Durant to have another surgery, miss rest of season
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) NBA MVP Kevin Durant will miss the rest of the season and have bone graft surgery next week to treat a fractured bone in his right foot.
The Oklahoma City Thunder had said last week he likely would be shut down for the season. The team was trying to figure out why his pain remained long after he was supposed to be able to play.
General manager Sam Presti said Friday the team expects Durant to return to basketball activities within the four to six months.
He said this decision was aimed at Durant's "long-term health and stability" and represented a consensus of Durant and his representatives, specialists and the team. The procedure was termed the "most proactive and recommended approach."
The Thunder are in position to make the playoffs without Durant, but they clearly will miss one of the game's most dynamic players. Durant last played Feb. 19 before the discomfort became too much to bear. He has played in just 27 games, averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
Durant had his initial surgery in October and had been healing well. But in late February, he had a procedure to replace a screw that was rubbing against another bone. After that second surgery, the Thunder expected him to return in one to two weeks.
Durant then consulted with three foot and ankle specialists. It was determined there still was pain from the rubbing, plus regression in the initial break. It was then decided to proceed with the bone graft, Presti said.
"It's a blow for him and for our league," Cleveland's LeBron James said of his U.S. Olympic teammate. "We're a brotherhood and you never want anyone to go down, especially of that stature. He means a lot to our game and obviously means a lot to the OKC family, and you just wish him well and hopefully for a speedy recovery."
A week ago, Presti said Durant was struggling and the team did not want to rush him back. When asked if it would be best to end Durant's season, Presti said: "Essentially, that's the direction that we're taking right now."
Presti said the bone graft is a common procedure to fix the less than 10 percent of such foot operations that don't work out.
"While everyone is disappointed that Kevin falls into that group, we are encouraged that the bone graft procedure has historically demonstrated long-term health and stability," Presti said.
The Thunder entered Friday three games ahead of Phoenix for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings. Point guard Russell Westbrook has emerged as an MVP candidate. He leads the league with 27.3 points per game while averaging 8.7 assists and 7.1 rebounds.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.
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Sooners wear down in 62-58 loss to Spartans in East semis
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) It took four years for coach Lon Kruger to rebuild the Oklahoma Sooners into bona fide NCAA Tournament contenders.
The Sooners still have a few steps to take before they can be regarded as Elite Eight worthy.
Oklahoma (24-11) withered under Michigan State's defensive pressure in the second half of a 62-58 loss in an East Regional semifinal on Friday night. After getting off to a hot start by hitting eight of their first 11 shots, the Sooners went 12 of 44 the rest of the way.
"This group does a good job, making progress as a program," Kruger said. "They've taken some good steps. We've got a long way to go. But a good fight tonight."
Junior guard Buddy Hield led Oklahoma with 21 points. Senior forward TaShawn Thomas scored 16 and added seven rebounds.
Travis Trice led the Spartans with 24 points, while Denzel Valentine scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half.
The third-seeded Sooners were beaten by the seventh-seeded Spartans (26-11), who advance to play Louisville on Sunday.
This was Oklahoma's third-consecutive tournament appearance in four years under Kruger. And it was the Sooners' deepest run since the Blake Griffin-led team reached the regional final in 2009.
The Sooners were undone by an unproductive bench, which accounted for just three points - all by Khadeem Lattin.
"They just did it and we didn't," said Lattin. "It was another one of those games where we had control. We took control of the game early, and something just got away from us."
The game turned once Michigan State took its first lead, going up 44-42 on Dawson's 8-foot turnaround jumper with 9:26 left. The teams traded the lead four times before the Spartans went ahead for good with 6:42 left, when Matt Costello put back his own miss with an emphatic dunk.
After Hield missed a 3-point attempt at the other end, Valentine responded by hitting a pull-up 3-pointer in transition to make it 51-47.
And Michigan State maintained the lead by finally hitting shots from the free-throw line. After missing seven of their first 10, the Spartans were perfect on their final six free throws.
Trice hit two to put Michigan State up 62-58 with 13.2 seconds left. Hield missed a 3-point attempt on what became the Sooners' final possession in a game that stretched into Saturday morning.
Michigan State: The Spartans improved their NCAA tournament record to 62-27, and moved into seventh place on the victory list - one ahead of Syracuse. ... The Spartans were a No. 7 seed when they reached the Elite 8 in 2003.
Oklahoma: Coach Lon Kruger stayed true to form by starting the same five he's had all season. The Sooners are just one of six teams in the nation to start the same five this year. Kruger did the same last year. ... The Sooners bench had combined for 30 points in its last two games.
Michigan State: Faces No. 4 seed Louisville in the East final on Sunday. The Spartans trail the all-time series 5-3, and meet the Cardinals the tournament for the fourth time - and third in seven years.
Oklahoma: Season is over with the Sooners losing just one starter, Thomas, to graduation.
