Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drake Basketball Recruit Babineaux Thought He'd Be a Collegiate Football Player

Kori Babineaux was a multi-sport star at Folsom [Calif.] High, starring on the varsity basketball team for his first three years and the varsity football team as a junior and senior.

As a junior, Babineaux averaged 19 points a game for Folsom High’s basketball team and clearly saw himself playing basketball in college. Less than a year later after helping the football team win a Division II state football championship as a senior, a season in which he caught 52 passes for 905 yards and 14 touchdowns, Babineaux decided that football would be the sport he would play in college as the scholarship offers came in.

Babineaux, 18, believed he’d be playing football so much so that he didn’t play basketball his senior year, instead focusing on lifting weights, doing football workouts and otherwise enjoying the rest of his senior year.

Funny thing is, though, Babineaux never accepted a football scholarship and it’s good that he didn’t. Before the basketball season even ended, Babineaux realized that he had missed playing the sport which was his first love.

With his previous basketball scholarships offers already taken, Babineaux was encouraged to check out a prep school and he ended up at Lake Forest Academy in Chicago. The hope would be that Babineaux would excel and basically get a second chance to accept a basketball scholarship.

Babineaux, a 6-foot 4-inch, 205-pound combo guard, took advantage of his opportunity at Lake Forest, averaging 27 points per game to go along with six assists, five rebounds and three steals and received scholarship offers from Drake, St. Mary’s Cincinnati, Loyola and Oregon State. Last month Babineaux accepted a full ride to Drake.

“I liked a lot of things about Drake,” Babineaux said. “The location was a surprise for me. When I think of Iowa I just think dry, open fields, but Drake is two minutes down the road from Des Moines (pop. 203,000), which is like a mini-Chicago. The location is awesome. I met a lot of people that I liked and Drake is one of the best business schools in the country and that’s huge for me because I’ll be majoring in marketing. After talking with one of the head professors there, Drake is perfect for me.”

Babineaux’s dad, Joseph, is obviously happy for his son.

“In hindsight, at the end of the day, I’m happy because he got to choose where he wanted to go,” Joseph said. “Staying at a prep school for a year, it’s also like a trial run at college, so he got an opportunity to get acclimated to that lifestyle. One thing he liked about Drake is that they told him he’s going to get an opportunity to be ‘the guy’ there and I know Kori likes to be a leader and carry a team.”

The year at Lake Forest proved to be good for Babineaux, as he excelled on the court.

“I had a few pretty good games, scoring 48 points in one game,” Babineaux said. “There’s not a huge difference between basketball in Chicago compared to California, but I think it’s a little bit better in California. The basketball part wasn’t too hard of an adjustment, but the weather was brutal. I’d never really seen snow like I did in Chicago. I really enjoyed Lake Forest. It broadened my horizons.”

Out of Folsom High, Babineaux was closed to accepting a football scholarship to San Diego State, but when their coach, Brady Hoke, left for Michigan after the 2010 season, Babineaux began to waver.

“I thought about my other options like Iowa State, Colorado State and Eastern Washington, but then I realized that I missed basketball a little too much,” Babineaux said. “Basketball has always been my first love."


Sportsmanship Awards To Betsy Flood, Matt Gatens

University of Iowa seniors Betsy Flood and Matt Gatens are two of 24 Big Ten student-athletes named Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2011-12 academic year, the conference office announced Wednesday.

They were chosen from a group of 300 honored throughout the academic year who had displayed positive sportsmanship.

One member of each varsity sports team on every campus was chosen by his or her institution as a Sportsmanship Award honoree. From each university’s list, two Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners were then selected. All of the Sportsmanship Award honorees have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, these student-athletes must be in good academic standing and must have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

Flood is one of the most decorated student-athletes in Iowa track and field/cross country history. The two-time team captain is a five-time Big Ten Championships runner-up (3k, 3x5k, 10k) and ranks among Iowa's track and field all-time top 10 performers in the 800 indoor, 1,500, mile, 3k indoor, 3k outdoor, 5k indoor, 5k outdoor and 10k outdoor. She also ranks among Iowa's top 10 cross country performers in the 3k and 6k and is the school record holder on the 6,400-meter relay.

Flood is a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and has been on the USTFCCCA all-academic team four times. The Des Moines native is active in the University of Iowa Day of Caring and co-founder of Healthy Hawks, an organization of Iowa student-athletes that visits area elementary schools to promote health and nutrition. Flood also coaches on the Girls on the Run program for elementary students that teaches students about personal values and self-confidence.

