The Trojans added to their list of recruits for next season after three-star power forward Nick Rakocevic committed to USC on Monday, marking the Trojans’ fourth freshman recruit to sign a letter of intent.The news follows the transfers of forwards junior Darion Clark, sophomore Malik Martin redshirt junior Katin Reinhardt. Junior guard Julian Jacobs is also reportedly entering the NBA draft.Rakocevic, a 6-foot-10 forward from St. Joseph High School, received offers from multiple top-25 teams and has a composite three-star rating from ESPN, Scout and Rivals to go along with First Team All-State honors and a Division 3A Illinois State Championship in 2016.At just 210 pounds, Rakocevic’s frame is undersized in comparison with other top forwards in the nation. Luckily though, his Tim Duncan-esque play in the paint makes him a scoring presence in and outside of the paint.Prior to signing with the Trojans, Rakocevic received 16 offers from many top schools, including the NCAA Tournament runner-up North Carolina Tar Heels.“Honestly, [USC] was just the best situation for me,” Rakocevic said to Scout.com. “I think that the people there and the coaching staff really love me, and I really love them. When I was on the official visit, I knew it was the place for me.”In terms of Rakocevic’s potential playing time in 2017, he is on board with a backseat, complementary role as head coach Andy Enfield described to him during his visit last Thursday.“His plan is to develop me my freshman year,” Rakocevic said. “It’s going to be a lot in the developmental process, but I’m going to be playing. My sophomore year, I’m going to be one of the guys to step up and be one of their main big guys … I’m just excited.”On the roster the Trojans will have three core forwards in rising senior Nikola Jovanovic, and rising sophomores Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu who will share time with Rakocevic and fellow freshman recruit Harrison Henderson.Rakocevic should earn some playing time considering that the departed Martin, Clark and Strahinja Gavrilovic’s combined 13.7 minutes per game earned in 2016 will be distributed among him and Harrison.Forwards Boatwright and Metu came in and succeeded as freshmen last season, and Enfield will look to groom Henderson and Rakocevic the same way to be the prominent interior players that Boatwright and Metu were in USC’s 2016 campaign.Rakocevic is unique in his supreme length that allowed him to dominate the glass in high school and play much like Metu above the rim.Also, Rakocevic is slightly taller than Henderson and will most likely be utilized in bigger packages along with Jovanovic to pick up rebounds and prevent any further scoring. Rakocevic and Jovanovic have similar games on offense and could potentially be a pain to defend.With an underrated shooting and defensive capabilities, Rakocevic is an intriguing prospect with a virtually unlimited potential if he can increase his size and strength. The summer and fall camps will prove if he is up for the challenge of big freshman minutes.
MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark called out a “blatant lack of respect” MLB shows with its awarding of an informal “championship belt” to the team that does the best to keep salaries low during arbitration.Clark’s statement came in response to The Athletic’s report Friday that revealed MLB hands out the toy belt during a private meeting each year. “That clubs make sport of trying to suppress salaries in a process designed to produce fair settlements shows a blatant lack of respect for our players, the game and the arbitration process itself,” Clark said in a statement. MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whip-around show on DAZNThe Athletic released a report, citing multiple sources, earlier in the day, revealing details behind the belt awarded to the team that did the most to “achieve the goals set by the industry.”The report indicates delegates from every MLB team meet at the end of each season for about three hours to set recommendations for teams to use in negotiations with their players. At the end of the meeting, there’s a presentation of a “replica championship belt.”MLB acknowledged the existence of the belt in a statement to The Athletic, describing it as “an informal recognition of those club’s salary arbitration departments that did the best.” Arbitration allows players to ask for a certain amount of money to be paid out for one year, which the team generally counters with a lower offer. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the case will go to trial where an independent party determines a winner. Players are eligible for arbitration after three years of service time. Then, after three years of arbitration, players can enter free agency.”The Association has worked with thousands of players through the salary arbitration process,” Rick Shapiro, the union’s senior adviser to Clark, told The Athletic. “All I will tell you is that players respect the process and take the process very seriously — and rightfully so.”USA Today notes that 32 players have gone to arbitration over the past two winters with 18 of those players winning their cases.
Russia rejoicesThe hosts started their tournament with trepidation over how a side that had failed to win a game in eight months would cope on the biggest stage.Those fears have proved unfounded as for the first time since 1970 when the Soviet Union reached the last eight, Russia has a World Cup quarter-final to look forward to.Russia’s awareness of their own limitations helped thwart and frustrate Spain for 120 minutes as despite enjoying just 26 percent possession they held out for penalties after a 1-1 draw.And from the spot, Fyodor Smolov, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev held their nerve, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev provoked jubilant scenes of celebration stretching from 80,000 at the Luzhniki around the country with his two saves.Iniesta’s sad farewellFinal touch: Andres Iniesta played his final game for Spain on Sunday © AFP / Francisco LEONGHe will forever be remembered for the most important goal in Spain’s history to win the World Cup eight years ago, but Andres Iniesta’s international career ended in sad fashion among delirium for the hosts in Moscow.Dropped to bench for a tournament game for the first time in 12 years, Iniesta still nearly won the game with Spain’s best effort to break down the mass ranks of Russia resistence.His low strike from the edge of the box produced one of precious few good saves from Akinfeev before penalties.His final touch after 131 caps was to put Spain in front in the shootout with the calm assuredness that has personified a stunning international career.But it wasn’t enough as Koke and Iago Aspas were denied by Akinfeev from the spot.“Sometimes the endings aren’t the ones you dreamed of,” said Iniesta.Modric’s reliefBailed out: Luka Modric celebrates with Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic © AFP / Martin BERNETTICroatia captain Luka Modric has had a difficult year in his homeland.Charged with giving false testimony for his role in a corruption case that saw former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison last month, Modric’s popularity has dipped despite continued brilliance on the field for his club Real Madrid and country.His despair was therefore understandable when he missed a penalty three minutes from the end of extra-time that could have cost Croatia a place in the last eight.Modric didn’t hide in the penalty shootout. His second effort was one of just three of Croatia’s six spot-kicks on the night to beat Kasper Schmeichel as the Dane’s heroics couldn’t prevent a 3-2 shootout defeat thanks to three stunning saves from Danijel Subasic.Croatia now have a golden chance to match their previous golden generation’s run to the semi-finals in 1998 when they meet Russia in Sochi on Saturday.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Hosts’ hero: Igor Akinfeev saved two Spain penalties to put Russia in the quarter-finals © AFP / Juan MabromataSAINT PETERSBURG, Russian Federation, Jul 2 – Penalties dominated the second day of last 16 action at the World Cup as hosts Russia shocked Spain to set up a quarter-final meeting with Croatia, who advanced on spot-kicks over Denmark.Here, AFP Sports looks at three things we learned today at the World Cup.