Leland Stein III

Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Michigan State still have sights on Big Ten title

In sports column on September 22, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Detroit Crew: Ed Davis (Southeastern), Tony Lippett (Crockett), William Gholston (Southeastern), MSU head coach Mark Dantonio, Mylan Hicks (Renaissance), Lawrence Thomas (Renaissance), Chris Norman (Renaissance). Not pictured are Detroiters Dion Sims and Jeremy Gainer.

Notre Dame ended Michigan State’s 15-game home winning streak.

By Leland Stein III

EAST LANSING – Michigan State University (MSU) and the Detroit Public Schools (PSL) have had a long and mutually satisfying history together.

The State of Michigan’s largest city (Detroit) has sent many noteworthy young men and women athletes to the school in the State’s capital. For example, recent Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Ralph Simpson came out of the PSL and was a MSU star basketball player.

Lindsay Hairston, Maurice Ager, Greg Kelser, Steve Smith, Keith Appling and Mike Robinson, just to name a few, have followed Simpson. On the football field, Levi Jackson, Derrick Mason, Kevin Vickerson, Damon Dowdell, Ray and Renaldo Hill, and in track, Marshall Dill.

Although Michigan State University lost to the Notre Dame 20-3 at home in a highly anticipated nationally televised contest under the lights, the then No. 10 Spartans expected they would do better against the No. 20 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

After all, the Spartans (2-1) had won 15 straight at home. The streak included a win over the Irish in 2010 on a fake field goal in overtime that preceded Coach Mark Dantonio having a heart attack.

On the other hand Notre Dame (3-0) snapped a six-game losing streak against ranked teams and beat a top-10 opponent for the first time in seven years to give Brian Kelly a signature win in his third season.

Notre Dame is off to its best start since 2002 when former Spartan, Tyrone Willingham, won his first eight games as its coach. The Irish opened 0-2 last year and 1-3 the season before in Kelly’s debut before bouncing back to finish with eight wins.

The 2012 version of the Michigan State University football program came into this looking to improve on its No. 11 ranking in the 2011 AP final poll. The Spartans have won 11 games the past two seasons and have earned bowl bids every season since 2007.

So, in the post-game press conference Spartan coach Dantonio chose to look to the future and the possibilities, as his team gets ready to face Eastern Michigan University Saturday in East Lansing.

“Tough day at the office,” Dantonio said, “but all of our goals are in front of us. We had a tough deal with Notre Dame last year, and responded. It has to start with Eastern Michigan next week and continue into the Big Ten season.

“It’s always going to be about how you respond to diverse situations. That’s what this game should teach you and that’s what it’s all about. People have praised us and now they are going to say it’s an aberration. It is what it is and we will start fresh. The main focus will be what we do now and how we respond.”

Helping lead Michigan State and making Dantonio’s words a reality are a special collection of former PSL athletes that will be right in the mix if the Spartans recover and indeed fight for a Rose Bowl berth.

William Gholston and Ed Davis from Southeastern, Tony Lippett (Crockett), and, Mylan Hicks, Lawrence Thomas and Chris Norman all from Renaissance High. Also Detroiters Dion Sims (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High) and Jeremy Gainer (Clarenceville High) are holding down the Motor City.

As bad as this lost was, and, the way it all happened, the resilient Spartans believe that they will be better from this thumping by Notre Dame.

“Right now it feels terrible because we lost to a rival,” Norman exclaimed. “But I think it can also work out for the good because you can take a moment like this and define ourselves as a team. That’s going to come with how we respond to this situation. That’s how we felt last year when we lost to Notre Dame. I expect for the same thing to happen this year.”

Added Gholston: “We have to take it one game at a time. When we lost this game, it’s one game out of the season. We’ve got a lot more games to play and the way we come out next week is going to show what kind of team we are.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

UM’s Gardner makes smooth transition to receiver

In sports column on September 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Detroiter Devin Gardner catches touchdown pass. – Dan Graschuck photo

By Leland Stein III

ANN ARBOR – Obviously this was litmus test for the University Michigan Wolverines, as they undertook their first home game of the 2102 season versus the running instead of flying Air Force Falcons.

Before 112,522 in the Big House the only thing that took flight for the Falcons was the jet flyover that took place after the nation anthem was concluded.

These groups of flyboys really are as run happy a team as there is in college football. Air Force grounded out 400 yards in its first game and pushed the Wolverines around enough to the tune of 290 rushing yards.

