Mid-South-area gymnast Caela Flake making her presence felt across the nation

Flake2As far as Caela Flake is concerned, no one has to give her a pep talk on what it means to persevere through life’s toughest of obstacles.

By and large, this 17-year-old Arlington High gymnast had learned the significance of weathering what she described as seemingly insurmountable challenges a little more than two years ago.

For instance, Caela’s father, Derek Flake, was the breadwinner of their family and, along with his wife, Sherita, had done a masterful job of seeing that their children lived comfortably in their Northeast Shelby County home and made wise decisions.

Unfortunately for Caela, her father’s job was eliminated in December 2012, news that ultimately gave way to assortment of challenges for the rising young gymnast.

For starters, Caela, unlike in previous years, wasn’t able to train consistently for nearly a two-year stretch because of the financial adversities that had plagued her family during the time. But just as she had done in the various competitions in gymnasiums throughout the country, she deemed it necessary to, as she tells it, “make lemonade out of lemons.”

“I trained at home on my balance beam that my great grandmother bought me for my ninth birthday and I did some bar drills on the floor bar that my parents bought me,” Caela told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I conditioned by running outside, stretching at home, and doing other exercises at home.”

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES --- According to Sherita Flake, her daughter, Caela Flake, first gained an admiration for gymnastics when she was six years old at the recommendation of her dance teacher, who said Caela had routinely become bored in dance class and, instead, began tumbling around on the canvas.  “We sought the best training she could get,” Sherita said. “We tried to make sure she was exposed to the best coaching possible.” To the Flake’s credit, “the best” is what they ultimately acquired, considering they sent their daughter to Maryland to train with former Olympian Dominique Dawes, Caela’s grandest mentor. (Photos submitted by S. Flake)

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES — According to Sherita Flake, her daughter, Caela Flake, first gained an admiration for gymnastics when she was six years old at the recommendation of her dance teacher, who said Caela had routinely become bored in dance class and, instead, began tumbling around on the canvas.
“We sought the best training she could get,” Sherita said. “We tried to make sure she was exposed to the best coaching possible.”
To the Flake’s credit, “the best” is what they ultimately acquired, considering they sent their daughter to Maryland to train with former Olympian Dominique Dawes, Caela’s grandest mentor. (Photos submitted by S. Flake)

That’s not all this vibrant, think-outside-the-box athlete had done to upgrade her mechanics.

“I even made a vault table out of the couch,” Caela explained. “I was determined not to lose skills. When my parents could finally afford to send me back to gymnastics, I had not lost that many skills. Therefore, the colleges would be gaining an athlete who knows how to train independently in under ideal circumstances.”

ALL NOT LOST --- “I trained at home on my balance beam that my great grandmother bought me for my ninth birthday and I did some bar drills on the floor bar that my parents bought me,” Caela told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I conditioned by running outside, stretching at home, and doing other exercises at home.  That’s not all this vibrant, innovative athlete had done to upgrade her mechanics. “I even made a vault table out of the couch,” Caela explained. “I was determined not to lose skills. When my parents could finally afford to send me back to gymnastics, I had not lost that many skills. Therefore, the colleges would be gaining an athlete who knows how to train independently in under ideal circumstances.”

ALL NOT LOST — “I trained at home on my balance beam that my great grandmother bought me for my ninth birthday and I did some bar drills on the floor bar that my parents bought me,” Caela told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I conditioned by running outside, stretching at home, and doing other exercises at home.
That’s not all this vibrant, innovative athlete had done to upgrade her mechanics.
“I even made a vault table out of the couch,” Caela explained. “I was determined not to lose skills. When my parents could finally afford to send me back to gymnastics, I had not lost that many skills. Therefore, the colleges would be gaining an athlete who knows how to train independently in under ideal circumstances.”

Now a junior campaign at Arlington, Caela doesn’t shy away from the notion that because she has trained just as intensely as many of her peers on the gymnastics circuit, she is destined to fulfill her dream of earning an athletic scholarship in the sport.

