Saturday, July 12, 2008

NBA summer league update

Derrick Byars capped a solid, yet unspectacular week at the Orlando Pro Summer League with an 11-point, 6-rebound effort in almost 32 minutes as the Magic defeated Michael Beasley's Miami Heat 74-69 on Friday.

In five games, the Vanderbilt alum averaged 8.4 points (behind only first-round pick Courtney Lee and center Marcin Gortat), 4.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists in nearly 26 minutes per game. Byars' shooting stroke abandoned him, as he shot 38 percent (16-for-42) from the field, including 4-for-18 from 3-point range, and made just six of 12 foul shots.

However, the fact that he played the third-most minutes and that Orlando assistant coach Patrick Ewing had him on the floor during crunch time, means there is a chance Byars sticks with the Magic. Teams don't look strictly at numbers during these summer leagues, which could bode well for DeeBee.

There is no question that Byars possesses a number of characteristics that make him an attractive 11th or 12th man. He's got a high basketball IQ, plays with great intensity every night, can score in a number of ways, is an above-average defender willing to take charges and he's unselfish, sometimes to a fault. Of course, he has his weaknesses and does not have as much upside as many of the younger players.

But, teams know what they're getting with Byars, and hopefully he showed enough this week to warrant consideration. We're certainly pulling for him.

In other summer league news, Byars' former teammate Shan Foster scored seven points off the bench in Dallas' 86-69 loss to the Clippers on Friday.

Foster was 2-for-5 from the field, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range, and 2-for-2 from the foul line. He added two rebounds and two assists without committing a turnover in a little over 15 minutes. Not a bad effort considering the opening-game jitters he must have played with.

The Mavs return to action Sunday night (9 p.m. CT) against the Timberwolves and you can check out the full schedule here.

Here's a look at how some former Southeastern Conference players are faring early on:

Jamont Gordon (Mississippi State): After the junior went undrafted, Gordon signed with Philadelphia and is averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1 steal through two games. Teams were skeptical of Gordon because they couldn't tell whether he'd have a position (is he a point guard or shooting guard?), but the bottom line is that Gordon can play and he's proving that now.

Anthony Randolph (LSU): After one year in Baton Rouge, Randolph went off in his pro debut with Golden State, scoring 30 points and grabbing eight rebounds. (It's worth noting that Nashville native Brandon Wright added 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for the Warriors, which have quite the athletic front court).

Marresse Speights (Florida): Looks like Speights made the right move to jump to the NBA as he's averaging 18 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks in two games for Philadelphia. He's got an NBA-ready body and should be able to contribute immediately for the new-look Sixers.

Sonny Weems (Arkansas): The former Razorback scored 17 points and grabbed three rebounds in 21 minutes for the Nuggets.

Charles Rhodes (Mississippi State): Gordon's college teammate had 10 points and six rebounds for Dallas.

Joe Crawford (Kentucky): The former Wildcat had nine points and two rebounds but committed four turnovers in his debut with the Lakers.

And isn't that a cool photo? [Vanderbilt]

IMG preparing to help continue torturing us with the BCS

I think most college football fans will agree with me when I say that I am sick and tired of the BCS. According to the biased yet informative website College Football Playoffs, the number is actually 4 out of 5.

Not that we as Vanderbilt fans have much to worry about in the way of our team being left out of the big game, but come on, I know you want to see a playoff anyway. That's not really the point though. There are plenty of places for you to read about the whole BCS vs. Playoffs debate with people that know a lot more about the situation than I do.

What I do know, however, is that IMG's recent deal to negotiate the rights to the BCS TV package when it expires this fall means that we won't be getting rid of the flawed system anytime soon.

Read about the deal here, courtesy of AOL Fanhouse.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let the "Bring Back George" campaign begin

Dixie Fried Sports recently suggested that Vanderbilt bring back George. Who? Those were my thoughts exactly, until DFS provided me with a very valuable history lesson.

