ND Notebook: Spond's number a tribute to Columbine victims

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ND Notebook: Spond's number a tribute to Columbine victims

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Danny Spond was in second grade when two students opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 13. He would later graduate from Columbine, where he wore No. 4. At Notre Dame, he chose to wear No. 13 to honor those killed on April 20, 1999 in his hometown.

"I play for a greater understanding of the game," Spond said.

Spond's connection to Columbine led him to be asked about the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, to which he said only time can help heal a community from such a horrible event.

"It brought us together, it brought the community together," Spond added of the tragedy his hometown experienced. "It really built a society, an area that takes care of each other."

More on Manti: Te'o finally decompressed from awards tour

Becoming college football's most decorated player in a single season took its toll on Manti Te'o last month, with the linebacker crisscrossing the nation to receive a slew of honors while his team began practicing for the BCS Championship. But with finals and that tour over, Te'o has been able to return to his refuge on the field.

"Football is my sanctuary where I feel most at home, and when I'm with my guys, when I'm with my coach, that's my comfort zone and that's where I want to be," Te'o said. "I was just glad to finally get back from that week of just traveling, and (get) to spend the rest of my time with my guys."

Te'o crossed paths with Barrett Jones in Houston for the Lombardi Award presentation, and the Alabama center noted how well he thought Te'o dealt with all the attention.

"I've just been very impressed with the way he's handled himself," Jones said. "Talk about fame, obviously, everyone in the world knows who Manti Te'o is. And he really just handles that with such grace, treats kids the right way and is just nice to everyone. I've really enjoyed meeting him."

The tour didn't beat the life out of Te'o, either, as defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has seen an even more determined version of Heisman Trophy runner up.

"Manti has actually practiced harder the last week since the award circuit, practiced harder than he has all year long," Diaco said. "So he himself has raised his game even just as early as last week and leaving up to the travel here to South Florida."

Notes: "He's coach Saban out there"

The phrase "game manager" has often been used to describe Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, sort of a backhanded compliment for someone who won't win a game, but certainly won't lose it.

It's one Alabama center Barrett Jones and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier didn't exactly agree with -- "I know what A.J. does for our offense, and he does a lot, and it's much more than just managing," Nussmeier said -- but it's also one that may not be altogether backhanded with the explanation provided by Diaco and Te'o.

"The quarterback conducts the game just like if Nick Saban was taking the snap himself," Diaco said, referring to McCarron. "He doesn't put the team in bad spots. He doesn't make poor decisions with the ball. He's working the game and managing the game and putting the offense in the appropriate plays it's really an incredible organization to watch offensively led by the quarterback."

Te'o concurred with that assessment -- and hey, Saban's a revered coach on the cusp of a dynasty at Alabama, so if that's a shrouded diss, it's not a bad one.

"He's coach Saban out there," Te'o said. "He doesn't make silly mistakes. He's their general on offense, and he does a really good job at it."

Recruiting roundup: ND commit Hunter Jr. suffers devastating injury

Yahoo's Prep Rally has the video, which shows class of 2013 wide receiver commit Torii Hunter, Jr., running a normal route in practice and falling awkwardly in severe pain. The injury was diagnosed as a broken left femur, with a reported recovery time of 6-8 months.

At the best, Hunter Jr. could join Notre Dame for fall camp, but at the worst he won't be 100 percent until after the season starts (which still could be the case regardless of if he returns to practice in six months).

"This was a very sobering, horrible moment, because this is a good kid," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "... I'm not talking about him like his career is over, but I'm just talking about Tuesday that whole practice changed for everybody who saw that."

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

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Photo at top: La Rue Martin poses for a photo at a National Basketball Retired Players Association event. (Photo courtesy of La Rue Martin)

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

By Elan Kane
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

LaRue Martin Jr. thought his future was set. The Portland Trail Blazers had drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1972 NBA draft. Money and fame awaited.

Fifteen years later, he started work as a UPS driver, struggling to find uniform pants that fit his 6-foot-11 frame.

"There is life after sports," Martin said. "Period."

It's been 45 years since the draft and Martin, a former Loyola University star, is now the UPS Illinois district public affairs and community services manager. He is labeled by many as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, but he is fine with that designation.

"I don't believe in saying anything negative, you have no control over that," Martin said. "I took care of my family, did what I had to do and I'm the type of person I can't dwell off the negatives. I can't. I kept my head up high and moved onto a positive mode of life and it has treated me very well."

Martin averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in just four seasons with the Trail Blazers. He blames his low numbers on his lack of playing time, but many believe he was just not good enough.

"He didn't get playing time because he [stunk]," said Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the NBA for decades. "[Former No. 1 overall draft pick Michael] Olowokandi didn't do much but I think he did more than that."

Martin is used to the criticism.

"As a young man, reading the papers all the time, that bothered me, I must admit that," Martin said. "But I hold my head up high now because I've been very successful in the corporate world."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.