Wilder opens up on his personal life, reveals how he’ll beat Fury next Saturday

first_imgThe most significant moment in the life of Deontay Wilder had nothing to do with boxing or becoming heavyweight champion of the world, rightly proud though he is of that accomplishment. It came when he was called upon to make a deeply personal and profoundly agonising choice as a poor teenager who was about to become a father. Deontay Wilder opens up to Sportsmail on life as a father to eight children by four women Wilder and his then-girlfriend Helen Duncan were told that his first child would be born with spina bifida. ‘It had been scary first off to know I had a I child on the way,’ he says. ‘It was even scarier that this tiny being would be coming into the world with a defect. ‘I was so young, holding my whole world in my hands. Suddenly I was facing this huge responsibility for a life which would need my enormous care and attention. ‘The doctors told us she would never walk. Told us maybe she would never have a child’s natural ability for learning. They offered us the opportunity to terminate. Wilder’s youngest daughter, Naieya, was born with a spinal condition called spina bifida ‘This was the most important decision of my life. To keep her or not to keep her. Thank God I got it right. We just felt she had a right to live.’ Vindication has come with every improving day of Naieya’s life and the 6ft 7in 34-year-old whose business is knocking out all the other giants of the prize ring is glowing with love and delight as his daughter approaches her 15th birthday, on March 20. Naieya, 15, has defied the prognosis of doctors and is flourishing academically and in sport ‘Doctors can do all that studying and acquire all that knowledge,’ says Wilder. ‘But what they cannot account for is a miracle. The miracle that is our Naieya. She’s not just walking, she’s running. She’s not only going to school, she’s one of smartest girls in her class. So clever. So intelligent. ‘The experience with her matured me early. Seeing her overcome adversity so many times inspired me to do the same. Even before she was born she taught me the importance of always making the right decisions. She’s such a bright spark lighting up my life, as are all my children with their different characters and personalities. I love them all.’ All eight of them. By four different mothers including the latest addition with Telli Swift, the fiancée soon to become his second wife. Wilder will be happy if he finishes the job of knocking out Tyson Fury, who he floored twice in their drawn first fight. He says: ‘Yes, I want to prove to the world that I’m the best heavyweight of this generation. Perhaps the best ever because when I knock out Tyson it will be in my 11th straight world heavyweight title fight, which is closing in on Muhammad Ali’s record. ‘This is now the biggest fight of my life but my best days of all are when I have all the kids at home with me. Sometimes with all their mothers. Even a couple of my mothers-in-law. I love them, too. I have a big, beautiful family. The way we are together is amazing. There’s no trouble. I don’t want a stressful life. I lead a loving life. We lead a regular life even though we have all we need and more. Simplicity is the key.’ Preparation for a large family came from being the eldest of eight siblings. As did the aspiration for greatness. He recalls: ‘The house was always full. Some nights when everyone was at home and two of my sisters brought their kids there was no bed for me and I had to sleep outside in the back of our old car. As the oldest I got to do the majority of the chores as well as look after the others.’ Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, for whose fabled college champions football team the Crimson Tide he dreamed of playing. Poor high school grades partly put paid that ambition and he had to go to a tough community college ‘where they made fun of my old hand-me-down clothes and worn out shoes so I turned to boxing.’ There was also the more pressing need to boost the family income: ‘We were always struggling to make ends meet. Living from pay cheque to pay cheque. So I got a job as a server at the local IHOP.’ That is short for the International House Of Pancakes fast food chain and Wilder adds: ‘I used to make pretty good tips. I always kept my station spotless clean. At first people thought I must be a basketball or football player and talked to me about sports. Then they wouldn’t sit at any tables but mine and they would tell me very personal things about their lives. ‘For some reason they clung to me. It became like having another large family. I got my social skills from my mother. She loved talking to people and like her I’m happy to meet people. I don’t think I’m better than anyone because I’m the world champion and I’ve got millions in the bank. ‘I’m still like everyone else. I had to fight my way up. I always know the price of milk. I’m a people person and I won’t let anyone take real life away from me. No-one.’ Certainly not the racists against whom Wilder, like virtually all African-Americans here in the Deep South, is still fighting. One way of reaching his charming Gone With The Wind home city which is frequently voted the No 1 most liveable town in America is via the Alabama state capital of Montgomery. Signs in the arrivals area of the airport there include a reminder that Martin Luther King Jr served several years as pastor at a local church, alongside an illustrated declaration that The March Goes On. ‘Yes it does,’ says Wilder. ‘The struggle continues. It’s still as alive, still as real as back in the day of the Million Man March. It’s appalling that it’s more out in the open now. What used to go on in the dark now goes on in the light. We can see videos of racist remarks and racist acts yet even though the proof is there plain as day those people don’t get found guilty. Promoted ContentThe Very Last Bitcoin Will Be Mined Around 2140. Read More18 Beautiful Cities That Are Tourist Magnets12 Iconic Actors Whose Careers Were Stunted By A Single MovieWho Earns More Than Ronaldo?11 Most Immersive Game To Play On Your Table TopInsane 3D Spraying Skills Turn In Incredible Street ArtWhat Happens When You Eat Eggs Every Single Day?This Guy Photoshopped Himself Into Celeb Pics And It’s Hysterical6 Ridiculous Health Myths That Are Actually True7 Theories About The Death Of Our UniverseWhich Country Is The Most Romantic In The World?Top 7 Best Car Manufacturers Of All Time Loading… center_img ‘I’m black and famous so I use my platform to put things out there. When those moments come I give it my all. I don’t hold nothing back. I’ve not changed down the years of my success. Same walk. Same talk. Some people may not like it but they gotta respect it. ‘Other people don’t know what black people have to go through. They don’t have to live with hatred every day. They don’t see the eyes of prejudice staring them in the face. ‘Like they say, walk in my shoes. Then you might understand what I’ve been through. What it feels like to be called a certain word or to witness police brutality. ‘Usually if I see a bad situation my size and presence is enough to stop it. But I often ask myself what I would do if a terrible act against someone vulnerable carried on. I know what damage I’m capable of. But I can’t promise I would turn a deaf ear and walk away. I can’t promise I wouldn’t help that person. I can’t promise I would never lash out.’ Tuscaloosa is where the first black girl to be admitted to a segregated southern university, Autherine Lucy, was denied entrance until US marshalls famously forced Alabama governor George Wallace to step aside from barring the main door. Now it is Wilder’s refuge from such dark realities: There is a sign on his gym wall which reads Sweet Home Alabama. ‘I love this place,’ he says. ‘Everyone talks about how they like to come home. But it’s all the more beautiful when you are coming to the place that’s always been your home. To where you were born.’ Which brings him back to Fury, who has suddenly changed his trainer from the defence-orientated Ben Davison to the great Emmanuel Steward’s attack-minded nephew Javan SugerHill Steward. To which Wilder says: ‘I would no more change my trainer (Jay Deas) than I would change where I live. Why would I want to move to New York, Los Angeles or Miami when this is where I have tranquillity. I’m a home boy. I like being surrounded by family but I also like being home alone sometimes. To meditate. To train my brain to solve problems, which is as important for me as training my body.’ That remarkably slender body for a heavyweight which enables him to throw those knock-out punches at irresistible speed. Wilder is desperate to prove himself as the best heavyweight of his generation by beating Fury Fury insists he is going for a second round KO next Saturday in Las Vegas for fear that he might be robbed, as he sees it, for a second time. That draw achieved by him somehow rising semi-conscious from a last round flattening enabled Wilder to keep his WBC title and he says: ‘If Tyson comes out charging at me he really is crazy. People say I can’t box on the back foot but the majority of my knock-outs have been inflicted when I’ve been on the back foot.’ The 34-year-old has remained in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama throughout his career The build-up has been more respectful thus far and Wilder says: ‘So it should be. We’ve shared our energy in the ring and Tyson has felt the wrath of my power. The myth of that power is always in the back of the minds of all my foes. They are always wondering “when he hits me what’s going to happen to me”. ‘If I’d been knocked unconscious the way I knocked Tyson unconscious in our first fight it sure would be on my mind. I know it’s on his mind and his family’s. I’ve seen videos of them saying they don’t want him to do this again. ‘I know what’s going on. Just because you don’t see people it doesn’t mean we’re not watching. We’ve got our spies all over the world. My CIA. Even the birds talk.’ We are talking in a cubby-hole of a room in a corner of that dilapidated gym, which occupies two of a few mostly deserted lock up storage units tucked away in a small clearing in woods on the edge of town. Rain is hammering on the tin roof and old buckets are catching the drips around the ring. Wilder is convinced the punches he hit Fury with will be in the back of the Gypsy King’s mind Read Also: Fury ready for ‘war’ in Wilder heavyweight title rematch It is here that this loving father prepares for ‘my transformation into this beast called the Bronze Bomber on fight night.’ That process will become complete when he puts on one of his garish, wolf-like face masks and enters the MGM Grand Garden Arena on the Vegas Strip. Wilder talks a lot about energy but he saves it for his big fights inside the ring and against racial abuse outside. Talk of the third man in the world heavyweight championship equation, Anthony Joshua, is banned in this camp because Wilder is convinced the holder of all the other alpha-belts will never risk fighting him. Still I press him to condense his thoughts into Joshua into one word. He says: ‘Coward.’ And a word for Fury, please. He pauses, gives me a copy of a signed children’s comic book about his life, then smiles as he says: ‘Amen.’ FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmail分享 last_img read more

