Category: USC

University of Southern California Sports News - Football, Basketball And More

Feb 23

USC’s Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu named in FBI college basketball probe, per Yahoo report

The FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball continues to envelop USC.

Junior forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are the latest focus of the probe, several months after Trojans associate head coach Tony Bland was arrested and subsequently fired and guard De’Anthony Melton essentially lost his entire sophomore season while his involvement was investigated.

Federal documents obtained, reviewed and published Friday in an exclusive report by Yahoo Sports link Boatwright and Metu in the wide-ranging scandal to aspiring agent Christian Dawkins, an associate of NBA agent Andy Miller and his ASM Sports agency.

According to the report, Dawkins filed expense reports with ASM Sports seeking reimbursement for payments made to dozens of current and former college basketball players and their families.

Among those reported to have received thousands of dollars were Boatwright and Metu. Boatwright and/or his father, Bennie Boatwright Sr., received at least $2,000. Metu and/or an adviser, Johnnie Parker, received $2,000.

It was not clear if the players received the alleged payments or knew about them. Yahoo reported it reviewed hundreds of pages of documents as part of the case, but not all of them.

Dawkins in September was among 10 men arrested in the corruption case. Weeks later, he was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with three counts of wire fraud and one count of money-laundering conspiracy.

A USC spokesman said Friday morning the school was aware of the newly published report, but deferred comment.

The Trojans are vying for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and face Utah on Saturday in Salt Lake City. They improved to 20-9 overall with a win Wednesday at Colorado.

Metu’s immediate status is unclear. He finished with 21 points against the Buffaloes. Boatwright is already out for the season due to a partially torn patellar tendon in his left knee.

Both players could be in violation of NCAA amateurism rules if the alleged payments occurred. It has been expected that Metu and Boatwright will declare for the NBA draft after this season.

Melton was the Trojans’ first player linked in the FBI probe in September and was withheld from the season after the university declared him ineligible. Melton on Wednesday announced he was withdrawing from USC and plans to enter the draft.

Federal prosecutors alleged Dave Elliott, a close family friend of Melton, received a $5,000 bribe from Dawkins in August in exchange for directing the player to retain his services once he turned pro. It did not allege wrongdoing by Melton.

A university investigation found Elliott at least received airfare and a hotel room from Dawkins in order to attend a summer basketball tournament in Las Vegas and cited the impermissible benefits in its decision to suspend Melton for the duration of the season. Melton remained on scholarship and practiced with the team, but did not play in games nor travel with the team since December.

Bland was first put on administrative leave in September in the aftermath of the FBI’s published report after he was alleged to have facilitated the payments between Dawkins and Elliott and accepted bribes.

Bland was fired by USC in January, two months after he was among four college basketball assistant coaches indicted by a federal grand jury in New York City on four counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy.

USC hired former FBI director Louis Freeh’s firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, to examine its men’s basketball program.

In an interview with the Southern California News Group earlier this month, Athletic Director Lynn Swann said the review by the Freeh Group found no institutional neglect.

Other current and former players named in the report include Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who allegedly received $9,500 while playing at Utah, according to the report.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/uscs-bennie-boatwright-chimezie-metu-named-in-fbi-college-basketball-probe-per-yahoo-report/

Feb 23

1 dead after fight between pedestrian, bicyclist at Santa Ana River Trail Friday morning

ORANGE An altercation between a bicyclist and a pedestrian in the Santa Ana Riverbed Friday morning, Feb., 23, left one man dead, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.

Around 4 a.m., a pedestrian is suspected of assaulting a bicyclist with a deadly weapon, preliminary information suggested, said Carrie Braun, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department.

One of the two involved, neither of whom have been identified, died.

The suspected assault occurred along the Santa Ana River trail at Chapman Avenue, Braun said.

As of 6:30 a.m., investigators were on their way to the scene.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/1-dead-after-fight-between-pedestrian-bicyclist-at-santa-ana-river-trail-friday-morning/

Feb 23

With Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court needs to end compulsory union dues

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, an Illinois case challenging compulsory union dues. Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee, is challenging the system used in 23 states that requires employees who have resigned from their union to continue paying agency fees, amounting to about 75 percent of normal union dues.

Janus argues that forcing non-members to pay hundreds of dollars each year to a union with which they have fundamental disagreements amounts to compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. Just as the government cannot force an individual to make financial contributions to a political party, neither can it force employees to contribute to a union.

Like a political party, a union promotes positions on controversial issues about which reasonable people often disagree. Mark Janus, for example, doesn’t support the union’s persistent efforts to raise the salaries and pension benefits of state employees. In Janus’ view, his state is teetering on insolvency and will pass on to his children and grandchildren the debt it incurs to pay the salaries and benefits demanded by his union.

In no other area do we allow groups to coerce financial support. Just because gun owners benefit from the National Rifle Association, the NRA can’t pass a state law that requires every gun owner to pay dues. The same is true of big professional organization like the American Medical Association or the American Bar Association. Unions should compete for members in the same way as other organizations.

Janus’ case could have a big effect in California — we are one of the 23 states that requires public employees to either pay full dues or agency fees (if we leave union). The California Teachers Association estimates that about ten percent of teachers have left the union but are required under state law to continue to pay agency fees.

I am one of those agency fee payers. In my experience, teachers leave the union for a variety of reasons. Some, like Mark Janus, disagree with the union’s persistent efforts to raise salaries well past the average salary in the communities in which we teach. Others of us disagree with the union’s endless focus on seniority: where a teacher is assigned, what a teacher is paid, and the order in which teachers are laid off are all determined by the number of years a teacher has been teaching.

Whether you agree that teachers instead should be paid, promoted and laid-off on the basis of merit, everyone can agree that it is wrong to force an employee to pay hundreds of dollars each year to support positions with which they disagree. It is not right that state law allows the union to use my forced dues to advance policies that I believe hurt my individual interests, the interests of my own two children, and the interests of my classroom students.

I plan on teaching for another 20 years. Over that time, the CTA will be able to take from my earned pay $21,000. Some support the union and that is fine. But others of us disagree with the union on important issues and we should not be compelled to support it with tens of thousands of dollars of our own money.

The union says that agency fees are necessary to prevent people like me from “free riding” on the dues paid by others. After all, they say, all teachers benefit from the contract the union negotiates so why should they all pay their fair share?

But the reality is that a large percentage of agency fees goes to state and national organizations like the National Education Association, which have little to do with actually negotiating a contract. Moreover, agency fee payers have no say in the contract. We don’t even get to vote on it! Compulsory dues are like taxation without representation.

Together with six other teachers, I brought a lawsuit against the California Teachers Association challenging compulsory dues on some of the same grounds as Mark Janus is challenging the Illinois law. Our case has been put on hold while the Supreme Court decides the Janus case. We are hopeful that the court will agree that compulsory dues violate the free speech rights of thousands of teachers like me who just want to have a choice whether to support a union.

Ryan Yohn is a middle school teacher in the Westminster School District.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/with-janus-v-afscme-the-supreme-court-needs-to-end-compulsory-union-dues/

Feb 23

Ignore rising mortgage rates. Job market will show what’s next for housing!

Should real estate watchers — from professionals to homeowners — think rising mortgage rates will kill the housing market?

As a common logic goes, pricier financing translates to fewer qualified buyers … and those folks who can pass a lender’s muster will have less cash to spend thanks to higher mortgage rates. A double-whammy for housing?

Unfortunately, that thinking misses a key ingredient in the real estate math. No, it’s not where inventory levels are headed. Or the size of the crowd shopping for property.

It’s more basic: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Too often we forget it takes solid employment to sanely secure real estate. And what is a main reason interest rates rise? A toasty economy bordering on overheating. When unemployment is scarce and wages are rising.

Yes, higher rates nudge some house hunters out of the market. And I truly feel for those folks. But that same surging economy typically creates numerous work opportunities with salaries that can create house hunters, too. That helps answer the “Who can afford these homes?” question.

To help explain my thesis, I filled my trusty spreadsheet with quarterly data for mortgages, employment, housing and inflation — California and U.S. — collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Starting with 1975 through last year’s third quarter, I looked at periods spanning four quarters and ranked them by the severity of change in the national average 30-year fixed mortgage rate. Next, I compared how employment and real estate prices, as measured by a federal price index, performed when rates rose the most and compared those trends with eras when rates dipped the most.