Gatens was a leader on and off the court for the men’s basketball team. A second team all-Big Ten selection, he led the team in scoring (15.2), 3-pointers (75-of-183) and free throws (111-of-130), and ranked third in assists (69). The co-captain was awarded the Chris Street and Defensive Player of the Year awards at the team’s banquet. The Iowa City, Iowa, native was routinely assigned to stop one of the opposition's top perimeter players and ranked second on the squad in steals, collecting a single-season best 48 in 2011-12. The guard ranks sixth in Iowa career scoring (1,635) and broke the school record for consecutive 3-pointers made (12).

The two-time Academic all-Big Ten selection has been a role model in the Iowa City community during his Hawkeye career. He has been involved in activities such as University of Iowa Day of Caring, visits to the Ronald McDonald House, frequent visits to the UI Hospitals & Clinics to visit children, and the VA Hospital to spend time with veterans. Gatens has enjoyed reading to children at local elementary schools multiple times a week and helped teach aspiring young basketball players fundamentals at summer youth camps. He has also taken time to interact with children with disabilities at Camp Courageous in Monticello, IA.

Both Flood and Gatens were representatives on Iowa's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which establishes guidelines and criteria for all University of Iowa student-athletes.

[This story was written for Ron Maly by Matt Weitzel of Iowa's sports information staff].

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fred Hoiberg Agrees To New 8-Year Deal Worth $1.5 Million Annually

Fred Hoiberg, who shared Big 12 coach-of-the-year honors last season, is now positioned to gain additional accolades going forward as the Cyclone basketball coach after agreeing to an eight-year contract worth an average of $1.5 million annually. In his second year as coach, Hoiberg led his alma mater to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005 and 23 total victories. Iowa State defeated defending national champion Connecticut before losing to eventual NCAA champion Kentucky. The Cyclones finished third in the Big 12 after being picked for the bottom quarter of the league. "Returning to Ames has been so much more than expected for our family and I'm thrilled to have the chance to continue developing a nationally competitive program at Iowa State," Hoiberg said. "The support of our fan base and commitment of our players has brought the magic back to Hilton. I am humbled with the extension, to say the least, and anxious to continue our journey at Iowa State." Hoiberg guided his 2012 team to startling upsets, last-second victories and post-season play. The team also played in front of record-breaking home crowds. He quickly and efficiently upgraded the talent on his roster and masterfully made it a cohesive and winning team. "Fred is so much more than a great basketball coach," athletic director Jamie Pollard said. "He is an outstanding leader with quiet confidence, long-term vision and a popularity with the fan base that is hard to describe. We couldn't be more pleased with Fred's long term commitment to the University" Full terms of the contract will be released at a later date. [].

Incoming Hawkeye Recruit Gesell Receives Honor

University of Iowa incoming basketball recruit Mike Gesell has been named to the 2012 Parade magazine high school boys basketball all-America team. The list includes 40 of the nation’s top prep basketball standouts.

Gesell (6-foot-2, 185) is one of five players named to the list that will be attending Big Ten universities this fall.

Gesell, who prepped at South Sioux City High School, was named the Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year his junior and senior seasons. He was a four-time first team all-state, all-conference and all-metro honoree. The point guard averaged 25.1 points, 7.4 assists, six rebounds and 2.9 steals his senior year, leading his team to a Class B state runner-up finish after winning the title in 2010 and 2011.

Gesell, who is the all-time leading scorer in metro Sioux City history with 2,112 points, was selected and played in the 2012 All-American Championship at the Final Four in New Orleans, dishing out a game-high five assists.

[This story was written for Ron Maly by Matt Weitzel of Iowa's sports information office].

Drake Defensive End Coleman On Watch List

Drake defensive end Brandon Coleman has earned preseason recognition from the College Football Performance Awards as one of the top defensive linemen to watch in the Football Championship Subdivision in 2012.

The senior from Cary, Ill. (Cary-Grove) is coming off a stellar junior season in which he earned second-team all-Pioneer Football League honors and second-team Academic all-PFL. In his first year as a starter, Coleman recorded a team-high 12 sacks (-76) and led all Bulldogs defensive linemen with 51 tackles (31 solo).

Coleman ranked fourth in the PFL and 10th in the nation (FCS) in sacks, and added 16.5 tackles for loss. He earned PFL Defensive Player of the Week for Drake’s victory at Butler last Sept. 24 with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

The College Football Performance Awards strive to provide the most scientifically rigorous assessments in college football, according to information on their official website. Recipients are selected exclusively based upon objective scientific rankings of the extent to which individual players increase the effectiveness of their teams.