Louisville beats NC State 75-65; on to Elite 8
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points, reserve Anton Gill keyed a late-game surge, and Louisville beat North Carolina State 75-65 on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Louisville (27-8), the fourth seed in the East and seeking to make its third Final Four in four years, will play either No. 3 seed Oklahoma or seventh-seeded Michigan State in the East final on Sunday. The Sooners and Spartans played in Friday's nightcap in the Carrier Dome.
After toppling top-seeded Villanova, North Carolina State (22-14), the eighth seed, saw its postseason run end against a team that refused to quit.
Louisville wasn't given much chance of playing in late March after it lost two of three entering the NCAA Tournament, but gritty wins over UC Irvine and Northern Iowa had the Cardinals brimming with confidence.
Terry Rozier had 17 points and 14 rebounds and freshman guard Quentin Snider added 14 points for the Cardinals.
Trevor Lacey led the Wolfpack with 18 points, while Ralston Turner had 12 and Kyle Washington 11.
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Gonzaga headed to Elite Eight for 1st time since 1999
HOUSTON (AP) Growing up in Poland, Przemek Karnowski had to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. to watch the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga's big man got to star in the show in prime time on Friday night, scoring 18 points with nine rebounds to lead the second-seeded Bulldogs to a 74-62 win over No. 11 seed UCLA in the Houston Regional semifinals.
The victory puts Gonzaga (35-2) in the Elite Eight for the second time, its first regional final since 1999. The Bulldogs will play the winner of the Utah-Duke game on Sunday.
UCLA (22-14) opened the second half with a 6-0 run to get within 35-34. Gonzaga got going after that, scoring the next 12 points, thanks to the powerful inside game of the 7-foot-1, 288-pound Karnowski to make it 47-34.
"For me it was always a dream to be here and to play deep into the NCAA Tournament," Karnowski said. "And right now I'm here and I'm trying to enjoy every second of it."
Karnowski helped the Bulldogs grab six more offensive rebounds than UCLA, which Bruins coach Steve Alford believes was the key to the game.
"We didn't rebound the basketball," Alford said. "They got too many second shots."
Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer raved about Karnowski's work.
"He was a beast down there, just gobbling up offensive boards," Wiltjer said. "It's so easy for us, especially when we're on the perimeter, to just throw it down to him and he gets a bucket."
The Bruins, who lost in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, were done in by a tough shooting night that included long stretches without scoring. They were led by Norman Powell's 16 points.
They quieted doubters who questioned whether they should be in the tournament by winning their first two games, but couldn't stay with the Bulldogs on a night when their shots weren't falling. Powell made just 8 of 19 shots and Bryce Alford was 3 of 11.
It's Gonzaga's second win over UCLA this season after also beating the Bruins in December. Gonzaga's only loss to UCLA in the four-game history of the series came in a 73-71 defeat in the regional semifinal in 2006.
It will be the first trip to the round of eight for Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who took over the season after they last made it.
"The one accomplishment that we haven't done is reach the Final Four and we finally have an opportunity to do that," Few said.
The Bruins couldn't find any offense as Gonzaga built its lead early in the second half.
Domantas Sabonis drew ooh's and ahh's from the crowd when the 6-10 Lithuanian grabbed a bounce pass from Karnowski and sailed over Isaac Hamilton for a one-handed dunk that made it 51-37 with 11 minutes remaining.
Karnowski found Sabonis again a few minutes later, when he passed it behind his back and Sabonis finished with a layup to push the lead to 14 points.
Gonzaga was up 13-10 less than six minutes into the game when both offenses went cold, combining to miss the next 19 shots.
There were missed layups, shots from the outside that clanged off the rim and even a couple of air balls. No matter what either team tried, they simply couldn't make a shot for about 6 1/2 minutes. Gonzaga extended the lead a bit with three free throws.
Powell finally ended the field goal drought when he drove into the lane and his layup mercifully fell through the net to cut the lead to 16-12 about eight minutes before halftime. The Bulldogs scored a few seconds later on a jump shot by Karnowski.
Gonzaga led 35-28 at halftime.
VENUE TO BLAME FOR POOR SHOOTING?
With both teams struggling to shoot, many questions were asked about whether the venue caused problems. The games are being played in NRG Stadium, which is home to the Houston Texans, and the setup, with no walls behind either basket, challenges players' depth perception.
Entering Friday's game, teams have shot a combined 39.8 percent in nine NCAA Tournament games at NRG. UCLA shot 38.8 percent on Friday and Gonzaga shot 40.3 percent.
But no one on either team would use that as an excuse.
"We just missed shots," Wiltjer said. "You either make them or you don't. We don't really blame it on the arena or anything like that."
UCLA: Alford had eight points. ... Looney had nine points and eight rebounds.
Gonzaga: Wiltjer had eight points and 10 rebounds after leading the team in their first two tournament games with 23 and 24 points. ... Sabonis scored 12 points before fouling out late.
