first_img23 August 2004Call him crazy, but Johannesburg businessman Bob Thornley plans to sit on top of a pole next to a water hole in the Kruger National Park for two weeks – and wait for the unexpected to happen – in order to raise money to send underprivileged children to bush school in SA’s most famous game reserve.The idea of being exposed to wild animals and the unknown element of what may happen next appeals to Thornley, the owner of a company that specialises in corporate and specialist conferences and events.Up the Pole: on the Web – Check in on Thornley’s 14-day diary, see his latest pics from the pole, send him a message of support, subscribe to receive e-mail updates, make a donation to the Operation Bushbaby School, find out more.From 28 August to 11 September, Thornley will perch on a specially constructed 4-metre high platform next to a waterhole near the Lower Sabie Camp area called “Die Ou Boomhuis” (The Old Tree House).The site, used by park officials many years ago to observe wildlife in its natural environment, was chosen both for its isolation from park visitors and because an existing scout vehicle track means that no unnecessary vehicle “footprints” will be left behind.The four-by-four-metre platform is supported by a reinforced steel pole and features three solar panels to power Thornley’s laptop computer, battery chargers and small fridge, and car headlamps mounted under the platform “should the need arise to use light at night to film certain activity”.And when nature calls? “It will either be a portable caravan toilet with interchangeable base sections, or a PVC pipe will be inserted down the main support pole that is filled with chemicals”, said platform designer Rob Kennedy, CEO of Omnistruct. Kennedy designed the structure to allow for minimally invasive set-up and removal – and to stand up to 14 days among the Kruger Park’s “Big Five”.“Our biggest threat to this structure is elephant and rhino”, Kennedy said while working on his creation. “For this reason we have to double up on the amount of reinforcing and foundations. There are no written guidelines in the engineering manuals as this has never been attempted before.”Visitors will be allowed to visit the site twice a day. A 22-seater vehicle under the guidance of a game ranger will transport visitors to the site to speak to Thornley and get first-hand information on the project.An Operation Bushbaby office will be stationed at the Lower Sabie Camp, where visitors can speak to Thornley’s support team and make bookings to visit the site.South African National Parks (SANParks) has sanctioned the project, which will enable children from a number of disadvantaged communities to attend a three-day bush leadership and educational programme dubbed Operation Bushbaby.Kruger Park’s people and conservation department hope to build on this by developing a permanent bush leadership school in the park.Thornley is no stranger to ambitious, unusual projects. On 26 May 1982, together with friend Colin Hall, Thornley staged a project called “A Day In The Life of South Africa”, inviting anyone with a camera to capture the ethos of South Africa on that specific day. The resulting book sold 30 000 copies, with all proceeds going to the SA National Council for The Blind.“It’s about affording underprivileged and homeless children the opportunity to experience the wild”, Thornley says of his new venture.“I am going to sit on a platform, on a pole, at a secluded waterhole in the Kruger National Park for 14 days and wait for the unexpected to happen – as it often does in the bushveld. Should anything happen, I want to share it with South Africa and the rest of the world.”Asked what’s in it for him, Thornley responds: “Fourteen days of extreme wildlife pleasure and a personal goal achieved … Operation Bushbaby will belong to South Africa and will always be owned by the children in perpetuity.“I imagine sending thousands of deprived children to the Kruger National Park to provide them with a wildlife as well as an educational experience they could never otherwise afford.“Before, during and after this event, I am going to approach society … with my cap in hand and ask them to make a contribution to the children of South Africa.”And when it’s done, says Thornley, look out for another publication, going by the title: “South Africa’s Finest Coffee Table Book Ever”.SouthAfrica.info reporterlast_img read more


