Categoria: Sports

Angels Right-Hander Chris Rodriguez Set To Face Hitters For The First Time Since 2021

TEMPE, Ariz. — Chris Rodriguez is finally ready to take the next step in his rehab from shoulder surgery.

The Angels’ right-hander said he’s set to face hitters in live batting practice on Tuesday. It will be the first time he’s faced hitters since he was injured in 2021.

“I’m really excited with how things have come along,” Rodriguez said. “It’s great. I’m feeling really good. Taking steps in the right direction.”

It’s been apparent for a couple weeks now that Rodriguez wasn’t going to be ready in time to compete for a spot on the Angels’ Opening Day roster, and it now seems certain that he’ll be on the injured list and not even able to pitch in the minors when that season starts.

If all goes well on Tuesday, though, he could begin pitching in simulated games or other exhibition games next week.

The Angels had high hopes for Rodriguez, 24, after the way he performed in his debut season in 2021. He had a 3.64 ERA in 29-2/3 innings, including two starts.

Rodriguez had shoulder surgery in October 2021, and then he had a setback last summer. Although the Angels have not characterized anything since then as a setback, his progress has been slow.

MARTE HURT Right-hander José Marte, who hasn’t pitched in a game all spring, underwent imaging that showed a stress reaction in his right elbow, an injury that will cost him at least a couple months. It’s a bone injury, not a problem with any of the ligaments in his elbow, according to manager Phil Nevin.

Marte will be shut down from any throwing for four weeks.

“It’s unfortunate,” Nevin said. “We were real excited about the way he was throwing, but he got ahead of it letting us know there was some discomfort in there before it got any worse.”

Marte is on the 40-man roster, so he becomes a candidate to move to the 60-day injured list to create a spot if the Angels want to add any of their non-roster players before Opening Day.

NOTES Left-hander José Quijada and infielder Luis Rengifo returned to camp on Monday, a couple days after they played for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Venezuela was eliminated by the USA on Saturday night. …

Infielder Brandon Drury was still not in the lineup on Monday. He bruised his calf on a foul ball on Friday, and he’s been out as a precaution since. Nevin said that Drury has not been happy that Nevin is keeping him out of action. “He wants to play,” Nevin said. “I’m trying to explain it’s spring training. I get it. That’s how he’s wired. He wants to be out there with the guys. No problem with that. I’d rather have that than somebody I have to push onto the field.”

UCLA Vs. Gonzaga Has History, Giving NCAA Tournament Its Best Sweet 16 Matchup

There are two memories that stand out when thinking about UCLA and Gonzaga.

For college basketball fans who have been around a little longer, it’s the image of Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison crying after the Bruins stole away a Sweet 16 victory in 2006.

Gonzaga was holding onto a 71-68 lead with 40 seconds left and the ball. UCLA’s Ryan Hollins was fouled pursuing a defensive rebound and proceeded to make two free throws to bring the Bruins within 71-70 with 19 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Jordan Farmar stole the ball from Gonzaga’s JP Batista in the backcourt, passed the ball to Luc Mbah a Moute for a layup to take a 72-71 lead with eight seconds left before making the game-winning steal and completing UCLA’s 73-71 comeback victory over the Zags.

“Unbelievable,” CBS’ broadcaster Gus Johnson yelled, as the camera panned to a crying Morrison. “After being down by 17 (points), heartbreak city!”

The UCLA fans that aren’t as “experienced” might not remember that 2006 game so well, but they certainly remember the Final Four game in 2021, ingrained with the images of Jalen Suggs standing on top of a courtside media table yelling in triumph after banking in a near-halfcourt shot as the buzzer sounded to win the game 93-90 in overtime.

“There are onions, and then there are major onions – with a kiss!” CBS color analyst Bill Raftery yelled.

Even Gonzaga coach Mark Few turned to UCLA coach Mick Cronin and threw his hands up in disbelief.

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men’s Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga won 93-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) The UCLA versus Gonzaga (30-5) matchup has a fun, dramatic history which makes Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup between the second-seeded Bruins and third-seeded Bulldogs the NCAA tournament’s best game of the round when they face off at 6:40 p.m. at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

This week’s game will tip off exactly 17 years to the day since the two met in 2006. The two teams are also seeded identically.

It will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two programs, the fourth time in the NCAA tournament, and the third Sweet 16 matchup. Gonzaga is 5-2 against UCLA in those games, including 2-1 in postseason play.

The last time UCLA and Gonzaga met was Nov. 23, 2021, in Las Vegas in the T-Mobile Arena for an early-season showdown, but the Bulldogs dominated in an 83-63 win thanks to the slashing work of Andrew Nembhard, who scored a game-high 24 points.

“Colossal softness,” was the way UCLA coach Mick Cronin described his team that Tuesday night.

