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UGA Sports

    Athens, GA - The familiar sounds of coach’s whistles and stampeding linemen can be heard around the Butts-Mehre athletic complex in Five Points this afternoon. That’s because football, the lifeblood of the University of Georgia and Athens is back for 2017 Spring Practice.  Year two of head coach Kirby Smart will officially begin today with the first of a series of practices leading up to the April 22nd G-Day game to be held in Sanford Stadium, with no shortage of storylines to watch.  The progression of sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason will likely take the forefront of attention - again - as the heralded signal caller from Washington state will look to show maturity coming on the heels of a successful but otherwise not spectacular freshman season in the Southeastern Conference. And new this year comes legit competition from another five-star quarterback recruit from Houston County, Georgia, Jake Fromm. How the two will complement and push one another through the rigors of practice this spring and into fall will clearly define the success of the 2017 version of the Georgia Bulldogs.  Not to be outdone, plenty of attention will be given to the beloved pair of senior running backs who surprised many by announcing they would indeed spend their senior seasons between the hedges. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both could have declared for the NFL Draft, but instead decided they would rather wash the sour taste of an 8-5 season and a home loss to Georgia Teach in 2016 out their mouths the best way they know how, with the possibility of exacting revenge. Their return not only will cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators throughout the SEC, but will provide invaluable leadership for a young corps of running backs in line behind them preparing to be the future of a program often tabbed “Running Back U.” Smart’s defense will also be under a microscope as the boys practice under the shadows of bloomed dogwood trees these next few weeks. What was considered the weakness of the program this time last year - an ultra thin and young defensive line - proved to be one of the strongest units in 2016. How they progress and grow together will be examined closely.  And the biggest mystery of them all, the offensive line, will likely not shake out until the leaves start changing this fall, rather than under the fragrance of pollen this spring. What was clearly the most-handicapping aspect of an underwhelming offense last season is now missing a few starters, but also has a lion’s share of top recruits scheduled to arrive on campus this summer. So any observations of struggles in protecting the quarterbacks or opening up holes for the running backs may require an asterisks until we make the same observations five months from now.  It’s a happy time of year for many in this part of the world. It’s often referred to as “stress-free football,” with all the nostalgia of SEC football on the practice field, without the worry of losing to a hated rival on Saturday. And when tens of thousands file into Sanford Stadium for G-Day, there’s a guaranteed Bulldog victory to be seen. And no matter how you view it, or how you want to examine and analyze it, there’s one thing everybody will agree on: football is back. And the Classic City is simply more fun with it. 
  • ATHENS – When it comes to the subject of football spending and facilities, Jon Stinchcomb is in a unique position. As a former Georgia player, he knows what the team needs and wants. As a current member of Georgia’s athletic board, he has a vote and a say in how and what money is spent. Over the past month, Stinchbomb has cast a vote agreeing to a project that will cost the school and donors $63 million. He’s also had numerous conversations with friends and donors about what more needs to be done. UGA says it will address fans’ stadium concerns And what the plan is. And if there isn’t one, what it should be. “Even for your big-money donors, it’s not: We don’t want to spend the money. It’s: Let’s make sure we’re spending it in the right places, and that it’s part of an over-arching, big picture approach that keeps us competitive,” Stinchcomb said. “And included in that is: Help me understand what we’re doing with the reserve (funds), and what’s our approach to that. Based on conversations with several donors, most of whom did not want to be named, there is a concern over whether Georgia has an institution is spending enough to keep up in the SEC and national facilities arms race. But the overarching concern is whether there is a master plan, or whether the school simply playing whack-a-mole, moving deliberately from one project to the next. “There’s a lot of frustration with the current administration and the athletic department and their use of capital, that has so enthusiastically been donated,” said Ryan Scates, a corporate attorney in Atlanta who as a student was on UGA’s athletic board during the 2012-13 school year. “UGA isn’t known for being a reactionary, second-rate institution. It’s one of the best schools in the South. So to see us get out-paced by Clemson, and Alabama and Auburn, in terms of (athletics facilities.) It’s not because we’re at a disadvantage because of resources.” Georgia’s administration, with athletics director Greg McGarity as the point man, have defended themselves by pointing to what they are spending now in facilities: • Three major projects since 2010 centered on football, totaling around $121 million. That began with a $31 million renovation to the Butts-Mehre building, then the $30.2 million just-completed indoor facility, and now $63 million committed to the Sanford Stadium renovation, which will build the team new locker rooms and a recruiting area.  • Just over $21 million committed this year alone for other projects, including Stegeman Coliseum getting a long-awaited center-hanging scoreboard. So it seems inarguable that spending has increased in recent years, and not just on facilities. (Football staff salaries went up significantly, for instance.) Sanford Stadium field gets an overhaul But the concern is that the school was only playing catch-up with these latest projects, and that more work is needed: Georgia’s weight room (built in 2011) quickly became among the smallest in the SEC. Programs like Florida and South Carolina are putting together master plans to build new facilities. Tennessee, Arkansas and others have executed strong facilities plans the past few years. “This may not be in line with other sentiments. But the indoor facility, we were playing catch up,” said Stinchcomb, an offensive tackle at Georgia from 1998-2002, who went on to play in the NFL. “We were the last in our conference (building an indoor facility) with something that can be deemed a necessity. Not just recruiting, this isn’t for looks, this is functionality. My personal feel is we should never be in that situation again. The University of Georgia has too good of a fan base, too good of an athletic department and we’re in too good of a financial situation to be last in areas of need – not just want, but in need. “That was catch-up. Now you look at the improvements for the stadium, some of those fall in line with where we were at with the indoor facility. We haven’t had a true locker room at Sanford Stadium, ever. It was an open room with no lockers. It was that way when I played there, when my brother (Matt) played there in the ‘90s. Those are not racing ahead and blazing new trails. That’s playing catch up.” UGA officials have confirmed that the athletics department has just over $77 million in reserve funds, including about $45 million listed in the most recent treasurer’s book, and $32 million invested in the UGA foundation set aside for “general support” of athletics. School officials defend that, saying there needs to be protection in case the seeming deluge of money stops. That’s also why the school is fundraising for the major projects: After donors answered the call for the indoor facility, the school is seeking $53 million from donors for the $63 million Sanford Stadium project. So how will that go? Stinchcomb said fans want to give and they support the school. They just want a “clarification and understanding as they write these sizable checks” what previous donations have gone to and “how this fits in a much bigger picture.” “When people ask me, because I’m a board member, the approach is not: We don’t want to give,” Stinchcomb said. “It’s, Help me understand where we are with the reserve, what our plan is with the reserve, and how that coincides with the raising for this project specifically of $53 million.” The stadium project announcement set off many fans who were concerned about the state of the bathrooms and concourses at the stadium. McGarity attempted to answer that by “expediting” work on those in time for next season, at a cost of $950,000. Scott Mooney, who now lives in Greenville, S.C., said he and his family have been season-ticket holders for five years. They had complained in the past about the concessions and bathrooms, and while the “expedited” work on the bathrooms was good to hear, his greater concern was the concessions area, which he found too bottled up. Mooney said he worried that the administration takes the fans for granted, “given all the money that is pouring into UGA athletics.” He said he’s reconsidering his season-ticket purchase, especially given the (slight) increase in ticket prices and the required donation to secure them. “And they are sitting on $30-million plus in rainy day funds? I just don’t get it,” Mooney said.Scates, the former athletic board member, said he donates to the Hartman Fund and has season tickets. He said he and fellow donors he’s spoken to want to see a master plan develop, or they’ll reconsider their donating. “UGA has no reason not to be the premier athletic department in the southeast. We have the donor support necessary, we have the population necessary in the state, we have the athletic talent in the state,” Scates said. “And it seems to be increasingly clear that the one thing we’re lacking is groundbreaking thinking.” The desire, according to donors, is not to go willy-nilly into the arms race and waste money. And ultimately, according to Stinchcomb, everyone wants the same thing. “What we want to do is put our football team in the best position to compete and provide the facilities and resources that they need to be champions,” Stinchcomb said.