“I would like (college recruiters) to know that I am one of the most determined and dedicated kids they’ll ever meet,” Caela said. “I believe that whichever school I go to, I’ll make a good name for the school athletically and academically.”

To get a thorough understanding of why Caela is primed to seize a full-ride scholarship, look no further than how she’s going about emerging as one of the Mid-South finest young gymnast, who was christened the 2012 state champion in Tennessee after placing first in bars competition for the entire season?

According to Sherita Flake, her daughter first gained an admiration for gymnastics when she was six years old at the recommendation of her dance teacher, who said Caela had routinely become bored in dance class and, instead, began tumbling around on the canvas.
“We sought the best training she could get,” Sherita said. “We tried to make sure she was exposed to the best coaching possible.”

To the Flake’s credit, “the best” is what they ultimately acquired, considering they sent their daughter to Maryland to train with former Olympian Dominique Dawes, Caela’s grandest mentor.

The now-retired Dawes is widely remembered for being the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics and the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She is also one of only three female American gymnasts, along with Muriel Grossfeld and Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, to compete in three Olympics and was part of three Olympic medal-winning teams: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (gold), and Sydney 2000 (bronze).

Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.  In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.

Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.
In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.

Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.

In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.

“We were on vacation in California and she met a coach and got him to open the gym for her so she could work out,” said Sherita, assessing her daughter’s intense work ethic on the circuit.

BRIGHT FUTURE --- “I believe that these were signs from God that gymnastics is the sport for me because I am one in a million,” Caela said. I believe that whichever (college) I go to, God will help me blossom and carry me through and allow me to be a blessing wherever I go.”

BRIGHT FUTURE — “I believe that these were signs from God that gymnastics is the sport for me because I am one in a million,” Caela said. I believe that whichever (college) I go to, God will help me blossom and carry me through and allow me to be a blessing wherever I go.”

Not bad for a thriving athlete, who was born three weeks premature and was diagnosed with what doctors described as severe strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other. Because of her unfavorable vision, she was delayed talking, walking, siting up alone, and crawling, among other things, her mother recalled.

“When she was six months old, we found out that her vision was bad and she began wearing glasses,” Sherita said. She had to go to physical therapy and occupational therapy. At that point, her doctors told us that she would be quirky walking and doing things that required gross motor skills. They also told us that she would not be able to run, tumble, or skip. We prayed about it and she has fully overcome that battle. Gymnastics is proof. Her gymnastics victories are proof.”

All of which is why Caela has learn the significance of what it means to persevere.

“I believe that these were signs from God that gymnastics is the sport for me because I am one in a million,” Caela said. I believe that whichever (college) I go to, God will help me blossom and carry me through and allow me to be a blessing wherever I go.”

That’s because she learned a valuable life lesson long ago — the lesson on how to make lemonade out of lemons.

DreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Playing Hurt Podcast: MLB Season Preview


baseball mascotsJoin Cerrito Live and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports DESK host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during  Playing Hurt Podcast.
MemphiSport Live

Throwback Thursday: WrestleMania weekend with Double J

WrestleMania weekend is almost here and we want to help you get ready.  This Saturday on Cerrito Live, multiple-time World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett joins us to talk about the biggest weekend of the year for sports entertainment.  Jarrett’s company Global Force Wrestling is also abuzz in the wrestling world after announcing event dates in Las Vegas this Summer.  Cerrito Live airs live every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm CT on on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM .  Be sure to follow Jeff Jarrett Global Force Wrestling on Twitter.

This week’s classic Memphis Wrestling clip is from April in 1993 – over twenty years ago.  A young, upcoming Jeff Jarrett went one on one with Shawn Michaels for the WWF Intercontinental Championship inside the Mid-South Coliseum.  This clip has it all:  Mid-South Coliseum, Mr. WrestleMania, Double J and it all happened in Memphis, TN.

