Nationals

Point guard Harrow back on Wildcats' radar

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Point guard Harrow back on Wildcats' radar

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Ryan Harrow is learning what it takes to play point guard at Kentucky.

The sophomore transfer is being asked to lead - which means being more vocal and more aggressive.

Harrow started the season opener against Maryland before missing four games due to an illness and because of a family matter. He lost weight during the absences and feel out of the Wildcats' rotation.

Now things have started coming together for the 6-foot-2 Harrow.

His playing time has steadily increased and in his second start last Saturday against Lipscomb he had a season-high 12 points, two assists and no turnovers.

John Calipari said Harrow still has work to do, but the guard is just glad to be back on the coach's radar and is determined to be the floor leader Kentucky needs.

``I already knew what coach Cal expected of me,'' said Harrow, who transferred from North Carolina State. ``It's just something I had to keep playing into. Being vocal is something you have to do or coach Cal is going to take you out of the game. I want to be the one out there playing as much as I can, so I'll just do whatever he tells me to do.''

Communication hasn't come easy for Kentucky (7-3), which faces Marshall on Saturday in its final tuneup before traveling to face rival Louisville on Dec. 29. What got lost in the hoopla over the arrival of another highly regarded freshmen class that includes Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, was the Wildcats' roster featured no returning starters.

Harrow, who watched from the sidelines last season as he sat out per NCAA rules, said that's what separates this team from last year's championship squad. Despite the standout freshmen seasons of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Wooden Award winner Anthony Davis, Kentucky had veterans such as Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones to make them comfortable in the system and get them trust each other.

Kentucky has yet to develop that chemistry and it has shown in losses to Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor. Even after lopsided wins, Calipari has lamented that his players don't talk to each other enough on the floor.

Harrow said he is and new teammates are working to change that.

``All of us are still learning and blending in,'' Harrow said. ``If we just keep getting better and better as time goes along, we'll be that team that everybody is looking for by the time for the NCAA tournament.''

Harrow's recent focus has been getting into shape during ``Camp Cal,'' the boot camp-style conditioning program Calipari began after noticing his team's struggle to play complete games. Harrow has embraced the daily routine of 7 a.m. workouts and afternoon practices, and he certainly hasn't argued about a diet that allows him to eat whatever he wants in an effort to bulk up his slight frame.

The regimen has helped Harrow regain about six of the 10 pounds he lost from the undisclosed illness. His strength and stamina have improved as well, as he played a season-high 31 minutes last weekend.

Harrow looks more confident on the court, making strong cuts to the basket and taking care of the basketball. Calipari believes there's still a lot of room for growth with Harrow, saying after the Lipscomb game that his guard ``did okay.''

Wildcats players saw Harrow's flow developing before that game.

Goodwin, who handled point guard duties during Harrow's absence, said ``he's been knocking down a lot more shots lately and getting back into the groove of things.''

Harrow seems to have a grasp of his responsibility in a Kentucky program that faces a lot of attention and constant scrutiny. He has tried to tune out any distractions.

``There's nothing like Kentucky and the spotlight we're in,'' Harrow said, ``but I've always been somebody that people have watched and either spoken highly of or criticized a lot. I'm kind of used to it by now. You can't really focus on that. All I've got to be worried about is the guys that I'm playing with and coach Cal.''

Boston Celtics guard and former Wildcat Rajon Rondo has provided Harrow an example to follow. Harrow eventually hopes to develop the passing skills and passion that has made Rondo one of the premier point guards in the NBA.

Like Rondo does with the Celtics, Harrow wants to able to put his Wildcats teammates in position to make shots. Harrow said that is what being a point guard is about, especially at Kentucky.

``Lipscomb was a big game for me, but there are places I can improve,'' he said. ``I just like when I find the open man and they're able to make the play or knock down the shot,'' he said. ``Knowing that I made that right decision to give the person the ball at that particular time and them being able to score gives me satisfaction.''

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Nationals' wild-card lead becomes tenuous

Nationals' wild-card lead becomes tenuous

Another loss, another tightening of the wild-card race.

A recent blitz by Chicago and Milwaukee has vaulted each right behind the Nationals. The Cubs are just a half-game back of Washington for the right to host the Wild-Card Game. Milwaukee is only 1 ½ games behind the Nationals and a game behind Chicago. 

