Redskins

Mich St vs. UConn at Air Base hangar in Germany

Mich St vs. UConn at Air Base hangar in Germany

RAMSTEIN, Germany (AP) Having started last season on an aircraft carrier, Michigan State has gone abroad this year and will open against the University of Connecticut in an Air Base hangar in Germany that usually houses fighter jets.

Both teams are staying at the sprawling Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany and that's where the Armed Forces Classic will be played, with the tip-off around midnight Friday local time.

After arriving in Germany on Thursday on separate overnight flights, both teams visited a military medical facility that treats servicemen and servicewomen wounded in places such as Afghanistan.

On Friday, the military gave the teams separate tours aboard two C-130 cargo planes, which circled low over the area on 45-minute flights.

Both teams also found time to practice late on both days before the game and give basketball clinics to kids, both of which could help to shake off some jet lag.

The military experience could be valuable, as Michigan State found out last year.

Going into the season unranked, the Spartans lost to No. 1 North Carolina in the Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. But the Spartans then won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships to earn a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament.

The Spartans have won 33 of their last 35 openers.

Tom Izzo, entering his 18th year as the Spartans head coach, believes being close to the military discipline will help his players pay attention to details.

``I think it will give (our players) a different perspective on how attention to details is important to them,'' he said. ``It's a way of life. They (soldiers) have to be that way. It's not an option. I think those kinds of things will help and team time is important too.

``They will be on an airplane together for eight hours, they will be in a hotel together. It's part of the team-building process and why not do it at the beginning of the year when it's the most important time,'' Izzo said.

There is a lot of team-building ahead for UConn.

The Huskies don't have a chance to play in the postseason after failing to meet NCAA academic standards. They don't have the five players who left the program early after the postseason ban was announced. And they don't have Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, who retired in September.

After a disappointing 20-14 season that ended with a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament a year after winning their third national title, the Huskies have a new head coach in Kevin Ollie.

``Nobody thinks we're good enough,'' said sophomore guard Ryan Boatright, one of just five players with notable playing time returning from last year's team.

``But we feel like we've got enough here to have a successful season and to open a lot of people's eyes this year, and to prove everybody wrong. I feel that's the chip we've got on our shoulders, to prove the world wrong.''

Although this is the Huskies' first game in Europe, it's a trip back home for their three German players, Niels Giffey, Leon Tolksdorf and Enosch Wolf.

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Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

ESPN Fantasy Football expert Matthew Berry was at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere last weekend in Los Angeles, where he got the chance to interview the three Redskins rookies in attendance: Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, and Bryce Love. 

Berry, who was a guest of JP Finlay's on the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday, has been a fan of the Burgundy and Gold since he was a kid, so he was eager to talk to three of the team's newest players and learn more about them.

It was during those interviews where Berry got a quick glimpse of a side of Haskins that now has Berry really excited.

"I thought what was really cool was... When I was interviewing McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins came in and interrupted the interview to give him some crap," he told Finlay. "It was really a wonderful moment to see. Obviously, they know each other very well from Ohio State, but just the fact that they felt comfortable enough and he wanted to come over and mess with him a little bit and have some fun, I was impressed with that."

Once Haskins left, Berry explained how he asked McLaurin about the interaction. Redskins fans will like McLaurin's answer.

"That's Dwayne, Dwayne is being a leader," McLaurin said, per Berry. 

Haskins did something similar to Love during Love's interview as well. Berry even caught up with Colts receiver Parris Campbell, who also played with the QB at Ohio State, to inquire about the 15th overall pick. 

"I asked him, 'Listen, I'm a diehard Redskins fan, what am I getting?'" Berry said. "He couldn't have been more effusive. 'You're not only getting a guy who puts the ball where you want it, but you're getting a leader. You're getting a guy who makes sure everyone in the huddle is included.'"

You can be skeptical of how much these little moments mean, and that's fair. Ultimately, how quickly Haskins picks up Jay Gruden's playbook and how accurate his arm turns out to be will factor more into his success in the NFL than being able to joke around a bit with some of his guys.

But you can also hope that these little moments are hints of a bigger personality and approach, a look into an athlete who can get a football team to buy into him. That's the side Berry is on.

"I thought that was really cool, and just showed somebody who's very comfortable in the leadership position and who's trying to be inclusive of everyone," he said. "It's early in the process, but I have yet to hear somebody on or off the record say something bad about Dwayne Haskins."

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

For Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics, last season's heartbreak in the WNBA Finals is only fuel for another potential postseason run in 2019. 

"That's something I don't think I'll ever let go," Washington's star forward told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "It's always tough when you get to that Finals and you can't finish it off. But I think it's something that can fuel you. You don't want to let it just bring you down and depress you and make it so you can't get over that hump."

"If you use it as fuel and motivation, it can help you get better. I think that's what we're all gonna do."

The Mystics reached their first WNBA Finals in franchise history in 2018 but ultimately lost to the Seattle Storm. Delle Donne, recently named in WNBA.com's GM survey as the favorite to win league MVP, is back for her third season in Washington and headlines a strong team that has the talent to compete for the title again.

Her status for Saturday's season opener against the Connecticut Sun is up in the air due to a left knee injury, but Delle Donne believes the Mystics will have another great season given the continuity on the roster from last season and the return of All-Star forward Emma Meesseman. 

"We feel great. We've got our core back," said Delle Donne. "And to be able to add a superstar like Emma to that roster is pretty scary. Especially with her style of play and the way that our team started playing last season, where it was such positionless basketball. Spreading the floor, just spreading it, making it easy for one another to attack, get some threes. She's just gonna add so much to that."

NBC Sports Washington will be broadcasting 10 Mystics home games during the 2019 WNBA season. For the full regular season schedule, click here.

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