Wizards

New Panthers getting jumpstart on college careers

New Panthers getting jumpstart on college careers

PITTSBURGH (AP) Tra'Von Chapman is well aware of all he's giving up. The last semester of high school is supposed to be the time of your life. There's prom. There's hanging out with your friends. The countdown to graduation. There's the long summer anticipating what awaits in the fall.

Yet the lure of lazy days didn't appeal to the dual threat quarterback out of Kent, Ohio. He knew he wanted to play college football at Pittsburgh. And he knew he wanted to start as quickly as possible.

So when Chapman finished up his final semester at Theodore Roosevelt High on Jan. 4, he packed his stuff. The next day, he drove to Pitt's campus. Two days after that, he was sitting in a freshman English class.

Welcome to the rest of your life kid.

``I wanted to work,'' Chapman said. ``I didn't want to play basketball. I don't think track was needed. I had all my credits. I thought, `Hey, why not just get a big jump on school and why not be with my teammates, be around the place that I love?' I'm very serious about football, so why not take that chance.''

Chapman wasn't alone. Two Pitt signees - tight end Scott Orndoff and defensive end Shakir Soto - also graduated from high school early and enrolled at Pitt this week eager to get on with the rest of their lives.

Unlike the rest of Pitt's 2013 recruiting class, Chapman, Orndoff and Soto won't have to find a way to juggle football and school simultaneously when they arrive on campus over the summer. By then the trio will have a semester of college behind them, know their way around campus and have spring football under their belt.

``This whole week has just been school,'' Soto said. ``I started off with school and football will work its way in.''

Soto didn't get much blowback from friends and family back in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., about bolting. He'll head back in a few weeks for the annual football banquet at G.A.R. High. By then Soto and his size-17 shoes should even know how to navigate Pitt's somewhat confusing campus in Oakland.

Asked if he was homesick, Soto just laughed.

``I'm not missing high school,'' he said.

The Panthers also welcomed defensive lineman Tyrique Jarrett from Milford (N.Y.) Academy and welcomed home wide receiver Dontez Ford, a Pittsburgh native who is transferring to Pitt after spending some time at Syracuse.

While Ford will have to wait out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, that's not the case for Chapman. He'll be eligible to play right away if he earns the right, one of the big reasons he wanted to get to Pitt as quickly as possible.

Chapman passed for 5,736 yards and 62 touchdowns and rushed for 1,506 yards and 19 TDs over his junior and senior seasons. He points to the job Pitt coach Paul Chryst did with quarterback Russell Wilson while both were at Wisconsin in 2011 as proof of what Chryst can do with a mobile quarterback.

Though the Panthers will begin the spring with Rutgers transfer Tom Savage and returnees Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson in a three-way battle to replace Tino Sunseri, Chapman thinks he can make it a four-man race by the time training camp opens.

``When I feel comfortable, when I get a good grasp of my playbook any my environment, I'm going to come in and compete,'' he said.

Chapman never wavered in his decision to come to campus in January, even after Chryst's name came up as a possible coaching candidate at Wisconsin. When Chryst made it obvious he was staying put, Chapman could sense some forward momentum building as the Panthers prepare to head to the ACC in the fall.

``Now (the players) know coach Chryst is for real,'' Chapman said. ``They know their coaches are for real and they're going to give it everything they've got.''

And like Soto, Chapman is far from homesick. He woke up early on the first day of class only to realize he and roommate Orndoff could hang out until class began at 4:30 p.m.

``I'm just walking around and I come home, dinner's not on the table, you go out to eat and stuff like that,'' Chapman said. ``It's like, `Cool, I got some freedom now.' But you've got to know how to handle it.''

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NOTES: The Panthers released their 2013 home/away schedule on Friday. Pitt will host Notre Dame and ACC opponents Florida State, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia next fall as well as Villanova and New Mexico. The Panthers will play at Navy and ACC rivals Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke and Syracuse.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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WATCH: Rui Hachimura punishing Spurs interior defense with dunk and two layups

WATCH: Rui Hachimura punishing Spurs interior defense with dunk and two layups

As Rui Hachimura continues to grow and take his lumps at the NBA level, one important point of development for the Wizards' rookie will be finishing through contact at the rim. 

The Wizards play the Hornets on Friday at 7 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Washington.

On Wednesday night against the Spurs, Hachimura hit a nice hook shot over LaMarcus Aldridge and then finished through traffic after attacking a closeout a few plays later. He entered the game shooting nearly 70 percent at the rim, a major reason why he's one of the top-scoring rookies this season. 

Then at the end of the first half, Isaiah Thomas found Hachimura on a back-door cut for the easy slam. Well-timed cuts are a great source of points for young players. 

After the break, the ninth-overall pick flashed a little finesse at the rim for another pretty finish. 

His three-point shooting will have to improve at some point down the line and learning better positioning as a defender is something every rookie has to go through. 

Both of those skills can be improved in the practice gym or in the film room. Finishing at the basket through contact is learned by repetition in-game, so it's a promising sign to see Hachimura take the ball to the rim. 

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When Gregg Popovich thinks the NBA will be ready for a female head coach

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When Gregg Popovich thinks the NBA will be ready for a female head coach

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards hosting the Spurs on Wednesday night brought together two of the 11 NBA teams that currently employ a female assistant coach. The Wizards have Kristi Toliver on their bench and the Spurs have Becky Hammon.

That confluence prompted a question to San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich on the future of women in the NBA coaching ranks and whether a head coaching hire could happen sometime soon. 

The Wizards play the Hornets on Friday at 7 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Washington.

Though it has been five years since he hired Hammon as the first full-time female assistant coach in league history, Popovich is uncertain on exactly when a team will make the leap to hiring a woman to run their operation.

"That depends on people and organizations," he said. 

"It's a process and it doesn't happen quickly. But I think the more women there are [in the game] and as it becomes more commonplace and more the rule, it will then depend on an organization realizing there are women that can do this. Every woman can't, every man can't. But the point is there gotta be enough to choose from and it's gotta be pretty commonplace before I think somebody's gonna pull the trigger."

Popovich believes it will happen, he's just not sure when. The Wizards hiring Toliver last summer was another step in that direction and he believes she and others are showing the basketball world what they are capable of.

"There's no difference between a woman who knows the game and a man who knows the game. It's just another prejudice that probably has to be overcome just like a lot of other prejudices in the world have become less and less as people paid attention to them," Popovich said.

Hammon made the news over the weekend when Popovich was ejected from the Spurs' loss to the Kings and a committee of assistants coached the rest of the game. Popovich was asked why he didn't appoint Hammon to serve in the role for the rest of the game and he told reporters he was "not here to make history." 

Still, though there has never been a female head coach in any of the four major U.S. sports, it seems like the NBA is by far the closest with people like Hammon and Tolliver already knocking on the door.

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