Just so you know, in these times of fast-rising rates since 1975, mortgage rates rose an average 1.5 percentage points in a year. When they took step dives, rates took an average 1.6 percentage-point decline. And here’s what I found …

Rates up, prices up

At first glance, owners should cheer rising rates.

California homes appreciated 10.5 percent in 12-month periods when rates rose the most vs. 2.2 percent in periods when mortgage rates took their deepest dives.

Nationally, home prices rose 6.7 percent when rates rose the most vs. 3.1 percent when they took their deepest dives.

Those are pretty significant gaps.

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Do not forget this.

California employment grew 2.5 percent annually with rates jumping compared with just a 0.5 percent gain in 12-month periods when mortgage rates tumbled. Similar trends were found across the country: U.S. jobs gained 2 percent when rates rose the most vs. 0.4 percent when mortgages dived.

Watch the job market, please!

Inflation’s bite

Remember, a key role of the Federal Reserve is to watch the cost of living.

The central bank adjusts the rates it controls accordingly to manage inflation. When mortgage rates rose the most — with strong home appreciation and job growth — inflation averaged 6.3 percent annualized growth. When rates fell dramatically, inflation averaged 2.2 percent.

“Real” profits

Inflation bumps up the cost of living and cuts into the theoretical value of housing profits.

Ponder what you find when you subtract the inflation rate from home appreciation, or what economists call the “real” rate of return.

California home gains in times of mortgage rate jumps shrank to 4.2 percent annualized when inflation was subtracted vs. after-inflation gains of 0.1 percent with diving rates.

And nationally, inflation-adjusted home gains were actually better in falling-rate periods: U.S. price averaged 0.5 percent a year when rates rose the most, trailing 0.9 percent gains when rates plummeted.

Hashtag: “#inflationmatters”

Longer-term prism

Rising rates aren’t an instant break on the economy or real estate. So what about, say, two full years after big rate hikes?

Rising-rate periods still win, but by significantly less: In California, 8.8 percent annual gains in home appreciation  two years after rates soared vs. 7.5 percent when they tumbled. Nationally, the ups win, too: 6.4 percent vs. 4.7 percent two years later.

Why? Seems cheaper rates get bosses in the hiring mood … eventually!

California jobs grew 2.1 percent two years after rate hikes vs. 2.2 percent when rates tanked. Nationally, the annualized hiring gain of 1.5 percent after rates skyrockets was actually topped by 2 percent job growth two years after steep dips in rates.

The bottom line

Four decades of economic history strongly suggests pricer mortgages can cool, not kill, a housing market. That’s because of a main reason rates rise: more paychecks.

So when interest rates soar, it’s usually time for most people to be thankful for the forces nudging finance costs higher.

In case you missed it …

Los Angeles-Orange County homeownership at 9-year high, but 4th lowest in U.S.

California migration: Come for jobs, leave to retire

Southern California’s job growth only boosts its unaffordability

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/ignore-rising-mortgage-rates-homeowners-please-watch-the-jobs-market/

Feb 23

Umberg jumps into state Senate race, gets attacked by Republicans

The Buzz is the Register’s weekly political news column.

Former Assemblyman Tom Umberg has joined the Democratic field to challenge Republican state Sen. Janet Nguyen, bringing strong credentials — and immediately drawing a harsh attack from the California Republican Party.

The attorney served in Sacramento’s lower chamber twice, from 1990 to 1994 and again from 2004 to 2006. He is a retired Army colonel and former federal prosecutor who was deputy drug czar under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2000.

“I’m running for state Senate because I believe that our community needs a strong fighter in Sacramento who will stand up to President Trump and his administration on important issues like health care, immigration, energy, the environment, civil rights, education and consumer issues,” Umberg said in a Wednesday statement announcing his candidacy.

But in addition to his accomplishments, Umberg has seen his share of setbacks. He’s lost four elections, including a third-place finish in a special election for county supervisor in 2007 (Nguyen won) and losing a 2006 state Senate race to fellow Democratic Lou Correa by nearly 20-percentage points.

The 2006 loss came a year after Umberg, who’s now been married 36 years, made headlines for acknowledging he’d had a four-year affair with a woman he said he met through Democratic Party activities.

The attack

Republicans seized on the losses, the affair and the fact that he just moved into the Nguyen’s district. Umberg changed his voter registration from his Villa Park house to a Santa Ana apartment Feb. 17, according to elections office records. He announced his candidacy four days later.

“Umberg is an admitted philanderer, carpetbagger and four-time campaign loser,” said Nguyen campaign consultant Dave Gilliard in a statement issued by the state GOP.

“You would think the powers in Sacramento could have found a better candidate, but instead it’s just business as usual.”

Voters will actually have three Democrats — plus Republican Nguyen — to choose from in June’s open primary, the current field remains constant through the March 9 filing deadline. The other two are Gerrie Schipske, a former Long Beach City Council member and former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County, and activist Jestin Samson.

The district reaches from south Long Beach to Santa Ana, and includes virtually all of Little Saigon. Despite Democrats having a nearly 10-percentage point advantage in voter registration, Nguyen won election over Democratic former Assemblyman Jose Solario by 16-percentage points in 2014.

The rebuttal

Umberg defended himself against the attack of carpetbagging by saying he first moved into the district in 1989, that his children had attended school in the district and that he represented large swaths of the district while in the Assembly.

“No one has more experience in the district than me,” he told me.

As for his affair, he noted that the news was 13-years old.

“I admitted to a wrongful relationship,” he said. “I’m sorry for the pain I caused then. I love my wife and I’m grateful everyday for her.”

Appointments

Meanwhile, three Orange County Republicans have recently received appointments or reappointments from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Michael Mohler, 45, of Anaheim, has been tapped to be deputy director of communications at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He had been the southern region public information officer since 2014 and has been with the department since 2004. The job pays $125,000.

Frances Inman, 71, of Santa Ana, has been reappointed to the California Transportation Commission, where she has served since 2010. Inman is the president of  Majestic Realty Foundation. The post requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

John Carvelli, 55, of Newport Beach, has been reappointed to the California State Athletic Commission, where he has been chair since 2015 and has served as a member since 2013. He is executive vice president at LIBERTY Dental Plan. The post requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Carvelli is a Republican.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/umberg-jumps-into-state-senate-race-gets-attacked-by-republicans/

Feb 23

Rape victim? Ella Fairon makes film to change that

The guy she thought was her boyfriend punched her in the face.

It was the first time he’d ever been violent. But there she was, floored by his fist; lip split; tasting blood.

Then he held her down, forced open her mouth, stuffed some kind of pill on her tongue and poured beer down her throat. Within a few minutes, she lost consciousness.

She woke up hours later, bleeding. She had been raped.

She scrambled to the bathroom, locked the door and looked in the mirror. The image she saw was worse than she could imagine.

Ella Fairon was 14.

  • Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

    Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

    Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

    Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

    Ella Fairon, 20, grew up in Newport Beach. She moved to Texas during her freshman year in high school where she was raped. The family moved back to Newport, and Ella started to raise awareness about rape culture in high schools. She started an organization called SAFEBAE, and she is currently directing a movie about rape culture called “Game On.” Photographed at her apartment in Van Nuys on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Kevin SullivanOrange County Register/SCNG)

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Changed woman

Fairon is 20 now, and lives in Van Nuys. She goes to film school, and she’s directing a short movie — “Game On” — about how teenagers deal with rape culture. She is one of the founders of two non-profit organizations, Buttervly and SafeBAE, aimed at educating middle and high school students about sexual assault.

She travels the U.S. and Canada, lecturing at schools. Her work has attracted the attention of Hollywood stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Judd Apatow. They helped raise the money that Fairon is using to produce her film.

She hopes to finish the film by April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. She plans to unveil “Game On” with a red carpet event at a theater, and then distribute “Game On” via social media.

Six years after the rape, Fairon is in-charge, strong, vocal, composed.

In short, she’s nothing like she was.

Ella said her parents “raised me in the dark,” meaning she was a sheltered and naive kid. When she got to Corona del Mar High School, she made cheer squad and had a close group of friends.

“Life was so good for me.”