Boys Basketball

first_imgHigh school boys basketball practice started yesterday.  That means in two weeks they will be able to start playing games for real.  Here is a quick look at most of the local schools and what I see as an early season barometer.Batesville has 3 returning starters and all 3 are at least 6’6″ tall and Batesville has at least 3 other players with varsity experience.  They will be expected to have another good season.  East Central had no seniors last year, so they will have a lot of experience returning.  They still may not have a lot of size, but  look for them to do better than last year.  Franklin County has a new coach, and I am sure a new attitude which should prove a better season is in store for the Wildcat nation.Jac-Cen-Del, like Batesville, returns a lot of size and experience.  We will find out early how they stack up, because they play South Ripley in their first game and Batesville in the second.  The Eagles should have a very good year.  Milan returns size in the Meyer boy, but they lost a lot of experience in their graduating seniors.  Don’t count the Indians out!  South Ripley also graduated a lot of size but had a good core of young players, so I am sure they are looking for a winning season.Oldenburg Academy has Moorman and Geis to built upon and Coach Moorman helped them win their first sectional last year.  They should be more than just competitive again this year.  In Decatur County, the Greensburg Pirates lost 4 starters who led them to 2 straight championships.  Don’t feel sorry for them, because the cupboard is certainly not bare with talent with Welage and Foster among their returnees.  North Decatur was very young but talented last season, so they will be very competitive.  It should be a great year in area boys basketball.last_img read more