ICYMI: Jeff Jarrett joined MSL last year to discuss classic Memphis Wrestling, Memphis Wildfire Wrestling and his new promotion Global Force Wrestling.  To listen in full, please click here.

Don’t Forget:  Memphis Wildfire Wrestling returns on April 23rd!  Catch all the action at Woodland Hills Country Club in Cordova, TN.  For the latest info, click here.

Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and Cerrito Live. Follow him @DustinStarr.

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Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki reflects on playing days with close friend Steve Nash

NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT

DALLAS — When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said after the 2003-04 season that he wanted to build his franchise around a younger Dirk Nowitzki then passed up signing Steve Nash to a long-term deal, among those who expressed their displeasure with the move was Nowitzki.

BEST OF FRIENDS --- Dirk Nowitzki (right) and Steve Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together for the Dallas Mavericks. However, after Mavs owner Mark Cuban had declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him. (Photo by D. Clarke/Getty Images)

BEST OF FRIENDS — Dirk Nowitzki (right) and Steve Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together for the Dallas Mavericks. However, after Mavs owner Mark Cuban had declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him. (Photo by D. Clarke/Getty Images)

Nowitzki and Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together here.

However, after Cuban declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him.

“I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.”

After an NBA career that spanned 17-plus seasons and was highlighted by eight All-Star appearances and two league MVP awards, Nash officially announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon.

HE SAID IT --- Said Nowitzki in Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix: “I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.”

HE SAID IT — Said Nowitzki on Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix: “I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.” (Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images)

Nash, 41, had been under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for the past two-plus seasons before injuries ultimately reduced his effectiveness and forced him to call it a career. Prior to joining the Lakers, Nash spent eight seasons with Phoenix, where he enjoyed arguably his best moments as a pro.

Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point guard (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

Ironically, Nash barely missed out on seizing a third consecutive MVP trophy, placing second with 44 first place votes, 39 shy of Nowitzki’s 83.

“Well, he was one of the greatest guards to ever play,” Nowitzki said of Nash. “He was an unbelievable competitor, as mentally tough as they get, as mentally tough as anyone I’ve seen in this league. He wanted the big shot. He wanted to be a part of the big games, played through injuries. He was just as tough as it gets and he was my friend.”

Unfortunately for Nash, a rash of injuries in recent years significantly limited his ability to perform efficiently, thus leading to him officially calling it a career.

RISING SUN --- Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian born player to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

RISING SUN — Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian born player to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

After sustaining a broken leg during his first season with the Lakers, Nash was never the same player again. Consequently, he endured neck, back, and muscle issues from which he never recovered.

Last summer, Nash announced that this season would be his last. However, after experiencing continuous back pains that have been hampering him since the preseason, Nash on March 21 formerly announced his retirement.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nash played at the University of Santa Clara before he was selected with the 15th overall pick by Phoenix in 1996.

A little more than a decade removed from having played with Nash, Nowitzki finally was able to put his and Nash’s careers into perspective.

“I was disappointed at the time,” Nowitzki said of Nash’s unceremonious departure from Dallas. “But you know, looking back at our careers, maybe it was better that way. We both flourished away from each other. But looking back, I’ll always have a smile on my face of the times we had together.”

To his credit, Nash’s unorthodox style of play inspired a number of other NBA point guard, most notably fellow international player Tony Parker of the Spurs.

“He was one of the best point guards in the history of the league,” Parker said. “He had a great mind for basketball. He was a great passer obviously and we’re definitely going to miss him. I’ve had some great battles against him when he was with the Phoenix Suns. I wish him luck in his next challenge in life. We’ve always been good friends and learned a lot just watching him play.”