first_imgRavi ShastriNewly-appointed director of the Indian cricket team Ravi Shastri refuted suggestions that his role would undermine the position of beleaguered coach Duncan Fletcher.Shastri was appointed Team Director after India were defeated in the fifth and final Test against England in under three days and lost the five-Test series 1-3.”My role is to oversee everything. All of them report to me. This is for the ODI series in England,” Shastri told ‘ESPNCricinfo’.Asked if his position would affect Fletcher’s stature, Shastri said, “Absolutely not. He stays as the head coach. And these two (Sanjay Bangar and B Arun) will be his assistants.”Shastri said he took up this assignment as he wanted to contribute to the team.”It was an important time in Indian cricket. When asked I thought about it and then said, ‘fine’. The state of Indian cricket is such that I know I can contribute. I have never been scared about how tough the job is or how easy the job is.”The important thing is the contribution.”If I am here today, and at times some forget, it is because of the BCCI. The platform they gave me when I was a junior cricketer to play for my state and then the country,” he said.On whether he has had a word with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Fletcher after his appointment, Shastri said, “I spent about two hours with them (on Tuesday). We had a chat about where things are at the moment, how things have to be addressed, and how important communication will be.”advertisementAsked what he felt were the reasons for India’s failure in the Test series, Shastri said it was inexperience.”If you calculate the number of Test matches played by the XI as opposed to some of the tours where we fared worse, here we at least won a Test match.””We did not win a Test in 1974 (3-0) and were whitewashed on the last tour here with some of the biggest names (in the team). So if you calculate the number of Test caps between this unit and some of the other units that have come (in the past), it is chalk and cheese,” he explained.”On this tour I saw India’s greatest ever overseas win I have seen. I know it because I have never seen a track like that and with this kind of inexperienced side for them to pull it off. Then I also saw some spineless cricket over the last three Tests matches.”last_img read more


first_imgTagsTransfersOpinionAbout the authorChris BeattieShare the loveHave your say Lucky Liverpool? Yeah – and they deserve it Leno, Mourinhoby Chris Beattie10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveCOMMENT: Bernd Leno was doing his best Jose Mourinho impersonation in the aftermath of Liverpool’s trouncing of Arsenal on Saturday…The goals – all five of ’em – were “unlucky”, claimed the Gunners goalkeeper. And the foul for Mohamed Salah’s penalty debatable. Fortune was simply with the hosts on the day.And to be fair, you can understand Leno’s reasoning. Another day. Another ref. And Sadio Mane is shown red for grabbing Stephan Lichtsteiner around the throat early doors. With Arsenal still in touching distance after halftime, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn’t missing from under Alisson’s crossbar. And just as Mourinho had complained a fortnight ago before losing his job at Manchester United. Liverpool’s goals in both games were full of ricochets. Deflections.But what was also common over the two games was how through sheer force of will, Liverpool managed to find those goals. Yeah, they were lucky. But they made that luck themselves. Driving forward. Attack. Attack. Attack. There’s nothing subtle about Jurgen Klopp’s team at the minute. Nothing measured. They go at it at 110%. And what tends to happen to people – to teams – who behave like that, they end up being luckier than most. The more shots. The more waves of attacks. The more chances you have of scoring.Okay, okay. Itis a bit more sophisticated than that. But Liverpool are not nine points clear at the top of the table for second guessing themselves. For holding back. Something has clicked these past 18 months. That drive. That passion we see on the pitch. It’s reflective of what has been occurring inside the boardroom – whether that be at Anfield or in Boston. And that approach is being rewarded in spades.While others held back – including Manchester City and Khaldoon al-Mubarak – Liverpool paid what was needed to ferry Virgil van Dijk away from Southampton. Another board. Another know-it-all exec. And Klopp would’ve been told to cool his jets. To make do with Joel Matip. But not FSG.When others – including an England captain – spoke against adding Xherdan Shaqiri to his squad. Klopp backed his judgment. Was supported by his transfer committee. And rolled the dice. Alisson Becker? Andrew Robertson? None were deals celebrated unanimously by those inside the game. But the manager – and the club – never hesitated.For the moment, everything they touch is turning to gold. But the differences is, this