NCAA

Stanford players rally around Powell in tough time

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Stanford players rally around Powell in tough time

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) One of the most important road trips the Stanford men's basketball team will have made this season never shows up on the schedule, in the team's record or total miles traveled.

In September, the Cardinal gathered around to support one of their own after junior forward Dwight Powell lost his mother. The coaches and several players flew to Toronto for the funeral.

Jacqueline Weir died on Sept. 13 in Boston after a short fight with cancer, three months shy of her 54th birthday. Powell's coaches visited the hospital in the Boston area, where Weir worked and lived. And Stanford received permission from the NCAA to fly the players from Powell's recruiting class to Canada to be there for him at the memorial.

``It was important, for sure,'' Powell said. ``My friends in my life are my family. The team is my family, so it meant a lot for them to come out there. I have a really good support group in Toronto as well, some guys I played with in high school.''

Coach Johnny Dawkins realizes the importance of everyone supporting Powell, an only child attending college so far from home. Dawkins already had a close-knit group on the reigning NIT champions, who hope last season's special run is only a preview of bigger things for the program this March in the NCAA tournament. Stanford hasn't been since 2008, and not yet under fifth-year coach Dawkins.

Powell will be an integral part in getting Stanford there. Keeping him in the right frame of mind as he continues to mourn his mother has been a joint effort.

Dawkins considers the trip to Toronto one that showed Powell just how much support - and how many brothers - he has within his own locker room, and on campus.

``Absolutely,'' Dawkins said. ``That's what it's about. It was very unfortunate what happened to his mom, and very sudden. It really puts it in perspective when something happens to a young man and a family. The players understand that. His teammates and his coaches are a big part of his life. It's important to rally around him.''

The Cardinal (6-3) are finishing up their annual two-week break for final exams before returning to the court to host UC Davis on Saturday, the first of four remaining nonconference games ahead of Pac-12 play. Stanford is picked fourth in the conference.

Powell has led Stanford in scoring three times already, including going off for a career-high 29 points in a 71-58 victory against Denver on Dec. 2. He is averaging 14.2 points per game, second to Chasson Randle's 14.7, while also pulling down 6.9 rebounds.

``This is the best place for me to be right now. First of all, it's a different country, so I don't even have too much family except for the team,'' Powell said. ``I can't really think of anyone else I'd rather lean on right now than my teammates. Regardless of what goes on, they can take my mind off things. They can put my mind on the things I need to think about sometimes and help me talk things out, just be there.

``I feel very lucky to have the team that I have, just for that reason. It also translates onto the court, that closeness, that trust.''

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Powell always felt comfortable on The Farm and in the Bay Area. He chose Stanford over Harvard and Georgia Tech.

Yet Powell was a late bloomer when it came to basketball, first playing volleyball and competing in the high jump in track. Once Powell picked up hoops, he moved to Florida at age 16 to attend the IMG Academy and prepare for college.

He emerged as an impact player late last season for Stanford, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds during the Cardinal's five-game NIT title run while shooting 65.4 percent from the field. He started just 11 times but played in 35 games and averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds overall.

Powell's biggest challenge so far with an increased role and more responsibility has been keeping his emotions in check. In a 70-62 loss to Belmont at home in Maples Pavilion on Nov. 18, Powell fouled out in only seven minutes - sitting down for good early in the second half.

``He's playing with a heightened focus,'' Dawkins said. ``He's just so focused right now that my biggest thing is that he stays level and doesn't get too emotional. I talk to him a lot about it and how you approach the game - never get too high or too low.''

Powell attended Canada Basketball's senior men's national team training camp in late August in Toronto. By the time he returned to Boston to see his mom, she was hospitalized and deteriorating quickly. The breast cancer had spread to her liver.

``I think she had a feeling for a couple of months but she didn't want to burden me,'' Powell said. ``She kind of left it unattended.''

Teammate and roommate Josh Huestis was the one to tell Powell he would have dear friends coming to Canada to help him in the grieving process.

``We're all really close with Dwight. He's one of my best friends,'' Huestis said. ``Our coaches talked to us and proposed that we go out there for the funeral. All the guys thought it was a great idea. I can't imagine what he was going through. It was the right move. He was in Toronto and I had been talking to him. I told him we would be coming out there and he was really thankful for that, just to have some familiar faces around, especially in such a hard time.''

It's no surprise that before and after each practice Stanford's players gather for a cheer of ``Family!'' These guys truly consider themselves brothers.

That Toronto trip only helped cement the bond.

``The fact we were able to go out there just brings us so much closer together,'' Huestis said. ``It shows we're not just a team but a family, too.''

The Cardinal were thrilled to capture a national championship and get the taste of winning their final game, but both Powell and Huestis called it ``bittersweet.''

There have been many important messages for this bunch over the past year.