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Stephen F. Austin Univ. graduate Michelle Davis chasing broadcast journalism dreams

Michelle Davis, who resides in Irving, Texas, graduated last May from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/Television. Having minored in Journalism, Davis --- even after 10 months removed from having completed her undergraduate studies --- boasts lofty aspirations of fulfilling her dream as a broadcast journalist. (Photos submitted by S. Sonii)

DREAM CHASER — Michelle Davis, who resides in Irving, Texas, graduated last May from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/Television. Having minored in Journalism, Davis — even after 10 months removed from having completed her undergraduate studies — boasts lofty aspirations of fulfilling her dream as a broadcast journalist. (Photos submitted by S. Sonii)

IRVING, Texas — Michelle Davis was in the sixth grade when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred a little more than 13 years ago.

As if the worst attacks on United States soil transpired yesterday, Davis recalls tuning in frequently to witness the assortment of media reports surrounding a tumultuous encounter that resulted in thousands of deaths.

“And all I remember is that everyone was coming together as one,” Davis said during a recent interview.

While Davis, 25, watched intensely the various developments surrounding what Americans have deemed “9/11,” it simultaneously fueled her desire to someday embark upon a career in the mainstream media industry.

Davis, who resides in Irving, Texas, graduated last May from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/Television. Having minored in Journalism, Davis — even after 10 months removed from having completed her undergraduate studies — boasts lofty aspirations of fulfilling her dream as a broadcast journalist.

Given the compelling strides she’s made since she bolted Stephen F. Austin, Davis appears destined to someday emerge as a household name much like renowned CNN broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper, among others.

MAKING STRIDES --- As Davis gears toward finding her niche in what many believe is a competitive industry in which journalists are often viewed as celebrities, much her time in the journalism arena is spent shadowing a Dallas-area media member to NBA games at American Airlines Center, where she has the luxury of watching various mainstream media personalities partake in pregame and postgame coverage. So far, Davis has met NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, LeBron James, D’Andre Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, among others.

MAKING STRIDES — As Davis gears toward finding her niche in what many believe is a competitive industry in which journalists are often viewed as celebrities, much her time in the journalism arena is spent shadowing a Dallas-area media member to NBA games at American Airlines Center, where she has the luxury of watching various mainstream media personalities partake in pregame and postgame coverage. So far, Davis has met NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, LeBron James, D’Andre Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, among others.

 

“I really enjoy watching Anderson Cooper,” Davis said. “He’s not a traditional reporter to me and he always seems to be himself no matter what.”

As Davis gears toward finding her niche in what many believe is a competitive industry in which journalists are often viewed as celebrities, much her time in the journalism arena is spent shadowing a Dallas-area media member to NBA games at American Airlines Center, where she has the luxury of watching various mainstream media personalities partake in pregame and postgame coverage.

So far, Davis has met NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, LeBron James, D’Andre Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, among others.

“The thing that has been the most inspiring about covering these NBA games is just being amongst individuals who are into the same things as I and that’s media coverage,” Davis said. “It was a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone seems so willing to give some of their wisdom when the time allowed them to do so.”

SOLID SUPPORT --- As she continues to work diligently toward fulfilling her journalistic dreams, Davis’ mother, Sewei Sonii, said she’s impressed with how her daughter has steadfastly pursued her making her dream of someday being thrust in front of a television camera a reality.  “Words can't describe my feelings I have for my daughter,” Sonii said. “She was the first to graduate from college. Michelle knows how to teach and dance, but mass media is her passion. Whenever people tried to discourage her, that made her work even harder. I know this is the field that she was meant to be in. If there's one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to do. It may take hard word, patience and tears, but she will get where she's destined to be in due time.”

SOLID SUPPORT — As she continues to work diligently toward fulfilling her journalistic dreams, Davis’ mother, Sewei Sonii, said she’s impressed with how her daughter has steadfastly pursued her making her dream of someday being thrust in front of a television camera a reality.
“Words can’t describe my feelings I have for my daughter,” Sonii said. “She was the first to graduate from college. Michelle knows how to teach and dance, but mass media is her passion. Whenever people tried to discourage her, that made her work even harder. I know this is the field that she was meant to be in. If there’s one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to do. It may take hard word, patience and tears, but she will get where she’s destined to be in due time.”