  • From UGA Sports Communications ATHENS —— Former University of Georgia running back Terrell Davis was selected to the 7-man Class of 2017 for induction into the Pro Football of Fame, as announced on Saturday by the Hall’s Selection Committee, and introduced on a 2-hour awards show Saturday night on FOX.  Davis joins two other Bulldog greats who were previously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:  Charley Trippi (inducted in 1968) and Fran Tarkenton (inducted in 1986).   A native of San Diego, Calif., Davis originally attended Long Beach State, for which he played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 1991.  He transferred to UGA after the 49ers disbanded their football program, and in his first year for the Bulldogs in 1992, he rushed for 388 yards, playing mostly as a backup to All-American tailback Garrison Hearst.  With Hearst gone to the NFL, Davis enjoyed his best year as a collegian in 1993, leading the Bulldogs in rushing with 824 yards and five TDs, highlighted by a 177-yard effort against Arkansas.  A hamstring injury in the second game of his senior season limited his production in 1994.  He finished with 445 yards and scored six TDs.  Davis finished his Bulldog career with 1,657 rushing yards, which currently ranks 19th on the all-time list.  Then-rookie head coach Mike Shanahan used the Denver Broncos’ sixth-round pick to draft Davis in the 1995 NFL Draft.  Given long odds at even making the team, he impressed coaches and teammates alike during pre-season camp.  Davis earned the starter’s job at running back for the ’95 season opener, a job he kept for 14 games.  He became the lowest-drafted running back in NFL history to gain over 1,000 yards (1,117) in his rookie season.  Over the next three seasons, Davis seemed to play his best in the biggest games. With the Broncos winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles, he set an NFL playoff record with seven consecutive 100-yard rushing performances in 1997-98.  Davis was Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XXXII after rushing for 157 yards and three TDs against the Packers.   Davis' career was cut short by a knee injury suffered in his fifth season. Before that, Davis led the league in rushing touchdowns twice and rushed for 2,008 yards in 1998, his last healthy season. He won the MVP that year and was a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
  • Rodrigo Blankenship’s parents are speaking out about their son’s situation. In an email to DawgNation, Ken Blankenship, the father of the Georgia kicker, wrote to defend his son after the player and his family were told that the place-kicker would not be put on scholarship until next school year at the earliest. Even then, as explained in this piece by DawgNation’s Seth Emerson, a scholarship wasn’t guaranteed. Here’s the complete email, which is signed as a message from both parents:   OK—this is for public consumption, and I am writing this only as a parent’s attempt to defend his son’s victimization of an injustice. This has gone beyond the point of money being an issue. The real issue is whether our son deserves to be on scholarship. In two months, Coach Smart went from “We have a damn good field goal kicker over there” to “I’m not sure if we trust Rodrigo to be the player we want in that position.” That was the excuse/rationale/explanation he employed in our meeting on Jan. 2 after delivering a well-planned and well-conceived litany of deficiencies regarding our son’s practice, injury and emotional “issues.” This would be AFTER he trusted our son enough to kick field goals and extra points for the last 10 games of the season. At the same time Coach Smart was focusing on negative issues (that we have labeled as flimsy and contrived and weightless compared to all of our son’s positives), he was also discounting, minimizing and ultimately dismissing all of Rodrigo’s on-field contributions and accomplishments, noting that they weren’t good enough to deserve a scholarship and that “somebody else” could have done the same. At no time did Coach Smart mention anything about scholarship numbers, other than to say that he never puts anyone on scholarship mid-year. Since there will be about a half-dozen brand-new Georgia Bulldogs riding on the scholarship gravy train on Jan. 5, we beg to differ with that statement. Somebody’s going to get the scholarships left behind by Wilson, Briscoe, Choates, McGee, McGraw, McKenzie (they weren’t simply vacated into thin air, were they?), and it is very distressing to us that our son, who has ALREADY made fairly significant, valid and measurable contributions to this program commands a lower priority than those who have yet to provide a single play or single point for that same program. Isn’t Rodrigo a somewhat viable candidate for future contributions? Has he not established a somewhat impressive track record on which to base future projections? That means the newbies will be cashing those weekly $200 maintenance checks (not to mention the free housing, tuition, books, etc.) while our son uses his debit card for weekend meals and incidentals; back home in Marietta there’s a dad who has to keep his son’s checking account balance on the plus side. Yes, our son is allowed to participate at the training table during the week —a godsend when meal plan costs are computed. Our only conclusion, based on Coach Smart’s obvious pre-meeting preparation with intent to tear down our son’s case for a scholarship and during the meeting his dismissive categorization of our son’s achievements, is that there has never been a consideration for our son to receive a scholarship. We have to give Coach Smart credit where credit is due: just like a business manager refusing to give a raise to an employee during a sit-down meeting, he was extremely well-prepared with his list of grievances. At least employees receive a salary; our son is an unpaid employee who is actually paying his employer (that would be the University of Georgia) for the privilege of working for it. Aren’t there any alumni out there just a little bit peeved over this scenario, given Rodrigo’s apparent popularity? The “numbers” situation in actuality is this: starting long snapper on scholarship, starting holder on scholarship, backup holder on scholarship, starting punter on scholarship, backup punter on scholarship, starting kicker walk-on. Is there anything wrong with this snapshot of the specialist group? Why are those deserving lads worthy of a scholarship while our son isn’t? What more did they do this past season that our son did not? Coach Smart said that practice injuries were a major issue (taking up 16 of the 26 typed lines he printed out on paper to validate his refusal, with quotation marks around the word “sprained” as if to imply that our son was faking an injury), yet Rodrigo somehow managed to play in every game, while the long snapper sustained an injury that limited him to field goal/PAT snaps while someone else had to perform punt snaps for the majority of the season, the starting punter missed the last four games of the season with an injury and the backup punter missed one game with an injury. Our son played high school games with a broken bone; our son is in the treatment room taking care of his body EVERY SINGLE DAY, injured or not, because he knows he has to be healthy so the team can depend on him; our son has never shirked his duties on or off the field. Coach Smart does not yet know our son. Rodrigo’s accomplishments on the field — All-SEC Freshman team selection, SEC Special Teams Player of the Week, the team’s special teams player of the week four times, leading the team in scoring, providing the winning points in the games that made Georgia bowl-eligible (Kentucky, Auburn) and then providing the game-deciding points in the bowl game itself (putting the Dawgs ahead 24-23 with a fourth-quarter field goal) – as well as his accomplishments off the field – community service, seemingly significant popularity with the fan base, academic success (3.74 GPA, athletic director’s Dean’s list every full semester he’s been at UGA, straight As fall semester) — more than qualify him for an athletic scholarship. He was chosen by the coaching staff as most improved special teams player, but he did not improve enough to qualify for a scholarship? How many other walk-ons in the SEC led their teams in scoring this past season? Why is he remaining at a school where the head coach refuses to acknowledge that his contributions are more than worthy of being on scholarship? We cannot answer the second part of that inquiry. The first part is not that complicated to address: Rodrigo loves UGA, he loves Dawg Nation, he loves his teammates, he loves being a starting player in the SEC, he loves his major field of study and this father cannot break his son’s heart by asking him to transfer to a school that will appreciate his talents enough to pay for his education although with his accrued resume’ I don’t think it would take long to find one. I have known my son for almost 20 years, and I can assure anyone (and many members of Dawg Nation can confirm) that this is an incredible young man, imbued with a fantastic personality whose strengths are humility, humor, intelligence, work ethic, athleticism, competitiveness, respect for authority, courtesy, caring nature, love for animals and the list goes on. As my wife and I have said several times, we hit the kid lottery. He must have signed a dozen autographs for UGA athletic department personnel and their family members on the game field following the bowl game; regular fans had to stay in the stands. That doesn’t happen accidentally or without good reason. Our son being refused a scholarship is an injustice to him as well as a crushing hardship for his family. Coach Smart suggested we take out some student loans since he did not have a scholarship available. That was a half-truth; there are scholarships available, just not one for our son, and we do not accept his justification for withholding one. Coach Smart said he came to Georgia as a walk-on and had to earn a scholarship, so he knows what our son is feeling. Our son has been a walk-on for two years and still doesn’t have a scholarship, and has made All-SEC and still does not have a scholarship. Does Coach Smart know how that feels? Did Coach Smart make All-SEC as a walk-on his freshman season? By denying a scholarship, Coach Smart is telling us that Rodrigo’s value to the program is exactly the same as any non-playing walk-on – realistically that would be zero, equivalent to the amount of money the program has invested in any walk-on. Would Coach Smart Like to inform Dawg Nation that Rodrigo “Respect the Specs” Blankenship currently has zero value to his program? Can Coach Smart deny that his appreciation level of our son is currently zero? Many observers would argue, of course, that Rodrigo had just as much to do with UGA’s success as any offensive, defensive or special teams teammates who are on scholarship – and certainly more to do with that success than the numerous scholarship players who do not play at all. Isn’t it difficult to rationalize having scholarship players sitting on the bench every game and a starter actually helping to win games on the field remaining a walk-on? And yet here Rodrigo is, an All-SEC performer who just triggered his tuition payment for spring semester. If Coach Smart had simply said, whether truthfully or not, that it was a numbers issue, it would have been much better than the tearing-down tactic with our son sitting there beside us. For us, there exist no acceptable rationalizations or explanations for denying our son what he has deservedly earned: an athletic scholarship to continue playing football at the University of Georgia. Sincerely, Kicker’s Dad and Kicker’s Mom   Later in the day, Rodrigo himself took to Twitter to respond to the situation:   Dear Bulldog Nation, It is of the opinion of many of you that my performance this season has justified that I be placed on scholarship. It is of the opinion of many of you that my performance this season failed to justify a scholarship. My opinion of whether or not I feel a scholarship is warranted is rather irrelevant, therefore I will not voice my opinion on the matter. Georgia deserves the best players it can possibly find at every position and in order for this program to regain the national notoriety and respect that it so rightfully deserves, the program demands production short of impeccable. It is evident Georgia deserved better than what I was able to offer this season, and I would like to apologize for my clearly-defined deficiencies. I would also like to apologize for my father’s interactions with the media this season. He acted without my knowledge each time, and each incident was uncalled for. I have received unwavering encouragement as well s my fair share of “constructive criticism from all of you this season and I hope that I will be fortunate enough to continue to receive support from the best fan base in the nation as we progress into the offseason and on into the next season. I hope that through this offseason I will develop into the kicker that Georgia expects of me. I love the University of Georgia with everything that I have to offer, and I will continue to grind and work to become the athlete that the team deserves in order to be as successful as possible. I appreciate the love and affection that I have come across throughout the course of this past season, and I hope that I can continue to earn everybody’s trust and patronage as we move forward. Sincerely, The Kicker.
  • Athens, Ga - The University of Georgia football team and its head coach Kirby Smart got an early Christmas present on Thursday, with the announcements that several key juniors would be returning to play their senior seasons 'between the hedges' in 2017. Most noteably, running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of which were highly thought to be candidates to dart to the NFL, will return and create a world of depth at the position. Chubb returned in 2016 from a devastating knee injury suffered in 2015, and progressively got better as the season went on. Michel once again made his case in 2016 as being  the best athlete on the Bulldogs' team.  Also returning will be linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. It was rumored recently that Bellamy was a lean to the NFL, but will instead stay in Athens, and along with Carter, continue to help a strong defense get stronger under defensive-minded Kirby Smart.  “It’s really special when you get around a special group that care about a place that I really care about, and regardless of their decision – which all four of them have decided to stay, and want to come back – it means a lot to me when guys do that,' Smart said. “I think each one would tell you they handled it the right way. They got a lot of information, they used all the resources that our university provides, and they made the decision. I particularly tried to stay out of the decision-making, and just get these guys information, and I think they did a nice job about that.” Chubb spoke to media after the announcements, where he declared the sour taste left after the loss to Georgia Tech played a factor in why he and his junior teammates elected to have one more round with Georgia's many rivals.  “The last game didn’t go the way any of us wanted it,” Chubb said. 'So I couldn’t have that be my last memory of Georgia.”