club. And these players. They’re not holding back waiting – hoping – for it to all fall in place. They’re out there. Making it happen. Yeah, fortune appears to be with Liverpool, but only because they’re willing to fight for it.So now they’re three wins clear at the summit. But there is a qualifier. There has to be at the midway stage of the season. But it’s a qualifier that is part tribute to what Klopp and Liverpool have managed to do in recent weeks.It was only a month ago and many were saying how far City? And not just this season. But in terms of an era. A Blue dynasty. They appeared unstoppable. Untouchable. Yet now, Pep Guardiola’s lot are more concerned about second place and Tottenham than keeping in touch with the runaway Reds.City haven’t suddenly turned from champions to chumps. But it’s a tribute to the work of Liverpool that a team some were declaring the greatest seen in English football are now eating their dust.Liverpool haven’t benefitted from City being dragged back down. They’ve taken their standards to a new level – and City are now having to find it within them to catch up. And they surelywill come again. A returning Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne and Benjamin Mendy will make sure of that. And then the onus will be thrown back on Liverpool to find another gear – something which Klopp has always insisted is well within them.Guardiola threw it out there last week. ‘It’s far easier being the hunter than the hunted’, he declared. A warning which fell flat on it’s face after Saturday’s Anfield performance.The City manager must know, it’s going to take much more than a generic throwaway line to force this Liverpool team off their stride. There justis something about them this season.Witness Mo Salah’s gesture. On a day when Aboubakar Kamara is being slated by his manager and fans for his behaviour around a Fulham spotkick. Salah does the opposite. A Golden Boot. A goals bonus. He sacrificed it all. And won praise from Klopp after giving up his penalty for Roberto Firmino to complete his hat-trick. That’s something no amount of spending can buy.Leno. Mourinho. Yeah, they can point to lucky moments in games. But you don’t haul in today’s Manchester City team on good fortune. Liverpool have made their own luck. And the standard to beat. It’s now up to the rest in 2019 to catch up.last_img read more


first_imgBournemouth boss Howe admits injury crisis likely to lead to new signingsby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveBournemouth boss Eddie Howe admits he could be forced into the January market for a new defensive signing.Bournemouth may need to make transfer window moves if Nathan Ake’s injury is a problem.The Dutch defender suffered a hamstring issue at Old Trafford and was withdrawn during the 4-1 defeat.Out of form Bournemouth are already without Simon Francis, Lewis Cook, Dan Gosling and Adam Smith due to knee problems.“I need to speak to Nathan and the medical team but it looked like a hamstring concern,” said Howe. TagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img


first_imgMatthijs de Ligt now feeling settled at Juventusby Carlos Volcano23 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveMatthijs de Ligt now feels settled at Juventus.Juve splashed out €75m to sign De Ligt from Ajax over the summer.“I’m getting used to how the lads play. Beating Bayer was good,” he told Veronica after yesterday’s 3-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.“Right now, things are going well. I was Ajax’s captain and there I was able to have my say, whereas here I had to find my place. Now I feel like I’ve found it and I’m happy about it.“Italy is known as a country with defensive teams, but the trend is changing: just look at how high they defend.“We have a new Coach and I’m not the only one who has yet to adapt. Unfortunately, I started badly, but it’s about improving every day and every game.“It’s what I’m doing and it’s going well.” About the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more


first_imgESPN College Football Playoff top 2015.ESPNWe’re now less than two months away from the start of the 2016 college football season. Get excited, people. In anticipation of the start of the upcoming season, let’s take a look at what ESPN’s preseason top 25 looks like. Can anyone but the defending national champions be No. 1? Nope. ESPN has the Crimson Tide at No. 1 heading into the season. Do they have it right?Here’s the full top 25.  Will Alabama get some more rings this season?Will Alabama get some more rings this season? 1. Alabama 2. Clemson 3. Michigan 4. Florida State 5. Oklahoma 6. LSU 7. Stanford 8. Notre Dame 9. Ohio State 10. Tennessee 11. USC 12. Georgia 13. Ole Miss 14. Oklahoma State 15. Michigan State 16. Washington  17. Houston 18. North Carolina 19. Oregon 20. TCU 21. Texas A&M 22. UCLA 23. Iowa 24. Miami 25. Louisville[ESPN]last_img read more