[This story was written for Ron Maly by Paul Kirk, Drake's assistant athletic director for communications].

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Former Drake Coach Kurt Kanaskie On Staff At Virginia Tech

By Bill Landis, The In 32 years of doing the same job, it’s rare to encounter new situations.

But after 32 years of coaching college basketball, Kurt Kanaskie finds himself in a situation he’s never been in before. When it was announced on May 10 that Kanaskie would join first-year head coach James Johnson’s staff at Virginia Tech, it marked the first time in the Cumberland Valley High School graduate’s career that he’ll coach at three schools in three years.

If his track record suggests anything, this will be the only time he ever finds himself in such a situation.

After serving as an assistant coach for eight years at Penn State, Kanaskie moved to Navy last season with former Nittany Lions head coach Ed DeChellis and saw the Midshipmen struggle through a 3-26 (0-14 Patriot League) season.

“It’s a little deceiving because I was at Penn State for eight seasons and then went to Navy for maybe 10 months,” Kanaskie said. “I was at Lock Haven for three years, but other than that everything has been five years or longer. It’s sort of an anomaly that I was at Navy for such a short time.”

Kanaskie spent five years at his first coaching stop as an assistant at South Carolina, followed by the three at Lock Haven as a head coach and eight seasons as the head coach at Indiana (Pa.), where he led the school to its first-ever national ranking and NCAA tournament bid during the 1994-95 season and was twice named PSAC Coach of the Year.

He spent seven years as the head coach at Drake, where he had some terrible seasons, before joining DeChellis at Penn State.

Now that he has a new home in Blacksburg, Va., Kanaskie hopes he’s sticking around for a while.

“Hopefully I’ll have a long stay at Virginia Tech,” Kanaskie said. “The facilities are out of sight. It’s a great school and this is a tremendous opportunity.”

But it come with its challenges.

Kanaskie has big-game experience from being an All-State player at Cumberland Valley, an all-Big Five player at LaSalle University and an assistant coach in the Big Ten. The ACC, though, is a different animal.

His first season in the ACC could very well be a bumpy one, but it doesn’t mean Kanaskie is going to back down from the challenge.

“I’m really anxious to see the difference between the Big Ten, which has great teams, great facilities and great fan support, and compare it to the ACC,” Kanaskie said. “There’s great basketball in either conference.”

Yet another challenge Kanaskie faces is being away from his youngest son, Kyle, who will be a senior starter for the State College High School basketball team next season. With State College’s moving to the Mid-Penn Conference next season, making the 1 hour, 30 minute drive from the Naval Academy to see his son play in the Harrisburg area wasn’t out of the question.

With Virginia Tech being more than four hours away, that makes things a little more difficult.

“I don’t know how many games I’m gonna get to see,” Kanaskie said. “That’s been the toughest adjustment is being away from him.”

Still, the opportunity at Virginia Tech was too good for Kanaskie to pass up on. Though the Hokies went just 16-17 (4-14 ACC) last season, the coach is optimistic for the future of the program under Johnson, who’s positive attitude and approach to teaching his players is what Kanaskie said led him to accept the position in the first place.

With 18 years of head coaching experience, Kanaskie didn’t dismiss the possibility of returning to that role somewhere down the road. But the timing would have to be right and the conditions would have to be perfect.

Just like what he has now in Blacksburg.

“At this stage of my career, I wouldn’t have made the move to Virginia Tech if I wasn’t totally sold on James Johnson as a person, a teacher and a coach,” Kanaskie said. “The same would apply if I were to become a head coach again. It would have to be the right situation at the right institution with the right people in place for me to do that. Obviously, I wouldn’t shut the door on that possibility, but it would have to be the right place because I think Virginia Tech is a special place to be right now.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chris Brazelton Of California Riverside Joins Drake Basketball Coaching Staff; Nate Meyer Prom\oted from Graduate Manager To Coordinator Of Operations