  • ATHENS — It could happen. Don’t count on it, but yes, it could happen. Last year, Mark Richt told his former Georgia players that “I’m 100 percent convinced that the University of Georgia and the University of Miami are on a collision course for a national championship.” Or maybe the Belk Bowl. Or TaxSlayer Bowl. Or even the Music City Bowl. Miami finished the regular season 8-4, and Georgia is 7-5, and there are plausible scenarios where the two teams could be matched. Richt was asked Monday, on the Joe Rose Show in Miami, how a Georgia-Miami bowl game sounded. “I wouldn’t doubt that somebody would try to get that match up. But yeah, I don’t know, it’s hard to say,” Richt said. Last year, at Georgia’s senior gala, Richt sounded open to playing Georgia, but that was last year. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart hasn’t been asked about it, and Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity has deferred bowl questions to the SEC office. “Those are all discussions that are going on with conference officials daily,” McGarity said of the bowl situation. Georgia appears likely headed for one of the so-called “Six Pack” bowls with which the SEC is affiliated: Belk, Music City, Liberty, TaxSlayer, Outback and Texas bowls. The Belk and TaxSlayer would definitely match against an ACC foe. The Music City has the option of picking an ACC or Big Ten team, but its executive director, Scott Ramsey, has said they’re more likely to go with a Big Ten team this year, because they’ve gone with an ACC team the past two years. Asked if Georgia is locked into one of those six bowls, McGarity said it was “too early to tell, with all those moving pieces. You’ve got other conferences that are involved in the match-ups. So it’s not just the SEC, I’m sure they’re working with their partners in the Big 12, the Big Ten and the ACC.” No one at Georgia will speak on the record about their willingness to play Miami, but given everything that’s happened over the past year, it would be surprising if Georgia signed off on it. Smart and Richt appear to have a good relationship, but Georgia would be facing a team coached by the man who recruited almost every player on its roster. Then again, Georgia did get matched with Louisville in the 2014 Belk bowl, less than a year after defensive coordinator Todd Grantham bolted Georgia for Louisville. Ultimately, it may come down to the match-ups not working: If the Music City wants a Big Ten team, that only leaves the TaxSlayer (which Georgia has gone two of the past three years) and the Belk (where Georgia went two years ago.) That, more than anything, may be why Georgia-Miami doesn’t happen this year. Among current projections: CBSsports.com projects Georgia to the Liberty Bowl and Miami to the Belk Bowl. SEC Country has Georgia in the Music City Bowl and Miami in the TaxSlayer Bowl. College Football News does project a Georgia-Miami matchup in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but again, that would be Georgia’s third trip to that bowl in the past four years. So it would have to really want that Mark Richt Bowl to happen.
  • From UGA Sports Communications Georgia Basketball Game Notes CBE Hall of Fame Classic Semifinals Georgia (2-1) vs. George Washington (3-0) Monday, November 21 at 7:00 p.m. ET Sprint Center (18,972) in Kansas City, Mo. TV: ESPNU (Bob Wischusen, PBP; Fran Fraschilla, Color) Radio: Georgia Bulldog Network by IMG (Scott Howard, PBP; Chuck Dowdle, Color; Tony Schiavone, Producer) Flagship: WSB AM 750 (Atlanta); Sirius: 132   Starting Five • UGA and GW split two previous meetings, with UGA winning in Athens in 2012-13 and GW doing so in D.C. in 2013-14. • UGA coach Hugh Durham and player Dominique Wilkins in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame last Friday. • J.J. Frazier became UGA’s 47th 1,000-point scorer last Monday vs. UNC Asheville. Frazier has since moved up to No. 38 and is No. 19 points from No. 37 Rashad Wright. • Mark Fox collected his 250th career win with UGA’s victory over UNC Asheville. • UGA has hit the 20-win plateau the past three years, just the second time in 111 seasons the Bulldogs have done so. Mark Fox is the first coach to lead UGA to three-straight 20-win efforts.    Dogs Face Colonials in CBE Semis The Georgia Bulldogs will face the George Washington Colonials on Monday night in a semifinal matchup of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo. UGA and GW will face off on ESPNU at 7:00 p.m. ET in the Sprint Center, with Kansas taking on UAB in the doubleheader’s nightcap.   The tournament’s schedule features a 7:30 p.m. ET consolation contest on Tuesday evening, followed by the championship tilt at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.   Georgia is 2-1 on the young campaign and notched victories over UNC Asheville and Furman last week in Athens in the Bulldogs’ first to CBE Classic outings.   Junior forward Yante Maten and senior guard J.J. Frazier lead Georgia and are one of the nation’s premier inside-outside combos. Maten paces the Bulldogs with averages of 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Frazier is chipping in 19.0 points per game.   Maten and Frazier entered the season as the fifth-best forward-guard scoring duo returning to Division I basketball for 2016-17. That was after the combined to score 33.4 points per game a year ago (Maten 16.9 ppg, Frazier 16.5 ppg).   George Washington arrives in Kansas City with a spotless 3-0 record.   The Colonials are led by forward Tyler Cavanaugh and his averages of 18.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Yuta Watanabe also is scoring at a double-digit pace of 11.7 ppg.     Keeping An Eye On…Entering Today’s Game:   Among UGA’s career Leaders J.J. Frazier is... • 19 points from No. 37 Rashad Wright • 24 points from No. 36 Bill Ensley • 28 points from No. 35 Terrance Woodbury • 34 points from No. 34 Jumaine Jones • 15 3FGs from No. 9 Jody Patton • 15 3FGAs from No. 10 Ray Harrison • 7 FTs from No. 13 Chris Daniels   Yante Maten is... • 5 blocks from No. 10 Trey Thompkins • 7 blocks from No. 9 Chris Daniels • 8 blocks from No. 8 Marcus Thornton • 10 blocks from No. 7 Willie Anderson     Series History With GW  George and George Washington split their previous two meetings, with each team winning the home portion of a home-and-home series contested three and four seasons ago.   The Colonials captured the most recent matchup, 73-55, on Jan. 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Kethan Savage scored a game-high 18 points for GW. Current Bulldog seniors J.J. Frazier, Kenny Paul Geno, Houston Kessler and Juwan Parker all saw action in that game; however, no current George Washington player participated in the contest.     Last Time Out  The tandem Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier spearheaded Georgia past Furman 84-78 Thursday night at Stegeman Coliseum in the Bulldogs’ second of four games in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.   The duo combined for 55 points as Frazier poured in 28 and Maten amassed 27, both season-high marks. In the final 7:00 of a one-point game, Maten sank 6-of-6 from the free-throw line and Frazier added nine points, seven of which came from the charity strike.   At the break, the Bulldogs held the advantage at 36-31, although Furman’s John Davis III hit a buzzer-beating trey to narrow Georgia’s lead from eight to five.   The second half proved to be more of a seesaw affair, with six lead changes. The Paladins went up for the first time 50-49 with 12:13 left – interestingly, the first lead change in any of Georgia’s three games this season.    Juwan Parker found Mike Edwards in the lane for a two-handed slam with 6:54 remaining to recapture a 59-58 lead the Bulldogs would not relinquish.     Durham, Wilkins Enter CBB HOF  While Kansas – in Kansas City – is obviously the star attraction of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, Georgia shined brightest at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last Friday (Nov. 18).   