In October of 2011, her life changed rapidly. Her father, Patrick, a software designer, fell on hard times. He had to take a job in Texas, and moved his family to McKinney, Texas, a small town an hour north of Dallas. Fairon enrolled at McKinney Boyd High School.

“Either you’re a really good athlete, you’re really smart, or you’re into drugs,” Fairon said.

“I didn’t know what to do, so I did drugs.”

She was depressed about being in a new place. Her first friend introduced her to Vicodin.

“It made me numb,” she said. “I didn’t have to feel anything.”

She started drinking. But she was still in a lot of pain. On the suggestion of a friend, she began slicing her arm with nail scissors.

I was so angry, so alone, so hurt,” Fairon said. “Cutting was such a release for me. Such a high.”

Her mother noticed the changes.

“She was coming home and sleeping,” Holly Fairon said. “Getting her to come down for dinner was difficult.”

That’s when she met a boy. He was an athlete; older.

The worst night of her life happened on a Monday. After an evening of drinking and smoking weed, Fairon began to feel uneasy. She wanted to leave. She told her boyfriend she wanted to call her mom.

That’s when he punched her.

“I was shocked,” she said. “Did he just hit me?”

Ella is gone

She stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, and the 14-year-old version of Fairon made a choice: She wouldn’t tell.

She would put the entire experience into a vault deep inside her.

“I will go home and force myself to act like nothing ever happened,” she remembers thinking.

Silence, however, didn’t help. The people Fairon needed most – her parents and family – didn’t know. But in the rest of her world – high school – everyone seemed to know.

“People started taunting me,” she said. “People started grabbing me in the hallways. They would put their hands down my pants. Around other people. And no one did anything about it.”

She spent entire school days in the bathroom sobbing.

“I was a lifeless person,” she said.

“Ella was gone.”

She thought about suicide. She decided to hang herself; even picked a time and place. But she couldn’t get over the idea that her three younger brothers would be traumatized by her death.

So she decided to stay alive.

Without telling him the details of her pain, Fairon asked her father if they could move back to Orange County. And, in 2012, the Fairon family came home, moving from McKinney to Lake Forest, where they lived with Ella’s grandparents.

“He knew something was really wrong,” Fairon said of her father.

She returned to Corona del Mar High a different person than the sweet, naive girl who moved to Texas. She wore black-on-black make-up that made her look like a raccoon. Other kids took to calling her “Sketchy Ella.”

“I looked like death.”

Her parents insisted she get into therapy.

Fairon had kept the pain of the night in Texas to herself for about two years. Then, in a therapy session, she let it out. The therapist, a mandatory reporter of child abuse, called the police and told her parents.

“I have my own guilt,” said Holly. “I should have known more. I should have done more.

“I can’t imagine the fear she was feeling. It’s horrific.”

Then Fairon did something she describes as an act of self preservation.

“I chose not to be involved,” she said. “The majority of rape victims are like me.”

Fairon asked her parents to shut down the investigation. She said no to the police. She didn’t want the attention or a trial. She didn’t want to return to Texas for years of court proceedings.

After a police report and four interviews with investigators, Fairon’s parents decided that was enough.

“She wasn’t well enough to do the investigation,” Holly said. “We weren’t going to put her through that.”

New life

How did Fairon evolve from suicidal teenager to creative survivor?

She told.

“Advocating for others,” Holly said of her daughter, “has been so helpful for her.”

Fairon launched a club for high school students that she called Buttervly — “Be Understood Traumatized Teen Empowering Rape Victims Love Yourself.”

She also made a short film, interviewing other rape victims. And she asked her school if she could hold a public discussion about sexual assault.

“People were overwhelmingly supportive.”

Fairon’s idea caught fire. Buttervly clubs opened at other high schools, Mater Dei and Newport Harbor.

“The way I found my justice was just forgiving everyone involved,” she said.

“If you are raped,” she added, “you should report.”

After word got around that she was talking about rape culture in high schools, Fairon was interviewed by a film company. She appeared in the documentary “Audry and Daisy” about rape victims who are shamed by their communities after they are raped.

Daisy Coleman, one of the other victims profiled in the film, joined Fairon (along with actors Jada Smith and Charlie Coleman) and founded Safe BAE, which sends speakers around the country, makes films and answers middle and high school students’ questions about sexual assault.

Fairon has spoken to 31 schools in 15 states, reaching about 10,000 people.

“The students are hooking up in high school,” Fairon said. “Why sweep it under the rug? Parents need to be educated too. This is happening whether you like it or not.”

The “Audry and Daisy” film and Safe BAE attracted the attention of Amy Schumer, one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. Fairon said Schumer raised between $30,000 and $40,000.

Fairon’s film, “Game On,” has an $8,000 budget. She wrote and directed the film, which helps students “understand how to intervene when you see something going south.”

And now that she’s got a taste of film making, Ella has set her goal very high.

“I plan on being one of the biggest female producers in Hollywood,” she said. “There needs to be more of those.”

(Editor’s note: Reporter Keith Sharon’s son, Dylan, has a role in Ella Fairon’s film “Game On.”)

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/rape-victim-ella-fairon-makes-film-to-change-that/

Feb 23

Surging Hawaii turns back slumping Long Beach State

HONOLULU — Zigmars Raimo scored 13 of his career-high 17 points in the second half to lead Hawaii to a 74-63 victory over Long Beach State on Thursday night.

Gibson Johnson added 13 points for the Rainbow Warriors (16-10, 7-6 Big West Conference), who have won three straight. Raimo was 6 for 7 from the field, and 5 for 6 from the free-throw line.

Hawaii shot 53 percent and Long Beach 30 in the first half, which ended with the Rainbow Warriors leading 34-25.

Barry Ogalue scored five points in 21 seconds, pulling the 49ers within four at 46-42 with 12:26 remaining, but Raimo had 10 points in a 15-2 run to push the lead back to 15 with 7:19 left.

Ogalue cut it to eight on a free throw with five minutes left, but Johnson pushed it back to 10 at the line and followed it up with a scoop layup. Jack Purchase blocked Gabe Levin’s fadeaway jumper with under three minutes left, but Bryan Alberts hit a 3-pointer the next trip down to cut it to eight. Brocke Stepteau boosted it back to 10 with a floater and added two more at the line to put it away with a minute left.

Hawaii was 12 for 14 from the foul line in the second half.

Levin scored 18 for Long Beach (13-16, 7-6), making him the second transfer and 24th 49er to surpass 1,000 career points. Ogalue had nine of his 11 points in the second half.

Senior forward Mike Thomas missed a second straight game with an unspecified injury, but Hawaii got 23 points from its reserves as it avenged an eight-point loss at LBSU to open conference play last month.

Long Beach, which lost for the fourth time in five games, next plays Saturday at 7 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton (15-10, 8-5), while Hawaii hosts first-place UC Irvine (15-15, 10-4) the same night at 9 p.m. PT.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/surging-hawaii-turns-back-slumping-long-beach-state/

Feb 23

Student in La Palma arrested after threatening social media post is spotted

LA PALMA — A John F. Kennedy High School student was arrested Thursday, Feb. 22, on suspicion of using social media to make violent threats, according to authorities.

The arrest of the 15-year-old boy followed an investigation that began when a La Palma school resource officer was notified of a social media post.

“The social media post contained an image and text, which indicated a threat of violence,” La Palma Police said in a statement. “Although the threat was not specific to any person or place, there was sufficient evidence to believe a crime had occurred.”

The boy, who wasn’t identified, was booked into Orange County Juvenile Hall where he remained in custody Thursday night. His parents are cooperating with the investigation and have surrendered multiple firearms for safekeeping, police said.

As a precaution, police will increase patrols on Friday at John F. Kennedy High School to address questions from parents and students.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/student-in-la-palma-arrested-after-threatening-social-media-post-is-spotted/

Feb 23

College basketball roundup: Drexel makes history with 34-point rally to beat Delaware

Tramaine Isabell posted a double-double and made two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give Drexel a 34-point comeback win over Delaware Thursday night for the largest come-from-behind win in the history of Division I basketball.

Isabell scored 29 points with 12 rebounds and nine assists in...

