NBA Playoffs Preview The Cavs Down Two Players Are Still Favored Against

Kevin Love’s dislocated shoulder leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers with just two of their “Big Three” for the rest of the playoffs. But the remaining “Big Two” — LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — are probably enough to outlast the Chicago Bulls. FiveThirtyEight’s forecast, which is based on Real Plus-Minus, gives the Cavs a 70 percent likelihood of moving on. The Cavs will also be without J.R. Smith — who was suspended for the first two games of this series after throwing an ill-advised elbow against the Boston Celtics.1These projections assume he plays 20 minutes per game, down from 32 minutes per game this year.The Cavaliers’ offense is spectacular; it ranked third, behind only the Clippers and Warriors, in points per 100 possessions. It is built on shooting a ton of threes — the second-most in the league, as a percentage of total shots — and highly efficient attacking drives to the hoop from James and Irving. The Cavs also excel at offensive rebounding, especially Tristan Thompson, who will play big minutes now that Love is out. Admittedly, it’s still not clear exactly how Cleveland will adjust its rotation. The Bulls are tough and will put up a fight, but the Cavs’ offensive firepower, led by James, will most likely be too much to handle.The Bulls, by contrast, win on defense. Chicago held opponents to the second-lowest shooting percentage in the league. The defense carried them through an inconsistent year from Derrick Rose, who was sidelined with sporadic injuries. Rose, however, showed flashes of brilliance in the first round. And Jimmy Butler is the Bulls’ real star — with a +3.7 Real Plus-Minus rating, he’s the second-best player in this series behind James. Rose and Butler will have to have a transcendent series against a short-handed Cleveland team for the Bulls to have a chance. read more

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Jack Taylor Sets NCAA Record After Scoring 138 Points

Division III Grinnell point guard Jack Taylor, set an NCAA record Tuesday night, scoring 138 points in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible.“I gotta thank the man upstairs,” Taylor told ESPN. “I was able to multiply my talents tonight.”Taylor went 52-for-108 from the field, while shooting 27-for-71 from the 3-point line to establish the new collegiate record.The previous NCAA scoring record was held by Bevo Francis of Rio Grande, who had 113 points against Hillsdale in 1954. In 1953, Francis dropped 116 points against Ashland Junior College. Frank Selvy is only other person to come close to Francis’ record; he scored 100 points while playing at Furman against Newberry.As the 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore entered the locker room at halftime, he was under the assumption that he had managed to drop 30 points in the first half. But coach David Arseneault informed Taylor otherwise, after taking a look at the first half stats.“Coach walked in with a stat sheet and said I had 58,” Taylor said. “You could see the team’s eyes light up.”After the half, Taylor was given the green light to shoot by Arseneault and his teammates to break the record set by Francis. He came out focused and in the zone.“There was a point during the second half where I hit a number of threes in a row — maybe seven or eight — I felt like anything I threw up was going in,” Taylor said. “I’ve been in the zone before but I’ve never taken so many shots.”One of the underlying stories in Taylor’s spectacular performance was Faith Baptist Bible’s David Larson, who scored 70 points on 34-for-44 shooting.Taylor said that their focus was to stop Larson, which they did, but Bible could not stop Taylor.Before entering Tuesday’s game Taylor was in a shooting slump, only making 11 of 41 shots for the season. After taking a “couple hundred” shots before practice on Sunday and Monday, he seemed to have found his stroke.“I was able to, I guess, find my shot again,” Taylor said.Despite receiving the attention for the Pioneers win, he was the ultimate sport by sharing the victory with his teammates. Taylor acknowledged his teammates for being unselfish the whole night.He still has not been able to take in his record breaking performance.“I don’t think it’s settled in yet,” he said. read more

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Little Leaguer Mone Davis Steals Major League Spotlight With