first_imgStory Highlights Mr. Henry informed JIS News following a meeting with Mr. Wang that among the areas being examined is expansion of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the Logistics Hub Initiative. The Government will host the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Wang Jiangping, from June 20 to 22.During his stay, Mr. Wang will meet with a number of Government Ministers.Mr. Wang was met at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) by Minister without Portfolio in the Economic Growth and Job Creation Ministry, Hon. Mike Henry, on June 20.Mr. Henry informed JIS News following a meeting with Mr. Wang that among the areas being examined is expansion of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the Logistics Hub Initiative.SEZs create a specifically delineated location that is governed separately by the customs and tax regimes of the country, and is intended to provide targeted incentives and services to encourage investments in Jamaica’s logistics-based industries.Having a modern SEZ for Jamaica would result in greater investments (both domestic and foreign), increased employment and economic growth for the country.Mr. Henry, whose major responsibility surrounds SEZs, said the visit “is very important as we (prepare) ourselves for the development of the belt and road structure that relates to the creation of a logistics hub”.“The interest of expanding China’s position (is important to them) and they recognise that we are the most positioned country in terms of moving goods and services,” he said.“The development of economic zones is open to all investors from all over the world. I am inviting Jamaican investors to invest in the cluster of businesses,” he said. During his stay, Mr. Wang will meet with a number of Government Ministers. The Government will host the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Wang Jiangping, from June 20 to 22. last_img read more


Three weeks ago, the Denver Broncos looked like an easy choice for the NFL’s best team after back-to-back impressive wins: a 42-17 thumping of the San Francisco 49ers (then the third-ranked team in our Elo ratings), followed by a 35-21 victory over the then-seventh-ranked San Diego Chargers. Since then, however, Denver has arguably been the coldest team in the league. Or at least, nobody has shed more points off of their Elo rating since the end of Week 8 than the Broncos (although the Carolina Panthers certainly seem to be trying their best to match Denver’s skid).Denver’s record over that span — one win, two losses — hasn’t necessarily been its entire undoing. Unlike some of the other more frigid teams across the league, the Broncos have at least won a game in November. (Not to pick on Carolina again, but the Panthers haven’t won since the first week of October.) But the Broncos were also expected to win more — the pregame Elo ratings generated an expectation of 2.1 wins over their past three games. Our Elo point spreads figured Denver would take care of its November opponents by a collective 19.5 points; instead, the team has posted a -13 point differential.The most damaging game of the Broncos’ season thus far was their most recent one, when they were upset by the St. Louis Rams. Losing 22-7 despite being favored by 6.5 points, the defeat cost Denver 43 points of Elo rating, the fifth-most Elo points any team has relinquished in a single game so far this season. (If you’re curious, the Cleveland Browns’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals ranks first in that department.) It also dropped the Broncos to fourth place in the current rankings, the lowest they’ve sat since right after they were shellacked by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in February.But all is not lost for the Broncos — in fact, from a making-the-playoffs perspective, hardly anything was lost. Although the losses to the New England Patriots and St. Louis were costly to the team’s chances of locking up one of the AFC’s top two seeds (and therefore a first-round playoff bye) and even of winning the AFC West (the Kansas City Chiefs are in hot pursuit), they were not particularly damaging to its postseason probability. The Broncos’ chances of making the playoffs have only declined from a practical certainty (96 percent) to a matter of high likelihood (85 percent) during the skid. And Denver still has the league’s third-best chance of winning the Super Bowl. So, despite the team’s