Lexie Brown Featured in The Athletic WNBA

‘Not going to pity myself’: The realities of players cut from WNBA rosters and what the league can do to fix it

By Tamryn Spruill

Second-year guard Lexie Brown also understands just how difficult it is to make it at this level. A self-described “girlie girl,” Brown says her Lynx teammates affectionately call her Beyoncé. But they know not to let her passion for makeup and fashion belie her ferocity on the basketball court. When we spoke on Friday, Brown was dealing with what has become a frequent occupational hazard: her toenails peeling off.

“I’ll just tape them back on,” she said nonchalantly.

While at Duke, Brown started every game she played in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons (she played her first two years at Maryland). Her senior season, Brown averaged 19.4 points for the Blue Devils, along with 4.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and almost four steals per game.

Picked ninth overall by the Connecticut Sun in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Brown played 22 of 34 regular-season games and saw her playing time drop to 5.6 minutes per game. She averaged just 1.7 points per game. But Brown credits the effort she displayed as rookie with keeping her on the Sun roster.

“I think my work ethic is what got me on the Sun and kept me there because they didn’t necessarily need me last season,” Brown said. “So, I’m very thankful for the Connecticut Sun organization and coaching staff that they felt I brought something to the table that they didn’t have. But they very well could have been like, ‘No, I think we’re okay,’ and picked someone else.”

The bright side for those who don’t make the cut, according to Brown, is overseas opportunities where players can “make money and come back and be even better” — professional experience that could help a player returning to the U.S. finally cross the velvet rope into the exclusive sports league. And she believes players should feel proud of their accomplishments, even if they didn’t make a roster.

“The players who can’t make the team, they shouldn’t think that they did anything wrong, or that they’re not good enough,” Brown said. “It’s not their time yet.”

Brown was traded to the Lynx in April, and is thrilled to have a fresh start on a team that won a championship as recently as 2017. That Minnesota currently is retooling presents Brown with an opportunity for increased minutes and to thrive in her new role as shooting guard.

The day after we spoke, the Lynx won their season-opener against the Chicago Sky, 89-71, and Brown contributed 10 points, two steals and 2-of-2 free throws to the team’s winning effort. She played 22 minutes, a big jump up from the limited time she got with the Sun.

Wednesday night against the defending-champion Seattle Storm, Brown recorded 10 points, four assists, one steal and one offensive rebound in just under 21 minutes.

While Dillard did not get to play in a game with Brown, she made an impression on Brown during training camp.

“Cierra was probably the only player (at Buffalo) with a high basketball IQ, so you pretty much can go and do whatever you want (against opponents),” Brown said, noting that everyone at the WNBA level has a “pretty high basketball IQ.”

In the WNBA, with true centers who know how to guard and teams that know how to execute effective defensive switches to box guards out, playmaking and scoring opportunities don’t come easily, and it’s the guards who can adjust to these rigors, Brown said, who keep their roster spots.

“I think we had a very guard-heavy training camp, and I think Cierra did really well,” Brown said. “I think she held her own. But I think Coach Reeve was looking for a bigger, longer lineup outside of D-Rob (Danielle Robinson) and O (Odyssey Sims), which is what we have — a pretty long team, from top to bottom. It’s nothing that (Dillard) did wrong. I think she was super incredible at Buffalo and I think she did really well in training camp.”

In addition to Dillard’s on-court efforts in practice, Brown also was complimentary of her attitude.

“She has the best, most positive attitude I’ve ever seen,” Brown gushed. “Good vibes, always. Even when she made a mistake, she was always open to criticism and learning and that’s something in this league that’s going to benefit her in the long run. Because, as good as she was in college, she came here really humble and eager and ready to learn.”

*Note that the above is just one section of the story, to read the full-version, visit The Athletic.

Lexie Brown Shared Her Pregame Playlist With espnW

By Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie

Second-year WNBA player Lexie Brown is off to a solid start this season, with 10 points in the Minnesota Lynx’s game against the Chicago Sky on Saturday. The Duke grad, who’s the daughter of former NBA guard Dee Brown, gave us the rundown on the music that gets her going pre-game.