Earlier this season, Stanford shot a video in the locker room after practice and sent it to NFL star Ray Lewis, who paid the team a surprise visit at Madison Square Garden and delivered a spirited speech before the NIT semifinal game against Massachusetts. The Cardinal players wanted to encourage the injured Ravens linebacker and spiritual leader in his rehab from a torn triceps after he did so much to pump them up before a key game. Stanford went on for a commanding win against Minnesota in the championship game.

Not that Powell needs much to inspire him at the moment. Huestis sure won't question his teammate's motivation.

``The passing of his mom put everything in perspective for him. Nothing's given in life, nothing guaranteed,'' Huestis said. ``Obviously his mom is in the forefront of his mind.''

Exactly, Powell said.

``Everything I do is in her memory,'' he said, ``absolutely.''

How to Watch Virginia vs. Old Dominion: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

How to Watch Virginia vs. Old Dominion: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder was looking forward to catching Virginia in a more vulnerable state when the Monarchs added the Cavaliers to their schedule.

"I was really hoping when we scheduled this game three years ago that they wouldn't be this good if I'm being 100% truthful," Wilder said earlier this week about ODU's game Saturday night at No. 21 Virginia. "But I've been upstairs all morning studying them. They are a really good football team."

The Monarchs face an uphill battle to make headlines with an upset of the Cavaliers.

Virginia (3-0) is looking for its best start since 2004 when the Cavaliers won their first five games of the season. The Monarchs (1-1), in just their 11st season since reinstituting the football program, are coming of a 31-17 loss at Virginia Tech two weeks ago.

An early bye may have allowed ODU to prepare a few surprises for Virginia, but Wilder isn't sure.

"I think they are a complete football team," Wilder said, "and what I mean by that is they are solid in all aspects."

The Cavaliers are coming off a 31-24 victory against Florida State in a game they trailed for much of the contest. But Virginia fans were out in force for the matchup. The crowd -- 57,826 -- was the largest for the Cavaliers at home since Notre Dame visited to start the 2015 season.

"I was thrilled with the attendance and the support we received in our stadium," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Clearly made a difference for our team."

Virginia vs. Old Dominion Week 4:

Who: Virginia Cavaliers (3-0) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (1-1)

What: Week 4 of the 2019 college football regular season

When: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, noon ET

Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia

TV Channel: ESPN2

Live Stream: WatchESPN 

Radio: Virginia Sports Online or ODU Sports Radio Network

Point Spread: -28

Over/Under: 46

Weather: 88 degrees, sunny

Virginia 2019 season schedule:

Week 1: Saturday, Aug. 31, Virginia vs. Pittsburgh (30-14, W)

Week 2: Friday, Sept. 6, Virginia vs. William & Mary (52-17, W)

Week 3: Saturday, Sept. 14, Virginia vs. Florida State (31-24, W)

Week 4: Saturday, Sept. 21, Virginia vs. Old Dominion, 7:00 p.m.

Week 5: Saturday, Sept. 28, Virginia vs. Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m.

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: Friday, Oct. 11, Virginia vs. Miami, 8:00 p.m.

Week 8: Saturday, Oct. 19, Virginia vs. Duke, TBA

Week 9: Saturday, Oct. 26, Virginia vs. Louisville, TBA

Week 10: Saturday, Nov. 2, Virginia vs. North Carolina, TBA

Week 11: Saturday, Nov. 9, Virginia vs. Georgia Tech, TBA

Week 12: BYE

Week 13: Saturday, Nov. 23, Virginia vs. Liberty, TBA

Week 14: Friday, Nov. 29, Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, TBA

Associated Press assisted in the contribution of this story.

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Patriots release controversial WR Antonio Brown after just 11 days

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USA today Sports Images

Patriots release controversial WR Antonio Brown after just 11 days

The Antonio Brown Era in New England is over.

Brown, one of the most prolific wide receivers to ever play in the NFL, was released by the Patriots Friday afternoon, just 11 days after signing with the team.

Shortly after his release from the Raiders, which preceded his signing in New England, reports surfaced of sexual assault allegations being levied at Brown. The receiver was facing charges of rape from a former trainer, and it was initially unclear how much the Patriots knew about prior to his signing.

Brown did end up playing in Week 2, his first opportunity with the Patriots, in Miami. He caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing the ball once for a five-yard gain.

Late Thursday night, additional reports surfaced of intimidating texts sent by Brown to someone involved in his court case. Less than a day later, the receiver tweeted a farewell to his now former team.

Minutes later, the Patriots announced they had parted ways with Brown. 

The team released the following statement: “The New England Patriots are releasing Antonio Brown. We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days, but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time.”

The investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Brown remains ongoing at this time.

The Redskins will host the Patriots in Week 5 of the 2019 NFL season.

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