Hughes wants regular football

first_img With Michael O’Neill’s side currently second in their Euro 2016 qualifying group and on course for their first major tournament in 30 years, Hughes knows he cannot afford another bit-part role next term. He will hope to feature again in a non-cap international against the Republic of Ireland next week, before the crucial Group F clash against Romania on June 13. But after that, Hughes will begin searching for the right deal. “Right now I’m just focused on the upcoming games and then in the summer it’s about finding a club which will enable me to come back for the internationals,” he said. “The focus leading into this week was just to come back fit and get through this game, and the one behind closed doors before the big one against Romania. “Once that is out the way I’ll really be concentrating on it but I don’t want to let it concern me or distract me now. “The move has to be right for me. I’m getting to the back-end of my career now so I’d like to go somewhere I will probably play a few more games than I have this year. “At this stage of my career I don’t want to be sitting watching games tick past. I want to play football, it’s what I train every day to do. Aaron Hughes became Northern Ireland’s most capped outfield player against Qatar but needs regular football next season to keep his European Championship dream alive. “It has to be somewhere I’ve got a chance of playing. You can never walk in somewhere and expect to play every game, your performances and fitness have to be good, but I’m looking for somewhere with a realistic chance. “It’s about staying in contention for Northern Ireland but also for my own enjoyment too.” With competition stiff at the heart of defence – Hughes was left out against Finland as O’Neill preferred Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans – Hughes might also need the Euros to achieve his long-awaited century of caps. “The record hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’ve been lucky enough to hang around this long and get there. “It’s something I’m proud of and when it starts to sink in I’ll realise what an achievement it is. It’s the same with the hundredth, it hasn’t happened and there’s a lot of other things I need to focus on first. “But if we got to the Euros that would take care of the 100, it would come at some point during that, so the Euros is the big thing at the moment, and if I got there then fantastic.” Press Association The 35-year-old captained the side in a 1-1 draw in Crewe, his 96th international appearance taking him past David Healy and leaving him behind only goalkeeper Pat Jennings in the country’s history books. But the centre-half managed just 13 games for Brighton last season, the last of which came in January, and has now been released. last_img read more

Smalling makes case for defence

first_imgChris Smalling thinks he and Phil Jones have proved they deserve to be the long-term centre-half partnership for Manchester United. Their performance was one of the plus points in an otherwise forgetful stalemate. Smalling believes the friendly, which his former United team-mate Paul Scholes described as a “waste of time”, was just a one-off and he is confident of seeing England put on a better show when they play the final Euro 2016 qualifier of the season in Slovenia on Sunday. “It was like we had lost the game to be honest,” Smalling said, reflecting on the Ireland friendly. “We felt we could have done a lot better. “But at the end of the day we did keep our unbeaten run going and we kept a clean sheet so we’ll try and take some positives from it. “We probably needed the game in Dublin given the time off we’ve had. We needed to get it out of the way and make sure that we train really hard this week.” Smalling and the rest of his England team-mates will report for duty on Wednesday to begin preparations for the game in Ljubljana. If they win, England will move nine points clear at the top of Group E with four matches to go. “We know if we do the job on Sunday, qualification is near enough there,” Smalling said. “And then we can go into the summer relieved and happy whereas if we don’t win this game it is a long break so I don’t think there will be any problems with people getting up for it.” United were left with a considerable gap to fill at the heart of their defence last summer following the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. but they ended the season with the fourth best defensive record in the Barclays Premier League. Goalkeeper David de Gea deserves a large chunk of the credit, but Smalling and Jones, who finished the campaign as Louis van Gaal’s first-choice centre-half pairing, merit praise too. Smalling admits he was facing a decisive season at United last term and he feels he passed it with flying colours. “Yes, I think it was (a make or break season),” the 25-year-old England centre-back said. “When you consider the outgoings at centre-back, players had to step in and luckily I’ve been one of those who has had a good run, especially in the second half of the season. “I think we (Jones and I) have proven we can fill the gap. It’s one where it just builds over time and we’ve had our chance this season and now it is all about building on that next season.” It does not look like Roy Hodgson has plans to install the pair as his preferred combination at centre-back any time soon, though. After naming him vice-captain, the England coach clearly has plans to give Gary Cahill a prominent role over the next year. The 67-year-old remains fiercely loyal to Phil Jagielka too and there are John Stones and Calum Chambers to consider too once they have come through the European Under-21 Championship. Hodgson went with the Smalling-Cahill combination on Sunday for England’s dull 0-0 draw against the Republic of Ireland. Press Associationlast_img read more