“Before games, when I’m getting ready, it’s chill vibes only! It helps me get locked in and focused,” Brown told us. Currently on repeat: “Losing” by H.E.R.

“But once I step on the court to shoot and stretch, its turn-up time. Anyone who knows me knows that I dance everywhere. So we gotta play something I can dance to before game time. It loosens me up and relaxes any nerves I have.”

Her current playlist:

View the story on espnW.

Chris Silva Navigates Draft Prep Process

By Andrew Ramspacher

He’s been to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia, the Professional Basketball Combine in California and to NBA practice facilities in Minneapolis and Atlanta. But on the weekend of May 10, Chris Silva put his draft prep on pause to be in Columbia, South Carolina.

“My agent made sure workouts were happening after graduation,” Silva said. “I told him I had to finish school first.”

Add a degree in interdisciplinary studies to top off Silva’s USC résumé. Seven years after arriving in America from Africa not knowing any English, Silva walked across the stage at Colonial Life Arena, diploma in hand.

“It means a great deal,” Silva said. “Just four years of work finally getting paying off.”

One life goal down. Another to go.

Silva told The State that he’s scheduled upcoming visits to the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings. This comes not long after performing at the Pro Basketball Combine and interviewing with the Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento.

The two-time All-SEC forward stays busy as the NBA draft approaches.

“I’m still going through the process,” Silva said. “The teams I’ve worked out with have given good feedback through my agent. I really improved my outside shot, my fadeaway shot. And I’m getting better in the post.”

Silva, who measured 6-foot-10 in shoes at the PBC (an inch taller than his listed height at USC), worked out for the Hawks on April 30 and for the Timberwolves on May 9. In Atlanta, he was kneed in the thigh during a defensive drill and could barely walk after the workout.

“The Atlanta workout was still good and they gave good feedback,” Silva said. “They love the way I shot the ball, my energy and the way I talk.”

He was bruised, though, and it limited his preparation for the Timberwolves.

“It was kind of difficult,” Silva said. “It was a lot of running. And knowing that I didn’t prepare that much for the workout, I was getting a little tired after a couple runs. But it wasn’t that bad. I think I shot the ball pretty well. But that’s the stuff that happens, you know?”

At the PBC, a secondary draft combine that still attracted NBA and G League personnel, Silva scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a scrimmage. He also had a max vertical leap of 37 inches and made 48 percent of his NBA range 3-point attempts.

“If there’s a guy that’s 6-10 and with a 37-inch vert, there’s incredible potential to move on,” said Jake Kelfer, the PBC’s founder and director. “The other thing I thought was pretty impressive was his shot, it’s better than I originally expected. I didn’t notice him taking too many NBA range shots this season. But he put the ball in the hole really well, he showed some things that I think will help with his translate ability to the next level.”

Kelfer, who used to work with the Los Angeles Lakers, said Silva is trending toward becoming a two-way contract candidate. Former Gamecock P.J. Dozier signed such an agreement with the Boston Celtics last August. A two-way contract means a player spends a bulk of their season in the G League and no more than 45 days with their NBA team.

“(NBA) Summer League is going to be something he’ll definitely be able to participate in,” Kelfer said. “And I think pending a good performance there, I think he’s gonna really be able to showcase that he’s one of the next best players around here. I think a two-way’s definitely in the realm of possibility for him.”

Silva said the PBC, which included fellow former Gamecock Hassani Gravett, was a chance to “make my point that I’m a good player in front of NBA scouts.”

The two-round, 60-pick draft is June 20.

“I hope this goes the way it’s supposed to go and I get drafted at the end of the process,” Silva said.

View the story on TheState.com.