recent lapses, fans can probably R-E-L-A-X.The bigger playoff concerns belong to Denver’s Super Bowl opponents a season ago: the Seahawks.Before Week 8, we said the league’s defending champions were suddenly underdogs to return to the postseason … upon which the Seahawks promptly rattled off three consecutive victories, increasing their playoff odds to 61 percent. But on the heels of a loss in Kansas City, here we are again; our Elo simulations say the Seahawks have only a 47 percent probability of returning to the playoffs.The 49ers, who bested the New York Giants last week, were clear beneficiaries of Seattle’s loss, tacking 14 percentage points onto their playoff probability as the Seahawks lost precisely the same amount from theirs. It was a fitting zero-sum transaction for last year’s NFC Championship Game contestants. At the start of the season, the NFC West was supposed to go to the Seahawks or the 49ers, with the runner-up at least being favorites to grab a wild card berth. But nobody counted on the Arizona Cardinals building on their surprising 2013 success and emerging as the division front-runners, the reality of which could leave either Seattle or San Francisco (or both?) out of the playoffs.As Arizona increasingly runs away with the West (Elo gives the Cardinals an 80 percent chance of winning the division, granting that it doesn’t take Carson Palmer’s injury into account), it has become apparent that the Seahawks’ and 49ers’ only path to the playoffs might lead through one of the NFC’s two wild card slots. While our simulations say there’s a 72 percent probability that at least one NFC West team earns a wild card berth, there’s only a 32 percent chance that both wild cards emerge from the division. Most likely, one of the West runners-up will be left out — a fate that befalls Seattle in a slightly higher proportion of simulations than it does San Francisco.Elo point spreadsRecord against point spread: 76-72-3 (6-5 in Week 11)Straight-up record: 111-49-1 (8-6 in Week 11)The Elo ratings again had a winning record against the gambling lines last week, but as we caution in every edition of this column, don’t take these numbers to Vegas and use them to place bets. Even in a lucky year, Elo hasn’t done well enough to turn a profit after the bookies take their vigorish.At any rate, Elo seems to have a difference of opinion than Vegas when it comes to the aforementioned NFC West race. The consensus spread on this weekend’s big Arizona-Seattle tilt has Seattle favored by 6.5 points, while Elo only considers the Seahawks two-point favorites. Much of this probably stems from Seattle’s formidable home-field advantage, which is several points per game greater than the generic 2.6-point edge Elo gives home teams. But Vegas also rates Arizona much lower than Elo does — and that was true even before Palmer’s injury. The bookmakers are probably accounting for the Cardinals’ relatively unimpressive peripheral indicators, figuring their performance will come back down to earth.Vegas also seems to devalue San Francisco relative to its Elo rating. Elo ranks the 49ers fifth, but their implied rating from the betting lines places them 11th in the league. This explains why, against a dreadful Washington team, San Francisco is favored by nine points instead of the two-touchdown edge Elo would predict.Meanwhile, Vegas holds the Green Bay Packers in much higher regard than Elo does. While Elo ranks the Packers sixth in the NFL and has boosted their standing more over the past three weeks than all but three teams, the oddsmakers list them as 9.5-point road favorites against the Minnesota Vikings this week. Elo gives them a four-point advantage. That 5.5-point discrepancy is the biggest for any spread in Week 12, so it will be interesting to see whether the relatively high “K-factor” Vegas seems to be assigning to Green Bay’s recent dominance (to put it in Elo-equation terms) is appropriate. read more


If you want to talk about the really good guy who’s not in the tournamentMarkelle FultzFreshman PG, 6-foot-4, WashingtonFultz’s Huskies won’t be in the tournament, but he may come up in draft conversations just the same. Like Ball, Fultz is a stand-out point guard prospect. But while Ball’s offense comes from all over, Fultz was at his best in pick-and-roll, where he has scored 101 points per 100 plays — among the best in the nation for that play type, according to Synergy. He’s especially good at turning the corner quickly and finishing at the rim, but he can also curl around the screen and fire a pull-up three — a shot that’s growing in popularity (and effectiveness) in the NBA. Otherwise, Fultz gets most of his offense by getting out