Wizards

Miguel Cabrera gets in his licks, and his laughs

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Miguel Cabrera gets in his licks, and his laughs

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Tigers were in the middle of a workout for the World Series when comedian George Lopez showed up and began milling around near home plate. Almost instantly, Miguel Cabrera was beside him, laughing it up and looking as excited as he'd been all afternoon.

``He likes to have fun,'' teammate Quintin Berry said. ``He enjoys himself. He loves being here, and he likes the loose environment. I understand him having a lot of fun with George and stuff because that's the same kind of person he is.''

Baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years seems to enjoy hitting and joking around in equal proportion. Fans are plenty familiar with Cabrera's talent - his consistently high average and awe-inspiring power - but the rest of the Tigers appreciate him for more than that.

Cabrera may be shy in front of a camera or microphone, but there's a goofy side to the third baseman that helps keep his team upbeat.

Now in the prime of his career at 29, Cabrera's approach remains meticulous, but he's careful not to take himself or his job too seriously.

``Besides the business, it's a game. I think baseball is a very fine game and you have to enjoy it,'' Cabrera said recently. ``You have to go out there and have fun. Don't get me wrong, you have to be serious at the same time, but I think when you have a team and try to have fun and get loose before the game and between innings, I think it helps you play good. That's the way I've played since I was a kid.''

Cabrera and the Tigers open the World Series on Wednesday. It will be his first trip to the Fall Classic since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 2003 and his Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees.

Cabrera played all over the field in that postseason - third base, left field, right field, even three innings at shortstop. After being traded to the Tigers before the 2008 season, he eventually settled in at first base. Detroit acquired the Venezuelan for his bat, after all, not his glove.

``He was a good hitter before we ever got him,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ``I mean, nobody here taught Miguel Cabrera anything about hitting.''

Still, even the Tigers had to be amazed by what Cabrera did this season. His .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs made him the first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

``I told him that a Latino winning the Triple Crown is as impressive as having a black president,'' Lopez said during his visit with the team Saturday.

During the final days of the Triple Crown chase, Cabrera did his best to deflect the pressure and the attention.

``I kind of want to stay away from baseball when I go home,'' he said. ``I want to see movies ... try to play with my kids, try and forget baseball for a little bit.''

As outgoing as he can be, Cabrera doesn't always look comfortable when talking to reporters, especially when asked to talk about himself. It wasn't long ago he seemed on the verge of wasting his prodigious talent, when he was arrested at the start of spring training in 2011 - he later pleaded no contest to drunken driving.

General manager Dave Dombrowski said Cabrera has worked hard to overcome his off-field problems.

``I think he's grown in abundance,'' Dombrowski said. ``Just some of the things that when you're a youngster, you need to learn, and the only way you learn is through experience, and he's done that. So we see him in a much more comfortable place - his growth as a family man, his growth on the field as a leader.''

Perhaps the best example of Cabrera's team-first mentality came when he moved to third base this year to accommodate newly signed first baseman Prince Fielder. Cabrera's range isn't particularly good, and the adjustment got off to a rocky start when he was hit around the eye with a bad-hop grounder during spring training.

It would have been easy for a player of Cabrera's stature to call off the experiment after that scary injury, but he never did.

``He's a very tough individual,'' Dombrowski said. ``He continued his hard work. I can't say he wasn't concerned, but we were more concerned than him at the time.''

Some of Cabrera's quirkier habits may be on display for a national audience once the World Series starts. Watch him after a checked swing. He might signal toward first base himself, as if expecting the umpire to cut him some slack if he appeals the play before the catcher.

Cabrera is focused whenever he steps on the field. The Tigers were scrimmaging Sunday at Comerica Park, and when Cabrera stepped up, he used the plate to help mark off exactly where he wanted to stand, since there was no marked batter's box.

Cabrera is all about details. But make no mistake, he has fun along the way.

``He tries not to worry about anything,'' Berry said. ``He gets bothered if everybody starts worrying too much. He just wants everybody to relax and believe in yourselves. That's pretty much what I take from him.''

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George Washington's coaching hire reunites the Christian brothers in D.C.

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Ben Standig/ NBC Sports Washington

George Washington's coaching hire reunites the Christian brothers in D.C.

The basketball-minded Christian Brothers, Jamion and Jarell, studied like coaches as teenagers.

Their parents surrendered usage of their 1990’s era VCR so their kids could record one NBA or college game after another. They loved the players, but kept a close watch on the men roaming the sideline.

After playing stints on the college level, the South Kent County, Va. natives successfully pursued that passion. Both elevated to head coaching jobs. They were now in a position to analyze opposing coaches live. They did, with one notable exception: Each other.

“I’ve never actually been to a game where he was the head coach,” said Jarell, who just completed his first year as the head coach for the Wizards’ G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. “He’s never seen me coach.”

The same goes for Jamion, 36 and four years older than Jarell. The notable omission isn’t a case of sibling rivalry. Jarell humbly admits Jamion was the better basketball player “hands down. I was more aggressive, but he was more athletic, a better shooter.”

Brotherly love is real between the two. So are the life obstacles from their nomadic coaching lives.

That’s about to change now that Jamion is the new men’s basketball coach at George Washington.

“Just fired up to be here with my brother,” Jamion told NBC Sports Washington following Monday’s introductory press conference. “Be able to watch his success, his growth. He’s grown so much as a coach in the last four to five years, but it’s been at a distance. I haven’t had a chance to watch him as much.”

