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ALABAMA NOTEBOOK: Tide breaks losing streak, back in win column

Alabama women s basketball is back in the win column. UA broke its five-game losing streak by piecing together one of its best all-around performances of the season against Tennessee, defeating the Lady Vols for the second-straight time, and the fourth time in program history. Ball security was a huge reason Alabama was successful. Crimson Tide coach Kristy Curry has stressed that limiting turnovers to under 13 per game is crucial in conference play. On Thursday, she was spot-on. Alabama turned the ball over just 10 times against Tennessee, and no player had more than two turnovers for the game. Shelton State transfer Coco Knight had her best game at Alabama, while leading the way to the upset win. The junior guard used 25 minutes to score 16 points, grab eight rebounds and dish three assists. Knight s standout performance set career-highs in minutes, points, assists and rebounds.

The 5-foot-7 Knight trailed only juniors Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams in rebounds against the Lady Vols, and despite her small stature she was able to generate second-chance points by grabbing four rebounds on the offensive end.

The coaches kept telling us to go to the (glass), and that s what I did, Alabama guard Knight said. As a team we had 22 (offensive rebounds), and I think that s the highest we ve had in a while. Teams that finish in the top 10 of the Southeastern Conference standings will get a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament that begins March, 1. Alabama starts the final week of the regular season ranked eleventh in the conference with three games left to play.

Drew Hill

New season marks new careers

The start of the Greg Goff era for the University of Alabama baseball team (2-1) was also the start of several new players careers. Nine players made their UA debut over the weekend, including three of the five relievers used in Alabama s series win over Presbyterian. Freshman Sonny Potter pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday and redshirt freshman Davis Vainer needed just seven pitches to work through the ninth inning on Sunday. Junior college transfer Garrett Suchey pitched three innings on Sunday, giving up two runs.

There will likely be more newcomers on against Southern Miss. The game, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been moved to 6 p.m. on Wednesday due to threat of rain.

I definitely think you ll see some guys throw that haven t thrown yet, head coach Greg Goff said. We re still trying to decide who we re going to lock in and throw and our bullpen. When you have a bunch of new guys, in a first year, I ve never seen these guys play a game. For me, we ll kind of get our feet wet as we go. Sophomore righty Brock Love is expected to pitch at some point Wednesday, but some freshmen are still awaiting their turn. Freshman lefthander Garret Rukes hasn t pitched yet, nor has righty Deacon Medders.

Ben Jones

Transfer sees more playing time

In late January, there was reason to wonder if Ar’Mond Davis was going to have a role for the University of Alabama men’s basketball this season. Davis, a junior college transfer from Tacoma, Washington about as far as one can get from Tuscaloosa and still remain on the continental United States was far down the Alabama bench. He played just two two minutes against Georgia and didn’t play at all in a home win against Mississippi State. Then improvement met opportunity. Davis started to see a slight increase in playing time. Then, with the Crimson Tide in foul trouble and fighting to hang on in a four-overtime win at South Carolina, Davis came off the bench to play 38 minutes and score a career-high 19 points. Last Saturday, he added a 16-point performance against LSU.

Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said it was part of a season-long maturation for Davis that was not unusual for a junior college transfer.

“I think sometimes when a junior college kid enrolls at a Division I school, especially in a Power Five conference, the immediate thinking is that he really is a junior,” Johnson said after the Crimson Tide victory over LSU. “I disagree with that.

“With some juco kids, it takes a while to understand the entire process — school life at a Power Five (college), the way we travel, the way we practice. Especially when you’re playing for me, that’s not an easy thing to do.

“So there were a lot of growing pains for a long time. But I would say that about three weeks ago, we started to see some progress in the way he practiced, in the maturity level, and we started to get a little more confidence to play him a little more in games.”

Johnson said he was still advising Davis on various matters, on the court and on social media as well.

“In the last game (at Missouri), he didn’t feel well. So he tweeted about it. I told him that probably wasn’t a good thing to tweet about because you don’t to send people thinking that you’re making excuses about going 0-for-4 from the 3-point line.

“He’s a a kid I get after every day (at practice.) He and A.J. (Avery Johnson, Jr.) have some tough skin, because they get it a lot. But he’s responded.”

Cecil Hurt

Gymnastics improves score before postseason

It s time to shake things up in the college gymnastics world. Since most teams have now completed in at least six meets, rankings are determined by regional qualifying score (RQS). This takes a team s top six scores (three of which have to be from away meets), drops the highest and then averages out the remaining five. The University of Alabama is No. 4 with a 197.085 RQS. Oklahoma (197.89), LSU (197.655) and Florida (197.435) go down in order for the top three. Those are the only four programs in the nation with a 197-plus RQS.