Mo’ne Davis throws the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday prior to a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals. Source: APThat Mo’ne Davis-Clayton Kershaw pitch off? Let’s call it a draw.Mo’ne, the Little League ace from Philadelphia, had confidently challenged Kershaw, the Dodgers ace who is not of this world, to a mysterious “pitch off.” Kershaw didn’t know what that entailed, so he responded by inviting the 13-year-old sensation to visit Los Angeles.A duel never materialized Tuesday night at Chavez Ravine, but the two pitchers showed why they have owned this summer on the mound.Mo’ne handed out autographs, including one to a star struck Yasiel Puig, an outfielder for the Dodgers.Mo’ne threw out the ceremonial first pitch — and fired a dart of a strike, outside corner at the knees. Source: nypost.com read more

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Sacramento Kings Want 63YearOld George Karl As Coach Bypassing

DeMarcus Cousins deserves a young Black coach who is relatableSo, the Sacramento Kings, a team comprised mostly of young Black guys, need a new head coach and they want to hire 63-year-old George Karl, who has been coaching longer than anyone on the team has been playing.Does not seem like a mix that will bring out the best in the team, especially when there are Black young candidates who can relate to the players . . . and who deserve a shot.Karl has been a credible coach over his career, which started in 1984 and has spanned five teams. His .566 winning percentage suggests he was solid, but not an all-time great.So, why the infatuation in bringing him on board and not a talented young mind who could relate to the players and to whom the players could relate?Karl’s impending hire reeks of the stuff we thought we had passed: white owners hiring retread white coaches because they’re white.There’s nothing in what Karl has done that says he should be the choice for the Kings. His sometimes-abrasive style will go over like a Brillo pad with that young roster.The best player, center DeMarcus Cousins, wants no part of Karl and his punitive brand of coaching. In one sense, maybe someone staying on Cousins’ case would make him an even better player. The pervasive thought is that Cousins would go into a shell.Jacques Vaughn, a young Black coach, just lost his job in Orlando for reasons beyond comprehension, actually. The Magic talent level is among the lowest in the league, and yet Vaughn was held responsible for the team’s struggles?Mark Jackson, who was superb with Golden State and unjustly fired, is available. He might not want the job, but Avery Johnson is out there, too. And Mike Brown—Black coaches who have a better chance at reaching the young talent.But Sacramento’s general manager Pete D’Allesandro seems hell bent on Karl.Meanwhile, Cousins’ management team would rather see almost anyone other than Karl, who has a tumultuous past with Cousins’ representatives.George KarlCousins, the franchise player, has not expressed his position on Karl, but he has not been happy since Mark Malone was fired in December.NBCSports.com’s reports that the differences within Cousins’ camp will stop the Kings from signing Karl, if he wants the job. That Karl is in such a position 31 years after his first NBA coaching job is not quite a slap in the face of young Black coaches who deserve another shot. . . but it’s close. read more

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What Happens To Injured NBA Stars Like Paul George