Drake basketball head coach Mark Phelps announced the addition of Chris Brazelton to the coaching staff Thursday, and the promotion of Nate Meyer from graduate manager to coordinator of basketball operations.Meyer has spent the past two years in the graduate manager position. Brazelton comes to Drake after spending the past five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of California Riverside. Brazelton joined the UC Riverside staff under head coach Jim Wooldridge in 2007 after one year as a graduate assistant at the University of New Orleans under Buzz Williams. “The thing that stands out to me about Chris is that he is a terrific person, first and foremost,” said Phelps. “He is an extremely hard worker with great focus. He is a man of high character and he cares very much about serving student-athletes, with an emphasis on excellence. While Chris is known as an outstanding recruiter, he also excels on the court as a teacher and motivator. I am extremely excited that Chris is joining our staff as an assistant coach.” A native of Highland, Calif., Brazelton is a graduate of nearby Redlands East Valley High School. He earned his undergraduate degree in speech communication from Fresno State in May of 2006, working as head manager under coach Steve Cleveland. “I am honored to become a member of the Drake Bulldog Family,” Brazelton said. “Coach Phelps has a phenomenal vision for the level of excellence he expects. Drake men's basketball is already good; he wants it to represent greatness in every way. There is something unique and special here, and I am excited to be a part of it." Brazelton began his collegiate career at UC Santa Cruz, averaging 6.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He then transferred to Fresno State, where he made the team as a walk-on and redshirted in 2003-04. In 2004-05 he was named a Fresno State Scholar-Athlete. An all-Citrus Belt performer in both basketball and track in high school, Brazelton also was a member of the National Honor Society and the California Scholastic Federation. He was rated as one of the top shooting guards in California by Brazelton played for the Inland Empire Basketball Program AAU team under the guidance of coaches Keith Howard and Julius Patterson, and appeared in the 2001 IEBP All-Star game in Riverside County. Brazelton earned his master’s degree in strategic communications in September of 2009 from National University, graduating with honors (3.53). Meyer, a graduate of Urbandale High School, joined the Drake basketball program as graduate manager July 1, 2010. In that role he has served as the program's video coordinator and has overseen the student-manager staff, along with a variety of other administrative duties as assigned by the coaching staff. “Nate has worked extremely hard as a graduate manager for us the past two years, and has certainly earned the opportunity to be a full-time permanent member of our staff,” Phelps said. “His experience the past six years at Nebraska and Drake, his tireless work ethic and his familiarity with our culture as a basketball program make him a perfect fit for the coordinator of basketball operations position.” Prior to coming to Drake, Meyer served as a student manager under coach Doc Sadler at Nebraska from 2007-2010. During his time at Nebraska he was part of two postseason teams, qualifying for the NIT in 2008 and 2009. Along with his in-season experience, he has also spent his college summers working more than 20 camps throughout the midwest. During his prep career, Meyer helped lead Urbandale to back-to-back CIML Central Conference basketball championships in 2005 and 2006, including a 20-3 mark as a senior. Meyer earned a degree in business management from Nebraska in May 2010. This summer he is completing his master’s degree in public administration at Drake. [This story was written for Ron Maly by Paul Kirk, Drake's assistant athletic director for communications].

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Uthoff Still Weighing Options, But Iowa's Offense Is Good Fit

Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette writes that Jarrod Uthoff plans to visit two more colleges in the coming weeks, but the Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate said today he hopes to make a decision fairly soon.

Uthoff, a 6-foot-8 forward who redshirted last season, left the Wisconsin basketball program in April and has made visits to Creighton and Iowa State. He wants to visit Marquette next week and Florida afterward. He also is considering Iowa, but would have to pay his own way for one year. He is not interested in attending junior college.

Uthoff initially said he wanted to decide on a college before summer courses begin at those schools.

“The right decision is more important,” Uthoff said. “It would be nice to get a decision in before that, but I’m going to take those two more visits and then make a decision.

“I like all of my options right now. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

Uthoff’s departure sparked a national debate about transfers and university-imposed restrictions. After Uthoff asked for his scholarship release, Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan restricted Uthoff from contacting or receiving any contact from any Big Ten school, Iowa State and Marquette. Within days, all ACC schools and Florida also were restricted from contacting Uthoff.

Most of the restrictions were lifted after Uthoff met with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. Wisconsin will not issue a scholarship release for any Big Ten program, meaning Uthoff will have to pay his own way for one year and sit out next season if he picks Iowa.

An up-tempo offense is what Uthoff prefers from his next school. Wisconsin plays a methodical and successful system that relies on high-percentage shots and dogged defense.

“For me it’s the system,” he said. “The style of play.”

Iowa’s offense fits Uthoff’s preference. The Hawkeyes finished third among Big Ten teams in points per game at 73 and swept Wisconsin in their season series. The Badgers, which advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in March, finished 10th in scoring at 64 points a game.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Drake End Kevin Marshall On Preseason Watch List

Drake tight end Kevin Marshall has earned preseason recognition from the College Football Performance Awards as one of the top tight ends to watch in the Football Championship Subdivision in 2012.