As Davis continues to cover NBA games, amongst her key objectives is to broaden her reporting, news writing, and interviewing techniques — mechanics that are especially essential for aspiring journalists.

With proper practice and more professional experiences, chances are her journalistic fundamentals will become just sharp and compelling as the pros with whom she aspires to work.

“The thing I love most about the news industry is the fact that it reaches millions all over the world and can sometimes bring us together for a common good,” said Davis, a graduate of L. D. High School in Hurst, Texas.

As she continues to work diligently toward fulfilling her journalistic dreams, Davis’ mother, Sewei Sonii, said she’s impressed with how her daughter has steadfastly pursued her making her dream of someday being thrust in front of a television camera a reality.

“Words can’t describe my feelings I have for my daughter,” Sonii said. “She was the first to graduate from college. Michelle knows how to teach and dance, but mass media is her passion. Whenever people tried to discourage her, that made her work even harder. I know this is the field that she was meant to be in. If there’s one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to do. It may take hard word, patience and tears, but she will get where she’s destined to be in due time.”

Much like Davis did before her mother, a native of Monrovia, Liberia, gave birth to her some 2 ½ decades ago.

“Michelle is my third child and my first daughter,” Sonii explained. “My relationship with Michelle started when I was only three weeks pregnant. She literally kept me off my feet for nine months. From then, she let me know that she was here and she was here to stay.”

SNEAK PREVIEW --- Chances are the mainstream media world hasn’t seen the last of David, this vibrant aspiring journalist who, given the commendable strides she’s made in recent months, appears destined to fulfilling her dreams.  “This road hasn’t been easy since Day 1,” said Davis, “But I will continue to apply myself in all areas when it comes to mass communication to get to where I desire to be in the future.”

SNEAK PREVIEW — Chances are the mainstream media world hasn’t seen the last of David, this vibrant aspiring journalist who, given the commendable strides she’s made in recent months, appears destined to fulfilling her dreams.
“This road hasn’t been easy since Day 1,” said Davis, “But I will continue to apply myself in all areas when it comes to mass communication to get to where I desire to be in the future.”

Chances are the mainstream media world hasn’t seen the last of this vibrant aspiring journalist who, given the commendable strides she’s made in recent months, appears destined to fulfilling her dreams.

“This road hasn’t been easy since Day 1,” said Davis, “But I will continue to apply myself in all areas when it comes to mass communication to get to where I desire to be in the future.”

Stay tuned.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Playing Hurt Podcast: Sweet 16 Preview

sweet 16Join Cerrito Live and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports DESK host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during  Playing Hurt Podcast.
MemphiSport Live

 

OKC rival Memphis Grizzlies respond to Kevin Durant’s latest injury development

DALLAS — In three of their last four playoff appearances, the Memphis Grizzlies went to battle against the Oklahoma City Thunder, including the last two seasons.

THUNDER STORM WARNING --- If the Grizzlies wound up squaring off against the Oklahoma City Thunder for a third consecutive year in the postseason, the possibility exists that they will do so without facing Kevin Durant, the NBA’s reining MVP. That’s because Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Friday announced that Durant has been "removed from basketball activities" and could be shut down for the season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

THUNDER STORM WARNING — If the Grizzlies wound up squaring off against the Oklahoma City Thunder for a third consecutive year in the postseason, the possibility exists that they will do so without facing Kevin Durant, the NBA’s reining MVP. That’s because Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Friday announced that Durant has been “removed from basketball activities” and could be shut down for the season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

If the Grizzlies wound up squaring off against the Thunder for a third consecutive year in the postseason, the possibility exists that they will do so without facing the NBA’s reining MVP.

That’s because Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Friday announced that Durant has been “removed from basketball activities” and could be shut down for the season.