You probably get the general sense for how the chart works — green numbers are good and red ones are bad — but there’s some terminology to sort out:Injured Season refers to the season in which the player was limited to 20 or fewer games because of an injury. This holds even if his actual injury came late in the prior season: For instance, Derrick Rose tore his ACL during the 2011-2012 season’s playoffs, but 2012-13 is listed as his Injured Season because that’s the year he sat out.2The table also excludes Kobe Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon in April 2013, because 2013-14 counts as his Injured Season. The idea is to compare a player’s performance before and after his injury — and Bryant has yet to play his 2014-15 season, his first comeback year.Recovery Rate represents how much of his value the player retained after his injury. It’s calculated by dividing a player’s average WAR in the three seasons after his Injured Season by the three seasons before it. The higher the Recovery Rate the better. I exclude seasons from the average if they haven’t yet occurred3For instance, Kevin Love has yet to play the second and third seasons after his 2012-13 injury. or if the player was not yet in the NBA at the time.4I also exclude Bill Walton’s 1975-76 season because our database does not cover it. However, I include seasons — and list the player as having zero value — if the player was forced into retirement by the injury.This is not a list of every NBA star who suffered a severe injury — for instance, my selection process will tend to miss star players whose injuries came in the middle of a season instead of toward the beginning or the end. So there are some false negatives. But there shouldn’t be any false positives — I screened out players who missed time due to illness, suspension, a retirement not forced by injury, or some other reason.5There are some ambiguous cases about whether players retired because of injury or other reasons. The general principle is that retirement counts as voluntary if the player retired without an acute injury, even if he had some chronic injury problems. For instance, Larry Bird was healthy enough to play in the 1992 NBA playoffs and the 1992 Olympic Games before announcing his retirement later that summer. Although Bird had chronic back problems, I do not consider his retirement to be because of injury. Charles Barkley’s retirement, however, was largely because of an acute knee injury that he suffered in December 1999. All these players were producing at an All-Star level at the time of their injuries.It’s a noisy set of examples. Six of the 25 players, like Jordan and Webber, had Recovery Rates above 100 percent, which means that they were actually better after their injuries than before. Another six, like Arenas and Yao Ming, had Recovery Rates of 10 percent or below, meaning that they lost almost all their value (although some, like Grant Hill, recovered to be productive role players later in their careers).The average Recovery Rate is just 55 percent, meaning that the typical player was only about half as good after his injury as beforehand. But that paints too pessimistic a picture for George and the Pacers.The reason is that there’s a correlation between Recovery Rate and age. With some exceptions, the players who returned to have productive careers after their injuries were young at the time they got hurt, while the ones who didn’t were in the middle to late stage of their careers:George recently turned 24. The regression line in the chart above implies that the average player who is injured at that age will come back to be 75 percent to 80 percent as productive as he was before. If George came back at 75 percent to 80 percent of his former self, that would not be such a bad outcome for the Pacers. Between 2011-12 and 2013-14, George was worth an average of 11 wins per season; 80 percent of that would make him a 9-win player instead between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the last three guaranteed years of his contract. Wins above replacement in the NBA are worth about $3 million a pop, so that means he’d be producing $27 million worth of value per season for the Pacers — on a contract that will pay him about $18 million per year instead.But we haven’t accounted for how George would project if he hadn’t been hurt. For that matter, we haven’t compared our injured stars against a control group of other All-Star-caliber NBA players.Take David Robinson, who missed almost all of the 1996-97 season with a back injury.6Conveniently enough, this helped allow the Spurs into the draft lottery, where they snagged Tim Duncan. His Recovery Rate is calculated at 65 percent, which implies that he lost something after returning from the injury. But Robinson was already 31 years old at the time — most basketball players