Kenny Rogers dies at 81

first_imgTMZ is reporting that County Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers has passed away at the age of 81.According to the report, he was in hospice care and was surrounded by friends and family at the time of his passing.Rogers suffered from an unspecified medical condition in 2018 which forced him to cancel the remaining dates of his ‘Gambler’s Last Deal’ farewell tour.While Rogers was known as a country music legend, through out his 60 year career he had a string of hits that crossed over into the pop genre.Rogers was known for hits like “The Gambler,” ” Lady,” “Lucille,” and “Islands in the Stream,” which he sang with Dolly Patron.He also had several television appearances and co-founded the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters.He is survived by his five children.last_img read more

IPL Preview: Battle of Equals As SRH Face Resurgent Mumbai Indians

first_imgHyderabad: Having conquered Delhi in their own backyard, a high on confidence Sunrisers Hyderabad will now take on Mumbai Indians in the second header on Saturday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Mumbai too will be wearing a confident look after beating defending champions Chennai Super Kings in their last encounter.It will indeed be a battle of equals when both teams look to carry their winning momentum forward. While SRH have looked the most balanced unit in the competition so far, everyone knows that Mumbai Indians can turn any game upside down on their day. It will come down to both teams looking to do the basics right.The support of the Orange Army will definitely augur well for Hyderabad and the kind of form the openers have shown – Jonny Bairstow and David Warner – means that the Mumbai bowlers will have their task cut out. But the Mumbai Indians bowling too has shown sparks and Jason Behrendorff showed what he is capable of when he derailed the CSK batting right at the top in the last encounter.But Mumbai Indians will definitely miss the services of Lasith Malinga as the Sri Lankan has flown back to play domestic cricket in an effort to be eligible for selection for the World Cup squad. All-rounder Hardik Pandya’s return to form augurs well for the visitors as they will look at him to not only finish the innings on a high, but also pick crucial wickets in the middle of the innings.When it comes to the bowling, SRH have one of the best attacks in the tournament. While stand-in skipper Bhuvneshwar Kumar returning to form against Delhi Capitals on Thursday was a welcome sight, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have already shown what they are capable of on Indian tracks which have all taken turn.With the Uppal wicket likely to be a sporting one, it will definitely be a battle of equals on Saturday as SRH and MI both look to bag two points from the game. IANSAlso Read: SPORTS NEWSlast_img read more

Verona hold on for win over Cagliari after VAR controversy

first_imgVerona: Verona scored twice in the first half hour but had to hang on for a 2-1 win over Cagliari on Saturday as Serie A produced a VAR controversy on its first day of action since the coronavirus stoppage. The hosts appeared to be cruising to a win thanks to a brace from Samuel Di Carmine until forward Fabio Borini was sent off in the 35th minute for a late challenge on Marko Rog following a long VAR review, infuriating the home team. Giovanni Simeone quickly pulled one back but the visitors could not find an equaliser. Former Italy goalkeeper Walter Zenga, who replaced Rolando Maran as Cagliari coach days before Serie A was suspended for three months in early March, finally made his debut in charge of the struggling Sardinians but could not prevent them extending their winless run to 12 matches in the league. Promoted Verona, who have performed far above expectations this season, climbed to seventh with 38 points. Earlier, Torino and Parma drew 1-1 in the first match of the restarted season. Torino captain Andrea Belotti had a penalty saved in a 1-1 draw at home to Parma as Serie A finally resumed following a three-month coronavirus stoppage on Saturday. Nicolas Nkoulou headed struggling Torino ahead in the 15th minute and the Cameroon defender celebrated the first Serie A goal since the restart by taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. AgenciesAlso Watch: Another 1050 Bedded Quarantine Centre Ready in Guwahatilast_img read more