The news of Durant’s latest setback surrounding a right foot injury came as a shock to a Thunder team that is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. According to team officials, Durant’s foot reportedly has caused him more pain after he underwent surgery Feb. 23.

Durant, who traveled with the team to Dallas for Monday’s outing and underwent treatment before that game, told MemphiSport.com, “I’m feeling better. I’ll be re-evaluated in a few days and will be ready to go soon.”

However, as early as Friday, Durant’s injury apparently had taken a turn for the worst, a development team officials believe will likely sideline the seven-year veteran for the remainder of the season.

That OKC will likely be without Durant, its best player, if it clinches a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive year came as a surprise to the Grizzlies, who have faced the Thunder in the postseason in three of the last four years. (Photo by Bill Waugh/Reuters)

That OKC will likely be without Durant, its best player, if it clinches a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive year came as a surprise to the Grizzlies, who have faced the Thunder in the postseason in three of the last four years. (Photo by Bill Waugh/Reuters)

“He’s not making the progress we’d hoped or expected,” Presti said.

That OKC will likely be without its best player if it clinches a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive year came as a surprise to the Grizzlies, who have faced the Thunder in the postseason in three of the last four years.

Memphis made its first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history in 2013 after eliminating the Thunder in five games. That year, the Thunder were without point guard Russell Westbrook, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the playoffs’ opening round.

“I feel bad for him,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said of Durant’s injury following Friday morning’s shoot around in American Airlines Center. “Great player. Special guy. Special player. I got to know him a little bit during the All-Star weekend. But I feel bad for him. I know how much he loves the game and how much he wants to be out there. And I feel bad for him.”

Like Gasol, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said the news of Durant likely being shut down the rest of the year came as a shock, considering he had been hearing that Durant was recouping comfortably from the foot injury.

Since Durant underwent surgery last month in attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair a Jones fracture, Russell Westbrook has played arguably the best basketball of his seven-year career. Currently the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 27.8 points per game, Westbrook has been nothing short of remarkable of late, having recorded a league-best nine triple doubles, his latest of which came in OKC’s 123–115 home win Friday night over Atlanta. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Since Durant underwent surgery last month in attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair a Jones fracture, Russell Westbrook has played arguably the best basketball of his seven-year career. Currently the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 27.8 points per game, Westbrook has been nothing short of remarkable of late, having recorded a league-best nine triple doubles, his latest of which came in OKC’s 123–115 home win Friday night over Atlanta. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“I have not heard about it. That’s news to me right now,” Conley said.

Since Durant underwent surgery last month in attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair a Jones fracture, Westbrook has played arguably the best basketball of his seven-year career.

Currently the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 27.8 points per game, Westbrook has been nothing short of remarkable of late, having recorded a league-best nine triple doubles, his latest of which came in OKC’s 123–115 home win Friday night over the Atlanta Hawks (36 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds).

So resilient Westbrook has been after what was an injury-ridden season last year for the former UCLA star that he has emerged as a legitimate candidate for league’s Most Valuable Player.

However, earlier this week, Westbrook reiterated that individual accolades are the least of his concerns, especially considering the Thunder are battling for their playoff lives during the season’s stretch run. At 39-30, OKC owns a two-game lead over ninth-place New Orleans for the pivotal eighth spot in the West.

“I don’t know,” said Westbrook, when asked if he’s playing the best basketball of his career. I take it one day at a time, man, and keep doing what I’m doing. I have no take (on the MVP race). My job is to come out and play at a high level every single night.”

But whether Westbrook and Co. will have Durant back for what figures to be an intense postseason in the always rugged Western Conference remains unclear.

As of Friday, team officials hinted that a Thunder playoff run this year likely will take place without arguably their best player.

“You know, it sucks to have any kind of injury,” Conley said. “And the situation (Durant) is going through, I know he wants to be back on the court. So that’s tough for him and the organization. But I’m sure they’re doing whatever’s best for him and the team.”

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday, Lance Russell

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Photo courtesy of Lance Russell’s Facebook.

