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With staff in place, Syracuse, Shafer mold team

With staff in place, Syracuse, Shafer mold team

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) When former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone shuffled off to Buffalo to take over the Bills, he ended up leaving the cupboard almost bare for new coach Scott Shafer.

Since Marrone was officially announced as coach of the Bills Jan. 7, he's brought along seven members of his staff from Syracuse, including offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

Though Marrone brought Syracuse football back to a respectable place and laid a solid foundation - he was 25-25 in four seasons at his alma mater with bowl victories over Kansas State and West Virginia - Shafer has his work cut out as the school prepares to leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference July 1.

At least the new staff is in place to hit the recruiting trail as signing day looms:

- Chuck Bullough, a two-time All-Big Ten linebacker at Michigan State, takes Shafer's place as defensive coordinator after two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. He was linebackers coach at Western Michigan in 2005 when Shafer was defensive coordinator there, and also spent five years at UCLA.

- George McDonald takes over for Hackett as offensive coordinator. McDonald and Shafer worked together at Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

- DeAndre Smith, who has mentored nine 1,000-yard rushers in 14 years of collegiate coaching, will coach the running backs. Smith was running backs coach at Illinois and also was on staff with Shafer and McDonald at Northern Illinois.

- Tim Lester takes over as quarterbacks coach. Lester just completed his fifth season as coach at Elmhurst College, where he guided the Bluejays to their most successful season in school history.

- Clark Lea is in charge of the linebackers, replacing Steve Morrison, who left Syracuse for personal reasons after just one season with the Orange. During a three-year stint at UCLA, Lea worked with Bullough and joins the Orange after coaching linebackers at Bowling Green.

- Shafer, one of Marrone's first hires, managed to maintain some continuity, retaining defensive line coach Tim Daoust and wide receivers coach Rob Moore.

``The No. 1 trait I was looking for was character,'' Shafer said. ``Sometimes, it's really hard to investigate that word. You can talk to people you know that have worked with people, and sometimes you have to go that route. I feel like I'm extremely pleased and somewhat blessed here to have prior work experience, especially with these first two guys that'll be our coordinators.''

McDonald has a solid recruiting resume - he was tabbed as one of the Top 25 recruiters in the country by Rivals.com in 2012 - and that should be a bonus. So far, only one recruit that was on the Orange's radar has decided to go elsewhere, but it was three-star quarterback Zach Allen of Texas, who changed his mind and enrolled at TCU.

Syracuse will start spring practice with a primary goal of replacing quarterback Ryan Nassib, who set numerous records this past season in the Orange's up-tempo, no-huddle offense that Hackett installed, and Allen was expected to be a top contender. That leaves Austin Wilson, of Enola, Pa. as the lone quarterback coming in. He's among 15 remaining players targeted by Syracuse.

``Playing a first-time starter is not easy, but it can be done. It can be done successfully,'' Lester said. ``You see it in the NFL, you see it in college. I'm excited to get to work with those guys physically and mentally as soon as we get done with recruiting.''

Scout.com ranks Syracuse's class at No. 72, while Rivals.com has it pegged at No. 79, a drop of nearly 10 spots since Marrone's departure. Among Syracuse's future ACC rivals, only North Carolina State, whose recruiting class is ranked No. 81 by Scout.com, has a worse rating than Syracuse.

Five new players already have enrolled and started classes. National letter of intent signing day is Feb. 6.

The Orange, under former coach Doug Marrone, went 8-5 last season, and defeated West Virginia, 38-14, in the Pinstripe Bowl.

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Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

A couple of weeks ago, John Wall was spotted at a Washington Mystics game with no brace to support his Achilles injury, a sign that his rehab from the injury was moving in the right direction. 

On Monday night at the 2019 NBA Awards, the Wizards point guard gave affirmation that he is indeed continuing to get healthier and stronger.

"I feel great, man," Wall told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the red carpet. "I'm doing a great job with my body, taking care of that."

Specifically, Wall has been able to slowly increase what he can do on his legs. The recovery and rehab for an injury as severe as his is a long road, and the point guard is making sure not to speed up the process and risk hindering the progress. However, he's about to reach a pretty big milestone in the journey during the coming weeks.

"I'm about to start jogging in like two weeks. Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don't have to sit down. I'm able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things," Wall said. "Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don't force myself back and get another injury."

As Wall continues to work to get back on the court, he's had plenty of motivational factors pushing him through some grueling months. His recent string of injuries have left some wondering if he'll still be an elite player when he finally.

He's heard those comments and he's using them to his advantage.

"I'm one of those guys that's very driven by all the hate and all the negative talk I'm getting. Keep it going," Wall said.

"Everybody said I can't be myself, I won't be nowhere near as good again. That's all the other stuff that's going to fuel me. I don't get upset about it, you're entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going."

The haters have given Wall some extra juice, but so has his son Ace. Spending the offseason getting right has allowed Wall to work in another area of life: fatherhood.

The newest addition to his family has taken his desire for greatness to new heights.

"I've always had that drive that I want to be the greatest. To have a son like that, that's watching everything I can do. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he's putting memories in his head," Wall said. 

"So that gives me extra, extra motivation to another level I never thought I could. Like I said before, that's the best blessing a man could ever ask for is to have a son."

While Wall's offseason has been a busy one as he juggles rehab and being a dad, he's still been very involved in everything going on inside the franchise.

He's already chatted with first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, and is excited for what is to come for the Wizards. Wall is also hoping that Hachimura will help improve his Japanese so that he can grow a larger following internationally. 

As the calendar slowly turns to July, both Wall and the Wizards' offseasons will ramp up. It's been an up and down time for both lately, but he's excited about the future.

"I think it's good," Wall said about the Wizards situation. "We added some pieces. See what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

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Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

While he was putting together the best season of his career, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was also making a profound impact off the court and those efforts have earned him a significant honor, the NBA's 2018-19 Community Assist Award.

The news was revealed at Monday's NBA Awards in Santa Monica, CA as Beal got the nod over nine other finalists. He is the second Wizards player to win the honor in just the last four years following John Wall in 2015-16.

Beal was involved in a variety of charitable efforts this past season. He has partnered with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington to help underprivileged youth. He visited the school in December and gave out shoes.

During the All-Star break in February, as he made his second appearance in the annual showcase, Beal handed out meals at a food bank alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This past year he also gave out Christmas presents in the Washington area and took a group of kids on a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Beal was named a finalist for the Community Assist Award in April along with Jarrett Allen (Nets), Mike Conley (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Dwight Powell (Mavs) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors). Part of the criteria was based on fan voting through social media that was held from April 24 through May 25.

Beal, 25, continues to ascend on the court as well. This year he posted career-highs in points (25.6/g), assists (5.5/g) and rebounds (5.0/g). He nearly made All-NBA in late May with the most votes of any guard that was left out.

In Beal and Wall, the Wizards have quite the combination. Both have been All-Stars on the court and now both can say they won the NBA's top honor for charity work as well.

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