Parker joining winning ways in Durham

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Parker joining winning ways in Durham

Most years the No. 3 ranked player in a recruiting class choosing to attend Duke would be a simple case of the rich getting richer. In 2013, that will be the case and then some after Simeon star Jabari Parker pledged his commitment to Mike Krzyzewski the Blue Devils yesterday afternoon.
After a National Championship in 2009-10, Krzyzewskis Blue Devils advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2010-11 and were stunned last season in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, a second-round loss to fifteenth-seeded Lehigh, 75-70. But Krzyzewskis last two recruiting classes, capped off by Parkers announcement, have proved that the lasting impression recruits see is the Hall of Famers ability to win rather than the recent bumps in the road.
Joining Parker, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 3 player in the 2013 class, in Durham next fall are four-star shooting guard Matt Jones and four-star small forward Semi Ojeleye. The consensus top-40 recruits make up what is likely the second best class in the country, behind Kentuckys unprecedented 2013 class of four players ranked in the top-20, including three in the top-10.
RELATED: Duke fans welcome home Jabari Parker
The 2013 class which could challenge Dukes 2009 class (Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Andre Dawkins) and 2011 class (Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers, Marshall Plumlee)as Coach Ks best in recent memory should form the backbone for Krzyzewskis foreseeable future, but they wont be alone.
It was only fitting that, on the week of Parkers commitment, the Blue Devils moved to No. 1 in both the Associated Press and USA TodayCoaches Polls. After previously-ranked No. 1 Indiana fell in overtime to Butler, the Blue Devils (9-0) received 62 of 65 first-place votes in the AP Top 25. Led by Mason Plumlee, who at this point looks to be the frontrunner for Player of the Year, Duke has already topped No. 3 Kentucky, VCU, No. 2 Louisville and No. 4 Ohio State in its non-conference slate.
So while the Blue Devils appear to be on their way to their 23rd ACC regular season championship and 18th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the outlook for Parker is to the future.
He noted in his 1-on-1 with CSNChicago.com that the ability to play right away, based on what Duke was losing after this current season, was one of the main reasons for his decision.
Seniors forwards Ryan Kelly and Plumlee, and shooting guard Seth Curry will depart before Parker arrives, opening up three spots in the starting lineup. Its almost a certainty the Simeon star will fill Kellys starting role as a face-up forward, with plenty of athleticism and ability to get to the basket to boot.
The aforementioned seniors do make up three of Dukes top four leading scorers, but Krzyzewskis roster will allow the 65-year-old to reload instead of having to rebuild.
2012 McDonalds All-American Amile Jefferson has averaged less than 10 minutes per game behind Plumlee, but likely will enter the starting lineup as a more polished sophomore alongside Parker.
RELATED: Rivals' 2013 Top 150 features three Blue Devils
Point guard Quinn Cook, currently a sophomore, will give Krzyzewski an upperclassman leading the offense and 6-foot-4 shooting guard Rasheed Sulamoin a freshman connecting on better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers means the Blue Devils could have as many as four McDonalds All-Americans in the lineup next year. If 2013 recruit Jones beats out will-be senior Tyler Thornton at small forward, theres a chance all five will have All-American status. Depth, as always, will be plentiful on the Blue Devils' bench.
Theres no telling how long Parker will remain at Duke. He may be a one-and-done freshman phenom in the same mold as Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant or his fellow Simeon star Derrick Rose.
But as it stands, Parker picked the best spot for him to both see immediate playing time and win on a talented roster. He said his decision was not just about basketball, but that the "business" attitude on campus is one he can see himself succeeding in. His attitude and knack for winning help that cause, but he'll have plenty of reinforcement around him in Durham in case he needs it.

Increased velocity has improved Anthony Swarzak's chances of making White Sox bullpen

Increased velocity has improved Anthony Swarzak's chances of making White Sox bullpen

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Anthony Swarzak has thrown harder than ever this spring. He attributes it to an altered mindset rather than mechanics or delivery.