Permanent link to this article: http://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/la-sp-college-basketball-roundup-20180222-story.html

Feb 23

The ebullience of Nick Rakocevic helps push USC basketball to new heights

  • Vanderbilt guard Joe Toye (2) shoots against Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic (31) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    Vanderbilt guard Joe Toye (2) shoots against Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic (31) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman, right, drives around USC forward Nick Rakocevic during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman, right, drives around USC forward Nick Rakocevic during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Vanderbilt forward Ejike Obinna, left, drives against Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    Vanderbilt forward Ejike Obinna, left, drives against Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic hugs guard Jordan McLaughlin (11) after Southern California beat Vanderbilt 93-89 in overtime in an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

    Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic hugs guard Jordan McLaughlin (11) after Southern California beat Vanderbilt 93-89 in overtime in an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • USC’s Nick Rakocevic #31 is fouled by Santa Clara’s Josip Vrankic #13 as Shaquille Walters #22 moves in during their basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    USC’s Nick Rakocevic #31 is fouled by Santa Clara’s Josip Vrankic #13 as Shaquille Walters #22 moves in during their basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • USC Trojans forward Nick Rakocevic (31) drives to the basket against the Oklahoma Sooners in the first half of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic NCAA basketball game at Staples Center on Friday, Dec. 08, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

    USC Trojans forward Nick Rakocevic (31) drives to the basket against the Oklahoma Sooners in the first half of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic NCAA basketball game at Staples Center on Friday, Dec. 08, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic (31) post up against Middle Tennessee forward Karl Gamble, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic tournament Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

    Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic (31) post up against Middle Tennessee forward Karl Gamble, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic tournament Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

  • Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic, right, shoots over Washington State guard Malachi Flynn during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

    Southern California forward Nick Rakocevic, right, shoots over Washington State guard Malachi Flynn during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, left, rebounds in front of California’s Kingsley Okoroh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

    Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, left, rebounds in front of California’s Kingsley Okoroh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic (31) shoots over California’s Kingsley Okoroh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

    Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic (31) shoots over California’s Kingsley Okoroh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

  • USC’s Nick Rakocevic shoots over Cal’s Kingsley Okoroh during the first half of Thursday’s Pac-12 game in Berkeley. Rakocevic had a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds in an 80-62 victory. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

    USC’s Nick Rakocevic shoots over Cal’s Kingsley Okoroh during the first half of Thursday’s Pac-12 game in Berkeley. Rakocevic had a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds in an 80-62 victory. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

  • Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV, right, passes the ball past Southern California forwards Nick Rakocevic, front left, and Chimezie Metu during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. Southern California won 75-64. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

    Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV, right, passes the ball past Southern California forwards Nick Rakocevic, front left, and Chimezie Metu during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. Southern California won 75-64. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Colorado forward Lucas Siewert, right, looks for a shot as USC guard Jonah Mathews, center, and forward Nick Rakocevic defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

    Colorado forward Lucas Siewert, right, looks for a shot as USC guard Jonah Mathews, center, and forward Nick Rakocevic defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Colorado guard George King, front, pulls down a rebound in front of USC forward Nick Rakocevic during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

    Colorado guard George King, front, pulls down a rebound in front of USC forward Nick Rakocevic during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • USC forward Nick Rakocevic, left, pulls in a rebound as Colorado guard Tyler Bey defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

    USC forward Nick Rakocevic, left, pulls in a rebound as Colorado guard Tyler Bey defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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LOS ANGELES>> Nick Rakocevic sat on the court, underneath a basket at the Galen Center, shouted and pumped his right fist as he heard the whistle.

The spirited sophomore had picked up a charging foul on Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh, absorbing his lowered shoulder on a drive through the key and flailing his upper body before falling backward onto the floor.

The clock was winding down last week in a back-and-forth Pac-12 game against the Ducks, and the sequence yielded the Trojans another critical late possession. Chimezie Metu rushed over, excitedly tapped Rakocevic’s chest with a few soft punches, then lifted him up. Jordan McLaughlin patted Rakocevic on the back, capping the players’ brief celebration.

Drawing fouls. Hurrying for loose balls. Offensive rebounds. Put-backs. Chest-bumps. Rakocevic, a 6-foot-11 forward for USC’s basketball team, represents a proverbial X-factor. On its roster, five players average more points, two average more rebounds, eight average more assists and three average more blocks, but no one appears more ebullient, a bouncy personality that has helped push the Trojans through an up-and-down season in search of their third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. They face Utah on Saturday to conclude their final road trip of the regular season.

“That’s who he is,” said Pete Rakocevic, his older brother. “He’s not going to go down without fighting. I feel like that energy he plays with is pretty contagious and it rubs off on people in a good way.”

“Every team needs a guy like Nick,” he added, “to give you one of those spark plays.”

The big man has rarely stopped buzzing.

BROTHERLY COMPETITION

Basketball began in the backyard.

Nick and Pete went 1-on-1 on a hoop affixed atop the garage of the family home in Garfield Ridge, a neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side, that sat a few blocks from Midway Airport.

“Planes flew so close to our house it looked like they would land in our backyard,” Pete said.

Noise complaints from the neighbors, though, stemmed from the boys, not the planes. Their games often approached midnight, until their parents would call on them to go to bed. Nick was just trying to win once against Pete, who is six years older, scrapping any way he could. Pete never relented.
“Sometimes it would end in shoving,” Pete said, “but it was all out of love.”

Nick followed Pete to the court, as in most things. Pete listened to 50 Cent, so Nick listened to 50 Cent. Pete wore black Timberland boots, so Nick wanted Timberland boots.

“I was trying to mimic him my whole life,” Nick said.

Basketball forged their tightest bond.

Nick and his mother would fly 2,000 miles west to northern California to watch Pete play two seasons at Sacramento State. When he transferred to Northern Illinois midway through his college career, they often made the hour drive to DeKalb. Nick went wild when Pete’s two-handed dunk in a game his senior season against Central Michigan collapsed the basket in what became a viral clip replayed on “Good Morning America,” the “CBS Evening News” and more.

“I got so lit that I was two seconds from jumping onto the court, but I couldn’t,” Nick said.

Along the way, the boys admired a variety of European-bred hoopsters. Nick looked up to Dirk Nowitzki. He could make any shot on the floor. Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic, the Sacramento Kings’ Serbian stars of the early 2000s, resonated especially. Nick’s father, Momo, emigrated from Belgrade, Serbia, when he was 25.

When Andy Enfield made his recruiting pitch to Nick and his family before his senior season of high school, the Trojans’ coach pointed to the program’s own recent history of developing Serbian big men.

NBA-bound Nikola Vucevic, from Montenegro, played under former coach Kevin O’Neill, and Enfield had also coached Nikola Jovanovic and Strahinja Gavrilovic, both from Serbia.

On his official visit prior to committing, Nick met Jovanovic, who vouched for Enfield and his coaching staff.

“It was important to me that he coached Serbian people,” Nick said, “because we’re a little crazy. We’re just very emotional. We all really want to win.”

LEARNING DIRTY WORK

When Nick Rakocevic was in middle school, he and his classmates in a P.E. class watched “Hoop Dreams,” the acclaimed 1994 documentary chronicling a pair of Chicago high school basketball stars, Arthur Agee and William Gates, and their NBA aspirations.

The film begins with Agee and Gates as freshmen at St. Joseph High School in Westchester, one of the city’s western suburbs, and features Gene Pingatore, the school’s legendary coach.

Rakocevic noticed how many college coaches Pingatore knew then, prominent figures such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. His interest in attending St. Joseph grew when he learned Pingatore still roamed the sideline. He considered other local basketball powerhouses, but liked St. Joseph, believing a well-connected Pingatore could help him reach major college basketball.

Pingatore helped, certainly.

Through his two seasons at USC, Rakocevic has displayed a frenetic-like play around the basket, especially on the offensive end, scooping up missed shots, his motor humming, full of energy. His 2.6 offense rebounds per game rank sixth in the Pac-12 and lead the Trojans. The effort meshes with the team’s variety of scorers and upperclassmen, Metu, McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart.

“He’s going to do all the dirty work,” Stewart said.

Such spiritedness was cultivated under Pingatore. Rakocevic’s first instinct as a freshman was to fire 3-pointers, but Pingatore pushed him to play near the basket and scrap for the ball.

“How did I convince him?” Pingatore said. “A lot of yelling and screaming.”