According to the story, while Vanderbilt's nickname has always been the Commodores, its mascot during the 1960's was indeed a basset hound named George. Toby Wilt, a Vanderbilt student, routinely brought George to football games and on November 28, 1964, he became a legend by chasing a Tennessee Volunteer mascot, which was a horse at the time, out of the stadium. The Vanderbilt crowd understandably went wild and the Dores went on to win the game 7-0.

George's popularity grew exponentially following his heroic performance. The student booster organization approved George, the fan-favorite who attended all of the Commodore football and basketball games.

The story has it that George actually lived with Wilt at the Sigma Chi house. However, once George became more well-known, he was removed from the house by the Metropolitan Health Department, which didn't approve of a dog living in a fraternity house.

George ended up living in a $300 doghouse after the proposal to build him an elaborate $2,000 home was rejected. Then, in November 1966, George was killed in a tragic accident after chasing an ice truck. He was given a coffin by a local funeral home and supposedly buried in a small plot just north of Dudley Field, which still exists today.

George was replaced by another basset hound, Samantha, but she apparently did not have the "it" factor and Vanderbilt decided to put the basset hound mascot to rest.

Now, here's where the story gets relevant. I think DFS sums it up best so read carefully:
The Dores haven't been to a bowl in over 25 years now. The crowds at Vanderbilt Stadium are less than impressive and many times the average attendance numbers are helped by teams like Alabama or Tennessee's fans making the short trip to Nashville. The program tries to bring in some bit of tradition. After each TD you have a foghorn go off and during the pregame you even have some TNT(For Vandy's fight song "Dynamite"). Still the program is lacking a good representative, someone the student body can rally around.

Bring back George!! Those three words should be on every Vandy fans lips. Not only would the school be celebrating a hero of the past that once chased a Tennessee mascot out of the stadium, but it would also be making a smart marketing decision. Basset Hounds have always been one of the most marketable dogs in the United States. For years the shoe company that made Hush Puppies used the basset hound as a mascot. In the Maytag commercials there was often seen a basset hound as a companion of the lonely Maytag Man.

Basset Hounds are also popular figures in pop culture and TV. Who hasn't seen Hazard County's most lovable pup on The Duke's of Hazard, Flash? In "Smokey and the Bandit" the trucker Snowman is seen with a basset hound friend Fred while driving on the road. The cartoon character "Droopy Dog" was a basset hound. Chips, Columbo, Coach, and even the People's Court have featured the breed at various times.

What better way to bring in new revenue to Vandy. Look at all the money Georgia makes off of UGA t-shirts, hats, and stuffed animals. Smokey has made Tennessee plenty of money over the years. The basset is kid friendly and family friendly. The dog has marketing powers unlike most breeds.

Come on Vandy, pay respect to your past and give all of us in the south a new mascot to love. Become the only major university with a basset hound mascot. Only this time go ahead and build the new George that $2000 doghouse he deserves.

Joseph Williams, Vanderbilt Student Government President, I'm counting on you here. Make this happen. Let's bring back George!

Why I love baseball

Joe Posnanski put it best when he said, "I never argue with people who say baseball is boring because, well, baseball is boring, But then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s why it’s so great."

Watching Louisville's Chris Dominguez hit three home runs in Hyannis' 6-4 victory over Falmouth last night, I understood what he meant. Dominguez had gone deep in the first and sixth innings (two absolute blasts) so when he stepped to the plate with one on in the bottom of the eighth, you could almost hear the crowd wondering, "Can he hit another one?"

Nah, it's impossible, they conclude. And then, in an instant, Dominguez turns on a first-pitch fastball. It doesn't look like he got all of it, but the wind is carrying out to left, and wait a minute...that ball has a chance! Fans jump out of their seats and teammates lean against the dugout railing to get a better look...and it's gone!

The crowd erupts and the players pile onto the field to congratulate Dominguez, who is practically sprinting around the bases. Even he can't believe it. In fact, on the way back to the dugout, he checks his bat to see if it was broken. It wasn't.

And that's why we love baseball. For those moments, those rare occasions when you turn your brother next to you and say, "Holy s****, did that really just happen?"

The buzz around the ballpark remained the rest of the night. After the game, families were still talking about it and probably had the same conversation again on the ride home and over next morning's breakfast.

