Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jimmy Baron & Weyinmi Efejuku: Working Hard For The NBA Draft

Looks like URI's Jimmy Baron and PC's Weyinmi Efejuku are still hoping to hear their names called in the NBA Draft, via ProJo Sports:

It only takes one.

That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy driving both Jimmy Baron and Weyinmi Efejuku as they try to work themselves onto the radar screens of teams leading up to the NBA Draft.

Baron and Efejuku have signed with agents and are working out with other elite college players as they look to improve their skills and shine in workout sessions with pro teams. Right now neither player is popping up on the numerous mock drafts, but they both hold out hope that will change leading up to the June 25 selections.

"I believe it's possible," said Efejuku, the leading scorer (15.7 ppg) at Providence College in 2009. "Getting into the draft or playing for a (NBA) team in a summer league as a free agent is my primary focus."

Efejuku graduated from PC on May 18 and is spending a few days with his mother at her home in Atlanta. He has signed with an agent, Merle Scott of United Worldwide Sports, and will travel to Chicago next week to train at the ATTACK Athletics Training Center. That's the gym the NBA is currently running its pre-draft camp at this week.

Neither Efejuku or Baron was among the 52 players invited to the NBA's official combine. Unlike previous years, those players will not play 5-on-5 games. Instead they'll be measured and weighed and be available for interviews or private workouts, somewhat similar to the NFL's combine in Indianapolis.

Both Efejuku and Baron have already worked out for some NBA teams. Efejuku spent last Friday in Washington with the Wizards along with Villanova's Dwayne Anderson and Gonzaga's Micah Downs. He mentioned prospective dates with the Celtics, Trailblazers and Thunder coming up in June.

"The teams say I need to improve my ballhandling in the fullcourt, just in order to beat pressure," he said. "Everyone likes my speed and athleticism and shooting but I need to keep my conditioning up and hit more shots in the mid-range game."

Baron remains in Santa Monica, Cal., where he's working with other clients of the Wasserman Media Group, one of the largest agent firms in the business. WMG held a workout last Friday to showcase their 2009 draft clients, a group that includes Baron, James Johnson (Wake Forest), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), DaJuan Summers (Georgetown), K.C. Rivers (Clemson), Ryan Ayers (Notre Dame) and Josh Shipp (UCLA). Several teams, including Sacramento, Charlotte, Portland, Toronto, Detroit and the Clippers and Lakers, attended.

Johnson and Henderson are considered potential lottery picks and certain first-rounders. Ellington and Summers are also hearing first-round buzz.

"Jimmy shot the ball well, as usual, and a lot of teams saw him," said Rob McClanahan, the Cranston native and workout guru who with WMG's basketball clients.

The other players most prominently mentioned as likely top 10 picks include Blake Griffin (Oklahoma State), Hasheem Thabeet (UConn), guard Ricky Rubio (Spain), Jordan Hill (Arizona), James Harden (Arizona State), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Jrue Holiday (UCLA), Tyreke Evans (Memphis) and Brandon Jennings, a top prep senior in 2008 who spent the 2008-09 season playing in Italy.

Both Efejuku and Baron will be invited to group workouts over the next month where teams will need additional players to perform around the bigger names available in the draft. While not the featured performers, those are additional opportunities for both players to open some eyes. One team both players want to be seen by is Portland. The Blazers own the rights to four second-round picks, as well as one (24th overall) in the first round.

"The feedback we're getting has been good and this is the top priority right now," said Efejuku. "If (getting drafted) doesn't happen, there's the summer leagues and then, maybe, a shot in Europe. But playing in the NBA is the primary focus."

URI Baseball Snubbed By NCAA Baseball Comittee

Looks like the Rhode Island baseball team got snubbed and was left out of the NCAA Tournament. I just recently found out that my boy Idris is an assitant coach for the Rams as well:

And as a kid, assistant coach Idris Liasu, a native Nigerian, was always hanging around Hendricken Field when Foster played for PC. Liasu later played for CCRI and Bethany College.

Here's the scoop on the Rams snub, via ProJo Sports:

Despite posting a school record for wins en route to a 37-20 mark and finishing with an RPI rating of 53, the University of Rhode Island baseball team learned earlier this week that it was not among the field of 64 invited to play in the NCAA Regional Tournament.

URI coach Jim Foster says that he is "definitely disappointed" in the selection committee's decision, adding that this year's process "has set college baseball back five years by doing this."

"I think a lot of people feel the same way," he said of URI's omission from the tourney when reached by phone Wednesday. "For a team from New England to do what we did this year . . . . it hasn't really happened before, the success we had. And I think we definitely did enough to get in. We beat two ACC teams, three or four Top-25 teams. We almost beat the No. 2 team in the country -- they were No. 1 at the time. So we couldn't have done anything else. I've been getting text messages and e-mails and phone calls for two days now saying, 'It's unbelievable what you guys have done.' "

Going 19-6 against Atlantic-10 Conference opponents, which included a sweep of regular-season champion Dayton, URI earned the second seed and a first-round bye in the Atlantic-10 Championship, where the Rams advanced to the title game against No. 3 Xavier with wins over the Muskateers and Dayton – 7-6 and 9-2, respectively.

Xavier avenged its earlier setback to URI, defeating the Rams, 9-7 and 10-1, to capture the A-10 crown. Earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the process, Xavier (18-9) will face Kansas State in the Houston Regional.

The Rams' non-conference opponents this season included Cal State Fullerton, Oklahoma State, N.C. State, Santa Clara, Ohio State and Miami. They were 4-4 against those teams, posting wins over N.C. State, Miami, Ohio State and splitting with Oklahoma State.