The senior from Glen Ellyn, Ill. (Glenbard South) had a breakout season in 2011, in his second season of eligibility. Marshall last year caught a career-high 33 passes to rank fourth on the team and earn honorable mention all-Pioneer Football League honors. He totaled 280 receiving yards (8.5) and three touchdowns in his first year as the full-time starter, and had four games with five receptions.

In his first year of play, in 2010, the 6-4, 237-pound Marshall caught two passes for 49 yards (24.5) and one touchdown.

The College Football Performance Awards strive to provide the most scientifically rigorous assessments in college football, according to information on their official website. Recipients are selected exclusively based upon objective scientific rankings of the extent to which individual players increase the effectiveness of their teams.

[This story was written for Ron Maly by Paul Kirk, Drake's assistant athletic director for communications].

Friday, May 18, 2012

North Dakota Hires Savavongchanh As Assistant Coach

North Dakota has hired Linda Sayavongchanh as an assistant women's basketball coach and recruiting coordinator.

Sayavongchanh (pronounced sy-uh-vong-chun) spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach at Drake.

“Linda has gregarious personality, which is vital being a recruiting coordinator, and she has established herself nationally on the recruiting trail, especially in the Midwest,” North Dakota coach Travis Brewster said. “Linda is extremely diligent with her efforts, which will make her a very effective teacher of the game on the court.”

“North Dakota has a long-standing tradition of success and I’m looking forward to helping continue that tradition,” said Sayavongchanh. “I’m extremely excited to be a part of the University of North Dakota family and to work under the leadership of Travis Brewster.”

A standout player at Drake from 2002 to 2006, Sayavongchanh was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection and a three-time Valley all-defensive team pick. She graduated ranked second all-time at Drake in career steals (266), ninth in assists (379) and 18th in points (1,129). In 2003-04, Sayavongchanh set a Drake single-season record with 105 steals.

Sayavongchanh spent the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth.

Prior to her stint at Duluth, she spent the 2006-07 season as a student assistant coach at Drake, helping the team to the Valley tournament title and an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

A native of Des Moines, Sayavongchanh is a member of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall of Fame and the Des Moines Lincoln High School Hall of Fame. She graduated from Drake in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and earned her master’s degree in education from Minnesota-Duluth in 2009. [Grand Forks].

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Construction Of Iowa's Varsity Golf Complex Under Way

Completing a job without the necessary tools can be a challenge. It can be done, but creativity is required to overcome certain hurdles.

For the University of Iowa men's and women's golf teams, those hurdles include cold temperatures, snow and damp springs.

Hawkeye men's coach Mark Hankins and women's coach Megan Menzel had to find ways to practice during those cold winter months and soggy spring afternoons. Golf courses and driving ranges are nowhere near ready for use and Iowa winters aren't conducive to golf.

Now that construction on the new Varsity Golf Complex at Finkbine is under way, the hours spent on planning creative practice plans can now be spent on improving actual swings.

The Varsity Golf Complex will overlook hole No. 6 at Finkbine and will be the new home of Iowa golf. The facility will include a 3,150 square foot putting green that can be modified like a natural grass green, effectively recreating an outdoor putting surface. It will also have a 1,200 square foot performance studio featuring the V-1 Video Swing Analysis System, allowing players to digitally record, analyze and compare their swings to professionals to learn from the best in the world.

The performance studio will include indoor heated hitting bays that open to the driving range, enabling student-athletes to work on full swing mechanics throughout the entire year. Locker rooms, offices and lounge spaces for both teams will also be available once the facility is completed in February of 2013.

During the winter months or in inclement weather, Iowa golfers didn't have a place to hit full shots. Instead, they would hit into nets or maybe hit 120 yard wedges in The Bubble. The Varsity Golf Complex will give student-athletes a chance work on their entire game any day of the year.

"Ball flight is the biggest thing we will be picking up," Menzel said. "That really helps build confidence in your players."

Menzel pointed out that her team hasn't even played a full round or seen their full swing in action by the time the NCAA golf spring season rolls around.

"We will go out in the spring and play some pretty tough courses without seeing the ball completely off the club," Menzel said. "You want to put together a game plan before a tournament. Without knowing which direction the ball is going can make that even more challenging."

Hankins understands the role weather can play in college golf and the national rankings are a good explanation.

"Traditionally a lot of Big Ten teams are ranked highly after the fall season," Hankins said. "The one thing southern schools don't like to talk about is how good our fall weather is.

"In the spring, the Big Ten schools start to fall down the leaderboard," Hankins said. "It has to do with the preparation level and amount of time spent in inclement weather. Having a new facility like this not only gives us the chance to practice in the winter, but during rainy days in the spring as well."