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme scored 28 points on 12 of 21 shooting to lead the Bulldogs to an 84-81 second-round NCAA tournament victory over TCU Sunday night.

UCLA and Gonzaga are two of just four teams to have advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

PREVIOUS GAMES 11/23/21: Gonzaga 83, UCLA 63

4/3/2021: Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90 (Final Four)

12/12/2015: UCLA 71, Gonzaga 66

3/27/2015: Gonzaga 74, UCLA 62 (Sweet 16)

12/13/2014: Gonzaga 87, UCLA 74

3/23/2006: UCLA 73, Gonzaga 71 (Sweet 16)

12/11/1999: Gonzaga 59, UCLA 34

Tarek Fattal | Sportswriter Tarek was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, a community he now serves as a sportswriter for the LA Daily News covering high school sports since 2015. Tarek also covers the UCLA men’s basketball team for the Southern California News Group and can be seen on CBS Los Angeles on weekends serving as co-host/sports analyst with TV legend Jim Hill.

L.A. Marathon: Jemal Yimer, Stacy Nwida Win – And She Earns Bonus

LOS ANGELES — Jemal Yimer waited patiently until nearly two hours into the 38th Los Angeles Marathon to make his move. That’s when the 26-year-old from Ethiopia decided to break away from the pack at mile 23, on his way to winning by nearly one minute in a time of 2 hours, 13 minutes and 13 seconds.

The 26.2-mile course, which began at Dodger Stadium and moved through downtown L.A., Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Century City, ended with a jubilant fist pump by Yimer as he broke the tape.

“It’s a good race. I’m happy today,” Yimer said. “Thank you so much, Los Angeles.”

Kenya’s Stacy Ndiwa, 30, not only won the women’s race in a personal-best 2 hours and 31 minutes. She won a $10,000 bonus by holding off a late charge by Yimer to be the first person to cross the finish line in the marathon chase challenge. The time differential for the marathon chase challenge was set at 18 minutes and 19 seconds.

“I was so prepared for this race,” Ndiwa said.

Her coach, Haron Lagat, said the additional prize money means the world to Ndiwa.

“As soon as I told her … she started crying because I know what she has gone through,” Lagat said. “She lost her (running) contract a few years ago when she had a baby. I feel like companies should not be cutting women. When you have a baby they should let you keep your contract because men are having babies (too). Why are they not cutting men?”

Lagat said Ndiwa’s win was about making a statement in the marathon, especially because it was her trip to the USA.

“The name itself, L.A., is very important,” Lagat added. “When you win L.A., when you’re a champion of L.A., everyone knows L.A., so actually the most important part is the city. I feel like this event should be way bigger than it is.”

Kenya’s Stacy Ndiwa gives it her all to win women’s race at the 38th Los Angeles Marathon. Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer won the men’s race. @ladailynews @lamarathon #LAMarathon

— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) March 19, 2023

The men’s race was down to a lead pack of six runners before mile 2, including Yimmer, who was among the leaders from start to finish.

At the halfway point, five runners were still in contention: Kenya’s Emanuel Ngatuny, Thomas Rono and Barnaba Kipkoech, and Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay and Yimer.

Tsegay, 37, finished second in 2:14:06. Kipkoech, 29, finished third in 2:14:27.

The L.A. Marathon was also a prime opportunity for Americans to chase a qualifying time for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials which will be held on Feb. 3, 2024, in Orlando, Fla.

The men needed to run 2:18 or faster. The women needed to run 2:37 or faster.

The fastest American man was Hosava Kretzmann of Flagstaff, Ariz. Kretzmann, 28, finished sixth in 2:19:55.

“It was tough,” Kretzmann said. “Hills are always tough. This was my first marathon too. So I wasn’t expecting any of this. I was hoping for it to be flatter but I just went out and tried to hold on.”

Kretzmann said after making his marathon debut he’s going to keep pushing for 2 hours and 18 minutes or faster.

“That’s what I was shooting for today,” Kretzmann said. “I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but running this course is tough. Hill after hill, you never know what’s going to happen. I didn’t really look at the course, so I didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted to run into it with an open mind. I’m just happy that I’m here.”

The fastest American at the 38th Los Angeles Marathon was Hosava Kretzmann of Prescott, Arizona. Kretzmann made his marathon debut and finished in 2:19:55, which is less than two minutes from qualifying for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. #LAMarathon @ladailynews…

— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) March 19, 2023

The fastest local runner was Jason Yang of Los Angeles. The 22-year-old finished ninth in 2:27:57.

Meanwhile, the women’s race was down to just three runners before mile 6: Kenya’s Grace Kahura and Martha Akeno, and Ndiwa.

Only Ndiwa and Akeno were in contention at mile 10. Nwida broke away at mile 19 along Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City and never looked back.

