Antelopes win tourney opener

LANCASTER — Throughout Tuesday’s game against Bethel Christian, Antelope Valley High School senior center Moses Robinson-Carr counted out the number of points he scored with each basket. After he scored on a particular possession, he audibly said, “That’s 16.”

It was that kind of night for AV, which cruised to an 80-27 victory over the Eagles on Day 2 of the third annual Hunter Dodge Antelope Valley New Year Classic. The Antelopes, who played in their first game of the tourney, have won five consecutive games.

Robinson-Carr finished with 20 points, while senior backup center Azhon Davis had 14 points and sophomore guard Da’Mari Crane added 11.

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Eagles fall to Trinity Classical

SANTA CLARITA — After Monday’s game against the Trinity Classical Academy Knights, the Lancaster Baptist High School girls volleyball team was in high spirits.

The girls posed for photos outside of Henry Mayo Fitness and Health, even though they had just finished losing 3-0 (25-14, 25-8, 25-8) to the top team in the Heritage League.

The reason for the smiles? It was likely the Eagles’ last match of the season, and thus the last match for a handful of seniors on the squad.

After the photo shoot, senior setter Amber Ballesteros described this year as one of growth.

“We had some hardships and we had some little difficulties in between – like regular team drama or whatever,” said Ballesteros, who played on the team for three years. “But even though it could be pretty distracting at times and we sometimes lost games or lost points because of it, we still overcame that and grew.”

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Twelve years in the making — a graduation story

When I first started school at CSUN, I was 17 years old, hellbent on being a rock star and could barely grow a mustache. Now, at the age of 29, I’m graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism.

That seems like a long time, but not everyone’s journey is the garden-variety, four-to-six-year college plan.

Sometimes there are bumps along the way. Sometimes you make the wrong choices and have to spend years getting your life back on track.

Sometimes you have to get kicked out of your house at 20 and spend a year living on couches and in an apartment that you are eventually forced to leave (yes, this happened to me).

Sometimes you have to work the most nonsense jobs just so you have money to eat and pay expenses (some examples: tax preparation assistant, sign-flipping-on-the-street-corner guy, concessions at a movie theater, Blockbuster).

And sometimes, you get a nipple ring (actually, I kind of miss it sometimes).

The journey was full of ups, downs and all-arounds. I entered CSUN as a math major because I didn’t understand what the requirements were for the classical music program.

I figured it would be better to major in something rather than nothing, and since I really did like math, that seemed like the obvious choice. However, after getting a “C” in calculus, I quickly looked elsewhere for career choices.

I wanted to switch my major to creative writing, but never formally did so. My girlfriend at the time was a singer, and I played guitar. We both wanted to be professional musicians.

A mutual friend who worked at Hot Topic told us about a school called Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, and we ended up dropping out of CSUN and attended MI instead.

Although the aforementioned girl ruined the next few years of my life by physically and emotionally abusing me, I mustered the wherewithal to finish MI and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Music Performance in 2008. Translation: a piece of paper about as useful as poop-flavored lollipop.

The next four years went something like this: work, open mic performances, looking for band members, finding band members, a month or two of band practices and shows, band members quitting on me, searching for new band members, repeat all of the above.

I was trying pretty hard and getting absolutely nowhere. I thought I was talented and with the right people around me, we would make great music and live an exciting life as touring musicians.

What I didn’t know was this: I actually wasn’t any good, and I didn’t work nearly as hard as I should have. I spent so much money and time going after something for which I wasn’t suited. But it took a particular journalism class to get to realize that.

In 2012, I was attending Santa Monica College and I had joined their student newspaper, The Corsair. I already took an introductory journalism class online the previous summer, and I liked it enough to see what the student publication was like.

But I only wanted to write about basketball. But I had two months until the season started, and I was expected to produce articles right away.

So I chose an opinion story because I figured that would be a good way to ease myself into journalistic writing. What can be so hard about writing I think?

It turned out that not only was it harder than I thought, but my article turned out be lower than garbage. It was just terrible. But that didn’t stop me.