in transition and getting set up for spot-up jumpers, where he’s good but doesn’t stand out as much as he does in the pick-and-roll.If you’re looking for wingsJosh JacksonFreshman SF, 6-foot-8, KansasJackson is a defensive standout and one of the best point-forward prospects in the class. While his defensive numbers (via Synergy) are good but not great (he’s holding his marks to 81 points per 100 plays overall), he can straight-up stick his man and chase him off of shots he’d otherwise take. In fact, his overall numbers are pulled down a bit by his role: Despite spending most of his time as a stretch-4, almost 60 percent of his defensive plays come against spot-up shooters and in isolation, which are play types where the offense believes it has an advantage. Yet Jackson is still holding his own.Jackson is a natural and willing passer who finds runners on the break and in semi-transition, often on clever back-door cuts, and sucks defenders in on drives before dishing to a teammate for an easy dumpoff and dunk. Kansas also puts Jackson in a lot of 4-5 pick-and-rolls, where he can throw lobs to center Landen Lucas. A lot of times, prospects can put up impressive passing numbers simply by using a lot of possessions (Jackson’s assist percentage is 18.9 — very good for a non-point guard), but in this case, the eye test matches the numbers. Jackson is the truth.The one question with Jackson’s game is whether his jump shot is real. Jackson began the season shooting miserably from long range, going 23.7 percent on 2.1 3-point attempts per game in his first 18 games. But since late January, he’s been on a tear. In 13 games since Jan. 21, Jackson is shooting 51.3 percent on three 3-point attempts per game. That evens out to 38 percent on the season, but that kind of extreme swing is worth keeping in mind. As with any one-and-done prospect, we’re dealing in small sample sizes. But for Jackson, there’s at least some explanation for the inconsistency: His coaches aren’t touching his jump shot this season.“Now can he tighten it up and do some things differently? Absolutely,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in December. “But that will probably be on somebody else’s watch. That won’t be on our watch as much. I don’t see a reason why when you have a young man for a very brief period of time why you want to totally cloud his brain with something other than very, very few, simple things.”So the state of Jackson’s jumper over the next few weeks may not be the most important thing to focus on. But how able he is to adjust once he’s in the NBA will be crucial, as the difference between a wing prospect who can do it all and one who can do it all minus a jumper is the difference between an All-NBA-level talent and a useful role player.Jayson TatumFreshman F, 6-foot-8, DukeTatum is a down-the-middle wing prospect. He’s a good defender (allowing 73 points per 100 plays), a pretty good defensive rebounder (19.7 percent defensive rebound rate), a pretty good spot-up jump shooter (89 points per 100 plays, according to Synergy, although 12 of his 37 made threes for the year came during a three-game stretch in February), and a pretty good passer. But his underlying metrics don’t match up with his more obvious talents, such as when he broke out and averaged 22 points per game through the ACC tournament. The natural comparison for Tatum is Justise Winslow, another Duke swingman/small-ball 4 with obvious talents that can go unrecognized by college stats.If you are Vivek RanadiveMalik MonkFreshman PG, 6-foot-3, KentuckyOver the last several seasons, we’ve gotten a pretty clear idea of the tastes of Sacramento Kings owner Ranadive, as well as the forcefulness of his pursuit of those tastes. The Ranadive type is a guard in the mold of Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas or Buddy Hield, a gunslinger who can shoot a team into the Final Four all on his own. This season, no player captures that type better than Kentucky’s Malik Monk. No offense to Monk.Monk is a shooter, and almost singlehandedly shoulders the load of 3-point shooting for Kentucky. This makes him a somewhat unique Kentucky guard, as he’s averaging nearly seven 3-point attempts per game and hitting 40 percent of them, which is impressive on its own, but more so when you consider that he’s doing it while dealing with extra defenders cheating off of backcourt mates De’Aaron Fox (24.2 percent from three) and Isaiah Briscoe (27.3 percent). For many NBA fans, March Madness is the embarrassing time of year when they realize that while they can recite, say, the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench rotation or the draft implications of a Sacramento