Akeno, 29, hung on to finish second in 2:34:25. Kahura, 29 finished third in 2:38:15.

The fastest American woman was Ashley Paulson of Mendon, Utah. Paulson, 41 and a mother of four children, finished fourth in 2:48:47.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had them ever come and bring a flag,” Paulson said while holding back tears. “I’ve seen so many athletes that I admire have that, and what a cool experience to be able to do that. It wasn’t my fastest marathon, but it’s really special and I’ll never forget having this feeling and I want it again and again now.”

Ashley Paulson of Utah was the fastest American, finishing 4th at the 38th Los Angeles Marathon. It was her first time ever being draped in the American flag after a marathon, which made her emotional. @ladailynews @lamarathon #LAMarathon

— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) March 19, 2023

The fastest local runner was Margaux Curcuru of Rosamond. The 31-year-old finished sixth in 2:53:02, which was a new personal best.

Her time was also a 39-minute improvement from her 3:32 result at last year’s L.A. Marathon.

Margaux Curcuru finished 6th with a personal best time of 2:53:02 at the 38th Los Angeles Marathon. She improved 39 minutes on her time from last year’s race. @ladailynews #LAMarathon

— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) March 19, 2023

Angels See Familiar Story From José Quijada In World Baseball Classic

TEMPE, Ariz. — When manager Phil Nevin was watching the USA-Venezuela game on Saturday night, he had an idea what was going to happen.

Angels left-hander José Quijada struck out Kyle Tucker to help Venezuela escape the seventh inning with a lead, leaving the mound on an emotional high. Venezuela then brought Quijada back out for the eighth.

“We’ve seen Q pitch before, and you saw what he did afterward,” Nevin said Sunday, referring to Quijada’s on-field celebration after the strikeout. “Putting him back in the game the next inning was not the best idea.”

Quijada walked two and hit a batter in the eighth, loading the bases just before Trea Turner hit a game-changing grand slam against Silvino Bracho.

Nevin suggested that Quijada has trouble getting back to the same level after such an emotional moment. Last year, Nevin said Quijada tended to be less effective in less electric moments — like pitching in front of a small crowd in Oakland.

Obviously, a big league reliever needs to be reliable in any atmosphere, and Nevin said Quijada is getting there.

“I think he did a better job of it at the end of the season last year,” Nevin said. “Then early this spring a couple games he pitched here, the velocity was up. I like the way he went about his business and he threw well. … I think he’s going to be fine. He’s learning what he needs to do to prepare to get outs when he leaves the bullpen.”

Quijada, 27, had a 3.98 ERA for the Angels last season, throwing almost entirely fastballs. This season he is trying to add more changeups to his repertoire.

EJECTION FOLLOWUP A day after the first time Ryan Tepera was ever ejected from a spring training game, the Angels right-hander was eager to explain what happened.

Tepera had allowed a pair of runs in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers, including a Marcus Semien two-run homer. He was walking off the mound when plate umpire Bill Miller approached him to check for foreign substances.

“Obviously frustrated with my outing a little bit,” Tepera said on Sunday. “Give up four hard hit balls and walking off the mound. I get checked. He checks my hand, like most umpires do. I take a couple steps to the dugout and he says, ‘Hey, come back here, son.’ So I’m like ‘What?’

“He proceeds to check my hand again. Check my glove. Like every inch of my glove. Every lace. He put his hand inside of it. And I said ‘Is this necessary?’ And he says, ‘I’m the head chief crew umpire, I can do whatever the (expletive) I want.’  I said ‘Oh, is that right?’ And then he says, ‘Let me see your hat.’ So he checks my hat.

“Then he says, ‘While you’re at it, let me check your belt.’ So I started taking my belt off and he says ‘Son, if you take your belt off, I’m going to throw you out of this game.’ I took my belt off and hand it to him and he tossed me.”

Umpires have been checking pitchers for foreign substances since 2021, but last season they were quick, perfunctory checks only of the pitcher’s hands. Major League Baseball reportedly sent teams a memo this week letting them know the checks would be more thorough this season.

Tepera didn’t appreciate a check, in that manner, at that time.

“It’s being disrespectful honestly, man to man,” Tepera said. “It has nothing to do with me being checked. It’s the way he did it and what he said to me. I’m a grown man. Don’t treat me like a child. That’s my problem with it.”

FLETCHER RETURNS David Fletcher was back in the Angels clubhouse on Sunday after playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic, including a matchup against Shohei Ohtani in Italy’s loss to Japan in the quarterfinals. Fletcher had a hit in two at-bats against Ohtani.

“It was fun facing him,” Fletcher said. “He was definitely competing out there and giving everything he had. He was into it. Getting to be on the other side of him was definitely something that I was kind of looking forward to.”