Earlier this week, legendary Memphis Wrestling broadcaster Lance Russell celebrated his 89th Birthday.  From all of us at MemphiSport.com, we would like to wish Lance a very Happy Birthday with many more to come!

To help celebrate Lance’s Birthday, I’d like to take a look back at one of my personal favorite clips of Lancer himself.  This video is not only a Memphis Wrestling Classic, but it is an extremely rare find.

This week’s Throwback Thursday clip features Lance Russell like you’ve never seen him before.  Enjoy!

Lance is always golden – even when the roles are reversed.  Don’t forget to stop by Lance’s official Facebook page to send your Birthday wishes.  Big thanks to our friend Eddie for sharing this footage on Twitter.

ICYMI: Lance Russell joined MSL last year for one full hour to discuss classic Memphis Wrestling, his nickname “Banana Nose”, Mid-South Coliseum and so much more.  To listen in full, please click here.

Don’t Forget:  Memphis Wildfire Wrestling returns on April 23rd!  Catch all the action at Woodland Hills Country Club in Cordova, TN.  For the latest info, click here.

Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and Cerrito Live. Follow him @DustinStarr.

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Former Kentucky Christian DL JeR’yl Christian aiming to impress pro football scouts

DALLAS — The countdown has begun for JeR’yl Christian to witness the chance of lifetime.

“It’s really a big dream to me because I’ve been playing (football) since the age of five,” Christian, a former Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman, said during a recent interview. “I love the passion of the game and can’t anyone hold me back. I’ve work hard each and every day. I’ve dreamed about this day.”

After auditioning for various CFL teams in the coming days at California University of Pennsylvania, for Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman Jer'yl Christian is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.  For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life. (Photos courtesy of KCU Athletics)

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ — After auditioning for various CFL teams in the coming days at California University of Pennsylvania, for Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman Jer’yl Christian (No. 49) is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.
For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life.
(Photos courtesy of KCU Athletics)

The day Christian is alluding to is an organized Canadian Football League tryout at California University of Pennsylvania. Located on 294 acres in the rural establishment of California, Pennsylvania, the school known as “Cal U” is just 35 miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River.

According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL. “There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”

According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL.
“There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”

After auditioning in the coming days at Cal U, Christian is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.

For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life.

According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL.

“There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”

After a stellar high school career in which he had drawn interests from a host of Division 1 colleges, Christian ultimately decided to take his football talents to Akron University. However, following a red shirt year and the subsequent firing of Akron’s coaching staff, Christian transferred to Kentucky Christian, where he enjoyed three efficient seasons for the NAIA member Knights.

To his credit, Christian helped propelled the Knights to a 5-6 mark this past season, a two-game improvement from the previous year.

Arguably his most productive season at KCU was his junior campaign, which was a coming out party, of sorts, for Christian. That’s because he emerged as a catalyst of the Knights’ defensive unit, having recorded a team-best 57 tackles, including 13 ½ of which was for lost yardage.

LEAST HE FORGET --- As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.  Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.

LEAST HE FORGET — As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.
Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.

Add to the fact that this rugged defensive lineman — who garnered preseason All-American honors — recorded 5 ½ sacks and had three forced fumbles, and it’s no wonder the possibility exists that many believe his best playing days are ahead of him.

As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.

Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.

REMEMBERING BARB --- Christian's current Facebook profile photo features artwork of him and his late grandmother.

REMEMBERING BARB — Christian’s current Facebook profile photo features artwork of him and his late grandmother.

“It really broke my heart,” Christian said of his grandmother’s death. “But I know she’s here with me throughout everything. I just want a chance to prove that I can play at any level.”

His golden opportunity will take place in the coming days which, according to him, is a chance of a lifetime that is.

Let the countdown begin.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Former prep baseball standout Kali Payton III thriving as a motivational speaker

KaliLike a number of his peers, Kali Payton III would be the first to tell you he has endured his share of hardships and turmoil.

