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Curry Set for His NBA Finals Moment Against LeBron, Cavs

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Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry smiles during NBA basketball practice, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry smiles during NBA basketball practice, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry was early in his career, a long way from even thinking about the NBA Finals.

His Golden State Warriors were in Cleveland, where LeBron James powered one of the best teams in the league. Curry thinks the Warriors lost the game (they did, one of their 56 losses his rookie season) but certainly remembers the chat.

James, already the best player in the game, pulled Curry aside leaving the court and told him to focus on his own effort, ignore any distractions around him, make sure he was always prepared.

“There is going to be a time when it’s all going to work out because you’ll be ready for that moment,” Curry said Wednesday of James’ message.

And now, it might happen against James.

The next chat between the superstars could be Thursday night at center court, before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Curry is now the NBA’s MVP and the Warriors, no longer the lowly laughingstock from his rookie season, won a league-best 67 games during the regular season. They have lost three times at Oracle Arena all season, but that doesn’t faze James as he tries to end Cleveland’s 51-year pro sports title drought in his first season back there.

“I’ve been in so many loud arenas. This is going to be one of them,” he said. “I’ve played in OKC in the (2012) finals to start off the series. I’ve played in Boston. I’ve played in Detroit when they were in their heyday. I’ve played in Chicago in 2011 to open up the Eastern Conference finals. I’ve played in San Antonio.

“So I’ve been in some very loud buildings and this, obviously, I know tomorrow is going to be one of them. But I don’t add too much pressure on it. You just go out and you just try to play.”

He has done that superbly in this postseason, averaging 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.3 assists in the Eastern Conference playoffs. He has played better basketball — he brought up the 2009 East finals loss against Orlando, a month before Curry was drafted — but the steady hand he has provided with Kevin Love out and Kyrie Irving hurting has made James as good as he’s ever been.

“For me as leader of the team, it’s my job to lead the guys and to perform well,” James said. “At the end of the day, win, lose or draw, that’s all I can ask out of myself and ask out of my guys, and we’ll do that.”

His finals experience — he’s the first to play in five straight finals since Bill Russell’s Celtics of the 1960s — is one advantage for the Cavs against a Warriors team with no players who have played for the championship. Warriors rookie coach Steve Kerr, who won five titles as a player, says he and assistant Luke Walton have talked to the team about what to expect now.

“But what I really found as a player was once you get out on the floor, you just start playing and everything returns to normal,” Kerr said. “It’s still just a basketball game. But you’ve got to get to that point and the best way to do that is to try to ignore the chaos as much as you can.”

For Curry, keeping things normal Wednesday meant a haircut and some sun by his pool. And he knows James will be prepared, just as he once instructed Curry.

“He’s a gamer,” Curry said. “You know he’s going to ready for big moments.”

Other things to watch in the NBA Finals:

KYRIE’S CONDITION: Irving, who missed two games in the East finals with knee and foot injuries, plans to play, while realizing he won’t be at his best.

“It’s an adjustment, but it’s what it is at this point,” he said. “But I’m just going to go out there and will myself to play.”

CLEVELAND CONNECTION: Kerr played 3 1/2 seasons in Cleveland and will try to join Phil Jackson, whose Lakers beat the Nets in 2002, as the only coaches to beat a team they played for in the finals. He understands why it hasn’t been a desired destination for players, saying “let’s face it, it’s cold,” but said he enjoyed the experience.

“I used to go to Indians games and Browns games, and you felt the passion of the sports community there,” he said. “The fans loved all their teams. So I’m really happy for the city of Cleveland, for them to be in the finals.”

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Though also in his first year as an NBA coach, David Blatt has reminded reporters all season that he’s no rookie after his long, successful career overseas. The coach of 2014 Euroleague champion Maccabi Tel Aviv repeated that message Wednesday, saying he didn’t “find this at all imposing.”

“So it’s thrilling and it’s exciting, and it’s joyful to be in this situation,” he added. “Is it all unusual or uncomfortable for me? No. I’ve been in situations like this before many times.”

KLAY’S OK: Klay Thompson wasn’t cleared to play until Tuesday after suffering a concussion in Game 5 of the West finals, but never feared missing the opener.

“I had some nagging headaches that night, but when I got some good sleep and some good rest I was all right,” he said. “So I really knew that Game 1 was never in jeopardy.”