That’s when former Georgia coach Hugh Durham and player Dominique Wilkins comprised one-quarter of the Hall’s Class of 2016 inductees. Appropriately, Durham and Wilkins, who together led the Bulldogs to numerous significant firsts, together were Georgia’s first inductees into the Collegiate Hall of Fame.   “It has only happened once, I think, Coach (Dale) Brown and Shaquille (O’Neal) at LSU,” Durham said. “Dominique and I have remained close through the years. He is the foundation of Georgia Basketball. We can take credit for bringing him in, but he is the face of Georgia Basketball. There’s a lot of pride to go in together.”   Durham arrived in Athens in 1978 and was charged with turning around a program that hadn’t finished .500 in more than a decade. Georgia was 14-14 and 14-13 in Durham’s first two seasons before Wilkins arrived as a McDonald’s All-American and the most celebrated recruit in the program’s history.   Wilkins was tabbed SEC Player of the Year as a freshman in 1981 while leading Georgia to a 19-12 finish and an appearance in the NIT, the Bulldogs’ first-ever postseason bid.    Wilkins was tabbed All-America a second-straight time in 1982, the same season he helped lead Georgia to the NIT semifinals.   Wilkins departed after that season and was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft before enjoying an illustrious professional career that included being a nine-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA selection.   Durham remained in Athens for 17 seasons and is Georgia’s winningest hoops coach ever with 297 victories. He led the Bulldogs to the 1983 NCAA Final Four in their first NCAA Tournament appearance. All told, Georgia reached postseason competition 11 times under Durham.   Durham established a national name as head coach at Florida State from 1967-78 before coming to UGA. He led the Seminoles to 230 wins an NCAA runner-up finish in 1972 when they lost to UCLA, 81-76, in the national championship game. After Georgia, he won 106 more games at Jacksonville University.   “You stop and see the people being inducted around you and you step back and go ‘What am I doing with this group?’” Durham said. “It’s a great feeling, but it really is a surprise. As far as families, I’m sure they’re proud. I’m sure they are proud to be a part of it. When you’re a coach, you stand here and think about the reason you’re here. If you didn’t win games, you wouldn’t be here. If you didn’t have good players, you wouldn’t win games. If you didn’t have good assistants, you didn’t have good players. If you didn’t have an administration that wanted you to do well, then you wouldn’t have good assistants. That’s the long way of saying there are so many people you represent when you’re standing up here. I reflect back on that and the relationships really are special.”   Wilkins was dubbed the “Human Highlight Film” while in Athens, a nickname that has followed him from being Georgia’s career scoring leader when he departed college to 26,668 points and an amazing 24.8 career scoring average in the NBA.    “It’s mind blowing,” Wilkins said. “It’s a special moment in my life to go in with Coach (Durham) because he is like a father to me. You talk about being chosen from 350 D1 schools and to be chosen as one of the greatest. I can’t even tell you how that feels. It’s special because it’s the highest collegiate award you can get.”   A large contingent approaching 50 of Bulldog supporters was in attendance, led by current head coach Mark Fox, UGA’s J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity and former players such as Mark Slonaker, the captain of Durham’s first team at UGA and later an assistant coach on his staff; Derrick Floyd and James Banks, stars on Georgia’s 1983 Final Four team; and Chad Kessler, father of current Bulldog Houston Kessler.   The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 also includes players Mark Aguirre (DePaul), Bob Boozer (Kansas State), Doug Collins (Illinois State), Lionel Simmons (La Salle) and Jamaal Wilkes (UCLA) and coach Mike Montgomery (Montana, Stanford and Cal).      Fox Garners Career Victory 250 Mark Fox notched his 250th win in 13 seasons as a head coach with last Monday’s victory over UNC Asheville.   Fox was 123-43 in five seasons at Nevada from 2004-09. He was 127-104 in his eighth  campaign in Athens when the Bulldogs topped UNC Asheville on Nov. 14.    All told, Fox has produced nine 20-win teams and advanced to the postseason nine times – including four occasions at Georgia – during his head coaching career.     Frazier Joins Millennium Club J.J. Frazier knocked down a 3-pointer with 17:57 left in the first half against UNC Asheville and in the process became Georgia’s 47th 1,000-point career scorer.   “I’ve been here four years,” Frazier joked, “I should have gotten it eventually.”   After scoring 415 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined, Frazier poured in 573 points a year ago. That represented the 15th-best single-season tally in Georgia Basketball history.   Frazier now has 1,045 points, which has pushed him to No. 38 among the Bulldogs’ career scoring leaders. Frazier could eventually challenge to reach the Bulldogs’ top-10 scoring leaders, a mark that currently begins at 1,451 points by D.A. Layne. Frazier is now 406 points shy of that tally with 28 regular-season games remaining.     Frazier Provides Bucket-To-Be J.J. Frazier didn’t only score points last season. He also dished out 151 assists, the fifth-best for a season in Georgia’s 111 years of basketball.    Combine Frazier’s 573 points and the bare minimum of 302 points via those assists, and he had an immediate hand in 875 of the Bulldogs’ 2401 points a year ago. That’s 36.4 percent of UGA’s offensive output during the 2015-16 campaign.     Maten May Make Mark, Too  With a season similar to 2015-16, Yante Maten also could join the list of 1,000-point Bulldogs this winter.    Maten began the year with 722 points, with 562 of those coming during 2015-16. That represented the No. 18 single-season total in UGA history.   Maten now has 65 points this season and 787 – 213 shy of 1,000 – during his 69-game collegiate career.   Bulldogs have been reaching the millennium mark at a steady clip over the past few seasons. J.J. Frazier was the seventh Bulldog to top 1,000 points during Mark Fox’s tenure, joining Charles Mann (1,411 points), Trey Thompkins (1,396), Kenny Gaines (1,324), Nemi Djurisic (1,123), Travis Leslie (1,099) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1,013).     Dogs Giveth And Giveth Away  Nothing more than a strange but true coincidence here but Georgia’s 1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio this season is exactly that.   The Bulldogs have posted the same number of assists and turnovers in every game to date – 14 of each at Clemson, 17 against UNC Asheville and 10 versus Furman.     Parker Productive In Return Juwan Parker has enjoyed a successful return to action after missing the 2015-16 season with an Achilles injury.   Parker has 26 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists in Georgia’s first three games. Though obviously a small sample size, that’s Parker’s most boards and assists and second-most points in a three-game span during his career.   Previously, he scored a combined 30 points in consecutive games against Chattanooga, Lipscomb and Gardner-Webb during his freshman year. Parker’s other previous best three-game tallies were 17 rebounds during that same three-game span and seven assists versus Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Lipscomb also during the 2013-14 season.   Parker’s averages of 8.7 points, 6.7 boards and 3.7 assists this season are considerably higher than his career averages of 4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 0.9 apg entering the year.   Parker started the first 14 games for Georgia’s 2015 NCAATournament team before suffering the Achilles injury. He played limited minutes in four contests that season but was out all of last year following surgery in the summer of 2015.     