NOTES Infielder Brandon Drury was not in the lineup for a second straight day because of a bruised calf. Nevin said that Drury was ready to play, but the manager opted to have him take one more day off. Drury still hit and did defensive drills in the morning. …

Nevin said Patrick Sandoval may not pitch as scheduled next Sunday in the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium. Nevin said the Angels may decide that Sandoval needs a less intense atmosphere — like a minor league game — in between pitching for Mexico in the semifinals of the WBC on Monday and his first regular season start, on April 2.

Game Day: UCLA Is Only Two Parts Of The College Basketball Story

Editor’s note: This is the Sunday, March 19, edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. UCLA carries the region’s hopes for this basketball season after its men’s and women’s teams advanced in the NCAA tournaments last night. And it has been a pretty hopeful season all around in Los Angeles-area college basketball.

In other sports news:

Arte Moreno gave his first interview to local reporters in more than three years, downplayed fans’ disappointment that he remains Angels owner, and said he hasn’t yet talked with Shohei Ohtani about staying with the team. The Dodgers are counting on a return to form by Max Muncy to help make up for the lineup’s loss of Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Gavin Lux. Trea’s grand slam sent Team USA past Venezuela and into the World Baseball Classic semifinals against Cuba. The Clippers rested Kawhi Leonard and lost to the Magic, and Russell Westbrook accepted the blame. The Kings blew a chance to go into first place, dropping a shootout to the Canucks. Goalkeeper John McCarthy saved LAFC, which stayed unbeaten with a scoreless draw in Seattle. Losing its home opener to Vancouver kept the Galaxy winless. Carlos Alcaraz and Danill Medvedev advanced to today’s men’s final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Bernhard Langer emerged from a six-way tie with the lead going into today’s final round of the PGA Champions Tour’s Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club. Jordan Chiles and UCLA finished second in the Pac-12 women’s gymnastics championships in Salt Lake City. UCLA’s men’s basketball team beat Northwestern 68-63 in the second round in Sacramento last night to move into the Sweet 16 in Las Vegas, where the Bruins will meet the winner of today’s Gonzaga-TCU game.

“The matchup gave UCLA a glimpse of what Big Ten Conference basketball will be like when it joins the conference in 2024, which is a physical brand of play,” Tarek Fattal wrote from Sacramento. There were worrisome moments when Adem Bona aggravated his left shoulder and David Singleton turned his right ankle. Neither injury seems to be as bad as it looked.

“It’s toughness,” columnist Jim Alexander, also reporting from Sacramento, wrote of the Bruins’ winning ingredient, saying it’s “the characteristic that (coach Mick) Cronin brought with him from Cincinnati four years ago.”

The UCLA women’s team had an easier time in its opening-round game in the NCAA tournament, beating Sacramento State 67-45 at home at Pauley Pavilion, and will face Oklahoma in the round of 32 at Pauley on Monday night.

“In the past, too much pressure has caused cracks,” Haley Sawyer wrote from Westwood, but coaches and players were able to keep the mood light, and at one point the Bruins had four freshmen on the court.

The other L.A.-area team alive in the college basketball postseason is the UC Irvine women’s team, which opened the women’s National Invitation Tournament by beating San Diego State 55-45 on Friday and will face the University of San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Monday night.

Back in November, the newsletter opened the college basketball season with a reminder that optimism in Southern California extended beyond UCLA’s high-ranked men’s team. In addition to USC, we looked at eight other men’s programs. And we said it UCLA’s and USC’s women’s teams were in for a big year.

All true.

As columnist Mirjam Swanson wrote a few days ago, this turned out to be the first time since 1992 that the UCLA and USC men’s and women’s teams all played in the NCAA tournaments.

As USC beat writer Adam Grosbard explained, the Trojans have a bright future despite their opening-round loss to Michigan State and the impending departures of NBA draft candidate Boogie Ellis and senior Drew Peterson.

It has been an encouraging season for a lot of teams around here. Looking back at expectations in November, of our region’s eight biggest men’s programs that aren’t UCLA and USC, five finished higher in the standings than their conferences’ coaches predicted in preseason polls: Big West co-champion UC Irvine, third-place UC Riverside and fourth-place Cal State Fullerton, as well as Loyola Marymount (an improved fourth in the West Coast Conference) and even CSUN (picked for 11th in the Big West, finished … 10th).

The UCLA and USC women’s teams began the season among “others receiving votes” for the Associated Press top 25. UCLA is No. 17 right now. USC got as high as No. 25.

As far as March Madness is concerned, only the two Bruin teams are playing on.

But college basketball all over the L.A. area is alive.


