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HOW FAR CAN JORDIN CANADA CARRY UCLA?

In ESPN, espnW on November 9, 2016 at 11:05 am
jordin

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The Bruins knew what was coming. Especially point guard Jordin Canada, who hurried to the baseline.

“On the line,” said coach Cori Close, signaling suicide sprints toward the end of practice last week. A male practice player had slipped past three UCLA players to drain a corner jumper.

Men’s players, 26. UCLA, 9.

It didn’t matter that the No. 9-ranked Bruins had pounded NAIA Westmont 80-45 in an exhibition the night before.

“I want every possession to be played with a sense of urgency,” said Close, who guided the Bruins to the Sweet 16 last season for the first time since 1999.

Canada, who walked across her family’s living-room floor at 8 months old before having ever crawled, doesn’t know any gear other than all-out. The junior All-American dropped 15 points, 5 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds and 1 block against Westmont — even crashing into her team’s bench to save a ball in the blowout.

The 5-foot-6 playmaker often flies up the court, throwing no-look passes and twisting ankles with in-and-out crossovers. Ryan Finney of UCLA Athletics Communications said he struggles to live-tweet games because he runs out of adjectives to describe Canada’s flair. “She’s a human highlight reel,” Finney said.

But what Canada really wants to be is a leader. She dribbled a ball during the recent suicide sprints, and instead of stopping at the baseline like her teammates, she continued to sprint a few feet beyond the line.

She still beat everyone.

“That is the difference of Jordin between being a really great, flashy, fun point guard to now being an elite point guard that has a chance to be an Olympian,” Close said. “It’s those inches that you see her go every day.

“It’s not her talent; it’s not even her skill. It’s that she’s developing a beyond-the-line mentality.”

FINDING HER VOICE

Canada was sick of the missed layups. She and her Windward School prep teammates gasped for air, unable to make seven in a minute on both sides in the full-court drill. Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard, a former Stanford and WNBA player, signaled to keep sprinting.

Canada, motioning for her teammates to clear out and rebound for her, zoomed off. “Jordin was like, ‘I’m going. I’m taking every layup,'” said Nygaard, who doubted one player could accomplish the feat alone. “She dominated it.”

It wasn’t always that way. Unable to dribble as a 6-year-old, Canada was easy prey for the taller kids.

“I was always afraid. I would pick the ball up and I would just hold it. I’d panic and crunch down and they would all trap me,” Canada said. “My coach would always have to call a timeout.”

Her coach told her that she’d have to play point guard and learn to take care of the ball. “She didn’t want it,” said Joyce Canada, Jordin’s mother. “She wanted to shoot.”

But 8-year-old Canada was hooked once she discovered she could handle the rock against 10-year-olds at an AAU national tournament. She loved running the offense and dropping dimes.

She was also drawn to challenges. That’s partially why she chose UCLA, hoping to bring the program its first NCAA championship (the Bruins won the 1978 AIAW national title). (READ FULL STORY HERE).

 

FROM COMIC RELIEF TO COMEDY CENTRAL: TWO EX-UCLA HOOPSTERS FIND THEIR NICHE IN TV WITH NEW ANIMATED SERIES

In Campus Rush (SI), Sports Illustrated on September 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm
Photo courtesy of Legends of Chamberlain Heights

Photo courtesy of Legends of Chamberlain Heights

UCLA basketball benchwarmers Josiah Johnson and Quinn Hawking didn’t think they’d sub in. It was way, way too early, as 15 minutes remained in the 2003 game against powerhouse Arizona, whose lead ballooned to 20. Rarely rising from the bench, Johnson and Hawking usually shimmied, swayed and stomped for teammates like future NBA players Matt Barnes, Trevor Ariza and Jason Kapono. They discovered the best camera angles in timeout huddles in hopes of appearing on TV after the commercial break.

“They called themselves ‘The S— Crew,'” said Brian Morrison, who played for the Bruins from 2002–05. “They entertained everybody.”

Shortly after entering the Arizona game, Johnson almost got dunked on by future NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. “I remember seeing my life flash before my eyes,” Johnson said. Hawking, too, tried to defend Iguodala. “Please don’t drive to the hoop,” Hawking prayed.

Finding humor at the end of the bench, Johnson, 34, and Hawking, 33, have turned splinters into punchlines, becoming co-creators, executive producers, writers and voice-talents of Comedy Central’s upcoming animated series, “Legends of Chamberlain Heights,” set to premier Sept. 14 after South Park. The show, which features animation by The Simpsons’ Brad Ableson, follows three high-school freshmen, Jamal, Grover and Milk, who are benchwarmers with big dreams.