“He’s an old school kind of guy,” Rakocevic laughed.

Pingatore reasoned his team didn’t need someone with Rakocevic’s size shooting much from beyond the arc. Not to mention St. Joseph already had backcourt of Big Ten-bound guards a grade ahead of him — Glynn Watson Jr., who matriculated to Nebraska, and Jordan Ash, who ended up at Northwestern. He ultimately extended his range as a senior, but Rakocevic then first learned to blend in, playing with an array of talented scorers on the perimeter. The Chargers won a Class 3A state title in 2015.

“It was a matter of he was going to get his points, and the best way he was going to get ‘em was going to be around the basket,” said Pingatore, now 81 and still coaching.

MAKING IT

Nick Rakocevic felt like the whirling lasted forever.

On a Thursday night in June 2015, he rode in the passenger’s seat of Pete’s black Ford Explorer. The brothers had just seen the movie, Jurassic World, and were headed toward their parents’ home in Willowbrook. As the SUV turned onto the Interstate 55, it caught a slippery stretch of pavement. As Pete recalled, the steering wheel began vibrating. The brakes locked. Soon, they were crossing several lanes of the highway, spinning rapidly toward a wall, totaling much of the vehicle. They were grateful they did not collide with another vehicle, the roads mostly empty. Both said they escaped with minor injuries.

The next day, Nick posted a photo of the wrecked Ford Explorer to his Instagram page. “We had an angel watching over us,” he added in a caption.

Nick remembered a conversation with a paramedic.

“We’ve seen way less than what this car has been through and people just not making it,” they told him.

The car accident slowed him throughout the summer, as Nick said he dealt with the effects of a concussion. The Chicago Tribune reported he had a “subpar AAU season,” and ecruiting analysts dropped him in their rankings.

Rather than sign his letter of intent with a college program during the initial signing period in November, before his senior year at St. Joseph, he waited until the following spring. He also wanted to prioritize his final high school season and an effort to win a second consecutive state championship.

The wait worked out. USC started recruiting him in the summer, but was without an available scholarship to offer him in the fall, according to Enfield.

By springtime, it had several following an unexpected exodus. USC lost two players who entered the NBA Draft, including Jovanovic, and four who transferred.

“Officially a Trojan,” Nick added in a happier photo on his Instagram that captured his signing day ceremony. He is surrounded by his parents, as well as Pete and Pingatore.

In conference play this season, the Trojans have increasingly leaned on Rakocevic and his role has grown.

Rakocevic has started the past eight games, first when Bennie Boatwright was sidelined because of a callus on his foot, then with Boatwright sidelined for the season after partially tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee last week against Oregon.

They may need Rakocevic’s scoring, too. The forward scored a career-high 19 points last month at Cal, then equaled it in 24 minutes at Arizona State two weeks ago, showing off several post moves around the basket.

An extra boost.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/the-ebullience-of-nick-rakocevic-helps-push-usc-basketball-to-new-heights/

Feb 23

Stop the FDA’s escalating war on kratom

Editor’s note: Breaking views are thoughts from individual members of the editorial board on today’s headlines.

Drug warriors at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have stepped up their efforts to demonize and control kratom, a plant safely used for hundreds of years by millions of people for pain relief.

On Feb. 21, the FDA issued a news release calling on “all companies currently involved in the sale of products containing kratom intended for human consumption” to stop selling kratom products.

“To protect the public health, we’ll continue to affirm the risks associated with kratom, warn consumers against its use and take aggressive enforcement action against kratom-containing products,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

The announcement comes just two weeks after the FDA issued a statement claiming that 44 deaths have been attributed to kratom use, a claim which has been widely shown to be false. All but one of the 44 deaths had significant other issues at play, including suicide, other health issues and polydrug use. The FDA has failed to provide data on the remaining death.

The FDA has also shamelessly attempted to play upon public misconceptions of opioids by touting evidence that “compounds contained in kratom are opioids” in order to then attribute to kratom all the potentially negative risks of opioids, including “risks of abuse, overdose and, in some cases, death.”

As scary as all of that sounds, there is no evidence kratom is linked to widespread abuse, overdose and death. The public should not fall for such blatant fear-mongering.

The announcement does come, though, at a time when kratom has been linked to an outbreak of salmonella, which has sickened 28 people and hospitalized 11, 8 of whom reported using kratom. The FDA argues the outbreak “underscores the risk that harmful bacteria may contaminate these products when not subjected to manufacturing controls to eliminate that risk, in addition to the overall safety concerns for kratom itself.”

In response, the American Kratom Association has issued a statement condemning the FDA’s approach to kratom, pointing out not only the false association the FDA has drawn between kratom and fatalities and addiction, but the FDA’s exaggerated representation of the salmonella outbreak.

“Why should American kratom vendors voluntarily recall and ‘destroy’ all kratom supplements as the FDA suggests because of this fractional number of cases involving potential salmonella contamination?” the AKA asks.

Instead of barring access to kratom, AKA argues the focus should be on “appropriate product regulation to ensure safety and purity standards for kratom-based supplement.” That’s a far more reasonable compromise balancing what legitimate safety concerns there could be about kratom with the widespread demand for it.

Whether the FDA or Drug Enforcement Administration, which has tried banning kratom entirely, can go for reasonable compromises remains to be seen.

The fact is, though, that people across the country can attest to the fact that kratom works for them. In response to a recent piece of mine on this issue, people across the country wrote to me sharing their experiences with the plant, which has apparently helped many people get pain relief without the negative effects of prescription opioids or NSAIDs.

The idea that some government bureaucrats can feel justified in condemning people to pain and suffering out of their own misplaced sense of righteousness seems absurd to me. Hopefully enough people speak up to prevent yet another federal trampling of personal freedom.

Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. He may be reached at salrodriguez@scng.com

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/stop-the-fdas-escalating-war-on-kratom/

Feb 23

Fryer: Los Amigos girls soccer team moving in right direction in playoffs

Getting to the CIF-Southern Section quarterfinals was a moving experience for the Los Amigos girls soccer team.

Lobos coach Cassidy Abad moved players from one position to another until she found the lineup that clicked.

“It took a while to sort out where everyone’s best positions are,” said Abad, in her sixth season coaching Los Amigos. “We ended up league playing strong. We kind of just figured it out late in league.”

The Lobos, 13-5-5 overall, play at home Friday against Sierra Vista of Baldwin Park (13-4-3) in a Division 5 quarterfinal. Los Amigos has not advanced to a CIF-SS girls soccer championship match and in two of the past three years reached the quarterfinals but were halted there.

Los Amigos concluded the regular season with back-to-back 8-0 wins over Santiago and La Quinta in the Garden Grove League in which the Lobos finished second, with an 8-2 league record, behind Garden Grove. They beat Rowland of Rowland Heights 2-1 in the first round and Immaculate Heart of Los Angeles 3-1 in the second round.

Junior forward Vidalia Abarca leads the Lobos in goals with 52. Abad said major contributions have come from many others: forward Maria Salgado, midfielders Alexandra Santiago and Kimberly Gil, and defenders Mya Rodriguez, Vanessa Sanchez and Karla Zetina.

Another team leader, senior midfielder Liz Martinez, said the Lobos’ recent improvement is the result of accepting errors and learning from them.

“When one person makes a mistake it gets back to all of us,” said Martinez, a four-year varsity player. “We’re fighting together as a team to come back from a mistake. Our passing now is more precise and our communication is a lot better.”

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

•The CIF-SS Wrestling Masters Meet is Friday and Saturday at Temecula Valley High. The top nine finishers in each weight classification advance to the CIF State Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, March 3 and 4.

•Wrestling at the Masters Meet on Friday begins at 10 a.m. Competition begins Saturday with the consolation fourth round at 10 a.m., with medal matches beginning at 2:30 p.m. Admission on Friday is $10 for adults, $5 for students with valid student identification and $5 for children 13 and younger; on Saturday admission is $12 for adults and $5 for students and for children 13 and younger.

•The CIF State girls wrestling championships are Friday and Saturday at Visalia.

•Godinez boys basketball coach Greg Coombs was named a CIF Model Coach by the CIF State organization. Coombs’ 37 years as a coach include eight years at Godinez, where he also is athletic director, preceded by 21 years at Century and eight years at Santa Ana. He is one of 13 coaches in the state to receive this year’s CIF Model Coach recognition.