Cricket News Find It Easier To Bowl In Death Overs: Deepak Chahar

first_imgNew Delhi: Deepak Chahar had an impressive outing in the Mohali Twenty20 International against South Africa on Wednesday. In his opening spell in the powerplay, he dismissed Reeza Hendricks for 6 and in the death overs, with South Africa aiming a big finish, he came back and got the wicket of Temba Bavuma for 49 to finish with 2/22 in four overs. Chahar has been impressive ever since his debut with his ability to swing the ball both in the air and off the pitch as well as using the variations. The death overs in any form of limited overs cricket is a challenge for bowlers. Most are unable to execute their skills and their confidence takes a beating after the batsmen go after them aggressively. For Chahar, the opposite is true. The youngster claimed that he relishes bowling in the death overs rather than in the powerplay as there are more fielders and he likes to take the batsmen by surprise.”Earlier I used to bowl more in the death overs and find it easier because in Powerplay you have only two fielders outside the circle and after that you have the protection of five fielders. You can use variation also in death overs. How I bowl depends on the batsmen. In the death overs, the batsmen is expecting yorkers or a slower ball but if you can also bowl a bouncer or knuckle ball, it can surprise him. You to have to keep guessing the batsman,” Chahar said.Also Read | Steve Smith Retains No.1 ICC Rankings, Says ‘Gave It All’ In Ashes 2019The Rajasthan pacer, who is used to open the bowling for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League and when asked about how he developed his skills, Chahar was unsure. In his opening spell of three overs, Chahar swung the ball and picked up the wicket of Reeza Hendricks before returning in the 18th over to remove a set Temba Bavuma with a well disguised slower ball. “I don’t know how I developed it (bowling at the top) but you have to do it when you are playing for India. It is challenging with only two fielders outside the circle. But I have started thinking sub-consciously that I will need to bowl three overs with two fielders outside the circle,” Chahar said.Also Read | MS Dhoni Cares About Indian Cricket And Is On Same Page With Us: Virat KohliIndia are gearing up for the 2020 World T20 which is in Australia and they have a total of 27 international Twenty20 games before they finalise their team composition. Chahar has impressed in the chances that he has got but he is aware that cementing his place in the Indian cricket team for the tournament is far from guaranteed. “There is one whole year left for that. I play each match as if it is my last for India. At this time Indian cricket is at the top. If you want to play you have to do well in almost every game. There is a lot of competition and may be that is why Indian cricket is at the top. There is no guarantee that you will get your place back even if you are returning from an injury,” Chahar said. The third and final game of the three-match Twenty20 International series will be played on September 21 at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. With the first match in Dharamshala being abandoned due to rain and the second match in Mohali resulting in an India win, Virat Kohli’s side will be determined to clinch the series and continue their dominance of South Africa in limited overs cricket. For all the Latest Sports News News, Cricket News News, Download News Nation Android and iOS Mobile Apps.last_img read more

Eaves eyes top-2 finish ahead of Michigan State match up

first_imgFor the first time since the 2010-2011 season, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team will welcome Michigan State back to the Kohl Center for the final home series of the season.After coming off a weekend split with Ohio State, the Badgers will look to keep hope alive in their Big Ten title ambitions. With only six conference games remaining, these final two home games are critical to UW’s title chances.“For us to bring back that trophy, we’re probably going to have to be pretty close to winning out and get some help,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “The other goal for us that we need to want to reach is to make sure that we’re one or two for the Big Ten Tournament so that we can get that bye.”The No. 8 Badgers (17-9-2, 8-5-1 Big Ten, 25 points) look to send their group of nine seniors out as winners in their home series finale with the Spartans (9-13-7, 3-5-6, 19 points), who come into Madison having swept Penn State this past weekend.Eaves also emphasized the importance of senior defenseman and captain Frankie Simonelli.“He’s always ranked high in the hard stats…shots, blocked shots, hits…” he said. “We have been able to lean on [Simonelli] in terms of pressure when things weren’t going well and he’s been that voice in the locker room…that have steadied the ship.”UW will face stern opposition in goal from MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who was named Big Ten Third Star of the Week for his performances against the Nittany Lions, posting a .946 save percentage and accumulating 53 saves.Wisconsin will also likely look to senior forward Mark Zengerle, who scored two goals in UW’s Saturday win over OSU, to be the answer to Michigan State’s shot-stopper.This senior class has endured a difficult career, finding it challenging to advance in the WCHA tournament and then only making it to the first round of the NCAA tournament last year.With Senior Day ceremonies planned for Saturday afternoon, they hope this season, and this final pair of home games, ends up being their most memorable one yet.“This is the last home series for our seniors,” Eaves said. “Let’s send them off in a grand way.”When asked about the development of this year’s senior class, Eaves said, “I could go through every player and tell you how each one has grown, and it would take a long time…the growth in every one of them has been substantial.”Sweeping the Spartans would further help Wisconsin’s push toward its goal of a top-two finish in the Big Ten, making this first meeting of the season between these two teams all the more crucial.The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday night at the Kohl Center, with the home and series finale Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.last_img read more