Kings win, they can’t name more than a handful of college players. The tournament is the first time such fans will be seeing many of the players whom they’ll then discuss at length leading up to the NBA draft. So if you’re starting from zero, or are just looking for a quick refresher on a few prospects, here’s a viewing guide to the top lottery prospects in the tournament.If you’re looking for point guardsLonzo BallFreshman PG, 6-foot-6, UCLAChances are that most NBA fans have heard a little bit about Lonzo Ball. But much of the talk has been about his father, his brothers or his draft stock, rather than just how outstanding Ball has been on the court.First off, Ball is one of the most efficient scorers in the college game. His top-line analytics are staggering: Ball has a 66.7 true shooting percentage and scores 108 points per 100 plays; 56.3 percent of his field goal attempts are threes (he hits 41 percent of those). The overall efficiency is propped up a little because 31 percent of his plays (a massive chunk) have come in transition, where he scores 112 points per 100. Getting out and running is an effective strategy, and a big reason why the Bruins lead the NCAA with 90.4 points per game, but it’s not quite as telling for what Ball will be able to do in the NBA. For that, catch him spotting up for that broken-looking jumper of his — he scores 125 points per 100 plays on spot-ups, which is just as impressive as it sounds.Where Ball isn’t as polished is on the pick-and-roll — a play type that fellow top prospect Markelle Fultz of Washington excels at. Ball scores a more mediocre 78 points per 100 pick-and-roll plays. He’s also just a so-so rebounder for his size, with a 9.4 total rebound rate and 14.4 defensive rebound rate, neither of which is overly impressive for a 6-foot-6 superathlete.But those are all just individual stats. What makes Ball so special is that he can do all those things while also operating as a true point guard. Combine Ball’s individual stats with his passing numbers and the numbers begin to get silly. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he has an absurd 156 points per 100 plays on all plays he finishes — so when he shoots or draws a foul or commits a turnover — plus plays on which he records an assist. A little reference, since this isn’t the most common stat around: These plays + assist numbers tend to look a little inflated compared to what you usually see for players, because adding assists includes only made shots. This isn’t ideal, but it does give a good sense of the total contribution of a player, since adding more assists will nudge the number upward. Here are the numbers for some other top players: Fultz and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox are at 127p+a/100; Malik Monk of Kentucky is at 119; Josh Jackson of Kansas is at 116. Those are very good numbers, but Ball’s still stand out when compared apples-to-apples.De’Arron FoxFreshman PG, 6-foot-3, KentuckyThe line on Fox has been that he’s a jump shot away from being a top-five pick. So it’s telling that he’s still projected to be a late-lottery pick. On the year, Fox is scoring just 79 points per 100 plays on spot-up jumpers, according to Synergy, which is not very good at all. That’s not a great sign for a perimeter prospect, but Fox has one big thing working in his favor: speed.Fox is a burner, one of the fastest guards in the country, and puts that speed to material use in his game. He and backcourt mate Malik Monk are both in the top 15 of transition plays per game (5.6 per game for Fox, 5.7 for Monk). And once Fox is out in the open court, he can get to the rim at will. His penetration also carries him on isolation plays, where he’s strong (97 points per 100 plays). The question is whether Fox can combine those individual skills into an all-around game. He’s sitting on an assist percentage1The percentage of teammate field goals assisted by a player while he’s on the court. of 30, which is solid, but he doesn’t have the best passing instincts out on the break and can force things at the rim.VIDEO: Our picks for bracket success This perimeter workload has weighed down other parts of Monk’s game. As a prospect, he was known for killer athleticism, but he hasn’t gotten to the basket the way Fox has for the Wildcats: 80 percent of his shots in the halfcourt offense have been jumpers, according to Synergy. He’s scored an excellent 111 points per 100 plays on those jumpers, so it’s working out. But he’s even more efficient when he gets to the rim, either in half court or in transition.If you’re looking for big menLauri MarkkanenFreshman PF/C, 7-foot, ArizonaMarkkanen is a 7-foot freshman center out