Jesus Shuttlesworth

It’s been a few weeks but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say a few words about Ray Allen. On November 1, 2016 Walter Ray Allen Jr. officially hung up his sneakers for good. This has been a whale of a year for NBA retirements. Allen joined Kobe, KG, and Tim Duncan on the list of players waiting to book a trip to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Before the Splash Brothers there was Ray Allen. Ray’s jumper was so silky smooth and effortless that most forgot about his all around ability on offense. Ray could run off a string of picks to get open for a shot or take his man off the dribble and finish at the rim.

Allen who is often referred to as Jesus Shuttlesworth – for his role in the movie “He Got Game” – grabbed my attention during his days at the University of Connecticut. Allen’s jumper versus Georgetown in the 1996 Big East Final is an all time favorite of mine.

While at UConn; Ray was Big East Player of the Year, First Team All-Big East (twice), Consensus First Team All-American, UPI Player of the Year, and USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1995). In the NBA, he was a 2 time NBA Champion, 10 time NBA All-Star, 2 time All-NBA performer, 3-point Shootout Champion, and currently the all time leader with 7,429 3-point shots attempted and made at 2,973.

The things I admired most about Ray Allen were his work ethic and demeanor. If you watched any basketball the last 10 years then you’ve seen Ray’s pregame routine where he would make 150 jump shots from various spots on the court. You also saw how during games he never got rattled and even if he was, he wouldn’t let it show. It is those characteristics that made Allen one of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA and it’s no surprise that with the game on the line he was able to hit big shots. Thanks Jesus… it was a joy watching you play.

All stats and info courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/allenra02.html

 

Jesus Shuttlesworth

KG

kevin_garnett_04_nba_mvp_trophy_photofileThe ‘Minnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Garnett – ’04 NBA/ MVP Trophy ©Photofile’ images

The NBA’s 2016-2017 Season will be without another star player. Kobe and Tim Duncan retired during the summer and on September 22, Kevin Garnett hung up his sneakers. KG will be remembered for his fiery attitude and passion on the court. At the age of 19 KG was drafted – straight out of high school – by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. Garnett’s decision to skip college and turn pro led many other high school players to do the same in the years that followed. Garnett was the most notable player to make the leap since the great Moses Malone.

By the end of his career, Garnett was a mere shell of himself. He’d left Boston – to ring chase in Brooklyn(2013-2015) before returning “home” to Minnesota(1995-2007; 2015-2016) – where he reached the NBA Finals twice and won a ring in 2008. The early part of his career in Minnesota brought about a change in how 7-footers – “6’12” as he referred to his height – were viewed in the NBA. KG’s ability as a triple-threat(passer, shooter, and dribbler) made him a tough cover all over the court. His tenacious defense and trash talk were also key parts of his game. Minnesota had a lot of “firsts” with KG on their team. They reached the Playoffs for the first time in 1996-1997 and 8 consecutive times total with him on the squad. It all paid off in 2004 when KG was voted MVP of the NBA and helped Minnesota win a franchise record 58 games. That season saw the T-Wolves notch their first and only Division Championship and Western Conference Finals appearance. Unfortunately that’s the last time Minnesota reached the Playoffs. Before the start of the 2007-2008 season Garnett joined the Boston Celtics to form a “Big 3” with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. People talk about those 3 but Boston had one of the most loaded rosters in NBA history. Nonetheless Boston won the Eastern Conference and then defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to capture their 17th NBA Championship. And KG gave us his now famous line.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyjOy7fRzs0

 

I enjoyed watching KG in the early part of his career in Minnesota and had a respectful dislike of him when he played in Boston/Brooklyn. It stemmed from the fact that he was an irritant to everybody that he played with and against (just lookup KG-Carmelo or KG-“Big Baby” Glen Davis). He also helped make LeBron’s first stint with the Cavaliers rough after joining the Celtics.  That doesn’t diminish from his stellar Hall of Fame career. So I say “thanks KG and good riddance.”

Stats and info via:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Garnett

 

KG

Dumb Football Picks 2016

Football season is here and my wife can’t stand it! I admit I loathe the sport at times myself but like a fool I run back to it every late August/early September (I have no clue how some of you sit through preseason NFL games). With the seasons (NFL and NCAA) starting that means “picks” have to be made. Only thing I feel comfortable about in the NCAA is Christian McCaffrey  as the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. After that just enjoy the chaos.