Women’s basketball prepares for Pac-12 Tournament

first_imgThe women’s basketball team may have started their regular season with three losses, but they fought back and finished the season strong to end 9-9 in the Pac-12 and 19-10 overall. Their last game of the regular season against Colorado on Saturday allowed the team to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, setting them up to play against Washington State in the first round on Thursday.Sophomore point guard Minyon Moore goes up for a layup against Utah. Ling Luo | Daily Trojan“We go into the Pac-12 Tournament with 19 wins,” head coach Mark Trakh said. “That’s pretty good. These kids have somehow squeezed out 19 wins out of this season, 9-9 in a very tough conference …. I think we’ve got a chance. We’re going to play everybody.”While their conference record may be modest, the team has taken many top-ranked opponents down to the wire. From forcing double overtime with Oregon to holding UCLA to only 59 points, the team has challenged their opponents from the first whistle to the last. Out of their nine losses, four of them ended with the Trojans finishing within 10 points, while three were within 5 points. For Trakh, that shows the team’s heart and how much they enjoy playing together. “I think the big thing with this team though is if we lose three in a row we do not check out,” Trakh said. “We lost our first three and they didn’t check out. Then, we won two and then lost two, won two and then lost two. They never checked out and that is just being resilient.”They are going to need to keep that resilience alive as they prepare to take on Washington State. In their last meeting in January, the Trojans came out on top with a 73-72 victory. Every second of their last game was a battle, with 12 lead changes throughout the course of the game. While senior forward Kristin Simon finished with a double-double of 24 points and 13 rebounds and junior guard Aliyah Mazyck contributed her own 25 points, it was their combined defensive effort that secured their close victory. Sophomore guard Minyon Moore led the charge with eight of her team’s 13 steals. From there, the team was able to convert 26 points of Washington State’s 17 turnovers, which proved vital in the last quarter. The Cougars were up by 10 points before the Trojans would charge back. With WSU’s chance to tie it up in the final seconds, it would be the Trojans’ clean defense, with everyone stepping up, that would keep the victory in their hands. “They play for each other right now and that’s what’s great,” Trakh said. “Just to see them play for each other and see their leadership. I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”But more than anything, the team is ready for what comes next. The starters have all been averaging over 30 minutes a game, with many of them playing a full 40 minutes on multiple occasions. The team is in shape, has fought for its position in the tournament and is ready to face a familiar opponent. However, while they plan on looking at their past to help prepare for the tournament, they are also viewing it as just another beginning.“We’re not done,” Trakh said. “We start our third season now. We’re 0-0. Third season’s the Pac-12 Tournament and the fourth season is the NCAA Tournament, hopefully. Now, it is within reach, I really feel.”While he knows there is more work to be done, Trahk sees his first season back with USC as a major success. “I’m really proud of these kids from when we took over on May 1,” Trakh said. “I think the coaching staff had to earn the team’s trust and at the same time they had to earn our trust and I think that was what this thing was all about: trust. We’ve won 19 games now, we’re one away from 20, and I’m really really excited about going to the Pac-12 Tournament and the way we’re playing.”The team will be facing Washington State at 6 p.m. at KeyArena in Seattle for the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday. The tournament’s second round begins on Friday. If the Trojans beat the Cougars, they will face Stanford next.last_img read more