NFL Alumni CEO Beasley Reece on ESPN Radio

Beasley Reece and Beyonce’s Homecoming

This week on the Rhoden Fellows Podcast, Bill, Janae and Tucker speak with the CEO of NFL Alumni, Beasley Reece about the work he’s doing to improve healthcare for retired NFL players. They also speak with Taryn Finley, editor for Huffington Post Black Voices about Beyonce’s Netflix film, “Homecoming.”

Listen here.

Chris Silva Signs with IPZ

COLUMBIA, S.C. + WARREN, N.J., April 4, 2019 – Chris Silva, two-time First Team All-SEC and All-Defensive Team selection at the University of South Carolina, has signed with IPZ, Silva and the company announced today.

The six-foot-nine forward hails from Libreville, Gabon and his journey to America has been well-chronicled. He played high school basketball in the United States for Roselle Catholic in New Jersey and won the 2013 Tournament of Champions with the Lions.

The South Carolina Gamecocks made a historic NCAA Tournament run to the Final Four in 2017, due, in large part, to Chris Silva. As a sophomore, Silva had a breakout season: he started all 37 games and averaged 10.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and a team-high 1.4 blocks in 21.0 minutes per game. In the matchup against top-seeded Gonzaga, in South Carolina’s first ever Final Four appearance, Silva scored 13 points and secured 13 rebounds.

Silva continued to improve as an upperclassman and was crowned SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year for the 2017-18 campaign. Additionally, he was selected to the First Team All-SEC and All-Defensive Team in back-to-back seasons.

He also led the Gamecocks in multiple categories in his junior and senior years with, in his junior year, 14.3 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game, 1.4 blocks per game, and he shot 46.7% from the field. In his senior year, Silva’s team leading figures included averaging 15.2 points/game, 7.6 rebounds/game, 1.9 blocks/game, with a field goal percentage of 50.8%, including 50% from three-point range.

Silva was recently named to the NABC All-District Second Team for his final season as a Gamecock.

“It was clear to all those who watched South Carolina’s games this season that Chris was the emotional and physical leader of the team, and one of the best players in the SEC,” said Robert Zito, Managing Partner of IPZ. “His relationship with his coach and teammates as a student, leader, and teammate was evident.”

Silva is the only player in the history of South Carolina’s program to record at least 700 rebounds and 500 free throws in his career. He earned multiple academic honors as a student-athlete and will graduate this year with a degree in IT.

“I am so appreciative of the opportunity the coaching staffs in high school and college – and all my teammates – gave me and I look forward to the road ahead with the team at IPZ,” said Silva.

“In 34 years of coaching, I don’t think I’ve had a player work as hard as Chris Silva to get better,” said Frank Martin, Head Basketball Coach at South Carolina. “He is an unbelievable young man of tremendous character who is a really really good basketball player.”

About IPZ: IPZ represents clients in sports, media, and entertainment, providing management, contract negotiations, consulting, public relations and marketing communications support. The company, an alliance with Zito Partners, is built on the integrity of its professionals, maintains a family focus, and provides whole life solutions for its clients. For more information, visit www.ipzusa.com.

MMA + MJ etf

N.J.-based marijuana ETF finds unusual spokesman in MMA heavyweight

By Tom Bergeron

Apr 4, 2019

 

At first glance, a mixed martial arts star promoting an exchange-traded fund for cannabis may not seem like the most logical fit.

Especially one based in New Jersey, where proponents of legalizing recreational use of marijuana suffered another setback last week.

Sam Masucci doesn’t see it that way.

Masucci is the CEO of the Summit-based ETF Managers Group, which created MJ, the country’s first ETF dedicated to stocks in cannabis-related companies, in December 2017. He said the hiring last week of MMA heavyweight Alexey Oleynik to promote it is a perfect fit, for a number of reasons.

Starting with the fact that Masucci, a former Penn State wrestler who competed scholastically at the now-closed Bayley Ellard High School in Madison, loves the sport.

“I have been a big MMA fan for 20 years,” he said. “I’ve actually been a martial artist for 20 years. I like to watch these fighters really show the value of mixed martial arts — meaning it’s everything from punching and kicking and submissions.