are in decline at that age even if they stay relatively healthy. Was Robinson’s decline worse than what we would have expected without the injury?That’s the calculation I’ve made in the chart below. It compares the Recovery Rate for injured stars against the same calculation for all NBA players who had a 7.5 WAR season, whether or not they got hurt the next year.7The calculation of the Recovery Rate for the healthy players otherwise follows the same procedure as for the injured players. For example, take a player who produced 12.2 wins in 2003-04; he qualifies for the control group. To calculate his Recovery Rate, I compare how he performed in the three seasons from 2001-02 through 2003-04 against the three seasons from 2005-06 through 2007-08. What happened to 2004-05? We ignore it because that year would be considered the player’s Injury Season had he been hurt. Sports fans have selective memories. Most of us NBA geeks know that Bernard King, the former New York Knicks forward, was never the same after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in a 1985 game. We remember that Grant Hill’s ankle injury in 2000 permanently dimmed his star status, and that Gilbert Arenas’s career went into a downward spiral after he blew out his knee in 2007.But we forget the cases where a serious injury was just a footnote to a long career. Mark Price, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard, tore his ACL early in the 1990-91 season and was out most of the year. He returned to make the NBA All-Star team in each of his next three seasons. A shoulder injury, and eventual shoulder surgery, cost Chris Webber more than a season’s worth of games between 1994-95 and 1995-96, but he wound up as a borderline Hall of Famer. Michael Jordan broke his foot in his second NBA season, missing 64 games in 1985-86. His career turned out pretty well.If we want to get a better sense of the future of Paul George, the Indiana Pacers star who fractured his right leg while scrimmaging with Team USA last week, we need a more comprehensive way of identifying star players who got hurt. I searched our NBA database for players since 1976-77 to whom the following happened:First, the player had an All-Star-caliber season. I define this as a player worth at least 7.5 wins above replacement (WAR) as based on statistical plus-minus (see more about that statistic here). There are about 25 players who meet this threshold each year in the NBA, about as many as make one of the league All-Star teams.Then, the next season, he played in 20 or fewer games for reasons having principally to do with his injury.Price, for instance, produced 9.7 wins in 1989-90 then played in just 16 games in 1990-91, so he qualifies. So do 24 other players, counting the oft-injured Anfernee Hardaway twice. Those players are listed in the chart below, which tracks how their careers progressed before and after their injuries.1In screening the players, I prorated wins and games-played totals to 82 games for seasons shortened by a labor dispute. In Robinson’s case, a player at his age would typically retain 60 percent of his value. Robinson retained 65 percent instead. The injury didn’t really have any lasting effects; Robinson resumed a typical aging curve after missing most of 1996-97.This also tells us a more nuanced story about George. It’s not that young players like him recover better from injury so much as that they were on more of an upward trajectory to begin with. In fact, the two lines in the chart are almost parallel. That implies the impact of a severe injury is fairly constant regardless of a player’s age. More specifically, it reduces his long-term value by 30 percent, on average. George is projected to be about 80 percent as good as he was before his injury. But if he hadn’t gotten hurt, he’d project to be about 110 percent as good as he was instead.8That would make him about a 12-win player from 2015-16 through 2017-18, worth about $36 million per season in market value.In other words, young players can suffer a setback and still be very good. A player who was already in decline and then suffers a serious injury often has too much working against him.But each of these outcomes describes an average — and there’s a huge amount of variation around those averages. It’s entirely plausible that George will never again be a productive player in the NBA. And it’s entirely plausible that he’ll come back even better than before. Perhaps in April 2017 Zach Lowe will be writing about how George was forced to become a better spot-up shooter while his mobility was limited after his initial return from injury — but then his quickness came back, making him a more multidimensional player than before. Here’s hoping that 10 years from now the injury won’t be the first thing we think about when we think about Paul George. read more