I call it a "Remember when" game because 20 years from now, I'll be able to turn to my brother and say, "Remember when we saw Chris Dominguez hit three home runs in Hyannis?"

And he'll respond, "Man, that was crazy. I can't believe that last one got out."

And then we'll talk so fondly about that day, the way parents like to brag about their kids. By then, the rest of the game will be a blur. We'll have forgotten the score, the opposing team, probably even the year.

But, none of that matters because we'll always remember that moment when baseball was no longer boring.

UPDATE: You can check out my feature story on Dominguez for here.

Also, it's worth mentioning that Vanderbilt's Russell Brewer picked up his league-best 10th save in the Mets' victory. Brewer entered the game with the based loaded and nobody out in the top of the eighth and escaped without surrendering a run after getting the first hitter to line into a double-play and inducing the next batter to ground out.

"He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached," Mets coach Rick Robinson said to Brewer's father after the game. "And I told Coach Corbin that the other day too. In my 20 years of coaching, he’s right there with the best of those guys. You’ve got a lot to be proud of."

It's great to see the Dores not only having success, but representing themselves in typical Vanderbilt fashion.

Derrick Byars Watch: Day 3

Derrick Byars turned in another average performance at the Orlando Pro Summer League on Wednesday, scoring a modest seven points on 3-for-7 shooting to go along with two rebounds and one steal in nearly 22 minutes of action.

The only downside? Byars was just 1-for-6 from the foul line, which is not going to help his cause as he tries to land with a NBA squad.

As a team, the Magic struggling big time, losing their straight game by double figures, this time an 86-74 defeat of SEC alums Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas and the Chicago Bulls. Noah finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Thomas scored a game-high 25.

The Magic return to action today when they take on Indiana, and hopefully DB can turn in a Washington State-like performance. That game still gives me chills.

And since I'm in the mood to reminisce, here's a look at Byars' senior season highlight reel. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dores lucky to have Robertson

Student-athletes like Erica Robertson make it easy to root for the Commodores.

The Boston Herald's Steve Buckley has a terrific feature on Robertson, an incoming freshman and women's tennis player.
According to the folks at the club, Erica will be the first African-American to play for the Vanderbilt women’s team. But while she earned an athletic scholarship there, she didn’t necessarily need one; she already had landed an academic scholarship that would have covered 90 percent of her collegiate freight.

Yet when she visited the campus and met coach Geoff Macdonald, one thing led to another, and here we are: Erica has earned what in college circles is known as a full ride.

“It’s nice to be able to tell people, when I want to, that I did earn an academic scholarship,” Robertson said yesterday following a morning workout at the Sportsmen’s Tennis Club. “Tennis is important to me. It always will be. But I do have other interests.”

Those include history, in particular the post-Reconstruction, and that’s cool. At a time when we keep hearing about students who don’t even know about the Civil War, here’s a student who has moved right past that period and into the Reconstruction era.

While this site is devoted primarily to the big-time sports like football, basketball and baseball, I often find stories like this one even more compelling. Erica Robertson epitomizes what the Vanderbilt student-athlete should be.

Photo [Boston Herald]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Derrick Byars Watch: Day 2

Vanderbilt alum Derrick Byars is looking to earn a roster spot with a NBA squad after spending the past season overseas.

The 2007 SEC Player of the Year was drafted by Portland in the second round (No. 42 overall) and was immediately traded to Philadelphia before being waived in late October. He ended up playing overseas in Germany and then in France for defending French League champion Chorale-Roanne.

Now, he's playing with the Magic in the Orlando Pro Summer League. After scoring 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including 3-for-7 from downtown, in yesterday's opener, Byars scored seven points on 3-for-5 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds in 20 minutes today.

Western Kentucky's Courtney Lee went off for 27, but the Magic still lost 100-77 as Oklahoma City featured Kevin Durant (22 points), rookie Russell Westbrook (19 points) and Vanderbilt fan-favorite Jeff Green (28 points).

The Magic have five unrestricted free agents -- Carlos Arroyo, Keyon Dooling, Maurice Evans, Adonal Foyle and Pat Garrity -- and one restricted free agent in James Augustine, which means they currently have 10 players signed for next season.