Turtle Gets His First Nod William “Turtle” Jackson secured his first collegiate start against UNC Asheville.   Jackson was a four-time All-State performer and scored 2,275 points at Athens Christian School before becoming UGA’s first Athens-area signee in more than two decades.   Jackson and J.J. Frazier both started against UNC Asheville, giving the Bulldogs two point guards on the floor.   Bulldogs Sign Two Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds have signed letters-of-intent with the University of Georgia, head coach Mark Fox announced on Monday, November 14.   Both players inked papers during the NCAA’s weeklong early signing period. Claxton signed in ceremonies on Nov. 14, while Hammonds did so on the previous Thursday, Nov. 10.   Claxton is a 6-10, forward from Legacy Charter School in Greenville, S.C., and the son of former Bulldog Charles Claxton. Nicolas averaged 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, as well as blocking 3.0 shots per game. He has helped Charter compile a 49-14 record over the past two seasons.   Claxton represented the U.S. Virgin Islands during the 2015 Centrobasket U17 Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He averaged 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game in five outings, leading the Virgin Islands to a runner-up finish in the tournament. Claxton posted single-game highs of 20 points and 15 rebounds against Mexico in the semifinals, as well as 10 blocks in a group stage matchup with Bahamas.   “Nic is a terrific shooter and passer for a player with his length,” Fox said. “He really is going to be a good inside-outside scoring threat. I know he is excited about playing at his parents’ alma mater.”   Hammonds, a 6-8, forward from Norcross, Ga., was named first-team All-State for Class 6A by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a junior after averaging 16.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game for the Blue Devils. As a sophomore, Hammonds averaged 14.1 points, 7.8 boards and 1.9 blocks at Norcross.    Over the past two seasons, Hammonds has helped Norcross post a combined 53-8 record and a pair of state tournament appearances. The Blue Devils finished 26-4 last season, losing to eventual state champion Westlake in the Sweet 16. Norcross was 27-7 in the 2014-15 season and lost to Pepplebrook in the state quarterfinals.   “Rayshaun has terrific versatility and can score the ball in a variety of ways,” Fox said. “He’s coming from a great program, and we are excited he is a Dawg.”   Both of Claxton’s parents, Charles and Nicole, attended UGA. Charles was a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs from 1992-95 and was an All-SEC and Freshman All-SEC performer. Among Georgia’s career statistical leaders, Claxton is currently No. 20 in points (1,274), No. 5 in rebounds (840), No. 4 in field goal percentage (.542) and No. 2 in blocked shots (247). He was drafted by Phoenix in the second round of the NBA Draft and eventually played with Boston during the 1995-96 season.     Frazier, Maten On POY Watch List J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten both were named to the Lute Olson Award Preseason Watch List. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I basketball player who has played at least two seasons.   Georgia was the only team in the SEC and one of only nine nationally to have two players on the list. The other schools were Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon, Villanova, Wisconsin and Xavier.   There were five SEC representatives on the 50-player ledger, which also featured Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis and Arkansas’ Moses Kingsley.   The recipient of the 2017 Lute Olson Award will be announced at the CollegeInsider.com awards banquet on April 31 in Phoenix, Arizona, site of the NCAA Final Four.    Olson won 780 games in 34 seasons, 24 of which were spent at the University of Arizona. During that stretch he led the Wildcats to 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, 23 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, four Final Four appearances and a National Championship in 1997.      A Potent Inside-Outside Combo The tandem of junior forward Yante Maten and senior guard J.J. Frazier provides Georgia with one of the college basketball’s most explosive inside-outside combinations.    A year ago, Frazier and Maten averaged 16.9 and 16.5 points per game, respectively. That made Frazier the SEC’s leading returning scorer and Maten the third-leading returnee this season.   The combined average of 33.4 points per game Frazier and Maten produced during 2015-16 makes them the fifth-best returning inside-outside combination in Division I basketball this season.      Bulldogs Travel To Spain Georgia got an early start to the season with a summer tour of Spain, where the Bulldogs were 3-0 and won by 26.0 points per game. Associate head coach Philip Pearson and assistants Jonas Hayes and Yasir Rosemond served as head coaches on the trip.   Pearson led UGA in the first matchup, a 65-48 victory over the Madrid All-Stars. Yante Maten paced Georgia with 19 points, while Derek Ogbeide notched a double-double of 10 points and 10 boards.   Under Rosemond, the Bulldogs raced to a 118-70 win over the Valencia All-Stars. Mike Edwards led the way with 20 points. J.J. Frazier added 18 points, including five 3-pointers, and five assists. Freshman Jordan Harris chipped in 17 points.    Georgia wrapped up the trip by beating the Barcelona All-Stars 96-72 under Hayes. Maten again led UGA in scoring with 23 points, and Tyree Crump contributed 20 points and four assists. Ogbeide, Edwards and Maten combined for 32 rebounds, with Ogbeide collecting his second double-double in Spain.   “The overseas trip was good for us,” Mark Fox said. “We have three new players and Juwan (Parker) coming off a medical redshirt. It was probably best for Juwan to knock some rust off. We felt like it was a real good experience for our team, but we’ll have to see how much when we start playing games.”     A Tough Slate Awaits Bulldogs A year ago, Georgia played the nation’s third-toughest non-conference schedule. Comparative numbers from last season and 2016-17 indicate the Bulldogs will again face a very challenging non-conference ledger.   The teams that comprised UGA’s 2015-16 non-conference schedule sported an average RPI of 115 during 2014-15. The 13 teams that the Bulldogs could face during the 2016-17 schedule averaged an RPI of 116 last season.   “We’ve always tried to schedule tough,” Mark Fox said. “We’ve always tried to challenge our team in non-league games because you have to establish a strength of schedule. And you won’t have quality wins unless you play quality teams. We have a long list of hard games, but with those challenges comes great opportunity.”     UGA In Midst Of Most SEC Success Georgia has been winning within the SEC at the Bulldogs’ best rate ever. Over the past four seasons, UGA has:   • Posted four straight .500 or better league records – the first time in 84 seasons of SEC play UGA has done so; • Notched three-straight double-figure SEC win totals – another program first; • Posted its most SEC wins over two- (23), three- (33) and four-season (42) spans.   Georgia finished 10-8 in SEC action last season. That followed a 11-7 mark when the Bulldogs tied for third in the SEC in 2014-15, a 12-6 record in 2013-14 when Georgia tied for second in the final league standings and a 9-9 effort during 2012-13.      A HomeGrown Roster Nine of the 15 players on Georgia’s 2016-17 roster are products of Peach State prep basketball programs.   That list includes eight of the 14 active players on the Bulldogs’ roster – seniors J.J. Frazier (Faith Baptist Christian Academy), Houston Kessler (Landmark Christian School) and Brandon Young (Marist School); sophomores William “Turtle” Jackson (Athens Christian School), Connor O’Neill (Blessed Trinity Catholic High) and Derek Ogbeide (Pebblebrook High); and freshmen Tyree Crump (Bainbridge High) and Jordan Harris (Seminole County High).   