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After California Law, Statehouses Push to Expand Rights of College Athletes

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In a handful of states, the proposals already seem stalled, stymied by inattention or disinterest by the most powerful figures in the state governments. In other places, though, like Florida, bipartisan coalitions have encouraged supporters of expanded student-athlete compensation.

“All of us, we honestly believe that when your name, your image and your likeness are being used — and other entities are being compensated for it — it goes against everything we’ve learned about on capitalism and free markets,” said Representative Kionne L. McGhee, the Democratic leader in the Florida House of Representatives and the chief sponsor of one of the bills that will be considered during the legislative session that will open on Tuesday.

Blake James, the athletic director at Miami, said he and others from the university in Coral Gables, Fla., were generally supportive of developing a way for student-athletes to monetize their reputations, but that they were urging refinements to legislation to try to curb potential abuses of the recruiting process.

It is less clear how the N.C.A.A. is trying to shape the debates in the states.

The organization sought to influence officials in California last year, but elected officials there criticized the strategy as imperious and ineffective. In the aftermath, some college sports executives were privately skeptical of the approach. Now, with new threats looming, conference and university officials say the N.C.A.A. appears to have largely retreated from statehouses to focus its efforts on the federal government.

Paul Renner, the chairman of the Florida House Judiciary Committee, said that the N.C.A.A., as well as the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences, declined to participate in Monday’s meeting in Tallahassee. College sports officials insist, though, that conferences remain active in lobbying state governments, often through member schools.

“We’re now in the political realm, which is a bit new for us,” said Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, which includes schools in several states where name, image and likeness proposals will be considered. “California, with the outcome, has certainly accelerated the conversation.”

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Pro Basketball and CBB Picks with Tony T and Joe Duffy 1-26-2020

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Guests and topics include: NBA and CBB with Tony T and Joe Duffy

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Kansas beats Tennessee in first game since brawl

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The eyes of the college basketball world on Saturday were once again focused on Kansas.

On this afternoon, at least, the Jayhawks put their best — and biggest — foot forward.

KU overcame a shaky start and an even more perilous finish to earn a 74-68 home victory over Tennessee, securing a win in the nationally televised Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup. Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks’ lone frontcourt player in the tilt, was plagued by foul trouble but finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots and a game-best plus-minus of plus-19 in just 27 minutes.

Azubuike notched two big-time blocks in the game’s final minute to help preserve what was then a five-point lead. Running back on offense after the second rejection, Azubuike delighted a rocking 300th straight sellout crowd at Allen Fieldhouse by delivering a finger wag gesture in the direction of the fans.

Later asked about the victory and specifically about the celebratory gesture, Azubuike offered a sheepish response.

“It was fun,” he said plainly. “It was fun.”

More: Kansas’ Silvio De Sousa apologizes for role in brawl with Kansas State: ‘I am truly embarrassed’

A few moments of scattered chuckles and awkward silence passed before sophomore Devon Dotson, who finished with team-highs of 22 points and seven assists, leaned in and played the role of postgame point guard.

“Keep going,” Dotson whispered, smiling. “Keep going!”

Azubuike obliged.

“I mean, it was a great game,” Azubuike continued. “Kind of the team, we needed a stop, so I was glad I got one, I was able to get that stop. I just kind of wanted to pump the team up and pump my teammates up.”

Azubuike did plenty of that Saturday for the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks (16-3), though not out of the gate.

KU’s lone big with forwards Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack suspended, Azubuike picked up his second foul and went to the KU bench with 10:39 left in the opening period. Forced to play a five-guard lineup, the Jayhawk defense unraveled — KU surrendered a 7-for-7 shooting stretch for the Volunteers (12-7), who rallied from a three-point deficit to take a 26-19 lead.

But Bill Self gambled, and it paid off.

Self reinserted Azubuike into the lineup with 5:48 left in the frame, and the 7-footer made an immediate impact, throwing down a dunk on his first possession back. That conversion kick-started a 12-0 run that saw the home squad take a 31-26 lead, with Azubuike notching seven points in that rally. Azubuike departed to a hearty ovation with 1:34 left before halftime, where KU held a 37-30 lead.