Without the RQS, the Crimson Tide would have remained No. 6 with an overall average of 196.803. Scores dropped this week for Alabama included the Arkansas meet (195.325), the Elevate the Stage meet (195.85) and the Florida meet (197.825). All of this is meant to give a more consistent representation of each team s abilities before postseason.

Close call

On Monday, Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said Aja Sims is fine after being pulled from the lineup last Friday. While warming up, Sims fell off the uneven bars, took a hit to the head and underwent concussion protocol. The senior is tied for 10th on the floor exercise with a 9.895 RQS. She also has a season-high 9.975 and is the Crimson Tide s anchor performer.

Guest appearances

Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin will be at Coleman Coliseum on Friday for Alabama s meet against No. 12 Boise State. She was a member of the 2008 U.S. women s gymnastics team that took home the team silver from Bejing, China.

Terrin Waack

Alabama’s Coco Knight (13) moves toward the goal during the first half of a game against Tennessee at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa on Thursday. [Staff Photo/Erin Nelson]

Waters: Why did this ‘gangsta grammie’ make the City Hall escort list?

Waters: Why Did This 'gangsta Grammie' Make The City Hall Escort List?

Elaine Blanchard with Memphis Police Director Michael Ralllings at Blanchard’s church last year.(Photo: courtesy of Elaine Blanchard)

Elaine Blanchard is an ordained minister and a proud graduate of the Memphis Police Department’s Clergy Police Academy. Last fall, she welcomed Police Director Michael Rallings as a guest for a Wednesday evening meal at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church.

“Our police officers have such a difficult job. They all need our help,” said Blanchard, who posted a photo of her and Rallings on her Facebook page. She also officiated the wedding of a woman who works for Mayor Jim Strickland. The mayor was in attendance.
“He seems like a nice man,” she said.

Last week, she learned via Facebook that she is one of 81 people who can’t enter City Hall without a police escort. She also learned that she’s one of 43 people barred from visiting Strickland’s home.

“This grammie is a gangsta!” the 5-4, gray-haired grandmother joked on her Facebook page over the weekend. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so absurd.

Blanchard has never been arrested. She’s never been to the mayor’s home. She can’t remember if she’s ever been to City Hall. How did she end up on City Hall’s list of security risks[1], or the mayor’s list of persona non grata? How did so many others? Why does such a list even exist?

Police aren’t saying. The mayor says he didn’t know about the list even though it bears his signature. The mayor says he did sign an “authorization of agency” form Jan. 4 a list of people he has ordered to stay off his personal property.

In December, a group of protesters organized a “die-in” on his lawn and video showed some peeking through his windows. But many, if not most, of the 43 people on the list Strickland signed did not participate in the “die-in.” That includes Blanchard.

“I would never have done that,” she said. “I felt sorry for the mayor when I heard about that one. It was wrong to do that at his home.”

Blanchard did participate in a public protest last year. That seems to be the only common denominator among most of the people on the list. That might explain why there’s more than one list, as The Commercial Appeal’s Ryan Poe reported[2] Friday.

Memphis City Hall requires police escort for Darrius Stewart’s mother, protesters

The first list is dated Jan. 4 and names 43 people including Blanchard “barred from the premises” of Strickland’s home who “also have to be escorted while in City Hall.”

It doesn’t explain why. But those on the list have participated in one or more recent nonviolent public protests at the Mississippi River bridge, Overton Park, Graceland, Valero refinery, or elsewhere. Strickland’s signature is on all four pages of the list. But three of the pages include Lt. Anthony Bonner’s handwritten note that those on the list “have to be escorted while in City Hall.”

It’s unclear whether the notes were added before of after Strickland’s signatures. The second list is dated Jan. 17 and names 14 people who “have to be escorted at all times while inside City Hall.” It also doesn’t explain why.

Seven of the names are listed as white females; six as white males; one as a black female. The list was signed by Police Lt. Albert Bonner. The third list seems to present some legitimate and specific concerns. It’s called “City Hall escort list” and it’s undated and unsigned. It names 27 people and adds a brief description or reason why each person is on the list. Fifteen are listed as “former employee.”

A dozen others are identified with words like “threats,” “harassment,” or “disorderly conduct” and “vandalism.” One is identified as “Order of Protection.”

Why aren’t the first two lists more specific? Why are public protesters considered a security risk at City Hall?

