Wizards

Troubled WAC loses Denver, adds Grand Canyon

Troubled WAC loses Denver, adds Grand Canyon

DENVER (AP) The troubled Western Athletic Conference is adding Grand Canyon University to replace the University of Denver, which is bolting for the Summit League after just one year in the WAC.

But the WAC must find another school - and quickly - in order to keep its automatic qualifying berths in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.

Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller called Tuesday a historic day.

``We have made a commitment to excellence in athletics, just as we have academically, and that commitment has been recognized by the invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference, a conference with a storied past,'' Mueller said in a statement.

He predicted Division I status will raise the university's profile.

Grand Canyon, located in Phoenix with an enrollment of 6,500, would join Cal State-Bakersfield, Idaho, New Mexico State, Seattle and Utah Valley in the WAC starting in the 2013-14 academic year.

Keith Baker, the director of athletics at Grand Canyon, said Tuesday the school has already started the division transition process, which takes four years. Following the transition period, Grand Canyon will become a full Division I member provided that it meets all NCAA standards.

For the rest of the 2012-13 season, the university said its teams will remain eligible for all Pacific West Conference Championships as well as NCAA Division II postseason play.

WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd said the conference will help Grand Canyon as it makes the transition to the competitive Division I.

``This is another important step in the rebuilding process of the WAC as we continue to strengthen the conference,'' Hurd said.

In the Summit League, Denver plans to compete for conference championships in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball.

Denver said its hockey, gymnastics, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's skiing teams will stay in their respective conferences.

Denver joins Omaha, Kansas City, Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Oakland, Western Illinois and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, or IUPUI, in the conference.

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What Wizards guard Chris Chiozza learned from playing with James Harden and Chris Paul

What Wizards guard Chris Chiozza learned from playing with James Harden and Chris Paul

WASHINGTON -- Point guard Chris Chiozza is hailed as a success story for the Wizards' G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, which played its first season last year as an expansion franchise. He joined the organization in training camp as an undrafted rookie and by February had played his way into an NBA contract with the Houston Rockets.

Chiozza initially signed a 10-day contract with Houston and ended up sticking around through the playoffs until late July when he was waived. That opened the door for a reunion in Washington where he landed on an Exhibit 10 contract last month.

His time in Houston was brief, but important for a variety of reasons. For one, Chiozza got some official NBA experience for the first time by appearing in seven regular season games. 

Chiozza, 23, is now back with the Wizards with a different perspective.

"It's a much more comfortable feeling now, just having that experience," he told NBC Sports Washington. "I wasn't expecting to be back here. But it's a great opportunity. I get along great with everybody here."

Chiozza is currently gunning for a roster spot with the Wizards out of training camp. With injuries to two of Washington's point guards, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, Chiozza could earn some playing time early in the season behind projected starter Ish Smith. Chiozza's main competition is undrafted rookie Justin Robinson, who joined the Wizards on a three-year deal this summer. 

Chiozza could have his contract converted into a two-way deal, as they have an open spot there next to Garrison Mathews. That would allow Chiozza to start the season with the NBA team until G-League training camp begins on Oct. 28. Then, a 45-day limit would kick in for how much time he could spend in the NBA. Forty-five days, though, would be plenty for the Wizards to work with, as Thomas is expected to return from his left thumb injury not long after the season begins.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks believes Chiozza has a real chance to carve out a steady career in the NBA.

"I think he knows that he can play in the league. As a young player, you hope that you can be in the league but you're not quite sure if you can," Brooks said. "But with Chris, I think he knows he can play in it."

Chiozza draws confidence from having a full year of professional basketball under his belt. But he also had a unique experience playing in Houston. He got to square off every day at practice with two guards who will be in the Hall of Fame someday.

Chiozza got to see up close what makes James Harden and Chris Paul great. And he took away from that lessons of how he can elevate his own game as a point guard.

"It was crazy just to see how good of a one-on-one player [Harden] is. When you watch him on TV, you can't really tell how smart of a player he is with the reads he makes. He can read when it's his shot or it's time to kick out to a shooter. Just watching him and CP3 and how they read the defense is pretty interesting," Chiozza said.

"When I was growing up, [Paul] was my favorite point guard. Just being around him and going to his camps and stuff and then being on his team, it was crazy."

Chiozza said practicing with Paul is a different experience than in games where he is more conservative with his ball-handling and passing. In practice, Paul may surprise you by passing the ball through a big man's legs or with dribble combinations he doesn't allows deploy. Chiozza calls them "pick-up moves."

Chiozza saw the finer details of what makes two great guards the players they are. As he aims to find a niche in the NBA, that can only help his cause.

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Nationals to honor WNBA Champion Mystics prior to Tuesday's NLCS Game 4

Nationals to honor WNBA Champion Mystics prior to Tuesday's NLCS Game 4

There may be no victory parade until next spring, but the WNBA Champion Mystics will be honored in front of 40,000-plus people in the nation's capital on Tuesday.

The Mystics' tremendous season will be recognized in front of a likely sold-out crowd at Nationals Park prior to the Nats' NLCS Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, the team announced on Monday.

Additionally, WNBA MVP Elena Della Donne will throw out the game's ceremonial first pitch. Head coach Mike Thibault will be involved in pregame festivities as well.

This comes after the Mystics took home their first-ever WNBA title last Thursday, defeating the Connecticut Sun 89-78 in a decisive Game 5.

Being honored at Nationals Park will be the latest of quite the celebrations from the Mystics. They earned props from President Barack Obama and were featured on Good Morning America Monday morning.

Congratulations to the Mystics, and props to the Nationals for honoring the latest champions from Washington, D.C.

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