Still the hungry Wolverines hung on and chewed up the Falcons through the air and on the ground for a hard fought 31-25 victory. Leading the way was Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson, who combined for 426 yards (218 rush, 208 pass), accounting for all but seven of Michigan’s entire offensive output.

Helping Robinson out were junior quarterback-turned-receiver Devin Gardner and freshman tight end Devin Funchess.

Funchess had four catches for 106 yards and a noteworthy 30-yard touchdown where he out-jumped a defender. He was the first Michigan tight end to top 100 yards since Jerame Tuman had 126 against Colorado in 1997.

However, Gardner was the most comfortable target for the second straight week, catching five passes for 63 yards, including a precision route for his score. Against Alabama Gardner latched onto a 44-yard touchdown pass, showing all his potential.

Leland Stein III

Last week the Wolverines took on defending national champion and then second-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide put such a beating on the Wolverines that they were elevated to the top-ranked team in the country while the Wolverines sunk from No. 8 to 19.

“We were hungry for victory,” former Inkster High star Devin Gardner said. “So we did enough to make sure we got this win and got our season back on track.”

During the fall of 2009, Gardner was rated as the No. 1 dual-threat high school quarterback in the United States by Rivals.com and the No. 5 quarterback by ESPNU. He verbally committed to the University of Michigan’s 2010 recruiting class in the spring of 2009 and enrolled at the University of Michigan in January 2010.

Much to his chagrin Robinson was entrenched as the Michigan quarterback and during spring practice Gardner made the switch to receiver.

“In spring practice I saw we were a little short at the receiver position so I took some reps there and did kind of good,” Gardner said, “so they took notice and told me I might be able to help at that position right now. I began to practice hard and work on my mechanics.”

The question I asked Gardner is he now a receiver or a quarterback?

He said emphatically: “I am a quarterback! I saw a way to help this team win games this season so I moved to receiver. But, I still have every young person’s dream. I want to play quarterback for the University of Michigan. I still feel I have the ability and the heart to play the position. In fact I look forward to throwing the ball to Funchess next season. I can’t wait to get the chance to throw the ball to him.”

As for now Gardner is turning into the most stable receiver on the UM team. They play Massachusetts this Saturday at the Big House and it is an important test for keeping this team on track.

Gardner, 6-foot-4, is proving to be a key clog in the Wolverines passing game. 

He noted that the major change from quarterback is blocking. “It is hard trying to block those little defensive backs,” he said. “They try to juke me and move all over the place. But as far as the pass routes, as I quarterback I understand and know all of that.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

USA Basketball on top of the World

In sports column on September 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm

USA Men celebrate gold in London Games. Leland Stein II photo

By Leland Stein III

LONDON – The United States Women’s and Men’s Senior National Basketball teams have proven that the round ball is truly  American’s game. In spited of the fact international men’s teams had over 20 players presently playing in the NBA, as opposed to the 1992 Dream Team having only 6 NBA players were on their  international teams.

The USA Basketball foundation and organization is now firmly planted on solid ground and during the 2012 Olympic Games it once again proved that the best basketball in the world is played every year right here in the NBA.

The linchpin behind the USA Men’s resurgence has been the inclusion of Jerry Colangelo as the Managing Director of USA Basketball Senior National team in 2005. He promptly hired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

USA Women win 5th consecutive gold medal at the Olympic Games. Gary Montgomery photoColangelo has confidently rebuilt the program from the bottom up. Obtaining the involvement of the NBA’s top players (Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James) and naming Duke University’s Hall of Fame mentor Mike Krzyzewski as the USA National Team head coach.

In the 2004 Olympics the USA Men earned a bronze medal and in the 2006 FIBA World Championships the US Men earned another bronze.

“Coach K (Krzyzewski), LeBron (James) and I met in Las Vegas to discuss being a part of the US team,” Carmelp Anthony told me, following his joyous Gold medal victory. “He said it would take a commitment, but in the end it would be worth the effort. LeBron and I are the only one’s remaining from the original teams in 2004. We endured the ups and downs and now we have put together a system that works.”

Added James: “Coach K and I have been a part of the whole USA rebuilding process. We share the same Olympic tract and that makes this win even that more special. I made a commitment to be a part of this. It was a long journey to get to 2008 and now 2012, but eight years later we are back on top.”

Through the solidifying efforts of Colangelo and Krzyzewski along with the commitments of Anthony and James, and, the wooing of Bryant in 2007, the foundation of USA Men’s Basketball is entrenched.

