JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

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May 20, 2010
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Friday Fodder: Wolf Pack's Luke Babbitt a NBA Draft first round lock


Sports fodder for a Friday morning ... Former Nevada Wolf Pack basketball player Luke Babbitt seems to be a lock to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 24. ESPN believes he is one of 18 players with a legitimate chance to be picked with one of the top 14 picks and certainly by the end of the first round (30 picks). ESPN's Andy Katz says Babbitt has been called "a sleeper" and "one of the most skilled players in the draft" by NBA personnel and "might be a steal" if he slips past the No. 14 pick.

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The best fit right now for Babbitt in the NBA with teams that select after No. 14 might be the Chicago Bulls at No. 17, the Boston Celtics at No. 19, the San Antonio Spurs at No. 20, Oklahoma City at either No. 21 or 26 and the New Jersey Nets at No. 27. Memphis (No. 25 or 28), Miami (No. 18), Portland (No. 22), Minnesota (No. 23), Atlanta (No. 24), Orlando (No. 29) and Washington (No. 30) seem to already have plenty of options with players 6-foot-7 to 6-9 with skills that Babbitt possesses. It would be interesting, though, to see Babbitt playing with the Washington Wizards and JaVale McGee in a frontcourt that the Wolf Pack should have had in 2008-09.

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This could end up being a special year at the University of Nevada. This school year (2009-10) could be the first since 1996-97 that the football, men's basketball and baseball teams all qualify for the postseason. The football team beat Ball State in the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl, the men's hoops team beat Fresno State and lost to Nebraska in the 1997 NIT and the baseball team went to the Texas Tech regional in 1997. It's the only time that has happened in Wolf Pack history. Football (Hawaii Bowl) and men's basketball (NIT) have already done their part. This year all comes down to the baseball team winning the WAC tournament in two weeks in Mesa, Ariz.

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What are the chances of the Pack baseball team going to a regional this season? Pretty good, actually. It would help if the Pack sweeps Louisiana Tech this weekend at Peccole Park, securing one of the top two spots in the WAC regular season standings and a first-round bye in the WAC tournament. But this Pack team can win the tournament even without a bye because of its pitching staff. This is arguably the most solid staff (top four starters, top four relievers) the Pack has had since joining the WAC in 2001.

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Where is LeBron James going to end up this summer? It would be a shock if he isn't wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform for the rest of his career. First of all, James can make more money with Cleveland than anywhere else. Second of all, Ohio is his home. And, third, it would look like he is running away from the Cavaliers after choking in the playoffs this year. If he left the Cavs as a free agent this summer, he would never be able to step foot in Ohio again without police protection. Also, where is he going to go? Why would he want to play on losing New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets teams? Why would he want to always be in Michael Jordan's gigantic shadow in Chicago?

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Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins criticized his manager this week, saying that he (Fredi Gonzalez) never played in the major leagues." It has always been very difficult for guys who never played in the big leagues to manage in the big leagues. Earl Weaver and Joe McCarthy are the only Hall of Fame managers who never played a day in the major leagues (Walt Alston had one at-bat). Jim Leyland, Joe Maddon, Tom Kelly are recent examples of successful major league managers who never played in the big leagues. But with all of the spoiled millionaire babies in today's game, it is growing more and more difficult for guys without some big league experience to earn the respect a manager needs. The Marlins, by the way, got Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez to lecture Ramirez this week. Ramirez apologized to his manager and teammates the very same day.

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If you haven't been out to see a Reno Aces game this spring you are cheating yourself. This Aces team is certainly not as good as last year's bunch (especially with a bat in their hands) but young shortstop Pedro Ciriaco is worth the price of admission all by himself. Ciriaco is already better than two-thirds of the shortstops in the big leagues right now on defense alone. He'll be starting for the Arizona Diamondbacks as soon as he learns the strike zone.



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The Nevada Appeal Updated May 20, 2010 08:10PM Published May 20, 2010 08:09PM Copyright 2010 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.