Both coaches are frequently asked what exactly they do for training during the winter and early spring months. Now they can showcase a state-of-the-art facility to potential student-athletes to answer the question.

"This facility will be huge for us when it comes to recruiting," Menzel said. "We are very fortunate to have Finkbine so close to campus. This completely enhances that with all of the amenities. We are putting together a first-class facility and a great training center for our golfers."

"One of the things recruits are looking for is the ability for a program to help him make it the PGA TOUR," Hankins said. "You can't do that unless you have the proper facilities to teach them, and they can work on their game every day. This new facility gives us that opportunity."

Weather isn't the only thing the facility allows Iowa golfers to avoid. Daylight is no longer a worry.

"Say a player has a test of class commitment at 3 p.m. and needs to miss practice," Hankins said. "He can come in the facility at 11 p.m. at night if he wants and practice as long as he wants. It allows kids that want to work harder than anyone in the country the opportunity to make it to the highest level."

Any golfer knows that the short game is the most important aspect of the sport. The new short game room at the Varsity Golf Complex gives Iowa golfers a chance to chip out of simulated greenside rough and fringe, along with a massive putting surface that can be manipulated from day-to-day.

"Short game is the biggest part of the game where we want to see improvements," Menzel said. "The chipping and putting room right at our players' fingertips will be phenomenal."

The V-1 Video Swing Analysis System is used by the top professional players in the world. Iowa golfers will be able to use that technology every day at Finkbine.

"Some of the technology we have in this building is second-to-none," Hankins said. "We are going to have the best golf facility in the state of Iowa. That's not just on the college level, that's across the entire state. We need that because we have the best players in the state of Iowa."

Hankins has built the men's program into a perennial top-25 team and NCAA Tournament qualifier. Menzel's results in year one of a rebuilding process show that she is on the same path. Both are appreciative that this facility can now be used to ensure success.

"We've made some great strides," Menzel said. "I don't think there is any reason that we can't be a top tier program. It's really great to see all the support behind this project, and it's a great commitment to the program."

"We have a lot of people to thank for committing private funds to this project," Hankins said. "This is a platform for these kids to take it to the next level, continue to be a top-25 team and make us proud down the road on the PGA TOUR."

[Aaron Blau, Hawk Talk].

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dain Taylor Named Drake's Defensive Line Coach

Former Drake all-America defensive end Dain Taylor has been named defensive line coach for the Bulldogs, head coach Chris Creighton said Tuesday.

“Our defensive line has been coached exceptionally well the past two years,” said Creighton, “and we are going to miss coach Casey Carlo. We had interest in our defensive line position from coaches all over the country and we ended up getting our very first choice: Dain Taylor.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Drake and completing a stellar 2010 senior season, Taylor spent the spring and summer of 2011 working out with members of the Denver Broncos in his home state of Colorado, hoping for a chance to extend his football career in the professional ranks. He signed with the Arena Football League’s Utah Blaze as a free agent on Sept. 26, 2012, and blocked a kick in his first game on March 10, 2012 against San Antonio. His rookie season included a game in Des Moines against the Iowa Barnstormers on Feb. 25.

“Dain was a four-time ‘Committed to Excellence’ winner in our program, a team captain and a multiple All-American before he went on to play professionally in the AFL. We are fired up about him coming back to Drake to coach. He will make our players and our program better. We can’t wait to get started.”

The Highlands Ranch, Colo., native ended his collegiate career in 2010 on an impressive note by earning second-team Associated Press FCS All-America, AFCA FCS All-America, first-team all-Pioneer Football League and PFL Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor also was named the Pioneer Football League’s co-Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against Dayton where he tallied a career-high 12-tackles, including 3.5 sacks, one safety, and a blocked kick.

Serving as a co-captain his senior year, Taylor recorded 49.5 tackles, including 13.5 sacks (3rd in nation) and 24 tackles for loss (3rd in nation). He also returned one interception for a touchdown, and recorded four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick.

Taylor registered 149.5 career tackles, including 27.5 sacks and 54.5 total tackles for loss. He also posted 12 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles and four blocked kicks.

The Bulldogs, defending co-champions of the Pioneer Football League, open the 2012 season at home on Thursday, Aug. 30, vs. Grand View, at 7 p.m. Drake will play six home games, including a Sept. 8 clash with Montana, and four contests against PFL competition at Drake Stadium.

Tickets may be purchased online at, or you may purchase by phone at (515) 271-DOGS.