Over the next few months, I was writing about things I had no idea about, but I was enjoying myself and working harder than I had ever worked before. I found myself spending more of my time writing, researching and interviewing, and less time playing, rehearsing and songwriting.

I ended up quitting the two bands I was in at the time. Needless to say, it was very difficult to make the choice to leave something I was working toward since I was 15. But it was the best decision of my life.

I almost didn’t come back to CSUN. When the time came to move on from SMC, I felt I could benefit from a new school, a new area and a new start.

It was between Cal State Long Beach and CSUN — I don’t have to say where I chose.

Just in these past two years, I’ve grown immensely. I somehow started caring about my grades, which I never did when I was younger (I failed strength training because I was too lazy to go class). I also became much more sociable and joined a ballroom dancing club (I previously couldn’t dance to save my life).

So no matter what your journey to graduation is like, make sure you do it to the best of your ability, and stick with it. That’s the only way you can walk on that stage, turn your tassel from one side to the other, and be truly proud to call yourself a college gradate.

I know I am.

Permalink: http://sundial.csun.edu/2015/05/twelve-years-in-the-making-a-graduation-story/

Pack up the yellow umbrella kids: “How I Met Your Mother” says goodbye

Warning: If you haven’t watched the How I Met Your Mother finale, you probably should. Like now. We’ll wait.

The series finale in two paragraphs. Ready? Go!

The mother dies. She’s been dead for the entire series. There, it’s out there. Oh, and her name was Tracy. Barney and Robin get divorced, and Barney is randomly given a daughter after knocking up one of his floozies, apparently changing him forever.

Ted reveals that “the mother” gets sick, but doesn’t say from what. Then, his daughter suggests that the entire story — and hence, the entire 9-year series — was only told because Ted had the hots for Robin and wanted to ask her out. Ted then goes out, gets that blue french horn HIMYM fans know all too well, and shows up on Robin’s doorstep. The end.

Say it with me, fans: “Um…what?”

From an emotional standpoint, the finale is a definite tear-jerker, especially when Ted announces abruptly that he has to leave Barney and Robin’s wedding reception, leading to one-by-one, heart-wrenching goodbyes with each character. Ted was supposed to be leaving for Chicago in the morning, but when he meets Tracy at the train station, that plan gets abandoned because, well, it’s Ted.

Cute sentiment, but after that, the storyline veers off into a weird territory.

Robin and Barney’s marriage falls apart in three years, fueled by her insane workload and constant traveling. What’s disappointing is that, for many seasons, we saw Barney slowly transform from a disgusting, womanizing person to one who can commit to a relationship. And after all that (plus a vow to Robin saying he’ll never lie to her again), their romance gets derailed by Robin’s profession as an international news reporter?

For a divorce between two emotionally unstable, yet completely right-for-each-other people, their end was incredibly anti-climactic.

Marshall and Lily make plans to move into a bigger home now that they are expecting third child, and Marshall gets another call to become a judge, cementing the fact that their story throughout the entire series was the least depressing. This was probably the only part of the finale that made sense, much like their entire relationship over the course of the show.

What’s upsetting is that the entire series, which took millions of viewers on a journey of laughter and borderline emotional turmoil for nearly a decade, was essentially just a ploy to get Robin back. Ted meets the woman of his dreams, has children, and his beautiful wife dies, but he’s still hung up on Robin?

The disaster here is one of “character trueness,” which is a term I just made up five seconds ago: Mosby spent the entire series making us believe that he was a die-hard romantic who would do anything to find the perfect woman. Then he finds her. Then she dies. And after all that, he goes back to another woman who couldn’t keep her own marriage going? This is not the Ted Mosby we’ve all come to know and love.

The writers could have done so much more with the ending. For instance, when it’s revealed that Barney’s going to be a father, it would have been great for the mother to be Robin. And Ted could have been telling the story about their mother to his kids for a sweeter reason, rather than just getting their permission to chase Robin…again.

Make the series finale totally awesome? Seems like it was challenge not accepted.