In the 2012 Olympic Games Final, a rematch with Spain, young upstart Kevin Durant scored 30 points in a contest that featured 16 lead changes and six tied scores no matter, the U.S held off Spain for a 107-100 win to capture the Olympic gold medal.

While Anthony and James earned a second gold medal in a third Olympic appearance; three more were members of the gold-medal winning team in 2008, Bryant, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Playing in their first Olympics were Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis, Durant, James Harden, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala.

“It was very emotional,” Bryant said starring at his 2012 gold medal. “You just kind of think back on the journey, so to speak. Being here for your last go-round, wearing USA on your chest, it’s very emotional.”

Meanwhile, for the USA Women it was business as usual. Since the inclusion of the women in Olympic Basketball in 1976, where the Soviet Union won the first two Games, the US Women captured its unprecedented fifth-straight Olympic gold (dating back to 1996), a feat never before accomplished in any women’s traditional team sport, the USA women have compiled a 41-game Olympic winning streak that began with the 1992 bronze medal game.

This time around the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team posted a 86-50 win over France at North Greenwich Arena in London, England.

“You know, you go into every game thinking that there’s going to be some things that you have to do, and if you do those things you’re going to have a chance you can win it,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “France was probably playing as well as anytime I’ve ever seen them, since I’ve been the coach.”

Said Candace Parker: “I think that this is just so sweet to get the second one. You can stumble on a championship once, but it’s really hard to do it twice. And for USA Basketball to do it five times in a row, that’s truly special.”

The gold medal is a third for Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings. While Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Swin Cash, and Parker also earned their second gold. Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen all got their first gold.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

USA Boxing down and struggling

In sports column on September 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm


Clarissa Shields and Michigan Chronicle, sports editor, Leland Stein III in London at the USA House after her gold medal victory.

Ali, Frazier, Foreman, De la Hoya, Patterson and now Shields all have succeeded at Olympic Games.

By Leland Stein III

LONDON – US men’s Olympic boxers have won a record 108 medals. But since David Reid took gold at Atlanta in 1996, only one US man — Andre Ward, in 2004 — has taken the Olympic title.

The list of pugilist that has taken the sweet science by storm over the years after achieving Olympic glory is simply legendary.

Any list will have to start with Floyd Patterson (1952), Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali) in 1960, Joe Frazier (1964), George Foreman (1968), Sugar Ray Leonard (1976), Leon Spinks (1976), Michael Spinks (1976), Pernell Whitaker (1984), Mark Breland (1984), Evander Holyfield (1984), Riddick Bowe (1988), Roy Jones Jr. (1988) Oscar de la Hoya (1992), and David Reid (1996).

There are others that found noteworthy success as professional fighters like Ray Seales (1972), John Tate (1976), Howard Davis (1976), Leo Randolph (1976), Steve McCrory (1984), Frank Tate (1984), Meldrick Taylor (1984), Tyrell Biggs (1984), Henry Tillman (1984), Michael Carbajal (1988), Ray Mercer (1988), Andrew Maynard (1988), Chris Byrd (1992), and Antonio Tarver 1996).

All of the above mentioned Olympians medaled at their Olympic Games and went on to successful professional careers.

Fast forward into the 2000 and anyone can see something has happened to USA Boxing. In fact, the 2012 Olympic Games is the first in history where the US men did not medal in any of the weight classes.

It took the US women to hold the boxing torch. In the first Games where women were allowed to participate in boxing, out of the three weight classes US women won two medals. Marlen Esparza won a bronze medal as a flyweight and Claressa Shields won the USA’s only boxing gold medal.

Shields’ historic gold was the first US gold since Ward. Olympic boxing gold has been hard to obtain for the US. That makes 17-year-old Shield’s remarkable win over two world champion women on her way to gold even that more impressive.

How does USA boxing get back on track? Are the mix martial arts diluting the talent pool? Surly the allure of college and professional football has taken away the Ali’s, Frazier’s and Foreman’s in US Boxing.

Another problem is that the USA Boxing names trainers, but the trainers that have worked with the fighters cannot be in their corners at the Games. Who knows the fighters better than the men and women that train them? No one!! And as the sweet science continues to grow internationally the fighters are getting better and better.

For example, I was watching a young lady from Ireland (Katie Taylor) fight for lightweight gold and in her corner was her father, who has trained her since she started boxing. The Irish Olympic officials told me, “Why would we put anyone else in her corner?”