In the NFL, it’s a little easier to make blind picks for Division winners. I feel so gracious that I’ll also throw in a Super Bowl winner. So with no further ado:

AFC EAST – Miami Dolphins
AFC NORTH – Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC SOUTH – Indianapolis Colts
AFC WEST – Kansas City Chiefs
NFC EAST – Dallas Cowboys (In Dak We Trust)
NFC NORTH – Green Bay Packers
NFC SOUTH – Atlanta Falcons
NFC WEST – Arizona Cardinals
SUPER BOWL – Pittsburgh Steelers will beat the Green Bay Packers
My choice for AFC EAST was the most jaw dropping of all the Divisions. The Oakland Raiders have been discussed a lot in the AFC WEST but I’m not ready to “crown them” yet (RIP Dennis Green). In Dak We Trust is all I have to say about the Dallas Cowboys. My Super Bowl picks depend on both teams having better secondary play this season. We all know what both teams can do offensively when healthy. If I picked your team don’t get mad when it all goes downhill. Enjoy the football people…It’s Byke!
Dumb Football Picks 2016

Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo

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(LARS BARON/GETTY IMAGES)
The most scrutinized group of Team USA Men’s Basketball players – since the 2002 through 2006 team cycle – left the Rio Olympics with gold around their necks.  In a way this team’s personality was similar to the career of its “leader” Carmelo Anthony.  There were questions from the beginning about the strength of this team after so many stars had backed out.  Melo and Kevin Durant were the only two players with Olympic experience. 6 players on the squad had no International experience at all.

The games started and Team USA blew through their first 7 opponents – 5 exhibition games and 2 Preliminary Round games in the Olympics – and many wondered if they’d be challenged. But then they faced Australia, Serbia, and France. The USA would only win those games by a combined total of 16 points while allowing an average of 92 points per game. And just like that the narrative flipped. They were no longer seen as an unbeatable team and the questions about there not being enough stars returned. Any of this talk of no defense and lack of “star” talent sound familiar to the narrative around Carmelo?

The Knockout Round started with a blowout victory over Argentina and a tight semifinal win over Spain.  Both opponents had been familiar with Team USA over the last ten years. Argentina won Silver at the 2002 FIBA World Cup and Gold at the 2004 Olympics.  During the 2002 FIBA World Cup they became the first team to defeat a USA Team composed of all NBA players. That defeat along with a few others led to Team USA revamping the way they selected players.  Meanwhile Spain finished runner up to Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. This Olympics saw Team USA face Serbia in the Gold Medal Round.  The game was close for a quarter.  Then in the 2nd Quarter Kevin Durant took over and the game was out of reach.  Durant finished the game with 30 points and renewed confidence heading to Golden State.

All types of things were being said about the US Men’s Basketball Team.  They didn’t have enough star players.  They didn’t move the ball enough – I harped on this a lot – or play the type of defense that was needed.  They either won by too much or didn’t win by enough. They didn’t have any competition or maybe they do thought some after a few close games.  The games aren’t entertaining some said and they need an age limit chirped some others. Yet after all of the noise, Team USA won the final game by 30 and defeated its last 3 opponents by an average of 21 points per game.  Funny how they took in everything around them and kept Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo.

 

 

Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo

Football Interview, Part 2

If you’re from Jackson then it’s likely that you’re familiar with Newell Field. It is currently used by Jackson Public Schools and Belhaven University. Most of my memories of the field center around JPS middle school and high school football games. I even shared a few personal memories on that field while I was in high school. I’m sure the stands will be filled the next 3-4 weeks as JPS Rival Schools meet to see who will have bragging rights in the City.

Today’s interviewee spoke of his time playing as a youngster and his time in college. One thing he mentioned was the transition from high school to college. He mentioned the term – redshirt – which is a common phrase for most incoming college freshmen (it may also be used by players that are sophomores/juniors/seniors). A redshirt is often designated for players that need time to adjust to college life on and off the field. It allows them to sit out a year and still have their remaining year(s) to play.