Permalink: http://sundial.csun.edu/2014/03/pack-up-the-yellow-umbrella-kids-how-i-met-your-mother-says-goodbye/

Getting the Lakers from zeros back to heroes

The Los Angeles Lakers were once the powerhouse of the NBA. They were in the playoffs year after year, won 16 championships with the help of Hall-of-Fame players, and carried an aura with them whenever they stepped foot on the basketball court.

Now, with a record of 24-48, they are one of the laughing stocks in the league. For the past two years, they have been ridiculed for not being able to keep Dwight Howard. They recently suffered the worst defeat in franchise history to the Clippers in a 142-94 massacre. Even I, a die-hard Laker fan and apologist, look at games on the schedule and say, “Yeah, they’re losing by 25 tonight.”

If the season were to end today — and many fans of the purple and gold wish it would, already — the Lakers would get a top-six pick the upcoming draft. Teams with even worse records include the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics (life isn’t all bad) Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers (who just broke their 26-game losing streak) and the Milwaukee Bucks.

So what went wrong? How can a team that epically won the 2010 title against their long-time rivals, the Celtics, have the proverbial pie thrown in their faces just four years later?

The quick answer: bad luck. No one could have predicted then-NBA Commissioner David Stern would rob the Lakers of Chris Paul in 2011, only for Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to say, “Well screw you, Stern, I’ll get Dwight Howard,” then actually get Howard only to lose him to free agency for nothing one year later.

No one in their right minds thought Jim and Jerry Buss would pick Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson, arguably the best coach in the history professional sports, when the team fired Mike Brown last year after only five games. How is that possible? For those of you keeping score at home, Jackson has won 11 NBA championships. D’Antoni’s count? Negative 50 championships.

Did the Buss family forget who Jackson and D’Antoni were? I feel like the conversation over who to choose as the next Lakers coach went something like this:

Jim Buss: “Dad, Phil Jackson wants to coach the team.”

Jerry Buss: “What team?”

Jim Buss: “Our team.”

Jerry Buss: “Really?”

Jim Buss: “Yes. But Mike D’Antoni’s available too, and he’s very interested.”

Jerry Buss: “Isn’t that the guy who coached the Knicks the last few years but left because Carmelo Anthony hated him and he lost the team’s respect?”

Jim Buss: “Maybe…but his teams always score at least 110 points a game!”

Jerry Buss: “110?!?!?!”

Jim Buss: “Yes, daddy, 110!”

Jerry Buss: “It’ll be Show Time all over again!”

JIm Buss: “Exactly! So what do we do?”

Jerry Buss: “Well Phil has the resume. And he’s coached the team before. And Kobe thinks the world of him.”

Jim Buss: “But dad…..110 points…PER GAME.”

Jerry Buss: “GET D’ANTONI ON THE PHONE!”

Also, no one thought this season’s Lakers would be hit with the worst injury bug since the Portland Trail Blazers were stung so badly, their coach got severely injured during a practice because the team didn’t have enough healthy players.

So instead of LA trotting around with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, they are left with C-list players like Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Kendall Marshall (who is actually a D-list player since he came from the D-League) and an occasional sighting of a fragile, paper-mache marionette dressed like Nash, which breaks after one or two games and doesn’t come back for a month. I need to lie down.

Bryant is in no mood to wait around during a rebuilding period, and recently said he expects to contend for a title next season. But with their current roster, they have a better chance of changing their names to the Washington Generals and beating the Harlem Globetrotters. Who am I kidding? They’d lose to the Globetrotters by 25, too.

But there’s hope. The Lakers have over $21 million in cap space next season, and only three of their current players are under contract after this year, which means they are in a great position to completely overhaul their roster and, thereby, their outlook for Kobe’s twilight years.

Here is what the Lakers need to do to give themselves the best chance to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy in the next two years, barring major injuries to key players (possible due to age of Bryant and Gasol), California getting hit by an earthquake so big it separates from the United States (definitely possible) or the zombie apocalypse (might have already happened…you’ve seen Steve Nash).

 

1. Replace Mike D’Antoni

Sorry Mike. It’s not you…it’s…yeah, it’s you.