Forget watching each other’s in-game strategy or demeanor from the stands. Other than a brief time when both were at Division III Emory & Henry – Jamion served as an assistant, Jarell one of the team’s guards – the two haven’t lived in the same city since Jamion left home in 2000 to play for Mount St. Mary’s.

“Just doing the things most siblings do often we haven’t been able to do for quite some time. Even having our family come up and watch us both in the same weekend will be kind of special,” Jarell told NBC Sports Washington.

The entire Christian clan attended Monday’s event on the Foggy Bottom campus. Jarell’s connection to the Colonials before Jamion’s hire came from Capital City general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who was one of the best players in GW’s history. The two helped lead the expansion Go-Go to a 25-25 record this season.

Jamion’s coaching résumé includes reaching the NCAA Tournament twice during his six seasons coaching his alma mater before taking over at Siena for the 2018-19 season. He led the Saints to a nine-win improvement in his lone season. Then GW came calling.

“It was a tough decision,” Christian said of leaving Siena. He ultimately could not pass on the opportunity to coach in the Atlantic 10 and specifically the D.C.-based school.

During his introductory comments and press conference, Jamion showed the traits that drew interest from George Washington. There will not be a viral video of Jamion screaming at a player. His vibe is closer to a high-energy motivational speaker than a stodgy basketball coach.

“I think this synergy and this connectivity is what really makes the difference. I don't necessarily think it's the coaching strategy like some people might want to believe,” Jamion Christian said of his program-building mindset. “I think it's just about getting your group to play close together, to believe in one another and fight through adversity and love the process of doing it.”

There’s more to this Christian brother’s rise up the coaching ranks beyond inspiring words.

“[Jamion’s] work ethic is something I always noticed,” Jarell said.

When the two grew up outside of Richmond, Jamion often woke Jarell up at 7 a.m. to drag his little brother to the basketball court. “At that time it was just for me to rebound for him,” Jarell joked, but those early rising moments helped trigger his love of basketball.  

Jarell knew he wanted to try coaching somewhere around eighth grade. He turned on the family VCR to watch college point guards like Mateen Cleaves and Khalid El-Amin. Specifically, how they controlled the game as extensions of their respective head coaches.

Pigeonholing one brother as a motivator and the other a strategist doesn’t paint a complete picture of either. It does perhaps explain why one landed in the pros and the other remains in the college game.

“I like the college system. I value education and what it gives to them, and I like recruiting,” Jamion said. “I think that’s the biggest difference (between us). Recruiting is something you really have to love and I do love it. I think [Jarell] loves more of the coaching and the time with the guys. We’ve got two different personalities in that way, but are both pretty good in our own regard.

Now the coaching brothers have the chance to watch the other at work in person, not to mention offer advice and drop a playful jab along the way.

“We’ve got an opportunity here and we don’t know long this opportunity will present itself so I’m going to try to take full advantage of it,” Jamion said. “I just hope his team stops giving up 120 points a game. Play a little better defense.”

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Maryland woman's basketball falls to UCLA in second round of NCAA Tournament

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Maryland woman's basketball falls to UCLA in second round of NCAA Tournament

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Michaela Onyenwere scored a career-high 30 points, Japreece Dean added 22 and UCLA squeezed past No. 3 seed Maryland 85-80 Monday night to earn its fourth consecutive berth in the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Dean, the smallest player on the court, sank two free throws with 25 seconds remaining to make it 83-79, and the Bruins held on to beat the Terrapins on their own court.

No. 6 seed UCLA (22-12) will next face second-seeded UConn (33-2) on Friday in the semifinal round of the Albany Region.

Ranked first in the Pac-12 and third in the nation in offensive rebounding, the Bruins repeatedly gathered in their own missed shots and turned them into baskets. UCLA collected 27 offensive rebounds and finished with 27 second-chance points.

Maryland led 76-74 before UCLA’s Kennedy Burke grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put-back. Teammate Lindsey Corsaro followed with a three-point play with 3:34 left.

Brianna Fraser answered with a layup for the Terrapins to make it 79-78 with 3:16 remaining, and neither team scored again until Burke hit a jumper with 1:03 to go.

Kaila Charles led Maryland (29-5) with 23 points. The Big Ten regular season champions went 1 for 13 from beyond the arc and 15 for 25 from the free throw line.

UCLA, in contrast, sank seven 3-pointers and made 20 of 21 free throws.

After trailing for nearly the entire first half, the Terrapins scored seven straight points in the opening 50 seconds of the third quarter to go up 47-44, their first lead since 2-0.

The teams then started trading baskets, with neither holding an advantage of more than three points until Maryland’s Channise Lewis had a steal and a buzzer-beating layup to make it 71-66 entering the fourth quarter.

The Terrapins scored 31 points in the third period, 11 by Charles 6-for-9 shooting after a 2-for-9 first half.

UCLA had 17 offensive rebounds and got 15 points from Onyenwere in building a 44-40 halftime lead.

Jones kept Maryland close with 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting, but the Terrapins made only one 3-pointer in seven tries and were 7-for-12 at the foul line.

BIG PICTURE

UCLA: Led by the 5-foot-6 Dean and the very athletic Onyenwere, the Bruins were too quick for Maryland — especially on the boards. UCLA’s fast-paced attack just might work against UConn.

Maryland: With only one senior on the team, the Terrapins should be better next year. That won’t soften the disappointment of losing on their own floor to a lower seed.

UP NEXT

UCLA will be seeking a big upset over UConn, which would put the Bruins in the round of eight for the third time in school history.