My interview today is with an individual that is a product of JPS. He used his talents to earn a scholarship to a NCAA “D-1” school and a college degree.

When did you first fall in love with football/earliest memory of the game?

Wow. 1st memory is easily going to a (I hate to admit this) JSU game. Family was/is huge JSU supporters. Well not so much now but more on that later. We traveled to all the games. Never missed a fall Saturday. I fell in love watching Wavy Dave (RIP) perform and hearing the 2nd best SWAC band perform. My mama never wanted me to play football which is why I didn’t play organized ball until 7th grade. I feel like that cheated me somewhat but I turned out ok.

What was your funnest time playing football? And what was your least memorable time?

Man, I’ve always had fun playing ball. Through the 8 straight losses my sophomore year and the 0-11 year the very next season. I always just wanted to ball. The blueprint was laid for me by very few guys and I tried to follow it. All in all, college was by far the most fun I had playing ball.

What was the recruiting process like once you realized you were talented enough to play D-1?

Good question. I had no idea. Lol. My earliest memories of recruiting is witnessing my high school coach hoard letters from schools that were coming to watch guys play. This was in the 9th grade. Let’s just say me and some teammates stumbled upon his desk and saw that scouts/coaches were communicating or trying to communicate with the seniors that season. And these guys didn’t know until AFTER the season had ended and we missed the playoffs by 1 game. This “by 1 game” would define my career actually. All that being said, led me to feel as if I (Mom and Dad) were going to have to do our own recruiting. I didn’t realize schools were actually noticing me. I mean I had been starting since my freshman year, played both sides of the ball. I even made an honorable mention all metro team. Back then, the paper only published the top 3 selections. I didn’t even find this out until I attended a scholar-athlete banquet. Smh. So when schools were recruiting me, I was shocked. Thing is the two schools that had the most weight for me (Miss State and jsu) were going through coaching changes. Miss State had been recruiting me and a teammate until Sherrill was fired. Croom said nope, lol. jsu and Judge were recruiting me also. Bell, said and I quote “I don’t want you, I’m going after junior college guys”. This. This here, rocked me to my core. I literally was shaken. The only SWAC school I ever knew. Ever cheered for.

swac-logo-football

Is it proper to say “college student playing football?” or “football player in college?”

Depending on the person. Both phrases apply. It’s funny because, people that don’t play sports in college don’t understand the sacrifices we make to just graduate. We do more stuff before 6 am than most do for an entire day. Lol. And then, we don’t have any free time unless it’s after the games on Saturdays.

How did you balance football and college life?

I didn’t really do anything special. It was never hard to manage for me. Football is what I did and I did whatever it took to keep playing. School has always been easy so I never really had a problem.

Describe the NCAA through your point of view

NCAA is trash. Too many rules. Too many ways to make money. Not enough help for athletes. Playing a sport in college, you’re held to higher standards. Almost professional in some places. Yet no one gets paid but the coaches. And ADs. And Presidents. But their not busting knees, dislocating body parts to play. Yes. It’s a choice. However everyone that plays a sport, doesn’t always “have” to play. For example, I could went wherever and just been a student but I wanted to play ball. New stadiums. Student enrollment. All can be attributed to athletics. Not the education majors. Not the IT guys. Not the chemistry majors.

What do you miss about playing football?

The locker room. The road trips. The grind. Having somewhere to be. Learning a new defensive scheme. Studying film. I miss everything about playing. The first practice before the first game. The Oklahoma drill (which I never lost). The competition.

Did you ever think about semi-pro or anything like that?

Yes. I did. Didn’t pursue it further. Was tired of playing ball at that point.

What advice would you give young guys playing the game thinking about reaching the college level?

Run. Run. And run some more. Do a bunch of calisthenics. Take your protein. Run some more. Work on your craft. Try not to get a part-time job. Hard to practice and make money. Gotta sacrifice one. And go where you’re wanted. You’ll have a much better experience. Don’t overthink the process. Forget about depth charts. To this day, I wish I had been redshirted.

Explain why you would’ve liked to redshirt.