•The California Showcase, a football combine for players who have not been offered an NCAA Division 1 scholarship, is Saturday at Great Park in Irvine. Ex-UCLA coach Terry Donahue has been a leader of the combine, which again will be attended by Division II, III and NAIA coaches, since it started six years ago. Go to CaShowcase.org for information.

 

•When last year’s CIF-Southern Section boys basketball semifinals were held as a doubleheader at USC’s Galen Center, somebody got into the Galen Center before the doors opened to the public at 6 p.m. and placed jackets over some of the better seats to reserve those general-admission seats. Those seats were not occupied during the first game (Bishop Montgomery of Torrance vs. Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth) and were occupied for the second game (Mater Dei vs. Chino Hills). Those earlybirds were associated with a Chino Hills family … let’s just say they “bounced” their way into the gym ahead of other spectators.

•To make sure that does not occur this year for the CIF-SS boys and girls basketball Open Division double-doubleheader Saturday at Cal Baptist University in Riverside, that the people who want the best seats for the girls games get the best seats for the girls games, the CIF-SS decided to charge separate admission for the two girls games and for the following two boys games. For each session general admission will be $15 ($8 for student presale); $40 reserved courtside seating is available for the boys doubleheader.

•The girls Open Division doubleheader begins with Windward of Los Angeles vs. Mater Dei at 2 p.m. The other girls game, Harvard-Westlake of Studio City vs. Etiwanda, begins 20 minutes after the conclusion of Windward-Mater Dei. After the Cal Baptist gym is cleared, the boys doubleheader begins with Bishop Montgomery vs. Sierra Canyon at 6:30 p.m. with Etiwanda vs. Mater Dei to begin 20 minutes after the end of Bishop Montgomery-Sierra Canyon.

•Carmen Stratton resigned as girls volleyball coach at Saddleback Valley Christian where in her five seasons the Warriors won five league championships and three CIF-SS titles. Stratton, the Register’s Orange County girls volleyball coach of the year in 2014, and her family are moving to Colorado.

•Zach Brogdon, 30, is retiring from coaching after two seasons as boys basketball head coach at JSerra which this season finished 18-9 overall, fourth in the six-team Trinity League and was upset by Villa Park in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs. He and his wife of seventh months are moving to Idaho where Brogdon will be a youth pastor. Brogdon previously coached at Capistrano Valley Christian.

•Brogdon said, sure, “It’s a move a lot of people don’t understand. JSerra is an amazing place and I dearly love the administration here. But my wife and I feel called by the Lord to serve in a different way.”

•Orange Lutheran hopes to begin negotiations soon with Orange Unified School District regarding OUSD property at the former Peralta Middle School site near the Orange Mall. Orange Lutheran hopes it can acquire the land to develop into a baseball stadium, an aquatics center and facilities for track and field, soccer, lacrosse, sand volleyball, tennis and other uses. According to communication sent to the Orange Lutheran community, it could take four years to acquire and develop the parcel.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/fryer-los-amigos-girls-soccer-team-moving-in-right-direction-in-playoffs/

Feb 23

Fresh shot of snow brings stoke to the slopes

Better late than never.

A fresh shot of snow has hit local mountains in recent days, as winter weather finally arrives in Southern California.

Susan Inong Janechek, of Costa Mesa, shot up to Big Bear Mountain Resort with friends Feb. 15, and again with kids this week since they were off school for “ski week.” It was the first time she’s been to the slopes all winter.

“This season, only because to me there hasn’t been that much snow, I didn’t go up,” she said.

A small storm last week was enough to bring fun conditions to the mountain about two hours away from Orange County, and machines have been cranking to make man-made snow with low night temperatures.

“It was enough for us to go and really enjoy it,” she said.

Katie Janechek, 13 of Costa Mesa, hits the slopes for ski week. Photo courtesy of Susan Janechek.
Katie Janechek, 13 of Costa Mesa, hits the slopes for ski week. Photo courtesy of Susan Janechek.

It was so much fun she returned Tuesday and Wednesday with Katie, 13, and Eddie, 16. She was surprised when there was enough snowfall from a storm to require chains on her tires heading up to the resort.

“We were 17 miles from our destination before having to put on chains,” she said.

There were snow showers Wednesday morning and more in the afternoon.

“It was beautiful, gorgeous condition,” she said.

Snow Summit and Big Bear got about 4 inches this week from the storms. Further north, Mammoth Mountain has had a series of storms, with three to five inches of fresh snow, and more expected Thursday evening.

“The next few days are shaping up to be some of the best pow days of the season,” the website reads. “Get out and claim your tracks on all this soft fresh.”

Newport Beach Lifeguard Capt. Brent Jacobsen traded the sea for the snow, taking his two teenage kids to Mammoth this week, and joked that all of Newport and Irvine are up in the mountains.

“It almost feels like we’re back in Orange County,” he said. “A lot of junior lifeguard backpacks.”

He said it’s been a constant stream of snow, so heavy today that much of the mountain was closed.

“I’m buried in snow — it won’t stop snowing,” he said.

28056142_10155237927882409_2367566660110420295_n
Eddie Janechek, 16, gets some air during a trip to Big Bear this week for “ski week”. Photo courtesy of Susan Janechek.

Jacobsen said the coverage isn’t “super great,” compared to last year, but getting better as the snow continues to fall.

“A lot of people up here are reliving their Olympic moments, kids are ripping around on snowboards and skis,” he said.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/fresh-shot-of-snow-brings-stoke-to-the-slopes/

Feb 23

Baseball season starts Saturday, big tournaments coming

A defending CIF-Southern Section champion and the No. 2 team in the state preseason rankings will be in action on Saturday, the first day of the high school baseball season.

El Toro, last season’s CIF-SS Division 1 champion, plays at El Dorado on Saturday at 1 p.m. El Dorado was a Division 1 semifinalist last season. El Toro is No. 15 in CalHiSports.com’s state preseason top 25.

Orange Lutheran, No. 2 in the state preseason rankings, plays a doubleheader Saturday against Dana Hills at Orange Lutheran’s home field, Hart Park in Orange. The first game is at 4 p.m.

Also Saturday, Capistrano Valley, a CIF-SS Division 2 semifinalist in 2017, plays at Edison in a doubleheader that begins at 11 a.m.

As in seasons past, the baseball season accelerates with the Loara and Newport Elks tournaments. Both begin Thursday, March 1.

The Loara Tournament is a 32-team event that includes Cypress, El Dorado, El Toro and state preseason No. 17 Servite.

The Newport Elks Tournament divides its 72 teams into four divisions. The top division, the 12-team Frank Lerner Division, includes Beckman, Corona del Mar, Foothill, Huntington Beach and JSerra.

The Register’s baseball preview, which includes the Orange County top 10 and top players to watch, will be published online Wednesday, Feb. 28, and in the Thursday, March 1, Sports section.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/baseball-season-starts-saturday-big-tournaments-coming/

Feb 23

Whale with no tail makes appearance off Newport Beach coast

A gray whale with no tail was spotted off Newport Beach this week, a rare sight that an expert believes happened due to an entanglement.

Photographer Brooke Palmer captured images while aboard a boat operated by East Meets West Excursions, and at first couldn’t help but feel sad for the marine mammal, she said.

A whale missing part of its tail was spotted off of Newport Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Brookepalmerimage
A whale missing part of its tail was spotted off of Newport Beach on Wednesday. Photo: Brookepalmerimage

The whale was making its way northbound, slowly, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, seeming to favor its right side after each breath, she observed.

“However, despite the impairment, this whale did seemingly well as it adapted to the loss of an integral limb,” she wrote in an e-mail. “After viewing the whale for a few sequences I realized how resilient and adaptive they can be under unusual circumstances.”

Expert Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who runs the Gray Whale Census project on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, said the whale’s injury was likely from an entanglement that left the whale with no fluke.

She noted that several flukeless gray whales have been reported over the years.

One female had been encountered with calves in multiple years, and another gray whale was seen last year by the Gray Whale Census from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Another was documented in March 2015.

Schulman-Janiger noted the injury to this week’s flukeless whale looked recent, with the stump edge covered in whale lice and no healed skin visible.