“I love it, and I always hoped that there’d be an opportunity for me to somehow be involved. This is a great way to do it.”

Read the rest here: http://www.roi-nj.com/2019/04/04/finance/mma-mj-n-j-based-marijuana-etf-finds-unusual-spokesman-in-mma-heavyweight/

ETFMG teams up with UFC heavyweight

ETFMG teams up with UFC heavyweight

Summit-based ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF MJ – issued by ETF Managers Group, a group family of exchange traded funds – announced it will sponsor Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight Alexey Oleynik.

“The Boa Constrictor” Oleynik is one of the top heavyweights in the world and is a career mixed martial artist. He takes on Walt Harris in UFC Fight Night 150 on May 4, in Ottawa, Canada.

MJ is the largest cannabis exchange-traded fund in the world and the first and only U.S. listed ETF to target the global cannabis industry directly. MJ joined the “billion-dollar club” on Feb. 4, surpassing $1 billion in assets under management.

“MJ is a heavyweight in the ETF industry,” said Oleynik. “It has had a great deal of success and I look forward to watching it continue to knock out its competition. My wife and I are excited to be able to represent a world-class financial group like ETFMG and a product like MJ.”

Lou Fusz Athletic To Offer Naming Rights For Complex

ST. LOUIS, March 14, 2019 – Lou Fusz Athletic (LFA) will offer the naming rights to its complex, one of the most visited athletic facilities in the Midwest, the organization announced today.

Approximately 1.2 million people visit LFA’s facilities annually and this number is continually growing. LFA is home to hundreds of teams and thousands of camp participants, between the ages of five and 18, across multiple sports, with family members of all ages in attendance to watch. LFA also hosts numerous soccer and lacrosse tournaments throughout the year which bring nearly 100,000 families from the greater St. Louis area to its facilities.

The Lou Fusz Athletic Training Center at Rams Park, the former home of the St. Louis Rams, is a 300,000 square foot facility and acts as the hub for all LFA teams, tournaments, and camps. With its state-of-the-art indoor fields, outdoor fields, and amenities, such as strength/speed/agility training rooms, a weight room, a rehab and physical therapy room, and an auditorium for presentations, the LFA Training Center receives visitors year-round.

“As a club, this facility reminds us every day of the professional nature of our approach,” said Dan Gargan, Managing Director of LFA, and a 10-year MLS veteran. “It has been home to world class athletes who showed up every day to better their craft. We connect our core values to that approach and work every day to enhance the lives of the athletes and families we serve.”

“This facility offers one of the most attractive family environments in the country,” said Robert Zito, Managing Partner of IPZ, who will manage the marketing process. “There is a tremendous opportunity here for a local or national brand to build equity, as the continued growth of Lou Fusz Athletic and its exciting vision for the future of the club and facility will only add to its attractiveness.”

About Lou Fusz Athletic 

Lou Fusz Athletic (“LFA”) is a 501(c)3 youth sports club and the charitable arm of the Lou Fusz Automotive Network. LFA’s objective is to align you with unique touch-points of the club’s family of players and fans through various branding opportunities and events.

About IPZ

IPZ represents clients in sports, media, and entertainment, providing management, contract negotiations, consulting, public relations and marketing communications support. The company, an alliance with Zito Partners, is built on the integrity of its professionals, maintains a family focus, and provides whole life solutions for its clients. For more information, visit www.ipzusa.com.

Luis Da Silva Jr. Talks New Project: Sole Searchers

From a Backyard in Elizabeth, Chatham Man Shoots for the Stars

By Mark Di Ionno

Luis Da Silva, Jr., says he got his start in a “two by four” backyard in Elizabeth, where he would spend hours with just a basketball.

“It was a rough neighborhood and my mother didn’t want me down at the basketball courts,” Da Silva said.

In those lonely hours of dribbling and inventing basketball tricks, Da Silva learned to command the giant orange orb as if it were at the end of a yo-yo string.

This was the beginning of a journey Da Silva said “kids like him never dreamed of.”