However, they are expected to sign former Golden State shooting guard Mickael Pietrus to a 4-year, $24 million deal. The Magic are also looking to re-sign guard Keyon Dooling, although ownership does not want to pay the luxury tax, which is actually good news for Byars.

There is a chance that Orlando will simply look to sign a few free agents for the league minimum to fill out its roster. Hopefully DB makes enough noise the rest of the week to warrant consideration.

Photo [USA Today]

Go DJ: Moore named to Thorpe Award watch list

With Earl Bennett off to the NFL, the next Vanderbilt gridiron star is going to be junior D.J. Moore, who has just been named to the Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list, presented annually to the nation's top defensive back.

Moore was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference performer in 2007 after sharing the league lead with six interceptions, the most by a Vanderbilt player in 25 years. He led the team with 63 solo tackles and ranked second with 10 passes defended.

As a kick returner, Moore was even more spectacular, setting a team record with 823 total return yards. He averaged 25.7 yards per return and produced seven returns of 40 yards or more. Moore also rushed for 78 yards on six carries, and is expected to see an expanded role in the offense this fall.

"D.J. has been a tremendously productive player for our team since his arrival on campus. He's one of the nation's most versatile players, with game-changing abilities as a defensive back, offensive weapon and return specialist," said coach Bobby Johnson. "He's a pleasure to coach, and a guy that is willing to do his very best to help our team win football games. D.J. is an extremely deserving candidate for the Thorpe Award, and all the other preseason recognition coming his way."

It won't be long before Moore becomes the Commodores' most entertaining and recognizable player, and it's good to see him get the national recognition that he deserves.

Finally, make sure to check out a feature I wrote about Moore last fall for The Hustler. Here's a quick sample:
No amount of coaching could have prepared Bobby Johnson for what he witnessed at a recent practice.

"Sometimes he'll be standing there, and he'll do a back flip out there on the field," Johnson said of sophomore cornerback D.J. Moore. "The other day I was walking this way and he jumped right over me. I looked up and there he was."

As his unexpected high jump shows, Moore is the poster boy for the Commodores' increase in speed and athleticism in recent years. Yet, it is his ability to do the other things that has made him a more complete player in his second season as a starter.

"D.J. has worked hard to improve," Johnson said. "He's now doing all the little things you need to do at corner to make yourself better instead of just relying on speed, jumping ability and talent. D.J. is reading things better, noticing splits and reading the quarterback a lot better."

Photo [Getty Images/Daylife]

Around the SEC (7/8)

A few links to pass along as Lady Vols coach Pat Summit tells Bruce Pearl he needs to work on his abs on ESPN...

The Tennessean scoured through five preseason magazines and the forecast does not look good for the Volunteer state.

Tennessee's average finish is third in the SEC East, while Vanderbilt is unsurprisingly picked to finish in the cellar.

"It's no surprise," said Mitch Light, editor of Nashville-based Athlon Sports, which publishes Athlon Sports College Football. "They lost a lot of talented players and I think they will be very good on defense, especially in the secondary. But from a preseason look, there are just too many holes on offense to fill…There are too many unknown factors on offense to be competitive in the East."

Knoxville deserves to be a finalist in ESPN's "Titletown USA" promotion, but it shouldn't win, writes The Knoxville News Sentinenl's Mike Strange. I agree.

Redshirting remains rare in college hoops, writes's David Fox. Only four members of the Rivals150 for the class of 2007 redshirted by choice, one of them being Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli, who is quoted in the story.

David Price has "it," according to Prattville columnist Jimmy White.'s Chris Low has a few questions to ponder in the SEC East, including "Can Georgia's overall talent overcome a brutal schedule?" and "Will Tennessee win another SEC championship under Phillip Fulmer?"

Low also picks the Commodores to finish last in the SEC East and here's what he had to say:
Similar to Kentucky, Vanderbilt suffered major personnel losses from a year ago, and those losses weren't confined to just one side of the ball. The Commodores have made tremendous gains the past few years, and Johnson deserves a tremendous amount of credit. But getting to five or six wins this season would be his best coaching job yet. Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson will battle for the quarterback job. Both are likely to play and will be operating behind a revamped offensive line. The defense also took some big hits, but safety Reshard Langford is one of those players who makes up for others' mistakes. The Commodores will need a bunch of younger players to come through if they're going to win at least four games for the fourth straight year.