___

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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Commentary

OPINION: Would You Pressure Your Kid’s Coach to Apologize for Winning by 106-0?

“Regarding Inglewood H.S. vs. Morningside H.S. Friday night 10/29 game, we at the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) are saddened beyond words by the events that transpired at the football game Friday between Inglewood and Morningside high schools,” the IUSD stamen read. “We will conduct a full investigation and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a similar outcome never happens again under an IUSD athletic program.”

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Inglewood Football Coach Mil’Von James (Nick Koza/Photo)
Inglewood Football Coach Mil’Von James (Nick Koza/Photo)

By Kenneth Miller | Inglewood Today

Coaches push the athletes they train to put their all into mastering the mental and physical aspects of their sport, preparing them to edge out competitors and perform at the height of their abilities.

But there are real-life situations, it seems, when attaining excellence proves to be too much – or maybe just not good enough.

This seems to have been the case October 29 when an impressive shut-out victory for Inglewood High School in Los Angeles County ended up turning into a bitter crosstown game of guilt, blame and grievances. That day, Inglewood High football coach and former Cleveland Browns defensive back Mil’Von James led his team to a 106-0 victory over rivals Morningside High School.

Since that shellacking, education authorities have blasted James and Inglewood High for being too focused on winning that they failed to exhibit a spirit of compassion and sportsmanship.

The California Interscholastic Federation -Southern Section (CIFSS), the governing body of high school athletics in the state, released a scathing statement regarding the wide margin of the game’s final score.

“The CIF Southern Section expects that all athletic contests are to be conducted under the strictest code of good sportsmanship. “We expect coaches, players, officials, administrators and students to adhere to the Six Pillars of Character – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship,” CIF-SS fired off in a statement.

“A score of 106-0 does not represent these ideals,” the statement continued. “The CIF-SS condemns, in the strongest terms, results such as these. It is our expectation that the Inglewood administration will work towards putting in place an action plan so that an event such as this does not repeat itself.”

James, 38, said it was not his intention to degrade or demoralize the Morningside High team.

“I apologized for the way things turned out,” James said even though, during the game, he benched his defensive starters after the second quarter and most of his other frontline players in the second half.

But Inglewood continued to run up the score on its hapless opponent.

Anyone who knows James personally would know – and can attest to the fact — that his intent was never to bring shame to the game that he loves.

Coaches like James who have played college and pro football understand the fierce competitiveness it requires for young people to succeed when pursuing careers as professional athletes. They train their students to be warriors, to dominate their opponents. Varsity sports is the highest level of competition in high school.

Today, the advancement of training techniques and year-round coaching and development increases the likelihood that schools with the resources will outperform schools with sports programs that are underfunded or under-supported.

Since he became coach at Inglewood High three seasons ago, James has taken the team from a losing streak to being nearly undefeated. During that time, the team has moved from CIF-SS Division 13 to Division 2.

Inglewood student athletes have advantages in coaching and preparation that Morningside and many other schools do not.

James was a star on the football squad at Fremont High School in Los Angeles where he graduated in 2003. In college, he first played for the UNLV Rebels where he led the nation in passes; before transferring to UCLA and playing for the Bruins from 2003-2005.

After brief stints in the NFL and the Canadian Football League on the roster for the Cleveland Browns and the Vancouver Lions respectively, James began coaching high school football.

He is the founder and director of one of most successful ‘7 on 7’ leagues in the nation, responsible for scores of future and current high school, collegiate and professional players.

Chances are, if you have observed any top football program in California, you have you witnessed his impact on young players, their development and their unmatched leadership skills – on the field and off it.

The Inglewood Unified School District also blasted James and Inglewood High.

“Regarding Inglewood H.S. vs. Morningside H.S. Friday night 10/29 game, we at the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) are saddened beyond words by the events that transpired at the football game Friday between Inglewood and Morningside high schools,” the IUSD stamen read. “We will conduct a full investigation and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a similar outcome never happens again under an IUSD athletic program.”

High school sports, in many schools, is a training ground for college and pro athletes. Schools that have better resources will always have an edge.

It is unfortunate that this incident has placed a dark cloud over a high school sports program. Inglewood High’s football program should be celebrated for its league championship and undefeated record in a school district that is still in state receivership.

Kenneth Miller is the publisher of Inglewood Today.

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