Well, by the end of high school… I had only played football for six years. Never had a position coach. A strength coach. Nutrition advice was simply “eat ya vegetables”. My growth as a player was basically all me. Yes, I had coaches who pushed me but only to fit what they wanted. Came to high school not being able to lift 185 pounds. Was always a big kid. Worked my tail off to get stronger. Wanted to be the strongest on the team. I achieved that by my senior year. But even this was misguided. I was young and wanted to play. I started every year I ever played football except 7th grade because of weak *** rules but whatever. Part of not being redshirted was my fault too. I refused to be redshirted. I wanted to prove to everyone that I can play and that’s what I did. Being redshirted would have given me an opportunity to grow my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before. Would have allowed me to develop my footwork, hand speed/strength and possibly allow me to be even stronger than I was. I mean I left college being able to lift 225 lbs – 36 times. And that was without any supplements or guided training. That was all me. Maybe I should add, being redshirted and receiving the proper guidance would have been beneficial for me.  I just feel as if I would have been that much better taking that shirt.

What are your overall thoughts on the “state of football”? (all the rules changes, injuries, etc.)

Football is in a great place. Still exciting to watch. I’ll admit, I haven’t sat in the stands for a college game in years. SWAC ball looks so different. Rule changes are just a reflection of trying to protect the game not the players. Players are meat in a meat market. Always have been and always will be.

Football Interview, Part 2

Interview with Aaron Lockett

As the new football season approaches I decided to come with some new interviews.  This time around I’m interviewing guys that played football.  My first interview was with former Kansas State All-American Punt Returner/Wide Receiver Aaron Lockett.  Lockett was a standout athlete – in track, football, and basketball – at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  From there he showcased his talents at Kansas State where he was a member of the football and track teams.  Lockett set many records during his time at K-State and in the 2000 Big 12 Championship Game he had the first return TD in the game’s history.  Aaron played five years professionally in the NFL and Canadian Football League. His brother Kevin was also a standout player at Kansas State and played in the NFL. Lockett’s nephew Tyler Lockett continued the family’s tradition of great Wide Receiver/Returner play while at Kansas State.  Lockett is currently a blossoming talent – First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl as a rookie – in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks. Check out the audio interview and a few of Aaron’s highlights from his time at Kansas State.

 

Interview with Aaron Lockett

JUST FOR KICKS

I was sitting around thinking about the need to do a new blog.  I’ve been stalling recently but this one came to me and I knew it would get me writing again.  All this time on the blog and I had not written about one of my favorite things…shoes!  I’ve had a love for kicks forever.  I’ve had all kinds but at this point I’m mostly a Nike guy.   I like New Balance, Converse Chuck Taylor, and Adidas.  So with that in mind, I decided to rank my favorite shoes that I’ve hooped in.

My list is all Nike/Air Jordan but I started off hooping in Patrick Ewing’s as a youngster.  That was terrible but nothing like the time I played in some dada sneakers.  They weren’t even basketball shoes but there I was playing in them during intramural basketball at Murrah.  Another shoe that I don’t like to hoop in is the Air Jordan 5.  I broke my foot a few years ago playing in a pair.  A big omission on my list is the Nike Air Zoom 2K4 Huarache.  I’ve heard nothing but great things about this shoe when it comes to performance on the basketball court.  I don’t include them because I never owned a pair.

I’ll go in order from number 9 down to number 1:

9 – Air Jordan 1 High jordan 1

This retro colorway released in 2010.  I played in these while in a summer league in New Orleans.  Jordan 1s don’t strike most as a shoe to hoop in but I find this pair to be comfortable.  I’ll be in search of a new pair soon because I ruined my current pair during an inspection at my old job.  They now serve as my grass cutting shoes but 2 weeks ago I hooped in them in the driveway.  My wife and I handed out an old-fashioned butt kicking to our son and nephew.

8 – Nike Air Bound ‘93 nike-air-bound-black-white-dark-royal-blue-040885_1

This is another shoe that doesn’t jump out at most people but I hooped in these in two different stints.  The first stint was during my youth when I first started playing organized basketball at the Southwest YMCA.  Yeah these were an upgrade from the Ewing’s mentioned above.  Then I snatched up a pair during the 2000s when Nike started their trend of “Retro-ing” every shoe that they ever made.  I played in these at local parks and found them to be light and easy to maneuver in.  Sadly they too became “grass cutters” and found their way to the trash.