“It implies that everyone on the list is somehow a threat to city officials,” said Jayanni Webster, a 27-year-old honors graduate of UT-Knoxville. “It’s very upsetting.”

Webster, a community organizer, was one of six protesters handcuffed, detained and cited for blocking the road in front of Graceland last July. Blanchard joined a demonstration outside Graceland in August. It was during the annual candlelight vigil for Elvis. The next day, two local legislators Rep. G.A. Hardaway and Sen. Lee Harris complained that police kept black protesters behind barricades while allowing white protesters free movement.

Blanchard told the press that she agreed.

“I threw my leg over the barricade and a Graceland security officer came over and gave me a hand, lifted my elbow and helped me over the barricade,” she told The Commercial Appeal.

“The police could clearly see that a white woman who had been with the protesters was climbing over the barricade, and no one stopped me.”

Blanchard figures that her public complaint is why her name is on the City Hall security list. She hadn’t thought about going to City Hall anytime soon, but now she feels sort of obligated. Tuesday afternoon, she plans to attend a protest being called the “Weigh In at City Hall.”

First she’ll have to find her way there.

“I’m not even sure which building it is,” she said. “But once I get there, maybe they’ll show me around.”

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References

  1. ^ City Hall’s list of security risks (www.documentcloud.org)
  2. ^ Ryan Poe reported (www.commercialappeal.com)

Lindell Wigginton’s past makes him perfect as Iowa State’s future

CLOSELindell Wigginton's Past Makes Him Perfect As Iowa State's Future Lindell Wigginton's Past Makes Him Perfect As Iowa State's Future

Wigginton is the top recruit Steve Prohm has landed at Iowa State and one of the highest-rated recruits to pick the Cyclones. Wochit

Lindell Wigginton's Past Makes Him Perfect As Iowa State's Future

Oak Hill guard Lindell Wigginton is expected to make an immediate impact for Iowa State in 2017-18.(Photo: Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

When Iowa State recruit Lindell Wigginton walks into the Oak Hill Academy gym each day, he passes by pictures, jerseys and banners that honor the prodigious talents who have played there before him. Jerry Stackhouse, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo all suited up at Oak Hill Academy and guided the program to national powerhouse prominence before heading off to college and the NBA. Like them, Wigginton has came to the secondary school in Virginia to chase his NBA teams.

I m not really star-struck at anything, Wigginton said. It just motivates me to work hard and try to get where they re at. Wigginton’s next stop will be in Ames. He’s the top recruit Steve Prohm has landed at Iowa State and one of the highest-rated recruits to pick the Cyclones. The 6-foot-1 point guard is the nation’s No. 42 player in the 2017 class and his senior season at Oak Hill has backed up that lofty ranking.

His NBA dream, though, began in a hard-scrabble neighborhood in Nova Scotia. Three years ago, he left his home there to focus on basketball.

He was smart enough to get out of there and come down here and work on his game for three years and do the things that he had to do to be the player he is now,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. He d be a Division I player up there but no way would he be the player he is now.

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When Wigginton arrived at Oak Hill, he had never lifted weights. There were struggles on the court. Wigginton, who was a star as a freshman starter at Prince Andrew High School in Canada, had to wait for playing time as a sophomore. That upset him.

He wasn t playing as much as he wanted to, Smith said. I think he thought he could just come down here and have the same success that he had in Nova Scotia. It was totally different.

Smith still knew he had something special in Wigginton. But it wasn’t easy to find him playing time on his star-powered roster full of older talent.

I knew he was going to be a Division I player, Smith said. He just had to be patient and I tried to get him minutes as much as I could.”

Lindell Wigginton's Past Makes Him Perfect As Iowa State's Future

Oak Hill Warriors guard Lindell Wigginton (5) shoots the ball in a December game against Tennessee Prep Academy during the Marshall County Hoopfest that brings several top high school basketball teams together. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Wigginton stuck with with it and the patience paid off. He shifted his attention to his school work and went from a C-student to the honor roll. He hit the weight room for the first time in his life and bulked up. His game got better too. During his junior season, he moved into the starting lineup and averaged 16.4 points. Wigginton earned honorable mention All-American honors for the Warriors, who finished the 2015-16 season ranked No. 2 nationally. He became a prized prospect at a premium position. Recruiting websites took notice. ESPN, 247Sports, and Scout all ranked him a four-star recruit. Smith s phone began ringing and coaches were showing up in his office to talk about Wigginton.