 

 

The sighting happened the same day a gray whale was photographed off Dana Point, about 1.5 miles off the Dana Point harbor. The photographer, aboard Dana Pride, didn’t notice the whale was entangled until she got home to examine her images, according to a social media post by Schulman-Janiger.

The line was green and yellow, wrapped around the base of the peduncle tail and over its left fluke.

Schulman-Janiger said if the whale is spotted by a boater, do not approach or try to disentangle it. Rather, attempt to stay with it and take photos to document it, and call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Entangled Whale Hotline at 877-767-9425, or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on CH 16.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/whale-with-no-tail-makes-appearance-off-newport-beach-coast/

Feb 23

Christina El Moussa of ‘Flip or Flop’ joins luxury Newport Beach real estate firm

Christina El Moussa of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” has joined First Team/Christie’s International Real Estate, an executive with the firm announced on Facebook.

“Pleased to announce Christina El Moussa has joined our Real Estate family! She’s the perfect fit with her wealth of knowledge, unshakable drive, positive energy and chill vibe,” wrote Robin Milonakis, a regional vice president for the Newport Beach operation.

The announcement Thursday, Feb. 22 drew enthusiastic responses online.

“Awesome addition Robin! She’s a rock star for sure!” wrote Marc Hrisko.

“Monster addition. Wow! Congrats and props to all involved. Amazing!” Kevin Carlin wrote.

Christina and Tarek El Moussa parlayed house flipping into the hit HGTV series, “Flip or Flop.” On the show, the pair buy and fix up mostly lower-priced homes, trying to stick to a  budget so they can make a profit on resale.

In November 2016, Tarek El Moussa joined HOM Sotheby’s International Realty in Newport Beach.

The El Moussas split last year, and their divorce was finalized in January 2018. But they have continued filming the show together.

Will Christina’s new job make them direct competitors?

We reached out to First Team, Christie’s and Milanokis.

Stay tuned.

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Oceanfront estate on market for $12 million once home to Cary Grant, Howard Hughes, Irving Berlin

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/christina-el-moussa-of-flip-or-flop-joins-luxury-newport-beach-real-estate-firm/

Feb 22

Santa Anita credits ‘better product’ for uptick in handle, attendance

We’re two months into Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet and the numbers look good. Mighty good. Both at the turnstiles and at the betting windows.

The track’s marketing director, Nate Newby, checked in with some impressive figures Thursday heading into this weekend’s shortened three-day race week.

All-sources betting handle, races that Santa Anita makes money on, is up $51.8 million over 2016-17. That’s an impressive 15 percent increase. Sure, there have been two additional racing days and 17 more races this year, but that’s still a significant hike.

On-track attendance is up 8 percent over last year and on-track handle is ahead by 6 percent.

No news on fatalities because the California Horse Racing Board says it is not giving out fatality updates during the meet.

Last year at this time, because of the bad weather that contributed to short fields and program cancellations, Santa Anita was digging out of double-digit holes. The track finished its winter-spring and summer meets slightly ahead in handle, but it took a huge rally to show an increase.

This year, it’s been the opposite. Great weather, which in turn has led to bigger field sizes, and the bad weather back east that turned some bettors’ attention to Santa Anita have been major reasons for the track’s positive numbers.

“It comes down to, especially from a marketing perspective, it all comes down to product, and our product’s been much better this year,” Newby said.

But that doesn’t mean Santa Anita executives are ready to throw a party and declare the 2017-18 meet a success.

“We have high expectations, so we’re always looking for more growth,” Newby said.

Two of Santa Anita’s biggest days, Big ’Cap Day on March 10 and Santa Anita Derby Day on April 7, are still on the horizon. That’s two more reasons why management should be pleased, although the Santa Anita Handicap’s purse has dropped from $1 million in recent years to $600,000 this year.

The problem is two-fold – the $16 million Pegasus World Cup in late January and the $10 million Dubai World Cup in late March. The Big ’Cap used to have the stage to itself, but now it’s an afterthought to most horsemen who have a standout older horse in training.

“It’s sandwiched between (two rich races), there’s no getting around that,” Newby said. “We need to try something. There’s no way to compete with (those two races). Doing the same thing that we’ve been doing, we need to look at that.”

And, according to Newby, changes could be on the way.

“I know Rick Hammerle (racing secretary) is doing that now,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say we’ll be trying something different with Big ’Cap Day or the Big ’Cap schedule in the next year or two.”

But for this year, a duffel bag giveaway, along with a reggae concert in the infield, a craft beer festival and a party in the Chandelier Room will have to suffice.

Nothing needs to be done with the Santa Anita Derby. Many of the nation’s top 3-year-olds annually are based at Santa Anita and it’s no different this year with the likes of Bolt d’Oro, McKinzie and Solomini on the grounds.

“I think it’s a huge positive,” Newby said. “Having the stars of the 3-year-old crop based here keeps the interest going into the Santa Anita Derby and the Triple Crown. Now we’re just hoping that most of them run locally.”

In addition to hoping the good weather holds up and the entry box continues to ensure good betting value.

“We’re up 8 percent in attendance now, but our goals are significant,” Newby said. “We want to see that get into double-digit growth and continue to develop new fans. I think there’s always room for a lot of improvement. This is such a fantastic facility and a beautiful race track that we want as many people as possible to experience it.”

Newby gave Santa Anita a B grade last July when Santa Anita had finished its summer meet. Asked to assign a letter grade this year, through the first two months of the season, he didn’t change his tune.

“I probably always grade on a tough scale, but I’d give us a B (again) right now,” he said. “I’m happy with the way things are going, but it’s no secret, listening to Tim (Stronach Group COO Tim Ritvo), that the bottom line to the Santa Anita meet is to improve and we need to continue to increase handle, bring new customers here and use the facility for as many things as possible.”

They’re on the right track.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/santa-anita-credits-better-product-for-uptick-in-handle-attendance/

Feb 22

Sheriff: Armed officer at Florida high school never tried to confront gunman

By BRENDAN FARRINGTON, GARY FINEOUT and TERRY SPENCER

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.  — The armed officer on duty at the Florida school where a shooter killed 17 people never went inside to engage the gunman and has been placed under investigation, officials announced Thursday.

The Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a gunman armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by President Donald Trump and others to designate more people — including trained teachers — to carry arms on school grounds. Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, have redoubled their push to ban assault rifles.

The school resource officer at the high school took up a position viewing the western entrance of the building that was under attack for more than four minutes, but “he never went in,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Thursday news conference. The shooting lasted about six minutes.

The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under investigation, then chose to resign, Israel said. When asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said the deputy should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.”

The sheriff said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. I’ve been to the funerals. I’ve been to the vigils. There are no words.”

There was also a communication issue between the person reviewing the school’s security system footage and officers who responded to the school.

Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said during a Thursday news conference that the footage being reviewed was 20 minutes old, so the responding officers were hearing that the shooter was in a certain place while officers already in that location were saying that wasn’t the case.

“There was nothing wrong with their equipment. Their equipment works,” Pustizzi said. “It’s just that when the person was reviewing the tape from 20 minutes earlier, somehow that wasn’t communicated to the officers that it was a 20-minute delay.”

Pustizzi said the confusion didn’t put anyone in danger.

The shooting suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder and has admitted the attack. He owned a collection of weapons. Defense attorneys, state records and people who knew him indicate that he displayed behavioral troubles for years.

Broward County incident reports show that unidentified callers contacted authorities with concerns about Cruz in February 2016 and November 2017. The first caller said they had third-hand information that Cruz planned to shoot up the school. The information was forwarded to the Stoneman Douglas resource officer. The second caller said Cruz was collecting guns and knives and believed “he could be a school shooter in the making.”

Politicians under pressure to tighten gun laws in response to the mass shooting floated various plans Thursday, but most fell short of reforms demanded by student activists who converged Wednesday on Florida’s Capitol.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said a visit to Stoneman Douglas prompted him to change his stance on large capacity magazines. The Republican insisted he is willing to rethink his past opposition on gun proposals if there is information the policies would prevent mass shootings.

“If we are going to infringe on the Second Amendment, it has to be a policy that will work,” Rubio said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, who is helping craft a bill in response to the shooting deaths, said an idea gaining traction is a program that would allow local sheriffs to deputize someone at a school to carry a gun on campus.

