Sports briefs: Oct. 2

October 2, 2012 

Basketball

Harrisons to choose between UK and Maryland on Thursday

One of the most anticipated announcements of this basketball recruiting cycle will happen Thursday at 5 p.m.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the top two guards in the country, will announce their college decision on ESPNU's Recruiting Nation. The players will choose between Kentucky and Maryland.

ESPNU began televising a commercial Monday afternoon promoting the show. Later Monday, Andrew Harrison tweeted, "Thursday will be the toughest decision I ever had to make but I'm looking forward to it."

An ESPN spokeswoman confirmed to the Herald-Leader that the Harrisons will make the announcement via a live video feed sometime during Thursday's show. The plan is to have them announce from their high school in Houston.

Scout.com ranks Andrew and Aaron Harrison as the second- and third-best players in the class, respectively. Whichever school gets their commitment will immediately vault to the No. 1 spot in the early class rankings.

The Harrison twins have visited Kentucky twice, including a trip to see last year's Big Blue Madness. The players also have strong family ties to Maryland and a longtime relationship with Terrapins Coach Mark Turgeon.

It's long been speculated that UK is in the best shape to land the Harrisons, who will likely start as freshmen for whichever school they choose. Further stoking that speculation is the fact that John Calipari is not actively pursuing any other point guards from the class of 2013.

But Aaron Harrison Sr., the players' father, told the Herald-Leader last month that any news of a "leader" was overblown.

"There's no conversation from anybody named Harrison that says, 'this school is the leader,'" he said. "Until then, you're wasting your time."


NASCAR

Bowyer: Talladega his shot to pounce

It doesn't take long to thin the field of championship contenders in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and some say it has already been reduced to a three-driver race. Clint Bowyer begs to differ.

Bowyer has had a pretty nice start to the Chase, finishing inside the top 10 in all three races. But it's not been enough in the points standings, where he is seemingly spinning his tires despite decent finishes. He is fourth in the standings, 25 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, but certain he's still in the title race. Why? Because Round 4 of the Chase is at Talladega Superspeedway, where Bowyer is the two-time defending race winner.

"This weekend is everything," Bowyer said Monday. "Talladega is the one that's going to make the difference."

Everybody considers Talladega the wild card of the 10-race Chase because the smallest mistake in a restrictor plate race can have devastating consequences.

Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson knows that all too well — he's yet to finish a plate race this season through no fault of his own. Johnson was collected in an accident on the second lap of the Daytona 500, suffered an engine failure at Talladega in the spring and was in yet another accident at Daytona in July.

Most title contenders are on pins and needles at Talladega, where they worry the championship can be lost because of another drivers' error.

Bowyer said that's going to work to his advantage, especially with everyone assuming only Keselowski, Johnson and Denny Hamlin are left as viable title contenders.

"I'm going in there with the confidence of knowing I've won the last two, and I am a guy who needs a good run to get myself back in the championship," he said. "The other three are looking over their shoulder, knowing they can't get into trouble. But I'm going there to make a run at this thing.

"And it's not only me, but there's three or four behind me who could pull all of us back in the running."

Only 17 points separate Bowyer from Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr., who is eighth in points. Wedged between the MWR drivers is three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and five-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Golf

Brown named NGA Tour's top player

Former Eastern Kentucky University golfer Brandon Brown was named the NGA Tour's player of the year.

"When I got the text, I was sitting there watching the Ryder Cup," said Brown, a six-time winner on the NGA Tour, formerly known as the Hooters Tour.

"I was thinking about the guys that played on the NGA Tour and now they're on the Ryder Cup team. It's great to have the Player of the Year award on my resume, and hopefully I can follow in their footsteps."

Former NGA Player of the Year Zach Johnson and former NGA Rookie of the Year Keegan Bradley played in this year's Ryder Cup for the USA.

Brown won his sixth NGA event this year and finished tied for fourth or better 10 times in 14 events. The Shelbyville native also made the cut in every event, finished outside the top 15 just once and earned a Tour-high $115,085.

Making Brown's season more impressive is that he shrugged off a pair of late-season disappointments in 2011 and remained focused for the entirety of the 2012 to capture the coveted award.

"I was hoping to win the Player of the Year award last year. It was close, but it didn't work out," said Brown, who also missed the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School by a single stroke in 2011. "I came back out here this year with the same goals. I didn't win as many times as I did last year, but I played better this year. I was more consistent and around the lead more times this season. I'm actually a better player this year."


College football

Alabama loses 2 players for rest of year

No. 1 Alabama lost wide receiver DeAndrew White and running back Dee Hart for the season. Coach Nick Saban said Monday that both will have to undergo knee surgery after injuries sustained during the Mississippi game. White has eight catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yarder against Michigan in the opener. He was hurt on the Crimson Tide's first drive. Hart was injured after fielding a fourth-quarter punt.

■ Western Kentucky defensive end Quanterus Smith was named the Sun Belt Conference's defensive player of the week after he got a career-high 31/2 sacks in a win at Arkansas State. Smith finished with seven total tackles, including 51/2 for a loss. Smith leads the nation with 1.62 sacks per game. His 2.38 tackles for loss per game is first in the Sun Belt and tied for fifth nationally.


UK volleyball

Billings conference player of the week

Junior Whitney Billings was named the Southeastern Conference's player of the week, the first time she has earned the honor. She had previously been named defensive and freshman of the week.

Billings led UK in kills (4.14 per set) and digs (4.43) this week with a pair of double-double efforts. She had 10 kills and 16 digs against No. 25 Tennessee, then 19 kills and 15 digs against Auburn.


The last word

The Los Angeles Lakers reconvened Monday for their annual media day with several new additions that Kobe Bryant said made team "the best talent I've been around." Teammate Metta World Peace had some ideas, as usual, on how to maximize the assembled talent:

"Playing together, loving each other, caring for each other. Kind of like the Care Bears."

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