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Spurrier wants Gamecocks focused on No. 3 Florida

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Spurrier wants Gamecocks focused on No. 3 Florida

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier knows the only thing South Carolina lost last week was a football game. He hopes his players understand that, too.

Spurrier said the ninth-ranked Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) can still achieve all their goals, chief among them taking control of the SEC's Eastern Division this week when they play at No. 3 Florida (6-0, 5-0).

Saturday's winner doesn't clinch a spot in the conference title game, but will have a stranglehold on the top with only a couple of games remaining.

Spurrier was a disappointed as anyone at South Carolina's 23-21 loss to LSU last week. Still, Spurrier thinks the team can rebound this week and take a big step toward winning its second SEC East championship in three seasons.

``If we're going to win our division, which we hope to do, this is a crucial game,'' Spurrier said. ``We all know that. I don't know how else to say it, except we'll go down there and be ready to give it our best shot and hopefully play with a little bit more energy from a lot of our guys than the last time we played.''

It's the third straight top-10 SEC showdown for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks moved up to No. 3 in the polls when they dominated then fifth-ranked Georgia 35-7 on Oct. 6 before falling at then-No. 9 LSU last Saturday night. South Carolina holds a 12-game win streak against SEC East opponents, a run that includes a 36-14 victory at The Swamp two years ago to clinch the Gamecocks' lone trip to the SEC championship.

Safety DeVonte Holloman said such a stretch against three top-10 opponents can be grueling. But ``that's what we came to the SEC to do,'' he said. ``Got a lot of good teams in the SEC so you've got to be ready to play your best and if you don't do that, you can lose.''

Players learn quickly if you lose, you've got to come in the next week ready to look forward, Holloman said, or you risk more trouble.

``You've got to put it behind you,'' Holloman said.

South Carolina's defense hadn't given up more than 120 yards rushing to an opponent in its first six games, yet was gashed by LSU for 258 yards on the ground.

Holloman said the problem was too many missed tackles, something he believes will be corrected this week.

South Carolina's defense also could be without one its starters in defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who Spurrier said was recovering from a shoulder injury and highly doubtful to go against the Gators.

The Gamecocks better tighten up their run defense - and fast. Florida is second in the SEC in rushing this year averaging more than 233 yards a game.

South Carolina also couldn't rely on its usually reliable running attack.

Star rusher Marcus Lattimore was held to 35 yards on 13 carries and Spurrier said Wednesday night the junior star might not start against Florida because of a lingering hip injury.

Lattimore will be missed if he can't go. He rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns at The Swamp two years ago, a game that clinched the SEC East for South Carolina.

Spurrier hopes quarterback Connor Shaw can look downfield a bit more this week and open up some space for the running backs.

``Yeah, we need to mix it up a little bit better, somehow or another,'' Spurrier said.

Spurrier knows how to win championships, his statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium a tribute to his 1966 Heisman Trophy, his 1996 national championship and six SEC titles - all won at his alma mater, Florida.

``He's definitely a Gator great. I drive by his statue every day,'' Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``But it's not really anything that's going to bother us. All of our players here didn't play for him or weren't here when he was around.''

If South Carolina beats Florida, it has just two SEC games left against Tennessee and Arkansas - and both are at home where the Gamecocks have won eight in a row.

Spurrier knows full well the SEC champion - the league has won the past six national titles - will likely have a say in this year's BCS chase. First, things first, though, and that's making sure the Gamecocks won't look backwards.

``We're moving on from last week,'' Gamecocks receiver Bruce Ellington said. ``That game was last week. Even though we lost, we just have to focus on this week and focus on the task at hand. We have to go to Florida and try to get a win.''

---

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

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