UCLA: As their season ends they wait to see if Looney will stay or declare for the NBA.
Gonzaga: Faces the winner of the Utah-Duke game on Sunday in the regional final.
David Ortiz defends his reputation in column
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is certain on this point: "I never knowingly took any steroids." And this, too: "I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame."
The remarks by the 39-year-old designated hitter came in a column Thursday for The Players' Tribune, a website founded by Derek Jeter that gives professional athletes a platform.
Ortiz also voiced his displeasure that he will "always be considered a cheater" to his detractors. He contends that nobody in baseball has been tested more often for performance-enhancing drugs - more than 80 times since 2004.
"I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will," Ortiz wrote.
In 2009, the New York Times reported Ortiz was on a list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive during Major League Baseball's 2003 survey of steroid use - results that were supposed to be anonymous. Ortiz later said he wound up on the list because he used nutritional supplements and was careless about their contents.
"Most guys were taking over-the-counter supplements then. Most guys are still taking over-the-counter supplements. If it's legal, ballplayers take it," Ortiz wrote. "Why? Because if you make it to the World Series, you play 180 games. Really think about that for a second. 180 games. Your kids could be sick, your wife could be yelling at you, your dad could be dying - nobody cares.
"Nobody cares if you have a bone bruise in your wrist or if you have a pulled groin. You're an entertainer. The people want to see you hit a 95-mile-an-hour fastball over a damn 37-foot wall."
Ortiz said he had two drug testers arrive early at his house in the Dominican Republic one day over the offseason. His kids are so used to them showing up, he said, they were laughing and taking pictures as the testers drew Ortiz's blood in the kitchen. Ortiz said to them: "Let me tell you something. The only thing you're going to find in my blood is rice and beans."
Added Ortiz: "In some people's minds, I will always be considered a cheater," emphasizing his point with an expletive.
Ortiz is a .285 hitter with 466 career homers and 1,533 RBIs. He believes his numbers are Hall of Fame worthy.
"I've won three World Series since MLB introduced comprehensive drug testing. I've performed year after year after year. But if a bunch of writers who have never swung a bat want to tell me it's all for nothing, OK. Why do they write my legacy?" Ortiz wrote. "In 75 years, when I'm dead and gone, I won't care if I'm in the Hall of Fame. I won't care if a bunch of baseball writers know the truth about who I am in my soul and what I have done in this game. I care that my children know the truth."
Big Papi said his mental preparation was one of his biggest attributes.
"They're only going to remember my power," Ortiz wrote. "They're not going to remember the hours and hours and hours of work in the film room. They're not going to remember the BP. They're not going to remember me for my intelligence.
"Despite all I've done in this game, I'm just the big DH from the Dominican. They turn you into a character, man."
Freshman-led Duke in another regional final, beat Utah 63-57
HOUSTON (AP) Justise Winslow says coach Mike Krzyzewski never treated him and the other Duke freshmen like, well, freshmen.
These young Blue Devils certainly aren't playing like it either - and have Coach K one win away from another NCAA Final Four.
"He gave us his trust and just believed in us," said Winslow, one of the three freshman starters. "When you have that, you play like yourself."
Winslow, playing home in Houston the day after his 19th birthday, had 21 points and 10 rebounds for South Regional top seed Duke in a 63-57 Sweet 16 victory over revived Utah on Friday night.
Freshman guard Tyus Jones had 15 points while standout big man Jahlil Okafor had six points and eight rebounds.
Duke (32-4) will play in its 20th regional final, the 14th under Coach K for the most by any active coach. The last Final Four appearance was in 2010, when the Blue Devils also went through Houston on way to their fourth national title.
"This has been one of my favorite groups. They've been easy to coach and they really get along. There's only a good attitude, only a good attitude and a willingness to learn." Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes freshmen don't learn that until they're older. But these guys knew it from the beginning. That's why they've had a special year."
The Blue Devils play No. 2 seed Gonzaga (35-2) on Sunday in the South Regional final, with the winner going to Indianapolis for the Final Four. The Bulldogs beat 11th-seeded UCLA 74-62 in the earlier game Friday night at NRG Stadium, the home of the NFL's Houston Texans.
Brandon Taylor had 15 points for the Utes (26-9), the No. 5 seed with an at-large berth out of the Pac-12.
Utah and its Coach K, Larry Krystkowiak, got to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005, and only three years after winning six games in Krystkowiak's first season.
Leading scorer Delon Wright was the Utes' only senior starter, and Dallin Bachynski the only other graduating player who played regularly.
Asked where he goes from now, Krystkowiak said it was time to decompress a bit.
"Just enjoyed the experience with these kids, and am going to soak this up and reflect," he said.
Wright, who got his third foul on a questionable call with about 5 minutes left in the first half, finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Dallin Bachynski added 11 points for the Utes, and 7-foot freshman Jakob Poeltl had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Even after Utah didn't score until nearly 5 minutes into the game, Duke was down 8-5 before going ahead to stay with an 8-0 run in just over 2 1/2 minutes when all the Blue Devils freshman starters scored.