He’s joined the ranks of some of New Jersey’s great character actors, a Frank Vincent or Phil Bosco incarnate. Even a James Gandolfini, before he became Tony Soprano.

The stars he has worked with are household names: John Travolta, Jodie Foster, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck, Adrien Brody, Sam Rockwell, and Brie Larson.

He’s played a doctor in “The Life and Death of John Gotti,” a satanic basketball player in “The Devil Goes Down,” a Brazilian race car driver in “Fast Five” and an MS-13 gang leader in “Triple 9.”

His film and TV credits are continuing to pile up, even though he foregoes a Hollywood address for a place in Chatham. Not exactly where you find an actor, who is inked up on every available square inch of arms and upper body, and who stars in urban dramas where blood flows by the buckets.

It is indeed remarkable that the same man, who can play a violent, drug-dealing, sociopathic gang leader with prison-movie menace has written two books called “A Boy Named Boo” and “Zoe and Toby and the Alphabet Adventures.”

Da Silva is 36 now and the father of a preschool daughter, the inspiration of the two children’s books.

“It’s just how we evolve in life,” he said.

His first act came in 2001, when he was 18 and working in a sneaker store — a passion always connected with basketball. A friend told him about an audition for a Nike commercial.

“I asked for the day off and my boss said, ‘No,’ so I quit,” he said. “My father took me into midtown to this auditorium. I was nervous. There were 3,000 people there; NBA stars, New York playground legends.”

Those nerves built as the auditions wore on. Da Silva, at 5-11, didn’t tower over anybody, and the half-Portuguese, half-Italian kid from Jersey was an unknown.

That lasted only as long as his audition. He killed it. Next was the actual shoot of the Nike commercial in a series called “Freestyle” and Da Silva was one of the stars.

“It was the first Nike commercial where they weren’t featuring shoes or apparel, just the culture of basketball,” he said.

In the commercial, the lighting makes him look a little ghostly and he is doing otherworldly things with a basketball that fall somewhere between magician, gymnast and Harlem Globetrotter, which he eventually became.

But that was after he became the youngest and first non-professional athlete to be given an endorsement contract by Nike. What followed were likenesses of him in NBA video games and other basketball feats that made him one of the street legends he beat out for the commercial.

“Basketball is a culture, it’s a big fraternity,” he said. His nickname “Trikz” was synonymous with his skills and he began to create his own legend.

“Back when I was playing in high school (St. Patrick’s and Linden High), let’s just say the coaches didn’t appreciate the kind of flashy ball handling,” he said. “But we influenced the next generation of players.”

That first success in front of the camera and subsequent offers for “Trikz” Da Silva to be the animated star of basketball video games and led him to his acting career.

His first stint was as “an angry ex-boyfriend” in “America’s Most Wanted” in 2002. He would return to the popular series in various episodes over the next decade. He also had roles in the critically acclaimed “Breaking Bad,” “Treme” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

It’s a career that is still building. He will be in four movies that will be released in 2019.

But he also has an idea that brings him back to his very beginnings of basketball and sneakers.

He has filmed a season’s worth of a show called “Sole Searchers” where Da Silva travels the country finding people in the culture of collecting, designing and constructing basketball shoes. There are eight episodes from New York to Los Angeles, where Da Silva seeks out different characters who view sneakers as art.

“I see it as the ‘Parts Unknown’ of the sneaker culture and hip-hop fashion,” said Da Silva, referring to the exotic food travels of the late Anthony Bourdain.

“There’s a real fraternity out there of people where their Jordans and a fresh cut are their identity,” he said. “We explore that world.”

Of course, one of the episodes centers on his hometown and barber Pedro Antunes of Klippers, known as the “Wolf of Broad Street.”

“He’s known all over the country for his cuts. Rap stars, other celebrities fly him in for a cut,” said Da Silva, who is represented by IPZ, a sports and entertainment management firm in Warren.

Another Elizabeth segment revolves around a man named Freddy, who was a collector of “Michael Jordan 9s,” Da Silva said. “He had hundreds of pairs, and then his house burned down.