Seems like a pretty accurate assessment to me, although I think cornerback D.J. Moore deserved mention.

Who pays coaches' ridiculous salaries? You, of course. [h/t Mr. SEC]

Shan Foster has his work cut out for him this summer as the Mavs have a number of young swingmen vying for a couple of spots.

Also, Derrick Byars scored a team-high 15 points for the Orlando Magic in their 86-74 loss to the Nets.
Photo []

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer baseball update

With baseball summer leagues in full swing, here's a look at how reliever Russell Brewer (pictured right) and the rest of the Commodores are performing. Brewer leads the CCBL in saves (nine) and has not given up a run in 10 innings of work, but he's far from the only player off to a strong start.

Who's hot: Mike Minor, Russell Brewer, Caleb Cotham, Chase Reid, Brian Harris, Alex Hilliard, Taylor Hill
Who's not: Mark Lamm, Jordan Wormsley, Steven Schwartz, Kellen St. Luce

Team USA

Mike Minor is having another great summer with Team USA. He has given up just one earned run on 16 hits, while walking four and fanning 21 in 22.1 innings. Looks like Minor is developing a third pitch (slider) and gaining confidence as he prepares for his pivotal junior season.

Cape Cod Baseball League

Hyannis (11-7) -- Mariano Rivera, I mean Russell Brewer, leads the CCBL with nine saves in as many chances. He has given up just five hits and walked two while fanning 11 in 10 scoreless innings. Meanwhile, catcher Curt Casali is just 5-for-40 with a homer and 2 RBI, although he has displayed a strong arm behind the plate.

Brewster (10-7) -- Caleb Cotham is 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA with 26 Ks in 22 innings. The versatile Nick Christiani has two saves and 2.45 ERA in 11 innings (along with 10 walks), while Mark Lamm has struggled, giving up 13 runs in 10.1 innings.

Wareham (7-11) -- Outfielder Steve Liddle is batting .219 with one double, two triples and 8 RBI for the Gatemen.

Harwich (9-8) -- Catcher/first baseman Andrew Giobbi was 6-for-30 with two homers and 10 RBI before taking a fastball to the face last week. He won’t need surgery, but he does need weekly X-rays to ensure the fractures heal properly and will obviously be out the rest of the summer.


Newport (12-9) -- Right-hander Chase Reid just struck out a league-record 19 batters in his complete-game victory to earn NECBL Pitcher of the Week honors. For the summer, Reid is 1-0 with 1.65 ERA in 16.1 innings. He has given up just 10 hits and one walk while fanning 29 and opponents are hitting .172 against him. Meanwhile, outfielder Joey Manning has struggled as of late (full stats not available).

Keene (15-8) -- Lefty Sean Bierman (2-1, 2.70 ERA) is having a superb summer, striking out 30 and walking seven in 26.2 innings. Meanwhile, third baseman Aaron Westlake is still looking to get going offensively.

Holyoke (10-10) -- Outfielder Alex Hilliard is hitting .296 with a homer, two doubles and 7 RBI to go along with five stolen bases. He also made just one error.

Sanford (16-8) -- Infielder Brian Harris was just named NECBL Hitter of the Week after going 9-for-12 with seven runs and four RBI. For the summer, he is hitting .317 with four doubles, eight RBI and a .394 OBP.


Saratoga (10-13) -- Outfielder Jordan Wormsley is hitting just .184, while lefty Kellen St. Luce has given up 10 earned runs on 14 hits in 9.1 innings, while walking 10 and fanning nine.


Winchester (16-12) -- Taylor Hill (4-0, 1.99 ERA) has been terrific, giving up 25 hits and walking eight while striking out 40 in 31.2 innings.

Staunton (14-14) -- Steven Schwartz (1-1, 4.79 ERA) has given up 29 hits and fanned 24 in 20.2 innings.