Believing glory is just a three-pointer away, the trio of misfits try to overcome daily obstacles to live up to the legends they think they are, even if few share their vision.

“At some point in your life, no matter who you are, you’re going to find yourself on the end of the bench. It’s what you do from that point that really defines you and determines the rest of your life,” Johnson said. “We were benchwarmers but we didn’t necessarily feel bad or look down on ourselves. We tried to make ourselves legends however we could.”

Johnson oozed cool. Hawking first spotted him at a UCLA party in the fall of 2001. “Jo had a 40,” said Hawking, whose bleached, spiked-hair and long board and puka-shell necklace made him look more like a skateboarder than a ballplayer. The two became inseparable, partnering for practice drills, roasting each other with below-the-belt jokes, courting cheerleaders and navigating the best Thursday-night parties, since the odds of suiting up the next night were slim.

Hoops ran through their blood. Johnson’s father, Marques, was a five-time NBA All-Star and a member of UCLA’s 1975 championship squad. Johnson’s brother, Kris, helped the Bruins claim a national crown in ’95. Hawking’s father, Bob, coached the Bruins’ all-time leading scorer Don MacLean at Simi Valley High and also coached at Cal State Fullerton. UCLA was a natural choice for both. Well, maybe not for Hawking. “I didn’t really f— with them too much because they wore Reeboks,” Hawking said.

During their UCLA careers, Johnson, a 6′ 8″ forward, averaged 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds from 2001–05 while Hawking, a 6′ 3″ sharpshooter, attempted six total shots, converting a three and a free-throw from 2002-05 (he redshirted his freshman season).

But they puffed their chests out like legends in practice, preparing starters for games on the scout team. The real objective? Humiliate the big-timers, like the time Johnson drained eight treys. “It was the greatest shooting day of my life,” Johnson said. “The starters were getting f—— pissed at me: ‘Stop being a f—— hero.'” (READ FULL STORY HERE).

 

INSIDE J.J. REDICK’S OBSESSIVE QUEST TO MAKE EVERY SHOT HE TAKES

In SB Nation on April 12, 2016 at 11:29 am
Photo courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images

J.J. Redick doesn’t wait. As DeAndre Jordan swats the opening tip to the Clippers, Redick dashes across the baseline as if gold awaits on the other side. Within seconds, he bolts past his defender to knock down a pull-up jump-shot against the Cavaliers on March 13.

“He’s a freak of nature,” said Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson, Redick’s former Magic teammate. “I can’t think of one person that’s in better shape than J.J.”

Redick soon nets nine of L.A’s first 14 points, as he squeezes into the lane for a floater, drills another shot off the dribble and then pops a three in the corner.

Ten years into his NBA career, Redick has evolved into a more dynamic shooter, matching a career-best 16.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists a night. He has a blistering 47.5 percent from three and 47.9 percent from the field as the glue of the playoff-bound Clippers.

That’s because with every shot he releases and every drill he completes, Redick increases expectations for himself. He must exceed his output each time he steps on the floor.

“I think one of my strengths is just being adaptable,” Redick said before a Saturday morning practice at the team’s Playa Vista facility in late March. “I’ve had a lot of different roles in this league. Even within the same organization, year to year, your role can change. I think my mind set is always starting with self responsibility of working to get better and improve myself, but also figuring out each year: how do I help whatever team I’m on win games?”

* * *

Every Sunday afternoon in the offseason is the same for J.J. Redick. The third-year Clipper shuttles across the perimeter at full speed, mandating himself to make 140 spot-up two-pointers and 140 spot-up three-pointers. Specifically, he must make 20 shots at seven different spots on the court, one after the other. Next, imagining a hand in his face, he must make 42 pull-up jumpers off the dribble: 21 to the right, 21 to the left. Draining 20 free throws, the drill stretches to 342 total makes.

Redick, whose offseason routine includes working out six days a week and not traveling after he starts his basketball workouts in mid-July, can be a perfectionist.

“It’s more OCD. I’m pretty obsessive about things,” Redick said. He expects himself to shoot 80 to 90 percent in the Sunday drill, no excuses. “I don’t take a shot unless I expect to make it. I expect to make every shot I take,” Redick said.

While on the Magic, he’d come to practice early to drill all types of shots: floaters, pull-ups, step-backs, moving into each shot as if he were in a real game and he was running wide in transition.

“I remember he would kick the ball across the entire court,” Anderson said. “It would hit the other wall and everybody would look over, and you’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s just J.J. He might’ve missed one out of like 30.’” (READ FULL STORY HERE).