Clippers go to Portland trying to capitalize on the second of six straight games against sub-.500 teams (6 p.m., BSSC). Lakers meet the Magic at Arena with their chances of making the playoffs down to  26.5%, per (6:30 p.m., SPSN). Ducks host the Canucks, who are seven points ahead of them in sixth place in the Pacific Division (5 p.m., BSW). Ducks update. Team USA faces Cuba in the World Baseball Classic semifinals in Miami (4 p.m., FS1). Angels face the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz. (12:55 p.m., BSW). Yesterday’s game report. Dodgers play the Athletics in Glendale, Ariz. (1 p.m., SNLA). Yesterday’s game report. The BNP Paribas Open women’s final pits No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenko against No. 10 seed Elena Rybakina (1 p.m., Tennis Channel). How they got here. The PGA Champions Tour Hoag Classic goes into the final round with Newport Beach resident Fred Couples two shots off the lead (TV coverage at 1 p.m., Golf Channel). The Los Angeles Marathon’s 38th edition takes runners from Dodger Stadium to Century City (coverage started at 6:30 a.m., Ch. 5). Preview. Santa Anita runs an 11-race thoroughbred card (12:30 p.m., FanDuel TV). Los Alamitos presents eight quarter-horse and thoroughbred races (6:20 p.m.). BETWEEN THE LINES

New Las Vegas odds on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament have raised UCLA to third choice to win it all after the losses by No. 1 seeds Kansas in the West and Purdue in the East. The Bruins, No. 2 seed in the West, are listed at odds ranging from +650 to +800, below Alabama (+.450 to +480)), top seed in the South, and Houston (+450 to +500), top seed in the East.


“The best thing I saw in sports today was the Thiago Almada free kick. The camera angle directly behind him. Wow.” – LAFC beat writer Josh Gross ((at)yay_yee) on a goal by the Atlanta United midfielder against Portland yesterday. Here’s video.

1,000 WORDS

Double team: UCLA’s Christeen Iwuala, right, and Gabriela Jaquez, left, try to take the ball away as the Bruins held Sacramento State to a season low in points in a 76-50 win last night at Pauley Pavilion. Photo is by Keith Birmingham of the Pasadena Star-News and SCNG.


Thanks for reading the newsletter. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at and via Twitter @KevinModesti.

Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Season Review: USC Basketball Overachieves, Setting Up A Bright Future

For the second year in a row, USC’s season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament, this time with a 72-62 loss to Michigan State.

It was a disappointing loss for the Trojans, given that their own offensive shortcomings played a major role in the defeat. But entering the season there was no guarantee this was even a tournament team. Only Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis were key rotation pieces a year ago, and the Trojans had to rely on many untested freshmen and sophomores.

Only the team dynamic worked, and the young Trojans developed into some valuable role players.

Reese Dixon-Waters was Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year with his ability to score and defend off the bench. Kobe Johnson led the conference in steals and shot 36% from 3-point range. Tre White showed flashes as someone who can create his own shot. Joshua Morgan was an intimidating rim protector. Vincent Iwuchukwu had moments on offense when he was healthy enough to play. Kijani Wright developed into a reliable defender.

Which means, moving forward, all the pieces are in place to play around the dynamic force that is joining the team next year. We’ll touch more on him in a moment, but this season could end being looked at as a springboard to greater success in a year.

Highlights Two top-25 home wins over Auburn and UCLA certainly rank near the top of the list. So does a sweep of the Mountain road trip, something the Trojans never take for granted. And overcoming a season-opening loss to Florida Gulf Coast to finish tied for second in the Pac-12 was certainly an achievement. But the aforementioned player development will likely be the lasting legacy of this USC season.

Lowlights It has to be the way the season ended. Losing to Arizona with outright second place on the line, almost blowing senior day to Arizona State only to come out completely flat in the Pac-12 tournament opener to the Sun Devils was bad enough. But that trend of slow starts and offensive droughts followed USC to Columbus as the Trojans shot 34.4% from the floor in the second half against Michigan State.

Who’s gone Peterson is graduating, while Ellis has made clear he intends to forgo his fifth season of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft. The pair did an admirable job leading these young Trojans as captains this season.

Though he had a tendency to be streaky, Peterson was always capable of stuffing a stat sheet in multiple ways. And he fought through back spasms over the course of the last three weeks of the season, refusing to miss a game despite his obvious discomfort.

Ellis’ blossoming into a true playmaker was one of the highlights of USC’s season. He arrived in Los Angeles in 2021 as a renowned scorer but an unbalanced game. But as his senior season progressed, he turned into a true point guard, impressing coaches and teammates with his decision making as he looked to make the right basketball play rather than just score.

Who’s on the fence There’s no Mobley brother weighing an NBA decision this spring. Most of USC’s contributors are expected to stay for next season, though it’s possible there are a couple players who opt to transfer and create scholarship spots for head coach Andy Enfield and his staff.

