In brief: Former Russell County standout Castillo honored

From staff reportsJune 5, 2013 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama closer Ray Castillo (Russell County High) and shortstop Mikey White earned Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American honors, according to Collegiate Baseball News on Wednesday.

Castillo, who also earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors, finished with 12 saves, which set a freshman single-season save record.

It also tied for third most by any reliever.

Castillo finished with a 2-3 record with a 3.38 ERA.

White ended the year with a .287 batting average, 11 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 30 RBIs.

COLLEGE GOLF

Columbus State golfersGibson, Lichimo earn honors

MACON, Ga. -- Columbus State men's golfers Jesse Gibson and Bryan Lichimo earned PING Golf Coaches Association of America All-Southeast Region team honors, it was announced Wednesday.

Gibson, who was a first team All-Peach Belt Conference selection, finished with a 73.6 stroke average. He won the individual title at the Aflac/Cougar Invitational.

Lichimo finished with a season average of 74.3.

He had two top-five finishes throughout the year including a runner-up medalist honors at the PBC Championship.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Alabama, Georgia teams honored for academics

INDIANAPOLIS -- Alabama and Louisville are performing almost as well in the classroom as they do on the playing field.

On Wednesday, the reigning national champs in the two most visible college sports made the NCAA's honor roll for academic success.

Louisville was one of 35 men's basketball teams to score between 978 and 1,000 on the annual Academic Progress Rate. Alabama was one of 13 Bowl Subdivision schools to make the cut.

In all, 976 teams made the most recent list that covered the four-year period ending in 2011-12. Alabama won the national championship then, too, and Louisville reached the Final Four.

Actual scores for each school will be released Tuesday.

The most telling signal of progress may be this: 10 national champs were honored Wednesday.

The other winners were Alabama in men's golf, Duke in men's lacrosse, Indiana in men's soccer, Georgia in men's swimming, Michigan in men's gymnastics, Oregon in women's indoor track, Texas in women's volleyball and Yale in men's ice hockey,

The APR is billed as a real-time academic measure of every Division I team.

Each athlete receives one point per semester for remaining academically eligible and another point each semester for remaining at that school or graduating. Critics contend the numbers merely illustrate the growing disparity between the haves, who can afford fancy academic facilities and large support staffs, and the have-nots, who lack the means to give their athletes more help.

The latest list includes college athletes excelling in both areas.

Louisville posted a score of 965 in three of the previous four APR releases.

Alabama has seen its scores steadily improve from 916 in 2004-05 to 942, 944, 955 and 957.

The Crimson Tide are now on a list that includes Duke, Northwestern and Stanford.

NASCAR

Keselowski unfazed by latest NASCAR points penalty

SPARTA, Ky. -- Brad Keselowski's standing in the chase for his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship is an encouraging sign of where his team is headed.

The Penske Racing driver foresees a better outlook once his team gets a handle on the circuit's rules process.

Keselowski was docked six points by NASCAR on Tuesday after his No. 2 Ford failed post-race inspection at Dover for being too low.

Combined with April's 25-point penalty for having an illegal part at Texas, he enters this weekend's race at Pocono Raceway 10th in points instead of possibly fourth.

While neither the team nor Keselowski disputes NASCAR's latest punishment, Keselowski says it has them more determined to bounce back and earn their first victory of the season, which they believe is within reach.

NBA

Hawks mentioning Howard and Paul in a letter may constitute tampering

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks may have violated the NBA's anti-tampering policy by mentioning Dwight Howard and Chris Paul by name in a recent letter sent to prospective ticket buyers.

Howard, who is from Atlanta, and Paul are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1. As each currently is under contract, with the Lakers and Clippers respectively, a team is not allowed to speak about them publicly.

The letter, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was sent via email by a member of the ticket-sales department.

It was on team letterhead and headlined "Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard."

--From staff, wire reports

It began with the statement: "The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality."

The letter included a link to a story on ESPN.com reporting that Paul was unhappy with the notion that he played a role in the dismissal of coach Vinny Del Negro last month.

"This is your opportunity to get on board before its (sic) too late. Once we solidify our signings there will be no seats left," the letter added.

Hawks president Bob Williams issued a statement on the issue Tuesday evening. "The letter that has been referred to was written by one of our season-ticket reps of his own volition. While certainly he is a member of our business staff, his specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency. It is unfortunate that this mistake, by a single ticket rep with no ill intent, occurred."

According to a league spokesman, the NBA would not comment on the situation.

As part of its collective bargaining agreement, the league defines tampering as when a player or a team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anyone under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services. The NBA detailed its anti-tampering policy in a memo sent to all 30 teams in 2008. The letter read: "If a member of your organization is asked by the media about a potential free agent before the July 1 following the last season covered by the player's contract, or about any other person under contract with another NBA team, the only proper response is to decline comment."

The ban extends to general managers, coaches, players or any employee of an organization.

The league has issued hefty fines in the past for tampering, particularly in 2010 when LeBron James became an unrestricted free agent, for the mere mention of a player under contract with another team. The Hawks were one team disciplined.

Co-owner Michael Gearon was fined $25,000 for comments he made to the AJC on May 27, 2010 about then-Cavaliers forward James. Gearon said "If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have LeBron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But am I going to do that for (Zydrunas) Ilgauskas? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O'Neal? I don't think so. ..."

That was the third time that week that the league issued a fine for tampering. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 for saying "anybody" would be interested in James in an interview. He added that it would be tough to sign the league MVP in free agency, but a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland is something he would look at. Steve Kerr, then president of basketball operations for the Suns, was fined $10,000 for comments he made.

TV

Olbermann to host TBS baseball studio show

NEW YORK -- Keith Olbermann is getting back into broadcasting to host TBS's postseason baseball studio show, staying away from politics for the moment.

Turner Sports said Wednesday that Olbermann will team with Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley on its studio show during the baseball playoffs this October. It's a familiar role and corporate home for Olbermann, who hosted baseball postseason shows on NBC and Fox in the late 1990s and began his on-air career as a sports reporter for CNN, another Turner network.

"It's tremendous to be back in baseball," said Olbermann, who noted that he plays in two baseball fantasy leagues. His last sports job was to host a studio show before the NBC Sunday night football telecast.

Olbermann's last two politically oriented jobs ended poorly. He quit abruptly in January 2011 after eight years as a prime-time host at MSNBC, and his later tenure at Current TV lasted a year before he was taken off the air and responded with a lawsuit, settled out of court.

He said Wednesday that he wasn't making any predictions about whether he would get back into general news. He said he was open to pursuing other things besides the Turner baseball job, which will last about a month.

"Planning on it? No," he said. "Need to? Fortunately not."

He's generally acknowledged to be a smart and witty broadcaster, while off-screen battles with executives have kept him jumping to different jobs. He jokingly referenced his career path on a conference call by noting his "37-page resume."

"I use your resume to work out. It's very heavy," said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner.

Levy said Turner is looking for other broadcasters to join Olbermann and Eckersley in the studio. He would not discuss the length of Olbermann's contract but said of his studio team that "our goal is to have it last a long, long time."

The deal is just for Turner sports and does not encompass CNN, Levy said.

Olbermann said the studio job is a familiar role for him -- even when he's not on the air.

"I do this anyway," he said. "Last postseason I did this in my home to the TV by myself."

Turner also announced that Cal Ripken Jr. will leave the studio to join a team of Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling broadcasting baseball division series and the National League Championship Series.

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