Kentucky coach John Calipari called about Wigginton. Wigginton got offers from schools like Louisville, Tennessee, Oregon, Florida State and Georgia. Iowa State also came into the picture. Prohm was talking to Murray State coach Matt McMahon when Wigginton s name got brought him. McMahon worked as an assistant for Prohm at Murray State and took over when his boss left for Ames. Prohm asked McMahon last April if he d seen any good guards. McMahon recommended Wigginton. The next day, Iowa State assistant coach Neill Berry watched Wigginton play in a tournament in Dallas.

Berry was impressed by Wigginton’s explosiveness, strength at the basket and ability to make plays in traffic. He thought Wigginton would be perfect for Iowa State.

“Talented,” Berry said. “Just a strong, physical guard who could really score the basketball.”

Lindell Wigginton's Past Makes Him Perfect As Iowa State's Future

Lindell Wigginton is the highest-rated recruit Steve Prohm has landed at Iowa State. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Berry relayed what he saw back to Prohm. The two quickly courted Wigginton. They built a relationship with Wigginton and his entire family.

“We talked to him a ton,” Berry said. “And we stayed in contact with him and his parents as much as we could.”

Wigginton bonded with them. He felt at home with Ames and was comfortable with Prohm and his staff. He also liked Prohm s track history of success with guards. Prohm coached future NBA guards Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne at Murray State. Iowa State point guard Monte Morris has also thrived in Prohm’s offense.

I feel like they were the most real people that were recruiting me, Wigginton said. They weren t telling me what I wanted to hear. They were telling me the truth. They were seeing something in me. They believed in me. Wigginton saw something in the Cyclones, too, and last October, he committed to Iowa State.[3] In November, he signed his letter of intent to play for the Cyclones.

“Lindell is a guy that as a freshman that can step into this program and play right away,” Prohm said. “He s a guy that I really like the way he plays. His mentality on the offense end he s in attack mode all the time. Defense, he can stay in front of the ball and play in transition off ball screens. Wigginton plans to move to Ames in June. In the meantime, he s in the midst of a stellar senior season at Oak Hill. The 6-foot-1 Wigginton has bulked up to 185 pounds and has been unstoppable at times this season.

He s the leader of a prospect-packed roster that includes Kansas signee Billy Preston and Texas commit Matt Coleman. In a team full of stars, he might be the best.

Earlier this month, he poured in 35 points and helped Oak Hill end Chino Hills 60-game winning streak. Just a few minutes into the game, he showed his leadership abilities.

He came to the bench after three minutes and he goes, Coach, these kids are soft, Smith said. That was his opinion of Chino Hills that their kids are soft. And he goes, I m going to take them to the track every time.

He s not cocky at all to be honest. But, he s confident. He feels like he s better than everybody else on the floor which is a good thing. He plays with that kind of confidence.

Wigginton scored 14 in the last five minutes to lead the Oak Hill comeback victory. [4]

Wigginton gets up around 7:40 a.m.daily, eats breakfast, goes to chapel and has class until 2:30 p.m. Wigginton then goes to practice until around 5 p.m. After that, he spends his nights working on his academics or his game. Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long, another Canadian Cyclone, is a big fan of Wigginton’s.

He s turned it up a whole other level and went to Oak Hill and just blew up, Mitrou-Long said. It s a credit to him and his work and where he wants to be. He has the mindset of a killer and that s what makes him special. Wigginton s family follows his games on TV or the internet back in Canada. They ll make it to the United States for some games every year. It s been rewarding for his mom to see how far he s grown.

He just has that mentality that he knows what he wants, she said.

Lindell Wigginton's Past Makes Him Perfect As Iowa State's Future

Oak Hill guard Lindell Wigginton moved to the school in Mouth of Wilson, Va., his sophomore year. (Photo: Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

There s no denying how much the move to Oak Hill has helped him on the court. Smith believes playing against the best high-schoolers there will pay off for Wigginton when he gets to Ames.

He s ready to roll right now, Smith said. He s ready to go to college. He ll play right away as a freshman. Prohm wouldn t say what his role would be on the team. But with guards Matt Thomas, Morris and Mitrou-Long graduating from the program after this season, Iowa State will have plenty of minutes available in 2017-18.

“I love everything about Lindell his personality, his toughness and I really think he s going to be able to step in and really help this program,” Prohm said. Wigginton doesn t just have his sights set on Ames. He wants to play in the NBA and join the list of Oak Hill alums who made it. Then, he can support his family like they did for him.

“I know I can get there, Wigginton said.

References

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