Danville (10-12) -- Lefty reliever Richie Goodenow is 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA after giving up seven earned runs on 17 hits to go along with seven walks and 15 strikeouts in 17.1 innings of work.

Great Lakes

Stark County Terrier (11-7) -- Shortstop Gabe Ortiz started strong, hitting .313 through five games, but has not played since.

Photo [Cape Cod Times]

Vandy baseball takes a hit

Vanderbilt's loaded recruiting class just became one player smaller as junior college outfielder Adam Milligan recently signed with the Atlanta Braves, according to

Milligan, a sixth-round pick, would have most likely started for the Commodores, who are looking to replace David Macias and Dominic de la Osa in the outfield. For the Braves, apparently the third time was the charm as they had drafted Milligan twice before.

Vanderbilt also lost shortstop Anthony Hewitt earlier in the summer. Hewitt recently signed with the Philadelphia Phillies after being selected in the first round.

Commodore Banter (7/7)

David Price said he felt like he was back at Vanderbilt yesterday afternoon when he took the mound against the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx in Jackson, Tenn.

The throngs of Commodore fans in attendance had to feel like they were back at Hawkins Field as Price turned in a familiar performance. The left-hander picked up his third win in as many starts for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits after giving up one run on four hits while striking out six and walking one in seven innings.

"He was really excited being here, close to home," said Price's mother, Debbie. "He knew there were going to be people here cheering for him, so he was looking forward to it — almost like a home game.

"It's been about a year since he's pitched in front of friends and family, so I think he's been really waiting on this day."

At one point, Price retired 17 straight batters and reached 97 mph on his fastball.

"It felt like I was back at Vandy," Price said. "They're very loyal fans, and they're going to support me for the rest of my career. I definitely appreciate it."

With the Rays atop the AL East, there is a chance Price could be called up to The Show by the end of the year. [The Tennessean]

Price isn't the only former Commodore having success in the minors. Reliever Casey Weathers is tearing it up in Tulsa, the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, and was recently named to the U.S. Futures Game, which takes place the Sunday before the All-Star Game at Yankees Stadium.

Weathers is topping out in the upper-90s and like Price, could be pitching in the Big Leagues by the end of the season.

Also, there's a good feature of second baseman Alex Feinberg, who is making the most of his opportunity.

Current Commodore Mike Minor picked up the win for Team USA, pitching 6.1 shutout innings against Cuba. Minor gave up for hits and walked three, while fanning five. The fans were crazy, as Goldy writes in his blog for VU Commodores.

Make sure to check out this Q&A with Shan Foster. The Las Vegas Summer League begins July 11.

Lastly, Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper sat down with the "Voice of the Commodores" to talk about a number of Vanderbilt-related topics.

Photo [Gannett Tennessean]

Around the SEC (7/7)

Hope you all had a great weekend July 4th weekend. The Sports VU will be back in full force this week as we begin counting down the days until the Commodores' season opener August 28 at Miami (OH).

Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer received a new 7-year contract that averages $2.99 million and includes retention bonuses and incentive bonuses. The Ace Reporter (Jimmy Hyams) at Mr. SEC has three major problems with the deal:
One, he’s getting paid too much based on what UT has achieved recently.

Two, UT should have protected itself by lowering the buyout. Fulmer’s buyout formula is the same as before: One full year of the contract, plus $1 million plus the remaining years of the contract times the base salary.

Third, Fulmer gets an automatic one-year extension if UT wins eight games. Are you kidding? Have Tennessee’s standards dropped that low? Since when is an eight-win season in Knoxville worth rewarding?

The Tennessean's David Climer feels the same way, saying "the bar has been set at 8-4."

Mississippi State is the first school in the country to include Academic Progress Report clauses in the multi-year contracts of their coaches. [Clarion Ledger via Mr. SEC]

Several Volunteers, including Tyler Smith and incoming recruits Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze, competed in a summer league and Mike Griffith of The Knoxville News Sentinel has the full scouting report.

UK signee DeAndre Liggins is still waiting to hear if he'll be eligible to play for the Wildcats this season. [Courier-Journal]