I looked at the Americans and they have people in their fighter’s corner that simply do not know the fighters they are charged to cajole.

The US Olympic Committee is also disappointed by boxing’s medal-less men’s team. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun offered no specifics, but it’s clear the governing body expected more from US fighters, who left the Olympics empty handed for the first time in team history.

‘‘We’re going to sit down and take a hard look at why we are where we are, and make some changes,’’ Blackmun said. ‘‘I don’t want to say anything beyond that.’’

The US men’s team, the most successful in Olympic history, lost nine of its last 10 bouts in London. USA Boxing has been criticized for a sharp decline in recent years, along with the fact that the coaching staff was not in place until just about a month before the games opened.

‘‘We’re disappointed in boxing,’’ Blackmun said. ‘‘We want to do better, particularly in men’s boxing. By saying disappointed in boxing, I don’t mean in the people. I mean, we’re disappointed that we didn’t do better in boxing, because I know that we can do better and we have to focus on how we do that.’’

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

NBA’s Dan Roundfield dies tragically

In sports column on September 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

By Leland Stein III

As a wannabe basketball player in Detroit Public Schools (Mackenzie High) I was just making my way on the varsity team, while former Chadsey High’s Dan Roundfield was locking horns with my Mackenzie High’s Lovell Rivers in a big man clash.

Rivers went on to Michigan State and Roundfield to Central Michigan University. The 6-foot-8 Roundfield was an intimidating force in the PSL and later in the Mid-America Conference.

On the collegiate scene, Roundfield was twice selected to the All-Mid-American Conference Team for Central Michigan University; he was also the 1975 M.A.C. Player of the Year.

Roundfield spent 12 seasons in the American Basketball Association and National Basketball Association, playing for the Indiana Pacers (1975–1978), Atlanta Hawks (1978–1984), Detroit Pistons (1984–1985), and Washington Bullets (1985–1987). Then he moved to Turin, playing for Auxilium Torino.

Roundfield earned a reputation as a strong rebounder and tenacious defender, and during his career and he was named to five NBA All-Defensive teams and three All-Star teams. His nickname was Dr. Rounds.

He was selected to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star team in three consecutive seasons from 1980-1982.

The last time I saw Dan was in 2003 when the NBA All-star Weekend was in Atlanta. He was at the Legends Brunch and he and I and the late Dave Debusschere found ourselves at the same table. We talked about Detroit and all our memories here. It was an enlivened conversation. It seemed like we had known each other for years.

That is why I was particularly excited to see Dan and help welcome him into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame recently at the Detroit Gem Theatre. The 56th Induction ceremony was held this past Sunday, and as ill-timed faith would have it Dan was not there to revel in his hometown moment of glory.

Roundfield, 59, died off the Caribbean island of Aruba the week before his scheduled induction. Reportedly he was trying to save his wife from drowning and did help her to safety, but the extreme undertow sucked him back out to sea.

The former All Star was apparently swept away in a strong current as he tried to help his struggling wife. Police, firefighters, the Coast Guard and volunteers searched for him, finding his body about 90 minutes later, trapped by rocks underwater.

Bernie Roundfield, who said she was helped to safety by a U.S. tourist snorkeling nearby, said in an interview that the couple, who live in the Atlanta area, had come to the island with their two grandchildren.

The couple had visited Aruba nearly 20 times and were caught off guard by the strong currents at the swimming area known as “Baby Beach,” even though they had been there many times in the past, she said.

“We always go to Baby Beach, and we go there because it’s so safe,” she told The Associated Press. “It happened so fast.”

Bernie Roundfield was treated for shock after the incident. Julia Roundfield, a sister-in-law of the athlete, who lives in Detroit, said members of the former athlete’s extended family were still trying to get details of the incident.

“He was a real sweet guy,” Julia Roundfield said. “He really was a sweetheart.”

Said former Piston Rick Mahorn at Roundfield’s MSHOF induction ceremony: “Dan was a tough competitor, but he was a wonderful person first and foremost. He was respected around the league as a person of character.”

Added Former teammate James Edwards: “When I came to Indiana I knew no one, but Dan and his wife opened up their home to me. Whenever I needed a meal and needed to be around family, Dan was my family. He was that kind of person, big hearted.”

Detroit has lost one of its favorite son’s way too soon. He gone, but will forever be remembered as a member of the MSHOF.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.