Winslow's 3-pointer at 12:36 tied the game 8-8 before Amile Jefferson's tiebreaking layup. Okafor had a jumper before Jones' layup made it 14-8 with 9:54 left.
Another 8-0 run after halftime pushed the Blue Devils to a 49-34 lead with 8:41 left.
That spurt included four free throws by Quinn Cook, the senior guard who also made it to a Sweet 16 in 2013 - but was also part of the Blue Devils squads upset in their NCAA openers last year (Mercer) and in 2012 (Lehigh).
Wright got his third foul with 4:57 left in the first half in a scramble for the ball - under the Duke basket and in front of the Utah bench. Wright and Winslow were both on the floor, the Duke freshman on his back, when the foul was called.
Duke was up 27-17 on a layup by Okafor with 3:04 left, but didn't score again until after halftime.
Wright got back in the game after halftime, making a jumper on the first shot for a 27-24 score. The Utes never got closer.
After Utah had scored nine points in a row to get within 49-43 with 3:42 left, Winslow made a big-time play. He drove into traffic and made a layup while being fouled, then added the free throw.
"He played phenomenal. He was outstanding. He was the best player on the floor." Okafor said. "Maybe because he's in Houston or maybe because he's 19 now. It was fun to watch."
NOT OVER YET
The players had already had their customary postgame handshake, and several Utah players were headed down the steps off the elevated court when officials blew their whistle after reviewing a call. Cook grabbed a rebound of a missed 3-pointer with 6 seconds left, and Utah was trying to foul. They didn't get a whistle until the buzzer sounded. Officials reviewed and determined there was six-tenths of a second on the clock when they called the foul. Cook made one of two free throws.
Utah: The Utes missed their first nine shots before Poeltl scored inside with 15:19 left in the first half. And they trailed only 3-2, before Bachynski scored six points in a row for an 8-5 lead.
Duke: Krzyzewski has a record 85 NCAA Tournament wins, 20 more than Dean Smith and Roy Williams.
Utah: Season Over.
Duke: Play Gonzaga in South Regional final Sunday.
Aaron Hernandez fiancee discusses money, gun at murder trial
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez and his fiancee traded expressionless glances Friday as she took the witness stand to testify in his murder trial.
Shayanna Jenkins was called by prosecutors after being granted immunity, which means she was ordered to testify by the court or face time behind bars.
Jenkins, Hernandez's high school sweetheart and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter, appeared to be a reluctant and careful witness, pausing for long periods before answering and saying she couldn't remember details of the time surrounding the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating her younger sister. Lloyd's bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near the home Hernandez and Jenkins shared.
But some of what Jenkins said could hurt Hernandez, including that minutes after she dropped him off at a police station to be questioned about Lloyd's death he directed her to give money to one of his co-defendants.
"He told me to meet up with Bo and give him money," Jenkins said, referring to Ernest Wallace.
Wallace and a third man, Carlos Ortiz, have pleaded not guilty in the killing and will be tried later.
Hernandez, 25, watched Jenkins intently during her testimony, which lasted much of the day. She will return Monday to continue testifying. She previously pleaded not guilty to perjury in connection with the case. Prosecutors say she lied to a grand jury investigating the killing.
Jenkins, also 25, mostly avoided looking at Hernandez while she testified. During a sidebar, she looked at jurors and around the courtroom but not in his direction. It was a change from earlier in the trial, when she would sit behind Hernandez, whispering "I love you" and joking with him.
But she had not appeared in court for the past three weeks. On Friday, she was wearing the large diamond engagement ring she typically wears on her left ring finger.
She first appeared in court Friday morning outside the presence of jurors and was asked about what she would say on the witness stand. She indicated then that she would say that it was important to Hernandez for her to get rid of a box from the basement and that she took efforts to conceal it as she took it out of the home, contradicting testimony she made before the grand jury. Prosecutors have indicated the box held evidence or even the weapon used to kill Lloyd, which has never been found.
Jenkins wasn't asked in detail about the box on the witness stand Friday but is likely to be asked about it on Monday.
As she walked away from the stand following questioning, she mouthed something to Hernandez as she passed the defense table, her face looking ashen.
Later, in front of the jury, she said she once saw a gun in a junk drawer in the kitchen. When shown an example of a Glock .45, the kind of gun prosecutors say was the murder weapon, she testified it was the same color and shape but she was unsure if it was the same size.
Police went to the home the night of June 17, 2013, after finding Lloyd's body with a key to a Hernandez rental car in his pocket.
Jenkins said she asked Hernandez what was going on.
"Do you recall what he said to you?" prosecutor William McCauley asked.
"He didn't know," she replied.
Jenkins testified she put their daughter in the car and drove Hernandez to the police station that night. Soon after, she said, he asked her to meet Wallace and give him money. She drove to Rhode Island and met him early on June 18.