“His wife then secretly starts to collect them and we see her surprise him with 20 pairs to restart his collection.”

Da Silva said he had the backing of Affleck “who understands the culture” and hopes to land a TV deal soon.

The show is just another step in Da Silva’s self-described “amazing journey.”

“Where I grew up, expectations weren’t that high,” he said. “If you graduated high school, and stayed out of trouble and got a job you were considered a success. College was out of the question. So to end up to be able to do what I do is such a blessing, it is such as blessing.”

View the story on Tapinto.

Savitsky: Fighting Alexey Oleynik Is The Best Decision For Cain Velasquez

If Velasquez is looking for redemption, he needs to fight Oleynik, writes Oleg ‘Alec’ Savitsky

By Oleg ‘Alec’ Savitsky

In the recent ESPN analysis of Cain Velasquez’ loss to Francis Ngannou, while discussing what the future holds for the former champion once considered the best heavyweight ever, Brett Okamoto suggested Alexey Oleynik would be the best option. The truth is — this matchup is a necessary fight for everyone – the UFC, MMA fans, and Velasquez himself.

Okamoto suggested that Velasquez should fight Oleynik because he will be a “manageable” opponent. I hold the opinion that if Velasquez wants to redeem himself, he must fight Oleynik. But not because Oleynik is “manageable” or easier, but precisely because Oleynik is dangerous. Alexey is well-rounded and the most experienced in the division. It’s a live or die situation for Velasquez and the fight against Alexey will reveal to Velasquez and the MMA world if he still has the skills and determination to become the dominant heavyweight he once was.

Perhaps, Cain was out of competition for too long, and shouldn’t have taken the fight against Ngannou, the most dangerous striker in the division. Perhaps, it was a combination of nagging injuries, lost confidence, poor fight strategy or the famous “cage rust” caused by prolonged inactivity that caused Velasquez, once known for his heavy hands, superior wrestling, and conditioning, to lose the fight in under 30 seconds. But they are not the reasons why now Velasquez should “step back” and take a fight with someone like Alexey Oleynik.

Fighting anyone in the top 10 of the division is risky business. A fight against Oleynik is the fight Velasquez must have, but for totally different reasons.

Previously, Velasquez lost to Fabricio Werdum and showed his vulnerability in the grappling game. He needs a fight that will display to his fans the “old” dominant Velasquez who was able to dismantle any type of fighter. To do that, the UFC needs to provide him with a well-rounded and credible opponent. Since Werdum is suspended and a rematch is out of the question, it would be a great opportunity for the No. 7 ranked Velasquez to fight Oleynik, currently ranked No. 9, to prove his relevance and ability to compete against an exceptional grappler. It’s no secret that all top fighters in the heavyweight division are avoiding Oleynik and don’t want to risk their chart position by losing to the superior submission artist. Oleynik, next to Werdum, Frank Mir, and Antonio Nogueira, belongs to the grappling elite of MMA heavyweights.

Alexey has 69 professional fights, with a record of 57 wins, 11 losses, and one tie, and is 6-2-0 in the UFC. He has more wins than majority of fighters, including Velasquez (14-3-0), have fights in their entire MMA careers. Oleynik fought around the world for every top promotion and won against the most notable names in the business. Facing another heavy-handed striker like Velasquez will be nothing new for Oleynik. He fought and submitted some of the best and most feared strikers like Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt. Alexey demonstrated his durability and multi-dimensional skills by out-striking former contender and heavy puncher Travis Browne and by knocking out the brawler Jared Rosholt.

Both Velasquez and Oleynik are well-rounded fighters and pinning them against each other would give MMA fans an exciting fight they deserve to see. It will also test Velasquez and reveal if he still has what it takes or if it’s time for him to stop fighting. For Oleynik, it’s either an opportunity to move closer to his long overdue title shot, continue to fight as a “gatekeeper” for younger talent, or perhaps contemplate a well-deserved retirement.

View the story on MMA Crossfire.