For starters, Payton was raised in what he describes as one of America’s most dangerous, poverty-stricken establishments, the John DeShields housing projects in East St, Louis, Illinois.

And, as a youngster — eight years old to be exact — he and his family wound up on the wrong side of some horrific news when word spread that his father was murdered.

Fast forward to a few years later, Payton still found himself having to weather an assortment of tumultuous encounters — occurrences that given how much this vibrant 33-year-old ex-military veteran has flourished in recent years, is valid proof why he has steadfastly taken on a newfound disposition on life.

“I have failed in business nine times and lost two homes to foreclosure. I celebrated my 21st birthday in Afghanistan in 2002,” said Payton, an Air Force veteran, said during a recent interview.

Fortunately for Payton, a former East St. Louis High baseball standout, his slew of obstacles are what ultimately inspired him to assume yet another venture, one that undoubtedly will enhance and aid others to maximize their potential.

A resident of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Payton is a Motivational Speaker and Life/Business Coach for Kali Is Speaking, an endeavor that has benefited him mightily, considering he has emerged as a fixture in various establishments across the country.

To his credit, Payton has spoken and his put his motivational skills on display in places such as his native home state of Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida, among others — a list that figures to expand in the foreseeable future.

A former East St. Louis All-Star catcher who wore former Major Leaguer Mike Piazza’s jersey number, Payton acknowledges that his competitive drive through baseball essentially fueled his desire to become a motivational speaker and life coach.

Among the reasons is that in spite of the array of curve balls life has often dealt him, he says that isn’t a reason for individuals — especially those from downtrodden communities like him — to live beneath their privileges.

“I had raw talent as a power hitter,” Payton explains. “But as the competition increased, my effectiveness decreased. I just couldn’t figure out why. Then my high school coach, Mr. Brown, taught me that I didn’t need to lead the team in home runs but in RBI’s. I batted clean up, so it was my job to make enough contact to make sure other players advance and either score or get in position to score.

“What I do in my business today is the exact same thing,” Payton continued. “I use my life experiences to help others advance or position themselves to reach their destinations. What I love most is knowing that I was chosen to impact the lives of others in a positive way. It blows my mind each time I think about it.”

Arguably Payton’s single, most underlying objective as a motivational speaker and life coach is to empower others to connect with their life’s work — or their purpose, of sorts — a life-changing attribute that was instilled in him by his godfather, Lee Coleman II.

“He inspired me to live out my full potential and serve humanity with my whole heart,” Payton said.

Fortunately for Payton, he’s savoring the purpose for which he was created, considering his latest endeavor is starting to come full circle, thus embraced by countless individuals in the Fayetteville area and other portions of the country.

Among the reasons is that Payton conducts a weekly class at nearby Jesus Peace Ministries in Fayetteville, which is an economic empowerment session for people who aspire to become entrepreneurs.

As for his itinerary, he is scheduled to teach youths on how to overcome the fear of public speaking as part of a Spring Break camp that is scheduled for April 6-10.

Given the success he has enjoyed in recent years, it’s safe to assume that Payton has adjusted comfortably as a motivational speaker and life coach, in large part because he has functioned in such a commendable role for two years. Aside from that, he has been an accomplished licensed minster for nearly nine years, an accolade that has contributed greatly to his latest endeavor.

In other words, Payton doesn’t shy away from the notion that he welcomes putting his skills on display before sizable crowds. Given the adversities he has managed to conquer during his life, he’d be the first to admit that he was built to handle such work.

“I just don’t believe any person should live a life that they are not happy with,” Payton said. “We are all created for the same thing…to serve humanity. Serve with our gifts, talents, and abilities with the sole purpose of gaining resources that will expand our platform. Ultimately, we must press repeat and do it all over again…a simple reason of why we all exist.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Kali Is Speaking or to contact him for a speaking engagement, check out Kali Payton III at:

www.regeneratemypurpose.com

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.