In addition, Christian Harrison, a walk-on transfer from Troy who is sitting out this season, played at Woodward Academy.     Maten Up For Mailman Award Yante Maten has been named to the watch list for the 2017 Karl Malone Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top power forward by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.   The award is named after Karl Malone, a 2010 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee. Malone led Louisiana Tech to the Sweet 16 of the 1985 NCAA Tournament. He went on to become a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and 11-time first-team All-NBA performer for the Utah Jazz. Malone scored 36,374 career points in the NBA, second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the time of his enshrinement. He also won Gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, the first coming as a member of the original Dream Team.   The other players featured on the Watch List are Lauri Markkanen from Arizona, Johnathan Motley from Baylor, Ivan Rabb from Cal, Amile Jefferson from Duke, Jonathan Isaac from Florida State, Carlton Bragg, Jr, from Kansas, Dedric Lawson from Memphis, Miles Bridges from Michigan State, Isaiah Hicks from North Carolina, Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame, Michael Young from Pittsburgh, Caleb Swanigan from Purdue, Bennie Boatwright from Southern Cal, Tyler Lydon from Syracuse, TJ Leaf from UCLA, Alex Peters from Valparaiso, Kris Jenkins from Villanova and Austin Nichols from Virginia.     J.J. Almost Everywhere In SEC Stats J.J. Frazier ranked among the SEC’s top-10 leaders in a league-high eight of 11 major statistical categories last season – the most of any league player.   Frazier was No. 5 in assist-to-TO ratio and steals; No. 7 in scoring, assists, free throw percentage and 3-point percentage; No. 8 in 3-pointers per game; and No. 10 in minutes.   Basically, the only categories without Frazier listed were field goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots.       Potential History-Making Dogs Of the hundreds of Georgia hoops alums that spanned the first century of play, only five could say that they played on three 20-game-winning squads: Larry Brown, Michael Chadwick, Ray Harrison, Jon Nordin and G.G. Smith.   Over the past two seasons alone, seven more Bulldogs have joined that fold: Marcus Thornton, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, Kenny Paul Geno, Houston Kessler, Brandon Young and J.J Frazier.   This year’s seniors could become the first UGA players to post four-consecutive 20-win efforts. They also may challenge Georgia’s winningest four-year period and the most wins by any Bulldogs ever.   Georgia’s most productive four-year span produced 83 wins from the 1994-95 through 1997-98 seasons. Interestingly, there were no four-year letterwinners during that stretch.   The most wins ever by a Bulldog is 82, the tally posted by Richard Corhen and Gerald Crosby while playing for UGA from 1981-82 through 1984-85.     Wilkins Returns To College Game  Dominique Wilkins served as color analyst for Georgia’s season opener at Clemson. Wilkins teammed with Bob Rathbun, his broadcast partner for telecasts of the Atlanta Hawks, for the matchup.    The Clemson contest was the first time Wilkins called a collegiate game.   “If it hadn’t been Georgia, I probably wouldn’t have done it, to be honest with you,” Wilkins said. “I can’t tell you what that university means to me personally, so anytime I can engage and show my face and show my appreciation I want to do it.”     Jarvis Hayes Behind The Mic, Too  Former Bulldog Jarvis Hayes, who joined the SEC Network as a color analyst this season, served in that role for the Furman game.   In 2003, Hayes joined Dominique Wilkins to become just the second Bulldog to earn consensus first-team All-SEC honors two times. A native of Atlanta, Hayes and his twin brother, current Georgia assistant coach Jonas Hayes, played for the Bulldogs in the early 2000s.   The Hayes twins transferred to Georgia after playing at Western Carolina as freshmen.   Jarvis was the AP’s SEC Newcomer of the Year in 2002 after averaging a league-best 18.6 points. He reached 1,000 points at Georgia in just 55 games, six games quicker than UGA’s career scoring leader, and helped the Bulldogs to on-court records of 22-10 and 19-8 during two seasons.   Hayes was selected by Washington with the No. 10 overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft and went on to play seven seasons with Washington, Detroit and New Jersey, as well as two seasons internationally in Italy and Romania.     Hawks Return To Athens For the fourth consecutive year, the Atlanta Hawks made the short trek to Athens and Georgia Basketball’s practice facility to open training camp in September.    Georgia Basketball owns one of the nation’s largest practice facilities, a $30-million, 120,000-square-foot practice structure that opened in 2007. The Hawks had access to the adjacent practice gyms of the Georgia men’s and women’s basketball programs, as well as the playing floor within Stegeman Coliseum and other facilities.   The Hawks have opened training camp in Athens each season since Mike Budenholzer, the 2015 NBA Coach of the Year, became head coach in 2013.    “These are world-class facilities that are a great environment for our players to come in and focus on basketball,” Budenholzer said. “We love this facility. We love coming up to the University of Georgia. It feels like the right place for us to start our season.”   “I think the facilities here are spectacular,” said Dwight Howard. “Everything here is “A-1” – the practice facility, the main floor, the weight room – has been unbelievable. We wish we could stay longer.”
  • From UGA Sports Communications ATHENS, Ga. --- The SEC Network’s traveling pregame show, SEC Nation, will be heading to Jacksonville, Fla., for the first time next week for the annual showdown between Georgia and Florida on Oct. 29.  SEC Nation usually airs live from a different SEC campus each Saturday starting at 10 a.m.  University of Georgia graduate Maria Taylor, Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears, Paul Finebaum and reporter Laura Rutledge host the network’s traveling pregame show.    The two-hour show will be set up outside of EverBank Field near the St. Johns River in Met Park 2 (across Gator Bowl Blvd. from Lot J).  Fans are encouraged to tailgate alongside the show.  Last season, SEC Nation sent two correspondents to report live from this game.  SEC Nation visited Athens earlier this season for the Georgia-Tennessee game on Oct. 1.
  • The University of South Carolina and its athletics department are continuing to monitor the movements of Hurricane Matthew as it relates to the scheduled football game with the University of Georgia.  We are in communication with the National Weather Service, state and local authorities and the SEC regarding potential weather issues.  We anticipate a decision about the game to be made on Thursday. The safety of everyone affected by the storm and the minimization of the impact on emergency personnel are the most important factors in making the decision.  The USC vs. UGA game will be played in Columbia. Currently, kickoff is still slated for 7:30 pm Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.   Claude Felton Sr. Associate Athletic Director University of Georgia
  • Former University of Georgia star Hines Ward, who played 14 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one of nine first-year nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. Ward starred at Georgia from 1994-97 and was selected by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 1998 NFL draft. Ward had 1,000 career receptions and 85 receiving touchdowns with the Steelers and was named Super Bowl MVP after Pittsburgh's 21-10 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season. Read the complete story here on myajc.com.