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Hot Takedown An Emergency Discussion About Kentuckys Loss Live From Our Hotel

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Nate Silver, Jody Avirgan and Chadwick Matlin Links to a couple things we discuss in this episode are below. We’ll be back with another Hot Takedown with our usual crew — Neil, Kate, Allison and Chad — on Tuesday.Benjamin Morris found the moment Kentucky came closest to an undefeated season, and the moment it all fell apart.Ken Pomeroy’s ratings for the final two teams.FiveThirtyEight’s continually updated March Madness predictions. Embed Code Welcome to an emergency edition of Hot Takedown, our podcast where, usually, the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. This episode, though, is different. A few FiveThirtyEighters were in Indianapolis to see Wisconsin beat Kentucky live from inside Lucas Oil stadium last night. We were so thrilled by the game that we had to gather in Jody’s hotel room to talk about it; and Nate Silver was so disappointed with John Calipari he had to get some coaching tips off his chest.Stream the episode by clicking play above, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients below. If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. read more

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Theres An 85 Percent Chance The Cubs Wont Win The World Series

That means there’s still an 85 percent chance that the Cubs won’t win it all. There are plenty of difference-making free agents that could help shift the odds back toward Chicago’s rivals before opening day, and the team still plays in the NL’s toughest division (it may be comforting for Cubs fans to know that according to SRS, the NL Central is still weaker than every AL division — or it may not). But for now, the Cubs are MLB’s best team — on paper, at least. It’s been a good week for the Chicago Cubs. On Tuesday, they swooped into the bidding on coveted second baseman Ben Zobrist and inked him to a four-year, $56 million deal. Then on Friday, news came that the Cubs had also agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract with outfielder Jason Heyward, likely the best player on the free-agent market this winter. In conjunction with Chicago’s existing stable of young talent, the additions of Heyward and Zobrist have at least one well-known algorithm projecting them to be the best team in baseball next season.It wasn’t long ago that we wrote enthusiastically about the Cubs’ chances to snap their 108-year championship drought, only to see them swept in the NLCS. We don’t (completely) want to put the stink on them again, so we’ll be brief. FanGraphs’ depth charts call for Chicago’s roster to produce a collective 52.6 wins above replacement (WAR) in 2016. After adjusting things so that all of MLB has 2,430 total wins,181 wins per team for 30 teams. that roughly works out to a true-talent projection of 99 wins for the Cubs — a ridiculously high number.What does it mean for Chicago’s chances of breaking The Curse? According to the relationship between talent forecasts and World Series odds, which FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver and I researched for a trade-deadline article earlier this year, a team with 99-win talent will win a championship about 15 percent of the time: read more

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The Cavs Shooting Went To Hell In Game 1

In particular, Cleveland’s postseason offense was off the charts. Before Thursday’s game, the Cavs had been scoring 14.8 more points per 100 possessions than would have been expected from an average NBA team against the same slate of playoff opponents. No other team was even close to that level of offensive execution — the second-best playoff offense belonged to the Oklahoma City Thunder, at +5.8; the difference between Cleveland and OKC was roughly the same as the difference between OKC and the 12th-ranked Dallas Mavericks.The Cavs protected the ball pretty well and did a good job on the offensive glass, but the main component of their prodigious scoring output was a spell of outrageous shooting accuracy. And that’s what the Warriors’ defense short-circuited when Golden State defeated Cleveland in the Finals opener Thursday night.Before the Finals, Cleveland had been earning reasonably good looks at the basket — defined by quantified shot quality (qSQ), a metric that tracks the “difficulty” of every shot based on its location and other variables. But the Cavs’ greatest postseason edge had been in shot-making, aka quantified shooter impact (qSI): knocking down even more shots — as measured by effective field goal percentage (eFG%) — than would be expected from their baseline qSQ. And the Cavs’ shooters only seemed to be gaining steam; their two best qSI performances of the postseason came in the two closing games of the Eastern Conference finals. Going into the Finals, no team was even close to Cleveland’s +5.1 postseason qSI.In Game 1 against Golden State, however, Cleveland’s shooting was way off the mark. According to qSQ, the quality of the Cavs’ looks was practically identical to what it had been throughout the playoffs,2In fact, Cleveland’s qSQ in Game 1 was a tenth of a point higher. but the team’s (eFG%) was a staggering 14.2 points lower than it had been in the rest of the playoffs. In terms of qSI, Game 1 was Cleveland’s worst shot-making performance of the postseason, with the Cavs’ top four shooters — Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson — combining to shoot for an eFG% nearly 8 percentage points below expected.(Put another way, if we take qSI at face value, that 8-point shortfall means the errant shooting by that quartet cost the Cavs about 11 points. Overall, Cleveland’s poor qSI left about 14.5 total points on the table — in a game that it ultimately lost by 15.)The result was Cleveland’s second-worst offensive performance of the postseason (according to points above average per 100 possessions, which adjusts for strength of schedule) and only its second below-average offensive game: The only outing that ranked worse was the Cavs’ loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the conference finals, and that performance came in a relatively low-leverage situation: Cleveland was up 2-0 in a series it was heavily favored to win. By contrast, after Thursday’s game, our playoff simulations give the Cavaliers a paltry 21 percent probability of winning the championship.If Cleveland beats those odds, it will probably involve a return to its hot-shooting ways. And the good news is that shot-making is pretty variable from game to game, so the Cavs could very well bounce back in Game 2. But there’s no denying that Game 1 was the stuff of nightmares for Cleveland and its fans: The Warriors neutralized the weapon that had carried Cleveland this deep into the playoffs.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Before facing the defending champion Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers had at least one thing going for them: a sterling postseason résumé. Although their hopes of a fo’-fo’-fo’-fo’ were dashed in the conference finals, the Cavs cruised through the playoffs in only two more games than the minimum, compiling metrics along the way that helped Cleveland stand head and shoulders above the pack — even after accounting1Using schedule-adjusted per-possession ratings like I did here. for the weakness of the Eastern Conference: read more