Who’s on the way The nation’s top overall recruit, point guard Isaiah Collier, should light the Galen Center up next season. He likes to push the tempo, running in transition and finishing with ferocious dunks. He has a smooth jumper and likes to drive to the rim with slippery moves. And most importantly, he is a true point guard who makes clever passes when his gravity inevitably pulls the defense in.

He’ll be joined by high school teammate and four-star center Arrinten Page. At 6-foot-9, Page is an athletic, high-flying big with impeccable chemistry with Collier. And four-star combo guard Silas Demary Jr. rounds out the recruiting class as a pure scorer.

As of now, all 13 scholarship slots are accounted for next year. But if anyone transfers out, USC would like to add another perimeter scorer who can create his own shot or a low post big who can take entry passes and find ways to score.

Kings On Cusp Of First Place In Western Conference

The Kings have enjoyed nearly two months as the NHL’s hottest team and they’ll have an opportunity to move into first place in their division and conference with a victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

They’re positioned just one point behind Vegas, who will be idle until Sunday when they’ll host the Columbus Blue Jackets. For the Kings, whose .786 points percentage since Jan. 22 is the best in the league, there seem to be plenty of bricks in the wall. That’s been true even with leading scorer Kevin Fiala (lower body) and skilled defenseman Sean Durzi (upper body) on the shelf.

“We’ve done a great job, at the deadline, adding Kevin. We’re a very good team now and we have a lot of confidence in everyone on this team,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, referring to the trades the Kings made over the summer and near the trade deadline.

The Kings have managed to win seven of their past eight games, with their only loss coming in a shootout. They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in each of their past seven matches while pouring in four or more tallies in six of their last eight.

“That’s what you’re aiming for, two goals or less,” Doughty said. “That’s how you win in playoffs, and that’s where we want to get is, obviously, to the playoffs and make a statement and not lose in the first round this year.”

The Kings wrapped up their schedule against the Eastern Conference with wins over the New York Islanders on Tuesday and Columbus on Thursday. They finished 17-11-4 against the East, a respectable mark but well shy of the 23-6-3 record that left them one point shy of the best interconference record in the NHL last season.

“We’re done, and the best part about it is that we don’t have to travel out that way. That can be taxing,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.

The Kings have banked up points in part because of some favorable scheduling, which they’ve relished after paying the price with a dense docket earlier in the season. They’re in the midst of a stretch that will see them play 10 of 11 games at home, with eight of those opponents being outside the playoff picture.

But they’ve also brought forth a committed team effort, from their top six forwards and top four defensemen to their depth players. On Thursday, fourth-line winger Carl Grundstrom led the way. He kept a play alive in the Columbus zone that led to an assist for him and a goal for the Kings before he displayed an indefatigable motor and the skill to make it pay off on an unassisted goal later in the same period.

“I’ve really been impressed with Grundy. I think he’s been playing great, playing hard. He’s probably the hardest forward to play against (on our team) because he’s so physical and strong,” Doughty said.

Doughty wasn’t the only Kings veteran to take a liking to Grundstrom. Retired winger Dustin Brown, who attended Saturday’s game, said over the summer that Grundstrom was one player he made it a point to talk to on the ride home after being eliminated from last year’s playoffs. He saw some of his own game in the wrecking-ball style Grundstrom played.

“I’ve had a soft spot for Grundy, because he’s Tonka Truck,” Brown said with a smile. “He played really well, I was happy for him. He got put into a spot and he performed how I knew he would.”

McLellan said the path of Grundstrom, 25, to becoming an NHL regular was replete with rigors but that it gave his teammates an appreciation of his dedication.

“He is a popular guy. One, because his journey to where he is right now has been a tough one for him. He’s been persistent, he’s worked hard, he’s endeared himself to his teammates and they really want to see him do well,” McLellan said.

This campaign has not coalesced quite so well for Vancouver, which saw a bizarre, protracted saga lead to a coaching change from former Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to former Kings winger Rick Tocchet. They also dealt their leading goal-scorer, Bo Horvat, to the Islanders, and went through much of the year without starting goalie Thatcher Demko.

Though the postseason seems a fanciful dream with a 16-point deficit behind the final wild-card berth, the Canucks have been playing better of late. Demko has won five of seven decisions since returning from injury Feb. 27, a stretch that has seen Vancouver capture six of eight victories overall. Imaginative center Elias Pettersson tops Vancouver in scoring with 85 points in 65 games, while 27-year-old Russian import Andrei Kuzmenko has been a revelation with a team-leading 34 goals. They each have 10 points over their last eight outings.

Vancouver at Kings When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Arena

TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeart Radio

Pac-12 Basketball: No, UCLA And USC Won’t Take Their NCAA Tournament Units To The Big Ten

Time for Pac-12 fans to embrace the enemy within.

UCLA and USC are departing for the Big Ten in the summer of 2024, but the March Madness units they collect in the NCAA’s complicated revenue distribution formula will remain bound to the Pac-12 for the full payout cycle.

