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Maya Moore leaving mark on Chinese basketball

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Maya Moore leaving mark on Chinese basketball

Maya Moore has excelled everywhere she's played, winning championships from college to the WNBA and Europe. Now she's leaving her mark on the Chinese women's basketball league.

Averaging 45 points a game for the Shanxi Flame, Moore has helped bring new fans to the women's game in a basketball crazed nation.

``They show maybe five NBA games a week here,'' Moore told The Associated Press in a phone interview. ``They get a good amount of coverage and people love it. We are starting to get a little more interest about our game.''

The NBA long has seen China as a place for huge growth.

It was evident at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with the basketball games sold out and the contest between the U.S. men and China having nearly 100 million viewers. With Europe still feeling the effects of the financial downturn, China's competitive salaries and shorter season have made it one of the top destinations for the world's elite women basketball players.

The former UConn star is earning mid-six figures, which is on a par with European salaries. While most European leagues go from October to May, China only plays till February. This will give Moore time to rest before the Minnesota Lynx open training camp in May. It also will provide the young face of women's basketball the opportunity to participate at the NBA All-Star game in February and be around for the women's Final Four.

Besides Moore, the talent is improving throughout the league. Tamika Catchings, Elizabeth Cambage, Sophia Young and Jayne Appel are all playing this year. Swin Cash has played there in the past.

``I think it's been a good introduction for a lot of the fans seeing some of the Olympic level women over here,'' Moore said. ``To see the talent it's been I think very surprising thing for the fans. Interest will continue to spark more of a demand for players and the basketball level will rise. This area of the world will continue to want basketball even more, elevating that market.''

The WNBA has taken notice of the recent boom in China.

``We know the sport of basketball is on the rise in China and the WNBA has already had great success on the international stage,'' WNBA President Laurel Richie said. ``I am really encouraged that there are now many more millions of people around the globe - including China - who know what the WNBA is all about. We've exposed more people to the game, to the players, to the story both on and off the court ... and this will only help grow our league both domestically and abroad.''

While Moore has definitely brought interest with her play, Catchings has tried to mentor her teammates.

``I think my approach is probably different then the approach of some of the younger players,'' Catchings said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. ``I feel like my job is to teach my teammates how I play and how to have fun doing it.''

It didn't take long for Moore to endear herself to her new team. Moore, the first woman basketball player to be signed by the Jordan brand, gave a pair of yellow and red sneakers to each of her teammates.

Then she started playing and the team only has lost once since. Moore introduced herself to the Chinese fans almost immediately with a 60-point performance in her third game, which just happened to be nationally televised.

``The game was against one of the army teams,'' Moore said. ``They don't have a foreigner and they are very prideful. The first quarter I was in a zone feeling good. I hit seven 3's in the first quarter. It gave me a jump start on the 60.''

Moore was hard-pressed to remember ever scoring close to that before. She had 48 in high school and 48 was her college best.

Connecticut and Olympic coach Geno Auriemma wasn't surprised by his former star's success.

``Maya is Maya,'' he said. ``Her scoring that many points isn't a real shock. She can really do whatever she wants.''

Basketball has been the easy part for Moore since coming over to China. Communicating with teammates has taken a little more work with up to four languages being spoken in team huddles.

``It's pretty comical,'' Moore said laughing. ``I speak English, one of my teammates is Korean. That's two languages. Two of our coaches are Spanish - one is the Spanish national team head coach. The first couple days I was there my head was spinning.''

On the court, there don't seem to be many communication issues. The team uses hand signals, numbers, and Moore said she learned some basic words to get through.

``I'm getting better, I know about 10 words so far, I'm learning new ones every day,'' she said.

Moore also has a personal assistant assigned by the team to help her with basics like grocery shopping and getting around.

``I think the success to your playing overseas really relies heavily on your translator and how well the team is able to help you adjust to them and being in a foreign country,'' said Catchings, who also has spent time playing in Korea. ``It's definitely an adjustment. Your team and the organization becomes your family while you are over here.''

Moore, who played in Spain last winter, also has had the benefit of having her mom with her. She came over in October and has spent most of the first two months in China, including Thanksgiving. The two have been put up in a ``western-style'' hotel for the four-month season.

``It's really been great having her around and she'll be here for Christmas,'' Moore said. ``She's experiencing China herself.''

Among the things Moore has learned to appreciate while being in China are some of the freedom she has in the U.S.

``It's kind of hard not having unrestricted Internet,'' she said. ``There's certain things you can't view. Certain liberties you don't have. YouTube, Twitter, things like that. There are certain social medial sites. You're so used to having access to whatever we need. It's different that way.''

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Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

Investigation ensues after Colorado State players were reportedly told to hide COVID-19 symptoms

Investigation ensues after Colorado State players were reportedly told to hide COVID-19 symptoms

Colorado State University president Joyce McConnell announced Tuesday that the school would launch an investigation into its athletic department after leaders reportedly threatened players to disregard coronavirus safety protocols. 

