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Irish fans, recruits left wondering about Kelly

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Irish fans, recruits left wondering about Kelly

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III captured the emotion of just about everyone who follows the Fighting Irish with a simple tweet: ``Didnt see that coming!''

News that coach Brian Kelly had interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles one day after the Irish were thoroughly beaten 42-14 by Alabama in the BCS title game caught just about everyone by surprise.

The job, after all, has not traditionally been a springboard to the NFL and is viewed by many - at least Notre Dame fans - as a destination job for a deep-pocketed program with one of the most storied histories in college football. And why would anyone leave after coming so close to the national championship?

Nix, who already announced he was skipping the NFL draft and returning to Notre Dame next season, told his followers he wasn't concerned about Kelly's interview.

``Im not worried and you shouldnt be either,'' he tweeted.

The early reaction from Notre Dame recruits indicated they are still committed to the Irish.

``If Kelly leaves!!!!!,,,,, I'm still a domer S/O to my ND fans,'' linebacker Jaylon Smith tweeted.

Cornerback Devin Butler expressed similar feelings, tweeting: ``I committed to a program and school.. Not a coach.'' He then added: ``But I doubt he leaves.''

Still, the interview alone could prove costly. Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports says Notre Dame was on track to possibly have the top recruiting class this year, but said some recruits will get antsy if Kelly doesn't announce his intention soon. He said other schools probably started calling recruits shortly after the news broke.

``There will be kids looking at other schools now. I don't see that happening unless Kelly's telling them he's not leaving,'' Lemming said.

Kelly, who was believed to be out of the country, originally signed a five-year contract three years ago at a reported $2.5 million a year and was given a two-year extension a year ago. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick told reporters Sunday he had planned to talk with Kelly about extending his contract. Swarbrick did not respond to messages left by The Associated Press at his office or on his cellphone seeking comment. Neither did Kelly's agent, Trace Armstrong.

Kelly told reporters in Florida before the game that Notre Dame was his dream job, but said while he was coaching at Cincinnati he was focused on that. He then added: ``I think that's the same thing with the NFL.''

``I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have,'' he said.

The question is, will he have another opportunity? He is the first Notre Dame coach in recent memory to interview for another job. Former Irish coach Charlie Weis was given a 10-year contract when there were reports the New York Giants might be interested in talking to him.

Former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas, who has spent years helping coaches and administrators find jobs and recently spent about 10 months as the Big 12 interim commissioner, said it's hard to tell what might motivate a coach to interview for a job.

``Some people might be using this as a stepping stone, others to get their name out, that they're movable,'' he said. ``But I think most people that interview are interested in the position.''

Kelly could be trying to get something more than a better contract, including more money for his assistants, and he has indicated he would like a massive scoreboard that can show video replays and synthetic turf at Note Dame Stadium.

Neinas said he doesn't think most coaches have hidden interests. He said his advice is to interview only if you want the job.

``I tell them, `If you're not interested, don't interview,''' he said.

But sports attorney Darren Heitner says Kelly owed it to himself to at least talk with the Eagles.

``Even if he had no intention of actually accepting that job, it is the most beautiful bargaining chip he has in his possession. Even if the entire time he intended to stay, why not entertain the offer and perhaps get some more money into his pocket?'' he said.

Maryland basketball to host College GameDay for first time in 15 years

Maryland basketball to host College GameDay for first time in 15 years

It’s happening, folks.

For the first time in 15 years, ESPN College GameDay is coming to College Park.

Maryland basketball, currently ranked 7th in the AP Poll, is hosting Michigan State, formerly number one in the polls, Saturday night at 8 p.m.

The Terps played at Michigan State on February 15, also a College GameDay game, in East Lansing. This is only the second time ever College GameDay game has visited a rematch in the same season, after last year’s Duke-Virginia game.

It’s also Maryland’s second-ever time hosting the broadcast, with the last game coming in 2005. It’s the fourth time they’ve been involved on a College GameDay broadcast, the third of which comes against the Spartans.

As enthusiastic as fans are, head coach Mark Turgeon and his players are equally excited.

"We are thrilled to have been selected to host ESPN College GameDay next week," Turgeon stated in a press release. "It will be an incredible day for our program, fans and community. We can't wait to show Rece, Jay, Seth, LaPhonso and the rest of the crew what College Park is all about!"

The game against the Spartans was already big for Maryland’s Big Ten championship chances, and the matchup has been sold out for weeks.

Now, it’s one of the biggest games in College Park in more than a decade.

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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