Galvano insisted the idea is not the same as arming teachers. He said the program would be optional and the deputized person would have to be trained by local law-enforcement agencies.

Florida Senate President Joe Negron said both chambers are working on the legislation in response to the Parkland shootings. He said a final draft should be available “early next week at the latest.”

Republican legislative leaders in Florida say they will consider legislation that will likely call for raising the age limit to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21 and increasing funding for mental health programs and school resource officers, the police assigned to specific schools. Legislators may also enact a waiting period for rifle purchases. What won’t be considered is a ban on assault-style rifles.

A day after an emotional meeting with survivors and their families, Trump tweeted his strongest stance yet on gun control. He said he would endorse strengthening background checks, banning “bump stock” style devices and raising the minimum age to 21 for buying certain rifles.

At a conference of conservative activists Thursday near Washington, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration would make school safety “our top national priority” after the shooting at the school in Parkland, Florida.

Calling school shootings “evil in our time,” Pence exhorted those in positions of authority “to find a way to come together with American solutions.”

It was a markedly different tone than that deployed on stage minutes earlier by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who delivered an unbowed defense of gun ownership and lashed out at Democrats — saying they are using the tragedy for “political gain.”

On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson gave Rubio credit for being the only Republican to attend a televised town hall Wednesday night held in the aftermath of the school shooting and criticized Republican Gov. Rick Scott for not showing up.

“I commended (Rubio) for being there. He had the guts to be there when Governor Scott did not,” Nelson told a group of Democratic state senators.

Scott is likely to challenge Nelson as he seeks a fourth term in the Senate this November. Nelson questioned Scott’s commitment to make meaningful change after the shooting.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/florida-students-pushing-for-gun-regulations-face-pushback/

Feb 22

Shohei Ohtani set for spring training debut with Angels on Saturday

 

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a ball over the batter’s eye during Spring Training batting practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a ball over the batter’s eye during Spring Training batting practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani gets a high-five from Luis Valbuena after hitting a ball over the batter’s eye during sprint training batting practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani gets a high-five from Luis Valbuena after hitting a ball over the batter’s eye during sprint training batting practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in the outfield during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in the outfield during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani bows to the field as he heads for the clubhouse after Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani bows to the field as he heads for the clubhouse after Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani watches his ball clear the batter’s eye during Spring Training batting practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani watches his ball clear the batter’s eye during Spring Training batting practice at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice during Spring Training workouts at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

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TEMPE, Ariz. — After completing his bullpen session on Thursday morning — the test before the test — Shohei Ohtani got the official word from Mike Scioscia that he is getting the ball for the Angels’ Cactus League game on Saturday.

“I feel like this is a big step forward, the beginning of my career in Major League Baseball,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I am really happy at this point.”

Ohtani is scheduled to throw the first two innings against the Milwaukee Brewers at noon Pacific time at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox Sports West and in Japan, where it will be 5 a.m. on Sunday.

Although this game is certain to be one of the most watched, and most eagerly anticipated, exhibition games, Ohtani doesn’t seem to be putting much pressure on himself right away.

“This will be my first start in the States; I’m pretty sure a lot of things aren’t going to go my way,” he said. “That’s OK. I just need to find what I need to adjust and feel where I’m at, and it’s going to be enough.”

Ohtani likely won’t be facing the top Brewers hitters, though. The Brewers have two split-squad games on Friday, so most of their regulars will play then, and get Saturday off.

Ohtani’s debut as a hitter won’t come before Monday, because Scioscia said he will get the day off after he pitches. If his batting practice performance on Thursday is any indication, Ohtani could put on a show at the plate too.

During the team’s first workout of the spring inside the stadium, instead of on the adjacent practice fields, Ohtani blasted several tape-measure homers. One of them carried over the batter’s eye in center field, which is marked at 420 feet from the plate, and 30 feet high, according to the Angels.

Ohtani suggested that the “wind was another factor,” but he acknowledged that he “started to see the ball and hit the ball a little better.”

After Ohtani’s blast to center field, Angels players cheered and playfully grabbed his biceps.

“I’m enjoying fooling around with my teammates and having a lot of fun,” he said.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/shohei-ohtani-set-for-spring-training-debut-with-angels-on-saturday/

Feb 22

Hyundai’s Genesis line pulls ahead of German brands, Consumer Reports says

In the pantheon of luxury carmakers, Hyundai Motor Co. doesn’t usually come to mind. But the Korean company’s Genesis line beat out German rivals to be named 2018’s best car brand in the U.S. by Consumer Reports.

In its debut year, Hyundai’s luxury line bumped Volkswagen AG’s Audi from top billing to the No. 2 spot, with premium mainstays BMW, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus and VW’s Porsche rounding out the top five. South Korea’s Kia Motors Corp. snagged sixth place, ahead of Subaru, Tesla, Honda and Toyota.

In fairness to its foes, the Genesis brand had only two models — the G80 and G90 sedans — up for review by the magazine, while Audi and BMW each fielded eight. Still, Genesis’s win reflects steady improvement by Korean automakers over the years, first in the arena of reliability and fuel economy, and now in performance and luxury features, according to Jake Fisher, the magazine’s director of auto testing.

Dead last in J.D. Power’s quality surveys in 1994, Hyundai spent years as fodder for late-night comedians. But the carmaker and affiliate Kia are no longer seen as builders of cheap, utilitarian urban cars, with both automakers now ranking among the highest in J.D. Power’s annual vehicle dependability study. Hyundai Motors America is based in Fountain Valley.

“They have over the years checked every one of these boxes and they’re really building very competitive vehicles,” Fisher said of the South Korean automakers. “It’s really going to happen for Genesis once we see luxury SUVs, because the luxury market is all about SUVs — that’s where the volume is.”

The rankings, released Thursday, are published in the magazine’s annual auto issue and help influence American car buyers when they head to the dealership. Consumer Reports is an influential source for product recommendations because it doesn’t accept advertising and buys the cars it tests and evaluates for driving, interior-finish quality, safety and reliability. The report card, covering 34 auto brands, aggregates information about every individual model reviewed, as well as results from satisfaction surveys submitted by subscribers.

Here are some other key takeaways from this year’s standings:

GM vs. Tesla

At No. 8, Tesla remained the highest-rated American auto brand. But it doesn’t make the best electric car. That honor went to General Motor Co.’s all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which won in the new Compact Green Car category.

The Bolt stood up against other pure EVs like Tesla’s Model S, as well as hybrids like the Toyota Prius. As a hybrid, the Prius still burns gasoline, and the Model S’s price tag that can exceed $100,000 is out of reach for most consumers, so the environmental impact of each is limited, Fisher said. With the testing model costing $38,424 and boasting 250 miles of battery range, the Bolt wins. The Model 3 could challenge it, but first Tesla has to produce them at scale.

Toyota dominates

The Toyota brand continued to rule the top car picks, with its models winning four categories — more than any other automaker. The Toyota Corolla was the best compact car, the Camry the best midsize car, the Highlander the best midsize SUV and the Sienna the best minivan, according to the rankings.

Toyota dominates when it comes to reliability, and it earns extra points for making safety features like automatic emergency braking and forward collision warnings standard on all its vehicles. But it rarely measures up when it comes to road-testing and handling, Fisher said. Ford and GM have the opposite issue — their cars shine on the track, but owners often find themselves in the repair shop, he said.

It doesn’t have to be either-or. Audi excels in both performance and reliability, while Fiat — which came in dead-last on the brand rankings for another year — struggles in both areas, Fisher said.

Sales aren’t everything

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz brand won the U.S. luxury sales crown for two years running and got a good head start on 2018 last month. But BMW is still trouncing its German rival in Consumer Reports rankings, with BMW in third place and Mercedes in 15th. That’s because Mercedes quickly expanded its lineup to include more low-end luxury vehicles like its CLA four-door coupe, which is luxury in name only, Fisher said.

“It looks like a Mercedes-Benz but it doesn’t drive like Mercedes-Benz,” he said. “People are not very happy with it.”

BMW’s X3, meanwhile, was the magazine’s top pick for compact luxury SUV.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/22/hyundais-genesis-line-pulls-ahead-of-german-brands-consumer-reports-says/