KU built a 13-point lead in the first six minutes of the second half, but it was Tennessee’s turn to rally. 

Rick Barnes’ crew cut its deficit to four on a Yves Pons dunk with 10:35 left, and the Volunteers appeared to be in fantastic shape when Azubuike picked up his fourth foul with 8:25 remaining. The careless reach-in infraction sent the sent the center to the bench with the Jayhawks up six, and three straight point-blank makes for the Volunteers made it a one-possession game, 66-63.

Azubuike re-entered after a KU timeout, and the move worked — though the same couldn’t be said of Barnes’ decision to deploy “Poke-a-Doke,” the strategy of intentionally fouling Azubuike to send the career 39.8% free-throw shooter to the stripe.

Azubuike went 2 for 2 to send the home crowd into a frenzy, then went 1 for 2 after what appeared to be an unintentional foul to deliver a 69-63 lead with 3:34 left.

“Very subtly, that may have been the biggest play of the game,” Self said of Azubuike’s first two makes, “because it gave him confidence after he made those two to go knock a couple more down.”

Azubuike finished 6 for 11 from the free-throw line, a clip Self said the team would’ve sold out for a month ago. Now? Self believes Azubuike has the potential to be a 60-to-70 percent shooter from the stripe for the rest of his final collegiate season.

“Like I told you, I’m not worried about my free throws. It’s all my routine. It’s just me going through my routine and making it,” Azubuike said. “There’s no pressure on me making free throws. I know it’s a big topic for y’all, the media and stuff, but it’s not really a big topic. It’s going out there and just doing my routine and just knocking it down.

“If it goes in it goes in. If not, it’s next play.”

Barnes, who said he “really respect(s)” Azubuike for the year-to-year improvement he’s seen from the center since last year’s clash between these teams, said he isn’t particularly fond of deploying the intentional foul strategy but added it’s something he’ll do when necessary.

“I don’t know if I’d call it Hack-a-Shaq. I’d call it playing the percentages, ’cause he’s not going to miss those (dunks),” Barnes said. “I mean, he’ll put you and the ball in the basket. …

“Those are big free throws, and you know what? Maybe we made him get better tonight.”

Again, though, Tennessee didn’t go away.

A free-throw make and a John Fulkerson jumper trimmed the deficit back to three with 2:04 left. But Azubuike again went 1 for 2 from the line, and with 1:20 left, he intercepted a pass into the paint to secure a much-needed steal. Dotson went 1 for 2 from the line on KU’s next possession to put KU back up five, 71-66, with 55 seconds left.

That’s when Azubuike channeled his inner Dikembe Mutombo. He blocked Fulkerson’s jumper with 44 seconds left, and after a Tennessee offensive rebound, Azubuike blocked Pons’ try in the paint.

“Overall, I mean, it’s very obvious we’re not the same team with him not in the game,” Self said of Azubuike. “We need him in the game.”

On his way back up the court, Azubuike delivered the finger wag gesture, turning up the volume on an already rocking atmosphere.

Dotson hit two free throws with 31 seconds left, and a Jordan Bowden layup accounted for Tennessee’s final points. KU gave the game its final score on a free throw from Ochai Agbaji, who was the Jayhawks’ other double-figure scorer (16 points).

“Having him in there when he gets the angle, I mean, it’s pretty much two points,” Agbaji said of Azubuike. “So when we look for that and he’s working down there and we find him, it’s always good.”

Pons finished with a game-high 24 points, while Bowden had 19, all in the second half. Fulkerson’s 15 rounded out the Volunteers’ double-figure scorers.

KU’s season continues with a Monday clash with Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., the final game of McCormack’s suspension. De Sousa isn’t eligible to return until the Jayhawks’ regular-season finale March 7 at Texas Tech.

“We did enough good things to win, but certainly it wasn’t the prettiest,” Self said of Saturday’s outcome. “I’m not leaving out of here elated in any other way other than we just won the game.”