D’Antoni’s Lakers have been atrocious this year. They’ve lost two-thirds of their games and get blown out with regularity. Yes, a lot of it is due to injuries to Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and every other point guard, but that’s no excuse for a lack of effort — defensive effort to be exact.

The Lakers allow 108.9 points per game, which is the second-most in the NBA, according to basketball-reference.com. This is not an anomaly. D’Antoni-led teams have been among the worst in points allowed ever since he started coaching, with one exception: the 2011-12 New York Knicks. That team ranked 11th in the league in defensive efficiency.

The irony: that was the year D’Antoni resigned in the middle of the season, and was subsequently replaced by Mike Woodson, who is all about defense. I will bet my cat, the incorrigible Johnny Stripes, that it was Woodson who made that team better on defense to end the year.

Coaches available right now that can fill this void include Lionel Hollins, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy and, my personal favorite, Nate McMillan.

All of these coaches play at a slower pace (perfect for an aging Kobe and Pau), have stressed defense with their teams, and always seem to put together winning seasons with deep playoff runs.

2. Keep Kobe and Pau Together

So many analysts are saying the Lakers should get rid of Gasol, that he needs a change of scenery, that he has a better chance of winning a title elsewhere.

But the fact is, Gasol doesn’t want to leave. He wants to be a Laker for life. Also, Kobe Bryant wants The Big Spaniard to stay put, and has said so multiple times publically and to Lakers management.

Kobe and Pau have history. They’ve won two back-to-back rings together. They communicate in Spanish on the court together. This bond should not, and cannot, be broken. If the Lakers want to really appease Kobe, keeping Pau at all costs should be at the top of their list.

3. Add a third difference-making player

It’s Kupchak Time.

As previously mentioned, the Lakers have a lottery pick this summer that could be as low as number six — or even lower if they get any worse. If they land one of the best players in what’s supposed to be a stacked draft class, the Lakers could be on their way to a title soon.

But there’s another way — a faster way — to get better, and that’s by trading their lottery pick and packaging it in a deal to acquire Kevin Love.

It’s been rumored that Love wants to play in Los Angeles and some other teams. He’s from the LA area and even attended UCLA. The Lakers seem like the perfect fit for him.

But if they Lakers use their cap space to acquire, say, Carmelo Anthony this offseason, they may not have enough room for him and Love. In fact, if the Lakers get Carmelo, Love is pretty much off the table. With the lottery pick as a bargaining piece, the Lakers could send that and some other pieces (Kent Bazemore, Marshon Brooks and the Laker Girls maybe?) to Minnesota in exchange for Love. The Timberwolves would certainly be tempted to consider, at the very least.

Or, Kupchak could go into his magical GM laboratory and somehow devise a way to keep his lottery pick and get Love in the summer of 2015. You mean to tell me you wouldn’t be surprised if this happened? This is the same Mitch Kupchak who got Pau Gasol for almost nothing in 2008 and won two titles in three years.

If this did happen, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kupchak held a press conference after the deal was finalized, brought up Minnesota President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, kicked him into a giant abyss in the ground next to the podium, and yelled, “THIS. IS. KUPCHAAAAAAAK!!!”

4. Bring back current role players

As bad as the Lakers are, their roster has some surprisingly good players. Jordan Farmar is a solid, starting-caliber point guard who can shoot 3-pointers at a high clip and wants to play in LA. Nick Young scores at will and isn’t afraid of the big moment. Jodie Meeks has carved himself into a multi-dimensional player who also plays solid defense.

As for the big guys, every team needs a scrappy, rebounding, energy guy like Jordan Hill, and Kaman can still put up points and is an underrated rim protector.

And for a D-League guy, Kendall Marshall knows how to run an offense and distribute the ball.

The Lakers don’t need to pay these players much more than they’re making now, and a few of them will make solid additions to the bench unit. Keep these guys around and add a couple of superstars, and you’ve got yourself a contending team for at least the next two years.

Permalink: http://sundial.csun.edu/2014/03/lakers-zeros-heroes/