"He asked me if I was OK," Jenkins said. "He let me know that everything is going to be OK."
She said he then asked her for a certain amount of money, although she didn't remember how much. She said she gave him $500, the maximum she could withdraw from an ATM.
"I remember telling him to be safe," she said. "That's about it."
Among the people in the courtroom was her younger sister, Shaneah Jenkins, a 23-year-old law student, who sat next to Lloyd's mother.
Shayanna Jenkins, when asked by the prosecutor if she is close with her sister, took a long pause, then shook her head, saying they are "estranged, kind of."
Shaq acknowledges regret about decision to leave Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) It's been nearly two decades since Shaquille O'Neal left the Orlando Magic to pursue the championship that eluded him during his first four seasons in the NBA.
He returned Friday to be inducted into the Magic's Hall of Fame, a moment he said was an "unexpected" celebration of his contributions to the franchise. It was also a reunion that prompted O'Neal afterward to acknowledge regrets about ever leaving his original NBA team.
"It's unexpected because I came here to win. We won games and then I made a business decision," said O'Neal, who becomes the third member of the Magic's hall, joining co-founder Pat Williams and first-ever draft pick Nick Anderson. "It's never personal. The (team owner Rich) DeVos family knows that. And I accomplished (a championship) somewhere else. It's not like I didn't think they weren't going to be upset or anything. But it's business. It was all business.
"Do I regret it? I never fully answer it. I regret it sometimes. Is this where I started and should have stayed? I actually wish they made it a law that whoever drafts you, you gotta stay there your whole career."
O'Neal was just a potential-filled 20-year-old when he arrived from LSU as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft. Almost immediately the 7-footer commanded the attention of the entire league with his dominant presence on the court and gregarious personality off of it.
It all helped him take the Magic from just an infant expansion team to their first NBA Finals appearance in 1995.
So it's not at all lost on O'Neal why the backlash was so strong when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would go on to win three of his four NBA championship rings.
O'Neal said the DeVos family deserves "a couple" of championships and that the Magic's 1995 Finals team, which also featured a core of Penny Hardaway and Anderson, had a chance to get back.
"That's why I kind of regret it, because we had a young, fabulous team," O'Neal said. "We really did. And it's a shame that we got torn apart. But I think about that all the time. I try not to live my life now on `ifs' or `would've, should've,' but do I regret leaving here in '96, yes I do."
Williams said that he was happy to hear O'Neal acknowledge regrets about leaving, and dispelled the popular narrative that the Magic simply chose not to match the Lakers' seven-year, $120 million contract in the summer of 1996.
At the time, Williams said "there was a tiny little piece of time" in which NBA rules allowed first-time contract guys to be unrestricted free agents.
"The league had put it in place and that meant that any free agent could sign, and you couldn't match it," Williams said. "He was gone. Right after that they realized it was terribly unfair. And they changed it. And from that point on you could now match on a restricted. But in that little window, Shaq was gone. It is the Shaq Rule. And we came back later and beat the Lakers' offer in the closing minutes. But emotionally, Shaq was gone."
Now as a 43-year-old O'Neal said he would have handled the whole thing differently.
"I wish I would have had more patience," he said. "I wanted to be protected from the bashing. What I mean by that is I wanted to win then. Even when I got (to Los Angeles) I still got bashed, it took four years to win. But I was very impatient. I was very young and I thought that if I go there, with those guys out there I could win right away and that wasn't the case.
"Now that I `m older now, I wish as a youngster I would have had more patience."
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower
Ex-Husker DE Randy Gregory to NFL Media: I failed drug tests
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Defensive end Randy Gregory said he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine last month and that he failed two drug tests at Nebraska last year.
Gregory disclosed his marijuana use in an interview with NFL Media on Wednesday.
Gregory went into February's scouting combine projected to be among the top 10 picks in the draft. He declared for the draft after his junior season at Nebraska, where he recorded 17 1/2 sacks in two seasons.
He said he tested positive for marijuana at Nebraska in January 2014 and April 2014. Gregory said he hadn't smoked marijuana since December.
"I blame myself," Gregory told NFL Media. "And I know it sounds cliche, but there's really no one else I can blame."
Eddie Rhodman Jr., one of Gregory's handlers, said on Thursday that Gregory would not comment further.
Gregory said he knows the failed drug tests could hurt his draft position.
"Am I worried? Yeah, I'm worried," he said. "At the same time, I'm confident. I know I'm going to be all right in the end."
Gregory, from Fishers, Indiana, played his freshman season at Arizona Western Community College in 2011 and missed 2012 because of a broken leg. He transferred to Nebraska in 2013.
Gregory missed two games because of injury last year but was not suspended for any after testing positive twice at Nebraska. The school's drug policy was revised last October and now requires an athlete to be suspended for 10 percent of his team's contests after a second positive test.