of Finland who lacks a true comparison in the modern game because I’ll be struck down by the Almighty if I invoke Arvydas Sabonis.Markkanen is sitting on a 63.3 true shooting percentage; 44.4 percent of his field goal attempts are threes, and he hits 43.2 percent of them. He isn’t just a jump shooter, though — Synergy has him averaging 125 points per 100 plays as the roll man in pick-and-roll and 102 points per 100 plays posting up — both excellent numbers. He is a bigger body than recent rangy big-man prospects like Nikola Mirotic but has more bounce than guys his size. This allows him to be a strong rebounder (17.7 defensive rebound rate) but also a live body filling the lane in transition or cutting off the ball. While Markkanen’s stats are impressive enough, he’s one of the guys in the tournament who are especially eye-opening in live action since a not-that-scrawny 7-footer moving around the court and doing the things he can do is a rare sight, even in the NBA.Check out our March Madness predictions. read more


All newsletters See more NFL predictions We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe See more MLB predictions Things That Caught My EyeKareem Hunt is incredibleRookie running back Kareem Hunt has opened his NFL career with a staggeringly good trifecta of games. He’s accumulated 538 rushing and receiving yards in three starts for the Kansas City Chiefs, with a fourth game tonight against Washington on Monday Night Football. Of the 812 rookies who have racked up more than 100 yards in their first three games, Hunt sits behind only Billy Simms, who put up 562 yards for Detroit in 1980. [FiveThirtyEight]Niners (D-CA) vs. Bucs (R-FL)The NFL has been a nexus recently for protests, particularly last weekend after some goading from the president on Twitter. This sent league executives into a crisis, and it’s clear why: The NFL appeals to people across party lines in a way few other sports do, with fans in San Francisco (who have a +22 point Democratic lean) to Tampa Bay (a +9.5 Republican lean). [FiveThirtyEight]MLB teams waffle on jumping lowest possible bar for safetyA devastating line drive foul that severely injured a child has spurred league-wide introspection about how much netting should protect spectators from baseballs. People in luxury boxes hate mildly obstructed views, but also baseballs can be dangerous projectiles as seen in New York last month. Only 10 of 30 teams have netting that goes to the end of the dugouts. At least four teams have announced they will extend the netting in the wake of the injured 2-year-old in Yankee Stadium. [The New York Times]WatsonThe Texans set a franchise record for points scored in their 57-14 win over Tennessee, with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tying a 1961 Fran Tarkenton record for five touchdowns — four thrown, one rushed — for a rookie quarterback in a game. [ESPN]New Jersey man fails to pay protection racketThe New York Giants tried their third offensive line in four games. It didn’t work either, and the team lost to the Tampa Bay Bucs on the road. If you ever wanted to tackle Eli Manning, your next available opportunity is by working for the Chargers next week. [ESPN]2016 repeat?Two of the best teams in college football right now are Clemson and Alabama, the two teams who incidently played in the college football championship game last year. Despite the loss of Deshaun Watson — you remember the phenom on the Texans you read about mere moments ago – Clemson pivoted terrifically to a rushing offense and we could see a rematch later this year. [ESPN]Big Number5 under 5There are five teams in the NFL who — based on FiveThirtyEight’s projections — currently have less than a five percent chance of making the playoffs. Those teams are Cleveland (0-4) and San Francisco (0-4), each with less than 1 percent chance of making the postseason; the L.A. Chargers (0-4), with a 1 percent chance; Chicago (1-3) with a 3 percent chance, and the New York Giants (0-4) with a 4 percent chance. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack[in which three reporters monitor the AFC East]neil:Pats haven’t lost more than 3 home games in a season since Brady became starting QBThey have 2 home losses already this yearwalt:dangis tom brady an elite quarterback? tbd.heynawl-enten:Who is watching this Jets game?Heading towards a tie and fastneil:I gave up on it lolTurned to NFL Network gameday liveheynawl-enten:[4:35 PM] Here we go[4:35] Jets kick for the win[4:35] let’s see[4:36] IT’S GOOD![4:36] Oh wait[4:36] flag down[4:36] NOPE[4:36] IT’S GOOD[4:36] JETS WIN[4:36] LOLPredictions MLB NFL Oh, and don’t forgetThe tick tock of the Adidas scandal read more