7 – Nike Zoom Flight ’96 Nike-Zoom-Flight-96-Penny-Hardaway-PE-3

This was during my middle school years when I was playing ball A LOT and getting shoes at a high rate.  This is the shoe Penny Hardaway wore during the 1996 Olympics.  So as soon as I saw them I knew I had to have them.  This shoe was sleek and easy to play in.  Inside – outside it didn’t matter to me.  I played in those shoes until I outgrew them.  Unfortunately that happened quickly because by the end of that summer it was over.

6 – Air Jordan Aqua 8 air-jordan-8-aqua-3

The Aqua 8s retroed in 2007 and there I was to pick them up.  These are still in my collection and in good shape.  I wear them when I can and I hooped in these in various places in Jackson and New Orleans.  They are a little heavy but I liked the ankle support they provide.  These will always be a favorite pair of mine.

5 – Air Jordan 7 air-jordan-7-flint-grey

The first pair of 7s that I got and still have are “the Flints.”  These dropped in 2006. The Jordan 7 is not only light but also features “huarache technology.”  I never got a pair of the original huaraches in the 1990s but I understand why the Fab 5 loved hooping in them.  The “huarache technology” provides ankle and foot support that is top of the line.  I broke these out a few times while in New Orleans for summer league games.

4 – Nike Air Max Penny 1 nike-air-max-penny-release-date

The Penny 1 goes back to my time in middle school.  As mentioned above I was a huge fan of Penny Hardaway.  So in 1995 when Nike dropped the signature shoe Penny Hardaway I was all in.  Then they threw in Lil Penny and Tyra Banks on the commercials to seal the deal.  I enjoyed playing in these because of the look and feel.  Wore these while playing in a lot of youth games and neighborhood pickup games.  Ankle support and lightness were key.

3 – Nike Zoom Hawk Flight ’97 nike-zoom-hawk-flight-retro-white-black-red-1

I had two pair of these shoes in my 9th grade year.  The first pair I got to start the 9th grade basketball season and the second pair during the season.  The second pair was gift to the team from Lindsey Hunter.  Lindsey was an alum of Murrah High and his brother Tommie Hunter (rest in peace) was a member of our team.  Tommie and I had been playing with and/or against each other since the 6th grade.  Our 9th grade year we were able to win the JPS City Championship.  We lost one game the entire season (at Lanier) and avenged that defeat by beating them in the championship game.  As for the shoes, I remember them being excellent shoes to play in.  They were light, durable, and provide ankle support.

2 – Nike Air Penny 2

nike-air-penny-ii

Continuing with the Penny Hardaway theme, I grabbed a pair of the Penny 2s when they dropped in 1996.  These were the shoes that I wore while playing basketball my 8th grade year at Peeples Middle School.  Half the team had a pair of these shoes – either the white or black pair – despite the fact we wore some yellow uniforms!  We even had a few guys that decided to put pennies in the front of their shoes.  That was a terrible idea because the pennies fell out of the shoes and rolled all over the court.  That season we went 9-0 beating every school except for Chastain by 15+ points.  Chastain had a “Peanut” head kid by the name of Maurice Williams who was the buzz of the city.  It was a great game but we beat them by 1 point.  I went on to join a few of those guys at Murrah High and in AAU ball.  The Penny 2 was bulky but I liked them. They weren’t heavy and despite being a “mid” ankle shoe provided great support.

1 – Nike Air Go Lwp nike-air-go-lwp-black-blue-white-ebay-2

Yes a shoe that Penny Hardaway wore tops my list.  The Air Go Lwp was released in 1995 and was sported by Tim Hardaway too.  Easily the best shoe that I played in.  Wore them for as long as I could.  This was that phase when my feet started to grow so I had a few pair come and go.  The shoe itself did well outside and inside.  It was sleek, light, durable, flexible and so on.  It is the first basketball shoe that I remember Nike making that had the “flyknit” technology that is a staple of the shoe company today. To be clear, it was NOT “flyknit” but thinking back on the shoe that’s what I’m reminded of.  The shoe was everything I needed to perform basketball-wise and that’s why it sits at number 1 on my list.

 

JUST FOR KICKS