"I was worse at Nebraska than I've ever been at any other time of my life," Gregory said of his marijuana use. "But I know how I am now. I think if teams really look at how I am now more so than the past, they'll see I'm making strides to get better, as a person and as a player."
NCAA says it will monitor impacts of Indiana religious law
With the Final Four a week away from shining a spotlight on Indianapolis, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday that the governing body for college sports is concerned about an Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate against gay people.
The law would prohibit state and local laws that "substantially burden" the ability of people - including businesses and associations - to follow their religious beliefs.
The NCAA offices are located in Indianapolis, and Emmert said the organization was concerned about how it might impact student athletes and employees. His terse statement also suggested the NCAA might consider moving future events out of Indianapolis.
"We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill," Emmert said, hours after Gov. Mark Pence signed the measure into law. "Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."
The conflict arises as thousands of college basketball fans prepare to converge on the city for the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament, an economic behemoth in college sports. The 14-year television contract alone for the event is worth $10.8 billion.
The NCAA has been a mainstay in downtown Indianapolis since 1999, when it relocated from its Kansas location in part because of a rich public-private investment deal from the city to establish the headquarters.
But the new law could put the association in a difficult position. While it has a close relationship with Indiana's capital city, college sports have been at the forefront of several breakthroughs for gay rights in the last two years, and the young adults and college students the NCAA represents have generally been supportive of those changes.
Last year, former University of Missouri football player Michael Sam came out as gay as he prepared for the NFL draft. Sam had told his teammates and coaches months early and said he found nothing but support among them and on campus. When Sam and his teammates were honored at halftime of a Missouri basketball game, hundreds of students lined up outside the arena to block a handful of anti-gay demonstrators.
This past season Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay men's Division I basketball player at the University of Massachusetts. Gordon, who has said he plans to transfer, has had nothing but good things to say about how his teammates and coaches reacted to his coming out last year. And he said not once was he hassled at opposing arenas for his sexuality.
An online push for the NCAA to react to the bill began a couple of days ago with the hashtag (hash)Final4Fairness.
Former professional basketball player Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA, tweeted: "(at)GovPenceIN, is it going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come to the (hash)FinalFour?"
The LGBT Sports Coalition also called for the NCAA, the Big Ten, the NFL and USA Diving and USA Gymnastics to pull events from Indianapolis over the next 16 months.
A spokesman for Pence reiterated that the governor does not believe the bill "in any way legalize discrimination in Indiana."
"For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation's anti-discrimination laws, and this law will not do so in Indiana either," he said.
Indianapolis, a hub for major sporting events, is booked for several over the next decade.
The Big Ten has held its football championship game at Lucas Oil Field since 2011 and has contracted to remain there until 2021. The conference also is scheduled to hold its men's basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2022. The Big Ten women's basketball tournament is set to be held in Indianapolis from 2017-22.
This year's U.S. national gymnastics championships and next year's Olympic diving team trials will be held in Indianapolis.
The Final Four is scheduled to return to Indianapolis in 2021 and the women's Final Four is set to be there next year. The city is also hoping to land the 2019 Super Bowl.
The NCAA has stepped into social debates before, and there is precedent for it taking events elsewhere.
The association in 2001 imposed a ban on holding championship events in South Carolina and Mississippi because Confederate battle flags fly at state capitols. The ban does not prevent schools from earning the right to host a regional event, as with postseason baseball and women's basketball tournaments.
In 2005, the NCAA banned schools that had what it deemed to be hostile or abusive mascots from hosting championship events. That ban mostly targeted schools with Native American mascots.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
49ers waive OL Jonathan Martin after 1 season with team
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have waived offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
The team announced the move on Thursday to end Martin's one-year trial run with the team.
The Niners acquired Martin last March in a deal with Miami. Martin had left the Dolphins in October 2013 after accusing teammate Richie Incognito of bullying. An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin.
Martin started seven games at right tackle last season in place of injured Anthony Davis. He struggled in that role and allowed 7 1/2 sacks, according to STATS.
Martin was picked in the second round out of Stanford in 2012.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Unsigned No. 1 pick Aiken announces Tommy John surgery
Brady Aiken, the hard-throwing lefty who didn't sign after being last year's No. 1 draft pick by the Houston Astros, announced Thursday he had Tommy John elbow surgery.
The 18-year-old Aiken was pitching for the IMG Academy, a private training institute in Florida, to prepare for this year's draft after a contract dispute with the Astros left him unsigned. In an essay published Thursday for The Players' Tribune, the website created by Derek Jeter, Aiken broke the news himself.
"I'm obviously extremely disappointed," Aiken wrote. "I wanted to let my pitching speak for itself, but now there are going to be new distractions. For that reason, I wanted to be the one to tell people what's happened and make this a fresh start."
The surgery was performed by Dr. David Altchek on Wednesday.