The schools are leaving; the units are staying.

USC was eliminated Friday by Michigan State, while the Bruins have advanced to the second round and a date with Northwestern on Saturday.

Their success will impact Pac-12 budgets for years to come.

We’ll get to the details momentarily, but suffice it to say that every tournament game played by the L.A. schools this March and next March will be worth tens of thousands of dollars to each continuing member starting in the spring of 2025.

Without getting too deep into the complexities of the NCAA’s distribution formula, know this:

Each game played is worth one unit through the national semifinals — a maximum of five per team per year. Each unit has a dollar value attached. The units are carried forward for six years and paid out to the conferences in ever-increasing amounts each spring. (The increase is roughly 3 percent per year). The units USC and UCLA earn in the 2023-24 tournaments will not follow them to the Big Ten. They will stay with the Pac-12, with the dollars distributed evenly among the remaining 10 schools.

Let’s say UCLA reaches the Sweet 16 this year. That’s three games played and three units earned. Next year, those units will be worth about $360,000 each, or $1.1 million in total.

That money will be split 12 ways ($30,000 per unit) because the Bruins and Trojans are members of the conference in the 2024 fiscal year.

But starting with the spring of 2025 — and continuing for the remaining five years of the payout cycle — UCLA’s units will be split 10 ways among the remaining Pac-12 schools. And they will increase in value each year.

(Revenue distributions for any new members would be negotiated.)

With the 3 percent escalator, we’ll estimate the average unit value over the final five years of the payout cycle at $390,000.

Divide that by 10, and it’s $39,000 per school per year for five years — or almost $200,000.

And that’s for a single unit earned by the Bruins and Trojans this month.

Games played in the NCAAs next March would work the same way, except with the payout cycle starting in the spring of 2025, the L.A. schools would not reap any of the cash they generated.

So if you’re wondering whether to root for the L.A. schools, keep in mind the endgame: Their success in the NCAAs could be worth $1 million or more to your school over time.

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Jon Wilner | College Sports Reporter Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP top-25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree.

Angels Considering What To Do With Jared Walsh Against Lefties This Season

TEMPE, Ariz. — The question of Jared Walsh’s performance against lefties once again hangs over the Angels’ first baseman.

The Angels now have more answers, though.

Walsh has a career .834 OPS against righties and a .600 OPS against lefties. Even though he’s struggled most of the time against lefties, he has had enough big moments — like a grand slam against Aroldis Chapman — to support the idea that he will hit lefties if given enough opportunity.

Walsh certainly believes that. Manager Phil Nevin also expressed confidence in Walsh, although he added that they have alternatives.

“I think he’s capable of hitting (lefties),” Nevin said. “We’re going to put our best lineup out each day that gives us the best chance to win. If we feel the matchup is right for Jared to face those guys then he will. We certainly have an abundance of right-handed hitters that have a history and a track record of being very successful against lefties.”

Brandon Drury, who played 48 games at first in his career, will start at first for the Angels on Saturday. Gio Urshela has never started a game at first in his big league career, but he’s played there in winter ball, and Nevin said he’s confident in his ability to do it because he “knows what kind of athlete he is.”

Drury has a career .770 OPS against lefties, including .955 last season. Urshela has a .764 OPS against lefties.

Walsh shrugged at the suggestion that there are now more challengers that could send him to the bench against lefties.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” Walsh said.

For now, Walsh said he’s just focused on hitting, period.

This spring Walsh is 8 for 25 (.320) with a .934 OPS. He is 3 for 7 against lefties. After striking out in his first four at-bats against lefties, he has three straight hits.

“I’m just going to get squared away against any pitcher, and get to the lefty thing,” he said. “I work regularly on angle flips against righties and lefties. I think if I stay through the ball more against lefties, there will be more hits in there.”

RENGIFO’S ROLE One certainty in the way the Angels construct their lineup against lefties is that Luis Rengifo will be playing.

“I would anticipate him being out there all the time against lefties,” Nevin said.

Rengifo, a switch-hitter, produced a .909 OPS against lefties last season, compared with .629 against righties.

Where Rengifo will play remains to be seen. He could play second or short, with Drury and Urshela joining him in the infield. Nevin also said he wants to see more of Rengifo in the outfield, including center field.

For now, the Angels would just like to see Rengifo play. Nevin conceded that he is concerned that Rengifo has played in just two of Venezuela’s games in the World Baseball Classic, coming to the plate just five times.

Nevin said he understands that Venezuela is going with its best lineup, and not as concerned with getting Rengifo ready for the season.

“I know that’s part of it,” Nevin said. “They are trying to win games. I’m a little partial. I think he should be out there. Of course when he comes back we’ve got to get him a lot of at-bats, which we can do.”