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The NFL Is No League For Old Men

Miami6 Carolina6 Arizona8 You could hardly find a group of people less likely to share an ethos with the counterculture movement of the 1960s than NFL decision makers. But increasingly, they don’t seem to trust anyone over the age of 30, either.In 2007, there were 201 players — not including kickers and punters — over 30 who started at least eight games, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.1Pro-Football-Reference.com gives a player’s age for the season as the age he was on Dec. 31 of that season. That number was down to 133 last season, equating to roughly four per team. That’s a drop of 33.8 percent. Buffalo6 Could there be a market inefficiency in older players today, similar to the one that Allen exploited nearly 50 years ago? It seems like Jon Gruden is determined to find out. Last year, the Raiders had eight 30-something starters, tied with Arizona for the league high. A total of six — safety Reggie Nelson, tackle Donald Penn, running back Marshawn Lynch, tight ends Jared Cook and Lee Smith, and defensive end Bruce Irvin — remain. And the team has added linebacker Derrick Johnson (36 this year), safety Marcus Gilchrist (30) and wideout Jordy Nelson (33) as projected starters. Plus, the team signed 32-year-old Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last week to fortify an injury-depleted defensive backfield. Gruden was surprised that he was even available.“Somebody that has a history in this league,” the Raiders coach said to The Fresno Bee. “He’s got a lot of clout, and a lot of people know who he is. We’re hoping we can rejuvenate him and get him acclimated to our defense and potentially utilize his skills he’s proven for a long time.”So it seems like the Raiders are set to put a lot more gray into the Silver and Black. For that, in today’s NFL, they don’t have much competition. Roster construction appears to be a big factor. Last year, the eight division winners spent an average of 52.1 percent of their total salary cap on their top 10 players.2The Saints spent the lowest share on their best players at 42.4 percent, but that was due largely to one of the most productive rookie classes in history. And players on rookie contracts, which span up to five years when including option years for first-rounders, are huge bargains relative to their level of on-field production. That left only about half the available money for 80 percent of those teams’ rosters. This would mean that a lot of minimum contracts are being used to fill in the gaps — and because minimum salaries increase according to service time, only the elite 30-somethings may be surviving.This isn’t necessarily the wrong strategy. Once they hit 30, average players are either in the midst of or rapidly approaching the downside of their careers. Data shows that players at all positions generally see performance declines by age 30, with players’ peak ages ranging from 24 for running backs to 28 for most offensive linemen and quarterbacks. The subsequent declines are gradual from year to year, but the result is pronounced for all positions. So teams seem to be prioritizing younger players who are hitting their peak or ascending at the expense of veterans.There are certainly high-profile examples of older players still at the top of their game. But even the New England Patriots, who have been witness to the age-defying brilliance of 41-year-old Tom Brady, haven’t stockpiled older players. Brady was joined by only three other Pats players 30 or older who started at least eight games last year: Danny Amendola, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty. And the Patriots let Amendola leave via free agency to the Dolphins.Teams in the past have bucked this trend, though. The George Allen-coached Washington teams in the 1970s were nicknamed “The Over-The-Hill Gang” after they systematically traded draft picks for veterans. In 1971, the average age of Allen’s starters was 29.4, and the team had 11 starters over the age of 30. But Washington won nine games that season and 11 the following year, in which they regularly started nine 30-somethings en route to the NFC championship. Baltimore7 Teams that had the most players age 30 or older who started at least eight games last season TeamNo. Players Age 30+ Cincinnati7 Oakland8 Excludes kickers and puntersSource: Pro-Football-Reference.com read more

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Dotting the i Dontre Wilson not 100 percent yet shining in senior

OSU senior H-back Dontre Wilson (2) makes a second half catch despite the efforts of Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun (56) during the second half of the Buckeyes game against the Badgers on Oct. 15. The Buckeyes won 30-23 in overtime. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorWith under six minutes left and down 23-20 to Wisconsin, Ohio State redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett was staring down a 2nd-and-11 from OSU’s 32-yard line. When the Buckeyes need a play, it’s usually either Barrett, junior H-back Curtis Samuel or redshirt sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown who gets the ball. This time, it wasn’t any of them.Senior H-back Dontre Wilson was matched up against Wisconsin redshirt freshman linebacker Zack Baun. Barrett stood in the pocket, checking off his receivers before he saw Wilson turn a button hook into a go route down the sideline. Wilson hauled it in for 43 yards, which ultimately set up the game-tying field goal before OSU won 30-23 in overtime.After nearly giving away a muffed punt earlier in the game, Wilson recovered to give OSU a chance to win the game.When the team went into the locker room after the victory, Wilson was called upon to stand up in front of the team in recognition of his play. The message was simple. He told the team he was grateful for what had just occurred, but that game was not the goal for OSU.“It wasn’t about me at that moment. It’s a team effort,” Wilson said on Monday. “Even though I made that play, it’s still a big team effort. It wasn’t about me, it was about the team.”For Wilson, that play was as significant as any in his career in Columbus. It was even more significant given that he still has not recovered from his broken foot suffered against Michigan State during his sophomore year in 2014.Over the offseason, Wilson said he went to the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon to have a pair of cleats custom-made for him. Wilson’s cleats are wider than the team-distributed ones, and limit the pain on his foot. OSU coach Urban Meyer said during Monday’s press conference that Wilson still wasn’t quite 100 percent and often doesn’t practice early in the week. Wilson told the media he’s probably about 95 percent, but it’s certainly something he feels out on the field.“When you break a foot, it’s tough, especially a skilled athlete,” Meyer said. “I just love his unselfish approach right now, and the fact he made a play to help us go win a game. He flipped the ball to the official, went back, and almost made another great one to help us. I like where he’s at, and he’s a team player that’s doing the best he can.”For an athlete such as Wilson, a broken foot is not only a physical obstacle, but a mental barrier. Any athlete at OSU will tell you that it’s easy to get frustrated or get down on yourself, however for Wilson, it was much more than a little adversity.“When I first had my injury, I was going through a lot,” Wilson said. “I was going through some stuff with my mother and I had just had my child two days after my injury. I was going through a lot, man. I was real frustrated.” As he stood in a walking boot and crutches on the sideline watching his teammates win a national championship, Wilson said he took that as a sign from God that better days were ahead.Heading into the remaining half of his final season of college football, Wilson is enjoying his most successful season yet. He already has a career-high five total touchdowns (four receiving, one rushing), has accumulated 16 catches for 232 yards and has run the ball 12 times for 75 yards. He is on track to shatter his career mark of receptions and receiving yards in a season.What has enabled Wilson to be a high-impact player is his maturity through his injury. Barrett said he doesn’t see Wilson get frustrated any more than any other receiver. He just fits right in.“It’s almost like we overlook one or the other between Dontre and Curtis. They’re one and the same,” Barrett said. “They’re both dynamic players that do a lot for our offense that create mismatches with linebacker and get up on the safeties and make guys miss all over the field.”Saturday’s game against Penn State will be another difficult test for the Buckeyes, given an environment that Wilson said is the most impressive he has seen as a player. Lingering foot injury, or no injury, Wilson is doing what he can to make the most of his senior season.“I always tell myself I’m going to take it week by week and day by day,” he said. “(I’m) using all of the resources I can for the final games and final months here.” read more

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