With the college football season still up in the air, programs across the country are facing major challenges in trying to limit the spread of COVID-19 within their teams while still getting in the preparation needed for the 2020 campaign. According to ESPN's Myron Medcalf, Colorado State has used troubling methods to ensure players don't miss time at practice. 

Athletic department leaders are reportedly discouraging athletes from being tested for the virus, disregarding guidelines to quarantine athletes who might have been exposed and are not providing accurate information to health officials.

Some players alleged that coaches instructed them to hide symptoms because their playing time would be affected by an extended absence due to COVID-19. According to Medcalf's story, a player with a severe cough who eventually tested positive continued to work out as usual. Another player who tested positive was reportedly scared to mention anything to the team's medical staff. 

RELATED: PAC-12 PLAYERS THREATEN TO SIT OUT THE SEASON

During a virtual team meeting after Colorado State paused all football activities due to eight players testing positive for COVID-19, Addazio reportedly planned to return to practice before the CDC-recommended 14-day quarantine period had ended. 

"I can confirm he said that 'although the CDC recommends 14 days, we're going to try to come back early,'" an unnamed source told Medcalf.

In response to these allegations, head coach Steve Addazio and athletic director Joe Parker both released statements in support of the investigation and declared the importance of keeping their players safe and healthy. 

While multiple players and staffers revealed the actions of Colorado State's coaching staff to be deeply troubling, some players denied those events altogether. 

Junior tight end Trey McBride and freshman offensive lineman Owen Snively were among those to defend their coaches safety plan, both saying the players' health was the staff's "top" or "main" priority. 

President McConnell told Medcalf that Colorado State would not play football in 2020 unless players felt safe and that the school would protect anyone against retaliation. 

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ESPN’s Karl Ravech: ‘I don’t think the Orioles have staying power in that division’

ESPN’s Karl Ravech: ‘I don’t think the Orioles have staying power in that division’

Baseball, on occasion, lets people’s imaginations run wild. 

From the time the first pitch of a game happens until the final out is recorded, anything — theoretically — is possible. That notion stays relevant even as it’s expanded upon to an entire season. Or, in 2020’s case, a 60-game season. 

And after a 5-3 start to the season, which is now a 5-4 start, some people let their thoughts run free about how likely the Orioles were to make a serious playoff push. 

But some, like ESPN’s Karl Ravech, don’t think the Orioles can sustain their stellar hitting and sturdy-enough bullpen for the entire season.

“I don’t think the Orioles can over the course of 60 games,” Ravech said on NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk Podcast. “I do think over the course of 10, maybe 20, be in it. But a lot of times during a baseball season, the first couple of weeks out of the gate you’re surprised by it. Similarly out west, and I don’t mean to dismiss the Orioles, the Rockies are off to a really good start. To me, the Rockies have better players than the Orioles do.”

After an embarrassing loss to the Red Sox on Opening Day, expectations for the Orioles, which were already low to begin with, cratered amongst the fanbase. But they rebounded to win the next two, and after two-straight losses to the Yankees, swept the Rays in a three-game set at Camden Yards. 

RELATED: ESPN NOT CONVINCED BY ORIOLES’ HOT START, PUTS THEM LAST IN FIRST POWER RANKINGS

With so many questions surrounding every team in the division aside from the Yankees, some hypothesized that, if a miraculous season for the Orioles were to happen, this is the script for such a year to occur.

The Rays were just swept by the Orioles, the Red Sox have an atrocious pitching staff and the Blue Jays still have yet to settle into a permanent home for the season. With an expanded playoff format, the season started in the right way for the Orioles.

“I don’t think the Orioles have the staying power in that division, and playing against the two divisions that they do,” Ravech said.

But while an impressive start was a bit surprising, especially considering some individual achievements across the roster, it’s still not terribly early to think about a playoff race with nearly one-sixth of the season complete.

Yet, despite blazing starts at the plate for Rio Ruiz, Jose Iglesias and Hanser Alberto, and strong performances on the mound from John Means, Miguel Castro and Alex Cobb, the Orioles still have a lot to prove to show the league they are even capable of staying in the playoff chase. 

After all, this team was projected by many to barely, or not even at all, reach the 20-win plateau. 

For now, though, the Orioles having any realistic, no matter to what degree, conversations about a playoff run are a very welcome sign in Baltimore.

“To me, this was always going to be, for better more than worse, but for better or worse, the most memorable baseball season that I’ve ever experienced,” Ravech said. “I think a lot of the baseball fans at home for a million reasons will look at it that way as well. Especially if your team is in it. If you’re rooting for the Orioles, what you think would be a throwaway year, at least for the first month, you’re not throwing anything away.”

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