News

  • Russia's opposition, often written off by critics as a small and irrelevant coterie of privileged urbanites, put on an impressive nationwide show of strength Sunday with scores of protest rallies spanning the vast country. Hundreds were arrested, including Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic. It was the biggest show of defiance since the 2011-2012 wave of demonstrations that rattled the Kremlin and led to harsh new laws aimed at suppressing dissent. Almost all of Sunday's rallies were unsanctioned, but thousands braved the prospect of arrests to gather in cities from the Far East port of Vladivostok to the 'window on the West' of St. Petersburg. An organization that monitors Russian political repression, OVD-Info, said it counted more than 800 people arrested in the Moscow demonstrations alone. That number could not be confirmed and state news agency Tass cited Moscow police as saying there were about 500 arrests. Navalny, who was arrested while walking from a nearby subway station to the demonstration at Moscow's iconic Pushkin Square, was the driving force of the demonstrations. He called for them after his Foundation for Fighting Corruption released a report contending that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards. Navalny is a persistent thorn in the Kremlin's side. He has served several short jail terms after arrests in previous protests and has twice been convicted in a fraud case, but given a suspended sentence. He intends to run for president in 2018 — an election in which Putin is widely expected to run for another term — even though the conviction technically disqualifies him. Putin has dominated Russian political life, as president or prime minister, since 2000. No overall figures on arrests or protest attendance were available. Some Russian state news media gave relatively cursory reports on the demonstrations; the state news TV channel Rossiya-24 ignored them altogether in evening broadcasts. Police estimated the Moscow crowd at about 7,000, but it could have been larger. The one-hectare (2.5-acre) Pushkin Square was densely crowded as were sidewalks on the adjacent Tverskaya Street. In St. Petersburg, about 5,000 protesters assembled in the Mars Field park, shouting slogans including 'Putin resign!' and 'Down with the thieves in the Kremlin!' Russia's beleaguered opposition is often seen as primarily a phenomenon of a Westernized urban elite, but Sunday's protests included gatherings in places far from cosmopolitan centers, such as Siberia's Chita and Barnaul. 'Navalny has united people who think the same; that people don't agree with the authorities is obvious from what is going on in the country today,' Anna Ivanova, 19, said at the Moscow demonstration. 'I am a bit scared.' Scuffles with police erupted sporadically and the arrested demonstrators included a gray-haired man whom police dragged along the pavement. Police cleared the square after about three hours and began herding demonstrators down side streets. 'It's scary, but if everyone is afraid, no one would come out onto the streets,' 19-year-old protester Yana Aksyonova said. The luxuries amassed by Medvedev include a house for raising ducks, so many placards in Sunday's protests featured mocking images of yellow duck toys. Some demonstrators carried running shoes — a reference to Navalny's assertion that tracking shipments of running shoes for Medvedev helped reveal his real-estate portfolio. Others showed up with their faces painted green, a reminder of a recent attack on Navalny in which an assailant threw a green antiseptic liquid onto his face. 'People are unhappy with the fact that there's been no investigation' of the corruption allegations, said Moscow protester Ivan Gronstein. There were no comments reported from Putin, Medvedev or other top Russian politicians, leaving in doubt what the Kremlin's strategy may be for countering the protests. Previous waves of demonstrations have dissipated through inertia or the intimidation of increasingly punitive measures; under a 2014 law, holding an unauthorized protest is punishable by 15 days in jail, or five years imprisonment for a third offense. In Vladivostok, police forcefully detained some demonstrators near the city's railway terminal, in one case falling down a small grassy slope as they wrestled with a detainee. News reports and social media reported demonstrations in large cities throughout the country, including Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk. At least 25 people were reported arrested in Vladivostok and 12 in Khabarovsk. About 40 people were detained in a small protest in the capital of Dagestan, a restive republic in the Russian Caucasus, according to Tass, ___= Irina Titova in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.
  • Knoxville Zoo officials are investigating why 33 reptiles, including three endangered species, died Wednesday.  Herpetologists came to work that morning to find a majority of the 52 animals housed in one of the reptile buildings dead. They immediately evacuated the snakes and lizards, giving them oxygen and checking their heartbeats with an ultrasound device. “This is a devastating and catastrophic loss to our zoo,” Lisa New, president at the zoo, told the Knoxville News Sentinel Saturday. “These animals were important ambassadors who helped so many people understand the role snakes and lizards play in the balance of nature.” >> Read more trending news Veterinarians from the zoo as well as from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine are investigating the cause of death. “We also lost breeding programs for several endangered and threatened species,” she added. “It is especially difficult for our herpetologists who have dedicated their careers to caring for and advocating for these animals.” Three critically endangered species died; the Louisiana pine snake, the Catalina Island rattlesnake and the Aruba Island rattlesnake. The zoo’s forest cobra and albino Eastern diamondback rattlesnake also died. “We don't know exactly what occurred to cause this terrible event, but we do know it was isolated to a single building,” the zoo said in a post on Facebook. “We are continuing to investigate all the physical systems and conducting necropsies to see if we can gain any insight.”
  • The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed into a Marietta house has been identified, officials say. Robert George Westlake, 78, of Atlanta, was killed Friday evening, when a Cessna Citation I aircraft went down near a home in the 100 block of Vistawood Drive in Marietta, Cobb County police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce said. No one else was on board. This was the third time in less than six weeks that federal officials investigated a deadly plane crash in or near metro Atlanta. The 1976 plane was en route to Fulton County Airport from Cincinnati, Ohio, Pierce said. Westlake radioed that he was having mechanical troubles moments before the crash, Pierce said. RELATED: Pilot killed after plane crashes near Cobb County house Flames from the crash spread to the home, setting it on fire, Channel 2 Action News reported. The residents, Norm and Barbara Keller, were at church at the time of the crash. No injuries were reported from the fire. 'From what it looks like at this point, it came over from the top of the house and landed in the front yard,' Danell Boyd of the Cobb County fire department told Channel 2. The crash site is near Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium and Town Center at Cobb. Smoke was visible from the stadium. Witnesses said the plane nose-dived to the ground, Channel 2 reported.  'I heard a swoosh and then a clap and an explosion and I pretty much knew before I looked outside that it was a plane crash,' said Joe Thomas, a resident in the area. The neighborhood will be blocked off while National Transportation Safety Board investigators look into the crash. On Feb. 16, a plane crash at the Barrow County airport killed two people on board. On March 4, the pilot was killed when a plane went down near the Cherokee County airport.
  • Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014. Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice. Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket. The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer. Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game. Smith finished with 15 points. Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons. After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration. THE BIG PICTURE Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds. Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards. UP NEXT Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.