[This story was written for Ron Maly by Paul Kirk, Drake's assistant athletic director for communications].

Hawkeye Fans Can Purchase Cancun Challenge Travel Packages

University of Iowa men’s basketball fans can purchase travel packages for the 2012 Cancun Challenge during Thanksgiving week at the all-inclusive Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico. Packages can be purchased through Winebrenner Red Carpet Travel located at 755 Gilbert St. in Iowa City or by calling 319-351-4510. Fan packages are the only way to gain admission to the games played in Mexico. More information on travel packages is also available at The 2012 field includes Iowa (Big Ten), DePaul (Big East), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), and Wichita State (Missouri Valley) playing in the Riviera Division. The Mayan Division features Howard (MEAC), Austin Peay State (Ohio Valley), Western Carolina (Southern) and Gardner Webb (Big South). The tournament format features eight games played in the United States (Nov. 15 and 17) where the four teams in the Riviera Division host the four schools in the Mayan Division. All eight teams then travel to Cancun for two games (Nov. 20-21) played at the Moon Palace Resort. A champion is crowned in both divisions. The Cancun Challenge is regarded as one of the most unique preseason men’s college basketball tournaments. Teams stay at the all-inclusive Moon Palace Resort and enjoy all the amenities the resort has to offer. A ballroom is converted into an arena and fans who attend the event get an up-close perspective of their team while enjoying an all-inclusive setting. Previous champions include Vanderbilt (2008), Kentucky (2009), Missouri (2010), and Illinois (2011). The Cancun Challenge is owned and produced by Triple Crown Sports, which also organizes women’s college basketball tournaments in Cancun, and the Preseason and Postseason Women’s NIT. Triple Crown is the leader in grassroots sports and manages over 300 amateur sporting events across the country in volleyball, girls’ softball, baseball, and basketball. With 28 years of experience in the event business, Triple Crown is nationally-recognized for its must-attend destination tournaments. [This story was written for Ron Maly by Matt Weitzel of Iowa's sports information staff].

Monday, May 14, 2012

'Hurtful' Comments Caused ShawnJohnson To Shed 25 Pounds

Gold medalist gymnast Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines gained, then lost, 25 pounds during her three-year break from international competition, she told reporters Monday.

The 20-year-old, who won three silver medals and one gold in Beijing and is attempting a comeback for London, discussed the weight gain, and her subsequent body image problems at the USOC media summit. She said her fluctuating weight led to "hurtful" comments in the tabloids.

"That whole process kind of broke me down and taught me something," she said, according to USA Today. "People put too much emphasis on looks."

Even when she was at the top of the gymnastics world, Johnson battled weight issues. "I was at the Olympic Games winning medals and I still doubted my image," she said. "I doubted what I looked like. That's sad. Girls should be taught different than that. I think everyone should be taught different than that."

Johnson put on the weight after the 2008 Olympics and her 2009 victory on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." She tore her ACL during a freak skiing accident in early 2010 and added some heft to her athletic 4-foot-9 frame. Johnson said she'd perform Internet searches for her name and was horrified at the results.

She's not a certainty to make the U.S. team but is excited for the opportunity to compete for a spot at the upcoming Olympic trials.

"I'm getting stronger on a daily basis," she told Fox Sports last week. "I'm excited for June. This time around, I've taken a whole new approach and mentality."

[This story and Shawn Johnson's "before" [left] and "after" [right] photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports].

Courtney Graham Joins Drake Women's Staff

Drake women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk announced the final addition to her coaching staff Monday. Former Mississippi State standout Courtney Graham joins the staff as assistant coach.

“I love Courtney’s passion and her overall vision, not just in basketball, but in life,” Baranczyk said. “She is going to be an outstanding mentor to our student-athletes and she comes from a basketball coaching family. Her personality is great and she is going to be embraced by the Drake community as one of its own.”

Graham has been out of coaching for the past two seasons, but prior to that she was an assistant coach at Holy Cross for three seasons and before Holy Cross, Graham was the academic coordinator and senior women’s administrator at Kentucky State University.

“I am thankful for this opportunity to get back into coaching with someone like Jennie that shares my passion for coaching and teaching student-athletes,” Graham said. “It is exciting to face new challenges and I knew this was going to be the right fit here at Drake University and I am looking forward to becoming a part of the Drake community.”