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Nick Kyrgios Holds His Temper, and Australia Holds Its Breath

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Nick Kyrgios was not willing to be hunted.

During the opening points of his Australian Open match against the wily veteran Gilles Simon — known for his ability to lure opponents into deadly traps with deceiving softballs and sudden bursts — Kyrgios did not take the bait.

Instead, on a hazy Thursday night, the mercurial Australian played the start of this second-round match in a way that belied his reputation. He was controlled, contained, comfortable, and mature.

The result, early on: perfection. It was Simon who made the errors, Simon who became the prey.

Kyrgios, 24, tall, rangy and slope-shouldered, took the first set in a mere 27 minutes, 6-2.

At that moment, as Melbourne Arena trembled with cheers, it was hard not to jump ahead and wonder about how this tournament and this year could unfold for Nick Kyrgios.

Is he the wayward soul who has played large chunks of matches by simply going through the motions, essentially quitting?

Or is Kyrgios the game competitor who, in 2014, at age 19, announced himself to the tennis world by beating Nadal on his way to the Wimbledon quarterfinals?

He has beaten not only Nadal, but also Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Few can say that. But his ranking of 26 remains mired in the broad no-man’s land that exists just outside the top 10. Despite constant talk that he was capable of stepping to the fore and upending the Big 3 hierarchy in men’s tennis, his last trip as far as a quarterfinal in a major was in 2015.

It’s hard to watch Kyrgios — with his wide smile, his style, his penchant for pulling off trick shots, his fierce serve and searing forehand, his oh-so obvious talent — and not fall for him.

And it is hard, at the same time, not to be left wanting and disappointed.

Kyrgios seemed utterly in control for a very long swath against the 35-year-old Simon.

But then the finish line drew near. Just a few games from the clean sweep of a three-set win, Kyrgios’s lesser self emerged. Soon, he was missing easy shots. Suddenly, he radiated tightness.

He had already chirped at the umpire when admonished for delaying play, and mockingly mimicked Nadal’s time wasting tic of tugging on his shorts and tussling with his hair. The message was clear, and brought to mind the pleadings of a child: Nadal gets away with it — why can’t I?

Now, Kyrgios looked and sounded equally petulant as he began heaping a barrage of barbs at friends and advisers near the court, as if they were to blame for his shoddy play down the stretch.

The general look among the faces in the overwhelmingly Australian crowd became one of stricken, nervous worry. They want to believe in Kyrgios the way they believe in the women’s top seed, another of their own, Ashleigh Barty. The difference is they can count on Barty. They know what to expect: unwavering effort, quiet humility. They don’t know what they’ll get with Kyrgios. They had seen him self destruct plenty of times before.

“He’s on the edge now, of something not good happening,” said one of the commentators on Australian TV. The commentator was John McEnroe, who of course is as expert as any at diagnosing the fraying emotions of a player on the verge of losing control.

Sure enough, the wheels wobbled all the way off. Simon rose up and snatched the third set. What seemed like a sure thing was now a fight.

The match marched forward, and as the games went on in the fourth set, Kyrgios’s mood only got worse. He would describe himself after the match as being close to going to entering a “dark place.”

But something interesting happened along the way. Watching closely, you could see him change. He stopped looking up at the stands, put an end to the salty barbs. His sloping posture straightened. His face grew focused, serious, intent. He began playing with just enough control to be dangerous again.

He dug deep, centered himself, and found his footing.

Soon enough he edged ahead, the front-runner once more, just in time.

Match point.

The crowd roared, insisting he end it. He tossed the ball toward the pitch-dark sky, struck it with as much force and clarity as any ball he had struck all night.

Ace.

Game, set, match, Kyrgios: 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

Nothing is ever certain when he takes the court. Maybe he will flame out in the next round. Maybe he will keep going, perhaps all the way to the last weekend. Nadal potentially awaits in the fourth round. What a contrast. The ultimate professional versus the ultimate question mark. There does not appear to be much love between them. It would be one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament.

The potential of that was enough on this raucous evening to savor the moment, to fall for the full range of the quixotic and talented Kyrgios as he found his way to a spirit-lifting win.



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