first goal the Americans had allowed in France.

Video review was used to confirm a foul on Rose Lavelle that gave the pink-haired captain the game-winner in the 75th minute, spoiling Spain's spirited effort in its first knockout-round appearance at a World Cup.

"That’s World Cup-level grit right there," Rapinoe said on the Fox Sports broadcast. "You can’t replicate it. You can’t teach it. We told each other during the game we needed to go up a level. They (the matches) only get harder and more intense from here. Everybody’s playing for their lives."

The defending champions head to Paris to face France on Friday night. The French defeated Brazil 2-1 in extra time Sunday night, with Amandine Henry scoring the game-winner in the 107th minute.