Aiken, who attended Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, went first overall last June despite some concerns about his elbow. Aiken, perhaps the most polished high school pitcher in the draft whose impeccable control mesmerized the Astros, downplayed any issues. But he and Houston failed to agree to terms on a contract - making him the first No. 1 pick to not sign since Tim Belcher in 1983, and third overall, also joining Danny Goodwin (1971).
Aiken, who initially committed to UCLA before going to IMG, wrote about knowing there were skeptics then - and surely will be more now.
"I can honestly say I don't regret not signing," he said. "It was a very difficult decision, but it also was an informed decision based on circumstances only a few people know the truth about. My family and I planned for all the possible outcomes. We weighed the pros and cons, talked with friends and mentors and doctors whose opinions we value and discussed it over a number of family dinners. This wasn't a decision we made lightly."
Aiken insisted money wasn't the only factor in not signing with the Astros, but also cited being able to play somewhere he felt "comfortable" and establishing "a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career."
The left-hander wrote that the decision "made the most sense for my future," and he didn't dwell on it the last few months. Instead, he was preparing for this year's draft - in which he was expected to be a first-round pick again. And, he still could be, despite the injury.
Aiken noted that two other pitchers were drafted after him in the first round last year despite still recovering from Tommy John surgery. East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman went ninth to Toronto, and UNLV righty Erick Fedde was taken No. 18 overall by Washington.
Arizona has the No. 1 selection this year, while Houston holds the second pick as compensation for Aiken not signing, as well as the No. 5 pick. The Astros can't draft Aiken again without his consent.
Aiken realized something was wrong with his elbow during his first start last week at IMG. He wrestled with his emotions after he received the diagnosis that he tore the ligament.
"I can't even begin to express how I felt," he wrote. "I was - and still am - overwhelmed with a lot of different feelings, but mostly it's disappointment. I won't be able to pitch this season, and this is going to keep me from doing what I love most of all: competing."
Aiken mentioned that it's "frustrating" that he won't be able to pitch - or surf at home in California this summer. But, he also insisted that this "is just a temporary setback" for him.
"I already have a plan in place to rehab my arm, and I plan to come back better than ever," he said. "I also know God has a plan for me. Injuries are part of the job, but so is coming back. I can't wait to get back on the mound. I can't wait to compete again."
The Players' Tribune: http://www.theplayerstribune.com/brady-aiken-a-fresh-start
Change to extra points likely in NFL
PHOENIX (AP) Spice it up.
The NFL's dullest play, the extra point, appears to be headed for some changes, perhaps significant ones, for the 2015 season.
While team owners didn't vote on any extra-point proposals Wednesday, there was so much discussion and interest in potential changes that the issue will be a main focal point for the next set of league meetings in May.
"There's a clear movement to wanting to change and change it this year," said Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee and president of the Falcons.
McKay's committee will "develop alternatives and be ready for a potential vote" in two months in San Francisco.
Among the possibilities are moving the line of scrimmage back for PAT kicks; placing the ball on the 1 1/2-yard line for a 2-point conversion; eliminating the PAT kicks entirely, requiring teams to run a play from scrimmage; and allowing the defense to score, as in college football, if the ball is turned over on a 2-point try.
McKay described the discussions as "lively, with lots of ideas ... it's time to make this a football play."
"A couple coaches said they favor just lining up on the 2 and going for the 2-point play," he said. "Or move the ball to the 1 1-2 for two points, or kick from the 15 for one, your choice."
The league experimented with extra-point kicks from a longer distance last preseason.
Currently, the line of scrimmage for both an extra point and 2-point conversion try is the 2-yard line.
Voted down as the meetings concluded was Chicago's proposal that each team get a possession in overtime regardless of what happens on the first series.
Now, if the side receiving the OT kickoff scores a touchdown, the game ends. If it kicks a field goal, the opponent gets a possession.
Unsportsmanlike penalties handed out at the end of a half now will carry over, either to the second half or to overtime.
Lining up players with eligible numbers at ineligible positions, as New England did against Baltimore in the playoffs, now has more specific guidelines. Those players must line up inside the tackle box.
The owners also approved teams with retractable domes being allowed to open them at halftime, weather permitting, and allowing linebackers to wear numbers from 40-49; previously they could wear only numbers in the 50s and 90s.
Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke briefly about two high-profile personal conduct cases in which both players, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson, remain on the exempt list.
Goodell said the league continues to review Hardy's case to determine if discipline is warranted. Hardy signed earlier this month with Dallas.
Goodell said the date for Adrian Peterson's suspension to end remains April 15. The Vikings running back had the ban overturned by appeal, a decision the NFL now is appealing itself.
-The NFL is not focused necessarily on having a team or teams back in Los Angeles in 2016, but it is a hot topic. Goodell noted the league "wants to succeed long term" in LA, so "right now the focus is on the process and also understanding what it takes to be successful in the LA market."
A report on all three teams interested in moving there - the Rams, Chargers and Raiders - is expected in late April, and Goodell said the owners then would discuss it in San Francisco.