Venezuela is playing Team USA in a quarterfinal game on Saturday in Miami, so the soonest Rengifo is likely to be back in Angels camp is Monday.

NOTES Nevin said the Angels will use their sixth starter for the first time on April 12, which is their 12th game of the season. He said that they still have four candidates for the role: left-hander Tucker Davidson and right-handers Jaime Barría, Griffin Canning and Chase Silseth. Davidson and Barria are both out of options. Nevin said any of the four could pitch out of the bullpen when he isn’t starting, even though Canning and Silseth haven’t done that yet as professionals. “It’s a difficult decision,” Nevin said. “They are all pitching well.” …

Left-hander José Suarez is scheduled for the Angels’ fifth game of the season. Shohei Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval are pitching the first two games, at Oakland on March 30 and April 1. That leaves the uncertainty surrounding Tyler Anderson and Reid Detmers. Anderson pitched the day before Detmers this week, so presumably the Angels are lining up Anderson to start April 3 in Oakland and Detmers the next day in Seattle.

Amari Bailey Can ‘morph’ Into What UCLA Needs In NCAA Tournament

SACRAMENTO — Amari Bailey is familiar with the Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

He was a freshman in high school when Sierra Canyon played there in the CIF State Open Division final in March 2019. The highly touted lefty tallied nine points, three rebounds and four assists to help the Trailblazers beat Sacramento Sheldon 76-52 and hoist the program’s second consecutive state title.

He also created a viral moment in the game, dunking over 6-foot-8 Brennan Newsom, which gave Southern California a tease of what was to come before Bailey went on to an outstanding prep career and earned McDonald’s All-American status.

UCLA’s Amari Bailey is familiar with the Golden 1 Center. He won a CIF State Open title with Sierra Canyon as a freshman in March of 2019.

Four years later, he’s a college freshman in his first NCAA tournament back in Sacramento.

I was there in 2019. I’m here now. Time flies.

— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) March 17, 2023

Four years later, Bailey is a college freshman back in the state’s capital looking to help UCLA make a deep run in the NCAA tournament when they need him most.

After an 86-53 first-round victory over UNC Asheville on Thursday night, the second-seeded Bruins will face seventh-seeded Northwestern in the second round at 5:40 p.m. Saturday in the Golden 1 Center.

The 6-foot-5 Bailey filled the stat sheet in the win, notching 17 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes.

“It was just a surreal feeling. It felt like a full-circle moment,” Bailey said about playing in the same arena. “I just had chills running through my body. I just wanted to stay focused and stay present in the moment.”

At Sierra Canyon, Bailey was in support of then-seniors Cassius Stanley, Scotty Pippen Jr., KJ Martin and Christian Koloko – all future NBA players.

“Amari has an amazing ability to morph into whatever player the team needs him to be,” Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said. “He knew he wasn’t going to be a primary scorer.”

“He was going to play defense,” Chevalier added. “He was our ‘no-catch’ guy. We would put him on the other team’s best player.”

When Bailey arrived in Westwood, his role was eerily similar to the role he had at Sierra Canyon in year one, supporting Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and Jaylen Clark. But adjusting to the college game is, of course, a lot more challenging.

“I think it’s just a lot harder than people realize, to find a comfort zone,” Cronin said. “You have to find a comfort zone on our team. You’re coming in and playing with the Player of the Year in the Pac-12 [Jaquez], (Tyger) Campbell and Dave (Singleton), a lot of guys that have been around. It’s been a process for he and I of trying to get him to the comfort zone.”

Bailey’s role has helped UCLA win 30 games – the most of any power six conference team – win a Pac-12 Conference regular-season title, and get as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll while averaging 10.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

Since Jaylen Clark – the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year – went down with a lower leg injury, Bailey has shown that morphing ability Chevalier was referencing, averaging 18 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during the conference tournament, including a career-high 26 points in UCLA’s 80-69 win over Colorado.

On top of his play as of late, Bailey has responded well to Cronin’s well-known tough coaching.

“I’m no Mick Cronin, but I coached (Amari) pretty hard, I’d say he’s had a lot of practice,” Chevalier said laughing.

Bailey has a history of answering the call when challenged. He championed the defensive role as a freshman in high school. He turned into Mr. Do-it-all his junior season, averaging 29.2 points, 9.1 rebounds & 6.5 assists and notched three triple-doubles. He has been an outstanding role player throughout UCLA’s regular season, but now he’s being called on to be more in the team’s run toward a national title.

More defense. More rebounding. More offense. More minutes.

So far, he’s answered that call, too.

“He’s embraced the defensive end, which doesn’t surprise me. The guy is from the south side of Chicago. He’s tough,” Cronin said.

UCLA (30-5) vs. Northwestern (22-11) What: NCAA second round

When: 5:40 p.m. Saturday

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento