USC tries to rebound from 26-loss season

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USC tries to rebound from 26-loss season

LOS ANGELES (AP) Hit hard by injuries and a school-record 26 losses last season, the Southern California Trojans are eager to put the ugliness behind them and make a big turnaround led by point guard Jio Fontan.

The projected star of the program has mostly been off the court the last two seasons after transferring from Fordham. Fontan played just half a season in his USC debut, then missed all of last season after he tore his ACL during a summer exhibition tour in Brazil.

He wasn't the only player to go down. Forward Aaron Fuller, the team's second-leading scorer, hurt his left shoulder and center Dewayne Dedmon, the No. 3 scorer, tore his ACL, cutting their seasons short.

By season's end, the Trojans had just six scholarship players available. They finished 6-26 - 1-17 in the Pac-12 - after averaging 53 points and shooting 39 percent from the floor.

Now Fontan is healthy and looking forward to finally playing an entire season alongside a mix of transfers and newcomers under coach Kevin O'Neill.

``We're just flipping the page, starting a new chapter and trying to take advantage of this,'' Fontan said. ``We've got a lot of guys who only have one year left and we all have the same goal - win big.''

Fontan will anchor the backcourt with his ability to score and distribute. Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell could start at shooting guard. Sophomore Byron Wesley, who averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, is another likely starter.

Maurice Jones led the Trojans in scoring last season while playing 38 minutes a game in Fontan's absence. He was going to miss this year because of academic reasons and was expected to return in 2013-14, but abruptly transferred to Iowa State last week.

O'Neill has depth to replace him. Greg Allen started eight games last season, and freshman Brendyn Taylor brings an NBA pedigree. His father, Brian, played in the pros.

``Last year we didn't have that deep of a bench,'' Fuller said. ``Not like this year where we have a good rotation going on where we have guys that we can trust to get the job done.''

Fuller and the 7-foot Dedmon figure to start in the frontcourt. Dedmon didn't start playing organized basketball until he was a senior in high school. The junior's agility and quickness already led O'Neill to predict that he'll eventually make it to the pros.

``We're here to prove that we're better than a six-win team, so we're just going to come out with a lot of intensity,'' Dedmon said. ``It's definitely important to have Jio back as a leader on and off the court because he's a big-time player.''

Three other transfers could bolster the front line. Ari Stewart from Wake Forest, Renaldo Woolridge from Tennessee and Eric Wise from UC Irvine will be competing for playing time at forward.

``We have depth. We have experience. We have size,'' said O'Neill, entering his fourth year at USC. ``How quickly we jell and learn to play together remains to be seen. But we've got leadership in Jio. We have a lot of pieces, and now it's our job to put those pieces together.''

The Trojans' style of play will change to an aggressive tempo from the plodding, deliberate game O'Neill was forced to play the last couple of years because of the lack of size and depth.

``When you're this deep, you want to push the game,'' Fontan said. ``You want to make the tempo as fast and, at the same time, controlled as possible because we've got a lot of weapons and a lot of subs than we can make to get guys in, which won't lower the level of expectations on the coaches or our level of play.''

O'Neill has reason to feel more confident this year than he has at any time in his tenure. He arrived in the wake of an ongoing NCAA investigation and the departure of O.J. Mayo after one season. The following season he lost three starters and a handful of other players. Then came last season and the slew of injuries.

``Last year was very difficult because of our injuries and the fact that when I got here there was no freshmen or sophomores, so we had two blank recruiting classes,'' he said. ``The only way you can put it back together to get where we have the bodies we have now is with junior college guys, transfers and blend in a few freshmen. Now our goal is to get mostly freshmen going forward, which we're doing. We have four guys committed right now and we're hoping to get one more, and we're starting to build what I think is a really solid program.''

The Trojans open the season at home Nov. 9 against Coppin State. They host defending Big West champion Long Beach State before heading to the Maui Invitational and then return home to play defending Mountain West champion San Diego State.

Showalter hoping to get Flaherty back from Norfolk soon

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Showalter hoping to get Flaherty back from Norfolk soon

BALTIMORE – Friday is the game for the Orioles with a three-man bench. Pedro Alvarez, Caleb Joseph and Hyun Soo Kim comprise manager Buck Showalter’s extra players. 

The Orioles have gone with a short bench since Monday when the team optioned infielder Ryan Flaherty to Norfolk in order to have an eight-man bullpen. 

Showalter is hoping that he’ll be able to have Flaherty back soon. He’s eligible to return next Thursday, 10 days after he was optioned. The only exception is if Flaherty replaces a player placed on the disabled list.

Flaherty accepted his demotion to Norfolk in stride, quickly reporting to the Tides. 

“We’ll do what’s best, but we know Ryan’s time down there is up on the fifth,” Showalter said.

“He’s done real well down there. I’m proud of that.” 

Norfolk manager Ron Johnson is glad to have Flaherty in Norfolk.

“R.J. said he looks like a big leaguer playing in the minor leagues,” Showalter said. 

The Orioles don’t pinch hit much, and haven’t needed an extra outfielder, but with his team ahead by eight runs after six innings, Showalter felt comfortable enough to rest a few of his regulars.

“It was quite a challenge last night to get Adam (Jones) and J.J. (Hardy) and Chris (Davis) off the field with a three-man bench and still have one left on the bench,” Showalter said.

RELATED: SHOWALTERS ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR OCTOBER KIDSPEACE RACE

Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

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Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

Nats (14-7) vs. Cardinals (12-10) at Busch Stadium

The Nationals will look to bounce back after getting swept by the Phillies as they head to St. Louis for a series with the Cardinals.

Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17) will take the mound for Washington looking to continue his impressive start to the 2016 season. Strasburg has never started a season 4-0.

The Cardinals will turn to Mike Leake who has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts this saeson.

First pitch: 8:15 p.m.
TV: MASN 2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stepehen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

CARDINALS

3B Matt Carpenter
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Jeed Gyorko
SS Aledmys Diaz
C Eric Fryer
RHP Mike Leake

Follow along with GameView here.

Ronnie Stanley could begin Ravens career at guard instead of tackle

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Ronnie Stanley could begin Ravens career at guard instead of tackle

OWINGS MILLS – Will Ronnie Stanley make his Ravens debut at left tackle or left guard?

Stanley was drafted No. 6 overall to be the Ravens’ long-term fixture at left tackle. But in the short term, the Ravens must decide if moving Stanley to left guard, and keeping Eugene Monroe for another season at left tackle, would be better or worse for the entire offensive line.

The Ravens don’t need to make a hasty decision on whether to cut or keep Monroe, who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Remember, if they cut Monroe, the Ravens are a lot thinner at left tackle if something happens to Stanley. Once Monroe is healthy, the Ravens can see how he performs before determining his fate. 

Playing Stanley at left guard could also fill the void created when left guard Kelechi Osmele signed with the Raiders during free agency. John Urschel and Rick Wagner are expected to compete for the starting left guard job, but Stanley’s talent could make him the best option.

Stanley played both left tackle and right tackle at Notre Dame, but his only action at guard came during a spring game. However, Stanley was not opposed to the idea of switching to guard during his Ravens’ debut press conference Friday at team headquarters.

“I can handle it,” Stanley said of playing guard. “Wherever the coaches put me that they see fit, that’s where I’ll play.”

Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo believes competing with Monroe could accelerate Stanley’s development.

“We’re going to let Ronnie go in there and compete with Eugene,” Castillo said. “We want to play the best five players. Ronnie is a very good athlete, good player, so is Eugene. So we let them compete. We’re going to play the five best guys. The Ravens are all about competition. Coach (John) Harbaugh talks about that. It just makes everybody better.

Castillo believes Stanley has the skill set to play guard, despite his lack of experience there.

"Jonathan Ogden did that (played guard) his first year,” said Castillo, referring to the Hall of Fame left tackle who had a legendary career with the Ravens. “You draft tackles because they’re the better athletes. You stick them inside at guard, a lot of times what happens for those tackles, they say, ‘Whoa, it’s a lot easier inside. There’s not as much green to be able to cover.’"

Eventually, the Ravens expect Stanley to be their starting left tackle. But Monroe may not have lost the job just yet.