Philadelphia and New York are each 5 ½ games behind Washington. Those seasons are fading -- as is Washington's.

A week ago, the Nationals led the Cubs by 2 ½ games and Milwaukee by 4 ½. Two weeks ago, Washington led the Cubs by 3 ½ and Milwaukee by 7 ½.

Fivethirtyeight.com puts the Nationals' chances of making the postseason at 87 percent, a six percent decline from Monday morning.

Coming up Tuesday:

Philadelphia at Atlanta, 7:20 p.m., Velasquez (6-7, 4.95 ERA) vs. Keuchel (8-5, 3.35)

San Diego at Milwaukee, 7:40 p.m., Paddack (9-7, 3.38) vs. Woodruff (11-3, 3.75)

Washington at St. Louis, 7:45 p.m., Corbin (12-7, 3.20) vs. Mikolas (9-13, 4.28)

Cincinnati at Chicago, 8:05 p.m., Gray (10-7, 2.80) vs. Darvish (6-6, 3.70)

New York at Colorado, 8:40 p.m., Stroman (8-13, 3.35) vs. Melville (2-2, 5.16

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill joins Hokies football staff to help Justin Fuente, not replace him

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Former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill joins Hokies football staff to help Justin Fuente, not replace him

Virginia Tech is coming off a come-from-behind victory over FCS opponent Furman, they have an opening loss against Boston College which was just blown out by perennial punchline Kansas and, because they are playing two FCS opponents this year, they have to find a way to earn five more wins this season to keep the vaunted bowl streak alive. That was the background for Monday’s announcement from head coach Justin Fuente.

Former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill has been added to the Virginia Tech football staff as a special assistant to the head coach, Fuente announced. With the lackluster start to the season, Monday’s announcement led to plenty of speculation from Hokie nation as to what this meant for Fuente’s future.

Make no mistake, however, Kill is headed to Blacksburg to assist Fuente, not replace him.

"Jerry Kill will serve as a tremendous resource for our football program," Fuente said in a statement. "Coach Kill possesses over three decades of expertise and will be great addition to our staff. In addition to over 20 years of experience as collegiate and high school head coach, he's served as a coordinator on both sides of the ball. He can dissect the game from virtually every angle and will be able to provide his unique perspective on everything from recruiting, to personnel and facilities.

"After Coach Kill spent some time with our staff during preseason camp, it was apparent that he possesses a passion for being involved with a football program on a daily basis," Fuente continued. "I have all the respect in the world for Coach Kill. I'm excited that he'll be an integral part of our program at Virginia Tech and can't wait for him to get on campus."

Kill was the head coach of Minnesota from 2011 to ‘15 and took the team to three bowl games. He also was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2014. His epilepsy, however, forced him to step down. The rigors of coaching consumed Kill to the point that he was not taking care of himself or adequately managing his condition. He suffered multiple seizures while at Minnesota, many of which came during games.

Since then, Kill has served as an associate athletics director at Kansas State, the offensive coordinator at Rutgers and the athletics director for Southern Illinois.

During this time, however, the desire to coach and be involved with a football team never went away. That was really the genesis of how he ended up at Virginia Tech.

According to Andy Bitter of The Athletic, Fuente invited Kill to watch a few of the team’s August practices and Kill provided feedback on what he saw. Originally , his relationship with the Hokies was not expected to go beyond that and Fuente did not intend for a job to come from that, but Kill’s desire to get back into football was enough for him to leave his job as an AD to join Virginia Tech.

"While it was a difficult decision to leave so many wonderful friends and colleagues at Southern Illinois, I am thrilled for the opportunity to join Coach Fuente and his staff at Virginia Tech," Kill said in a statement. "I've long appreciated and admired Justin as a coach and teacher of the game. I respect his penchant for identifying talent and helping young men reach their potential. He has assembled a fabulous coaching staff and roster of talented players at Virginia Tech. I can't wait to help the Hokies in any way I can."

The timing of this announcement may lead to speculation, but Kill’s health will not allow for him to get back into coaching. This is just a situation in which Fuente had the opportunity to help a fellow coach follow his passion and, in turn, Kill will help the Hokies.