Vying for a relief role with three days left in camp, the veteran is right where he wants to be — with a shot to make the White Sox Opening Day roster. A nonroster invitee to camp, Swarzak is one of five healthy pitchers in a competition for the final two spots in the bullpen. With a fastball that has averaged nearly 96 mph this spring, Swarzak has a 3.86 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings.

"All you want is an opportunity in camp," Swarzak said. "I knew I was going to get an opportunity in camp here. I've kind of been around a little bit. I've got some innings under my belt. When you're going into camp as a guy with experience, you're generally going to get a fair look. And that's all I wanted, a fair chance to show the team what I can do and hopefully someone makes a decision.

"I'm throwing the ball pretty well, definitely how I wanted to coming in."

A starter early in his career, Swarzak's average fastball velocity ranged from 91-92 mph from 2011-15. After going up a tick to 93 last season, Swarzak has thrown even harder this spring. According to Brooksbaseball.net, Swarzak's fastball touched 97 mph and averaged 95.75 mph in his one contest in front of a PitchTrax system this spring on March 21.

But Swarzak, 31, said the only adjustment he has made is a mental one.

"Early on in my career you get so conscious of injuries from other people, veterans talking to a young guy, 'Just be careful man, you only have so many bullets,'" Swarzak said. "Subconsciously you kind of save some for whenever you might need it down the line. And I think these last few years I'm getting to that age where nothing is guaranteed for me so I'm kind of letting it all out there and I think I found another gear somewhere. I don't think it's anything delivery-wise or body-wise, I think I'm just trying harder to throw hard for the first time in a long time and it's working."

Swarzak's former life as a starting pitcher could serve him well. With Carlos Rodon likely to start the season on the disabled list, the White Sox could turn to a combination of Dylan Covey and Swarzak in a bullpen-esque type of start on either April 8 or 9.

Swarzak threw 30-plus pitches and struck out five in 2 1/3 innings at Mesa, Ariz. on Friday before he headed to the bullpen to throw a few more. Of Swarzak's 217 big league appearances, 32 were as a starter.

"He has been able to do that," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's started in the past. So, he does certainly fit that potential role. I know (Don Cooper) has been talking about trying to stretch him out a little bit, get two or three innings out of him. He can fill in for us in terms of multiple innings."

Swarzak threw a side session on Monday morning. He's next to scheduled to throw in Wednesday's Cactus League finale. But he has already accomplished all he wants to this spring short of making the team.

"I did everything I needed to do," Swarzak said. "I'm happy with how it has gone and we'll see how it goes the next few days."

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

Ex-Bear Brandon Marshall an early favorite at NFL owners meetings

PHOENIX – Brandon Marshall never needed a whole lot of encouragement to step before a microphone but the NFL, which sometimes wished he'd put a sock in it, has now invited the former Bears wide receiver to speak up.
 
The NFL extended an invitation for Marshall, whose time in Chicago ended in some measure because of his insistence on pursuing the media portion of his career, to address the league higher-up's ostensibly as part of a communications bridge-building. Marshall jumped at the chance.
 
"They thought it was important for a player to come up and give a player's perspective and talk about the relationship between owners and players," Marshall said on Monday at the outset of the NFL owners meetings. "I think it's evident that our relationship could be so much better."
 
Marshall has been part of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" in recent years, flying to New York to participate in taping the show, and ultimately accepting a trade from the Bears to the Jets in 2015, which obviously cut down on his commute. The Jets released Marshall earlier this month, after which Marshall signed on with the Giants.
 
He told owners this week, "If we want our game to continue to be on that [positive] track, that it's on being super successful and being a pillar in our community and being a thread in our community, we have to make sure our relationship as players and owners is good."

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The immediate response was more than a little positive: Per San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York:

https://twitter.com/JedYork/status/846400103472480256
 
Marshall predictably welcomed the forum and wants to see it expanded.

"I'd like to see more players be more involved in our owners meetings," Marshall said. "And not only at the owners meetings, but any time we're talking football, we should have players at the table. Commissioner Goodell is always open-minded. He always has that open-door policy. So I think he'll continue to listen and continue to evolve this part of our business."