"We have three great quality starting pitchers who can beat anybody. We've got guys who are going to be drafted. We've got all the ingredients that they look for," said Foster, now in his fourth year at the Rams' helm. "We have a great story. We're building something special here."

However the NCAA Selection Committee, headed by chairman Tim Weiser, apparently did not feel URI had done quite enough.

Weiser -- who is also deputy commissioner of the Big 12 Conference -- was asked to justify the selection of two schools from his conference, Baylor (10-16 Big 12, 29-24 overall) and Oklahoma State (9-16 Big 12, 32-22 overall), which finished eighth and ninth, respectively, in their 10-team league, over URI. He said in a media conference call earlier this week that URI's 12 losses to teams with an RPI ranking above 100 worked against the Rams. He also cited their non-conference strength of schedule, which he said was in "the triple digits."

Foster said URI's schedule is largely dictated by the conference it plays in. And although budget constraints and the players' academic commitments make it difficult for the Rams to travel out of the region for their mid-week games, they still played the toughest schedule they've ever had.

As for the losses, he said, "Everybody stubs their toe over the course of the season. It's not football. It's not basketball. It's baseball and you're all going to lose some games."

"I'm proud of the guys. I'm proud of what we accomplished. I'm just disappointed about not being able to play another weekend," said Foster, a former standout catcher at Providence College in the 1990s who went on to play 10 years in the minor leagues. "I've been in two regionals, and it's a blast. That's why you put in all the hard work."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Real Son of Sam Horn

Remember Sam Horn? Well, his son plays baseball for North Kingston High School and he is trying to follow in his father's footsteps, via ProJo's High School Game Time:

The Sons of Sam Horn is a well-known, online-message board focusing on the Red Sox and named in honor of one of the more enigmatic players to play for them.

But Jamale Horn?

He's the real son of Sam Horn.

And on this afternoon he is playing left field for North Kingstown High School against Portsmouth, a big-rangy kid with his own baseball dreams.

Once upon a time, way back in 1982, Sam Horn was the number-one draft pick of the Red Sox, billed as the franchise's power hitter of the future, the California kid with the big dreams. In 1987, he was tearing up the International League as a member of the PawSox. Called up by the Red Sox in July, he went on to hit 14 home runs, one of the few bright spots in a lost season. That was back when he thought baseball always was going to be as easy as a batting-practice fastball.

He was big, he was left-handed, and when he crushed one you could see what all the fuss had been about, could close you eyes and see him seemingly doing this forever. Back before he learned that baseball can be a cruel mistress, back before the negatives began to pile up like some bad credit rating. Back before the roller-coaster ride began for Sam Horn, three years with the Orioles, in the Indians' farm system with Manny Ramirez, then with the Pirates, Rangers and Yankees.

Have bat, will travel.

So by the time he showed up in North Kingstown in 2002, his career was over, and he had an indoor baseball facility off Route 2 called Around the Horn.

Jamale Horn was 6 years old.

"I grew up in Around the Horn," he said.

Interestingly, he says he doesn't really know a lot of the specifics of his father's career, other than the fact his father wasn't around a whole lot when he was a child, Sam Horn playing overseas at the time. Nor has he ever gone on the Sons of Sam Horn Web site, even though he's heard of it.

But from the beginning, he was always Sam Horn's kid, a big thing in a small town where you are playing Little League and no one else's father ever played in the big leagues. And as he grew up playing sports, the ramifications of that became heavier. The Son of Sam Horn.

It was after his recent high school game, and he was sitting on a row of bleachers. He is 6-foot-5 and lanky, a different body than his father had when he first came into professional baseball, not as big, not as powerful, but you can see the young Sam Horn in his face. He was asked if he ever felt any pressure being Sam Horn's son.

"I feel pressure all the time," he said.

He feels pressure because his father was a major-league baseball player, and because of that he is somehow viewed differently, real or imagined.

He feels pressure because he's now got his own baseball dreams, and he's now a senior in high school and his future will soon start. Next year he will go to a Georgia junior college, the first stop on what he hopes will one day take him down the same path his father once walked.

"He's got skills baseball-wise that you can't teach," said his coach, Kevin Gormley. "He's got five-tool talent."

But becoming a professional baseball player is a long process, takes more than just talent and potential. It takes hard work and determination, and often a little luck, too. If you can see the talent on a high school baseball field in Rhode Island, can see the potential, it's still little more than the first step in the process.

So it is with Jamale Horn.

"He's never really committed himself to baseball," Gormley said.

One theory is that he liked basketball better, and, in truth, Horn was a very good Rhode Island high school basketball player, one of North Kingstown's best. To the point that last summer, he didn't play legion ball, taking the summer off from baseball.

Another?

Baseball was just something he did, something he was good at, certainly, but nothing that defined him. One senses that has changed, that it's now time to get serious. Gormley thinks so, anyway.

Maybe it was the Cincinnati Reds coming down one day to watch him take batting practice. Maybe it was the realization that he's 6-5 and athletic, the kind of size that jumps out at you on a high school baseball field. Maybe it's simply that he wants this to be his future.

Whatever the reason, Jamale Horn is now serious.

"He's a special talent," Gormely said. "I think he's got a shot."

Like father, like son?

We'll see.

For a lot of people still remember Sam Horn, a name that lives on through the Sons of Sam Horn website.

But only Jamale is the real Son of Sam Horn.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Repeat - Mista Mista feat Taktix

New joint from the homies Mista Mista & Taktix. Also, Mista Mista's debut album will be released in mid-June.

Repeat - Mista Mista feat Taktix

More: New Joints