-Expansion of the playoffs by two teams was discussed, but won't be happening for a while. Goodell mentioned scheduling issues as well as competitive questions for such delays.
-Ted Wells' investigation into the deflated footballs in the AFC championship game is ongoing, with no timetable on its conclusion.
-Texting during a game by Browns general manager Ray Farmer is still being investigated to see if any league rules were broken.
Earlier in the week, of the 13 video replay alterations proposed, including extending the number of coaches' challenges and letting them challenge all officiating calls, the only one passed will allow game officials to use replay for clock issues at the end of a half, game or overtime if more than 1 second remains.
Five player safety rule changes were made, the most notable allowing a medical adviser to stop a game if he believes a player is disoriented, having the player removed from the field and examined on the sideline or in the locker room.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Haden says email confirm USC treated unfairly by NCAA
LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says private email between members of the NCAA committee on infractions made public as part of a lawsuit by a former Trojans assistant coach confirm the school was treated unfairly in the association's handling of the Reggie Bush case.
"I think these documents are cause for concern about the NCAA's own institutional controls," Haden said Wednesday in statement released by the school. "It should be concerning to all schools that the NCAA didn't appear to follow its own rules."
USC was banned from the postseason for two seasons and stripped of dozens after an NCAA investigation determined Bush and his family received cash and gifts from aspiring marketers in 2004 and 2005. The football program was hit with a two-year postseason ban and had dozens of scholarships taken away over a four-year period.
Former Trojans running backs Todd McNair sued the NCAA in June 2011, claiming the association's investigation was one-sided and his future earnings were hurt by its report on the Bush scandal. The NCAA determined McNair lied about knowing about the extra benefits being provided to Bush and gave the former coach a one-year show cause order, effectively keeping him out of college coaching for a season. He has not worked as a college coach since.
The email were among hundreds of documents filed in the case Tuesday that were obtained by the Los Angeles Times, which had along with The New York Times fought to have them unsealed. The NCAA had asked the court to keep the documents sealed.
A statement from the school says USC officials are "extremely disappointed and dismayed at the way the NCAA investigated, judged and penalized our university throughout this process.
"USC hopes that the transparency in this case will ultimately lead to review and changes so that all member institutions receive the fair and impartial treatment they deserve. It seems likely that there are additional documents that will come to light. Once USC has had the opportunity to review all of the documents unsealed by the court, we will determine what further action is appropriate."
In the unsealed documents, members of the NCAA infractions committee derided the school for hiring back as its head coach former assistant Lane Kiffin, who had been an offensive coordinator for coach Pete Carroll while Bush was playing.
"USC has responded to its problems by bringing in Lane Kiffin," committee member Rodney Uphoff wrote in an undated memo to other members of the committee. "They need a wake-up call that doing things the wrong way will have serious consequences."
Another committee member expressed similar sentiments about Kiffin in an email dated March 2010, after Kiffin had returned to lead USC after stints as head coach of Tennessee and the NFL's Oakland Raiders.
"Lack of institutional control ... (and do we add the hiring of Lane Kiffin?), is a very easy call for me," committee member Roscoe Howard wrote.
Kiffin, 39, is now offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Uphoff's memo also compared the evidence against McNair, who was found by the committee to have engaged in unethical conduct, to circumstances surrounding the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. He said the case against McNair was stronger than that against Terry Nichols, who was convicted as an accomplice in the bombing.
AP source: Hurley agrees to new contract at Buffalo
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Bobby Hurley has agreed to a new contract with the University at Buffalo that will make him the Mid-American Conference's highest paid men's basketball coach, a person familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the school has not announced the contract restructuring. Hurley will make more than $550,000 a season, the person said. The person said that while the sides have agreed on the deal, it has not yet been signed as the school and coach work out final details.
The agreement was reached after the former Duke star point guard led the Bulls to their first NCAA Tournament berth in only his second year on the job. Hurley's immediate success had made him a potential candidate to be lured away by higher-profile schools this offseason.
Buffalo (23-10) was eliminated with a 68-62 loss to West Virginia in the round of 64 on Friday. With a 42-20 record, Hurley became Buffalo's first coach to reach 40 wins in two seasons.
Hurley's splash and playing history made the Bulls a popular upset pick for the opening game. During the game Hurley wore the championship ring he got for leading Duke to consecutive national titles in 1991-92 after digging the memento out of storage earlier this season.
Hurley said it's tough to be satisfied with a great effort, that he felt his team could win games in the tournament.
Buffalo will return four of five starters next season.
Hurley had to fight the notion when he came to Buffalo that he lacked the coaching experience to lift the team to any glimpse of national prominence.
After his NBA career ended in 1998, Hurley spent a decade away from the game.
He returned to the sport in 2010 as an assistant under his brother Dan Hurley at Staten Island's Wagner College. The two spent two years at Wagner before spending a season together at Rhode Island.