At Mississippi State, Graham earned four letters as a member of the basketball team. A post player she made three NCAA Tournament appearances and one WNIT Tournament appearance as a player. From 2005 to 2007, Graham was the associate varsity head coach and head junior varsity coach at her alma mater Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Graham earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Mississippi State in 2002 and a master's in Sports Administration in 2003. Graham’s father, William coached in college basketball for over 25 seasons and her brother, William played college basketball at Wright State.

[This story was written for Ron Maly by John Meyer of Drake's sports information staff].

Iowa Plays Virginia Tech In ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Iowa's basketball team will play at Virginia Tech on Nov. 27 as part of the 2012 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Iowa is 2-9 in the Challenge after losing, 71-55, to Clemson a year ago in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes did not take part in the event in 2003-04 and 2004-05. This year marks the 14th year of the event.

“We always look forward to this event and this year is no different,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “Anytime you play an ACC opponent on the road, you know it will be difficult. We have a great deal of respect for Virginia Tech. This will be a good road test for our basketball team early in the season.”

Iowa has played Virginia Tech twice before, losing both meetings in Challenge games. The Hokies edged Iowa, 69-65, on Nov. 29, 2006 in Blacksburg, Va., and 70-64 on Dec. 1, 2009 in Iowa City.

Iowa is 11-24 all-time against ACC schools, while Virginia Tech is 18-14 against current members of the Big Ten Conference. The Hokies have played every Big Ten school except Michigan State and Northwestern.

Virginia Tech is coached by James Johnson, who will enter his first season as the program’s head coach this fall. Johnson spent the last five years on the Hokies’ coaching staff. He was an assistant coach from 2007-11 before being promoted to associate head coach prior to last season. Johnson also has coaching stints at George Mason (2005-07), Penn State (2003-05), College of Charleston (2002-03), Elon (2000-02), Old Dominion (1997-2000), Hargrave Military Academy (1996-97), Longwood (1995-96) and Ferrum (1993-95).

The Hokies return nine lettermen, including two starters, from last season's team that finished 16-17 overall and 4-12 in ACC action. Eighteen of Virginia Tech’s games a year ago were decided by five points or fewer (6-12), including 10 contests by 10 points or less (5-5). The Hokies return four of their top seven scorers from last year. Erick Green returns for his senior campaign after leading the Hokies in scoring (15.6), assists (88), steals (41), field goal percentage (.438), free throws made and attempted (101-of-122), and minutes played (34.5). The guard, who scored double figures in 30 of 31 games, was a second team all-ACC selection. Forward Jarell Eddie ranked third in team scoring (9.1) and second in rebounding (4.8).

Iowa was 18-17 last season, finishing tied for seventh in the Big Ten with an 8-10 league record and advancing to the second round of the NIT. Iowa returns five of its top six scorers from a year ago. The Hawkeyes lose their top scorer from 2012, Matt Gatens (15.2 ppg), but return junior Roy Devyn Marble (11.5), sophomore Aaron White (11.1), junior Melsahn Basabe (8.2), junior Zach McCabe (7.8) and sophomore Josh Oglesby (6.4). White, who was one of only 16 student-athletes name to the Kyle Macy Freshman All-America team, was also the team’s top rebounder (5.7), while Marble led the squad in steals (53) and Basabe in blocks (36).

Virginia Tech is 2-5 in the Challenge, including a 1-2 mark in home contests. The Hokies have lost their last two Challenge games by the same score since beating the Hawkeyes in 2009. Virginia Tech lost at Minnesota a year ago, 58-55, and at home to Purdue in overtime, 58-55, in 2010.

The Big Ten won the 2012 Big Ten/ACC Challenge, 8-4, picking up its third consecutive Challenge title and retaining possession of the Commissioners Cup. The Big Ten set a conference record for wins and tied the record for wins by either conference in the Challenge. Four of the Big Ten’s eight victories came on the road, also setting a Challenge record.

Iowa-Virginia Tech is one of six three-time Challenge matchups, with the others being: North Carolina-Indiana (2001 and 2004); N.C. State-Michigan (2003 and 2006); Ohio State-Duke (2002 and 2011); Minnesota-Florida State (2004 and 2007); and Purdue-Clemson (2003 and 2007).

The 2012-13 Challenge schedule:

Tuesday, Nov. 27

Minnesota at Florida State

North Carolina at Indiana

NC State at Michigan

Maryland at Northwestern

Iowa at Virginia Tech

Nebraska at Wake Forest

Wednesday, Nov. 28

Purdue at Clemson

Ohio State at Duke

Georgia Tech at Illinois

Michigan State at Miami

Boston College at Penn State

Virginia at Wisconsin

[This story was written for Ron Maly by Matt Weitzel of Iowa's sports information staff].