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Better with age

Written by Bryan Savens, Logan Smoak, Tyler Maxwell, Schuyler Wick and Chris Jones

 

It’s not every day that you skim across a college tennis roster and see a 37 year old who isn’t the coach. It’s not every day that the 37 year old is one of the best players on a contending college tennis team.

University junior Chris Wootton is not your typical college student, let alone college athlete. He is playing Division III tennis at the age of 37, an age many aren’t accustomed to seeing on a college tennis court.

Early Years

Born in Dallas, Wootton grew up in Highland Park and went to school there until his junior year. He left for Austin and repeated his junior year while he attended St. Stephen’s Tennis Academy, a program started by his coach at Highland Park. Wootton was the very first person to attend the academy and finished his last two years playing tennis and looked forward to playing college tennis.

Wootton originally signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Illinois, but things changed when his girlfriend at the time became pregnant.

Wootton married his girlfriend in 2000, but things did not work out and they separated in 2003. After years of bartending and managing restaurants in Dallas, Mississippi and Alabama, Wootton decided in 2007 that he wanted to start playing tennis again.

After a move to Jackson, Mississippi where he received his certifications in order to become the Head Pro at Parham Bridges Tennis Center, Wootton made the choice to attend Mississippi College.

“It had to do with a lot of different things,” Wootton said. “For the first time in my life I had found God and it had given me an opportunity to find some perspective on life.”

 

 

Mississippi College

Wootton had formerly coached two players on the Mississippi College tennis team while he was the head instructor at the Parham Bridges Tennis Center. After talking with both the players and coaches at Mississippi College, he decided to join the Choctaws and play collegiate tennis at the age of 35.

“The main reason I went back to school was because I wanted to be a role model to my daughter,” Wootton said. “I wanted to be that guy that my daughter would look at and say ‘one day I want to meet a guy that is just like my father.’”

During the fall of his freshman year, Wootton never imagined he would be playing at the level he was and when the spring season came around, he was number two on the team and competing against the best players in the American Southwest Conference.

“I never really thought that I was going to compete ever on a tennis court, I thought I was going to have fun,” Wootton said. “Then it turned into, wait a second this is what I want to do.”

At 245 pounds and around 50 percent body fat, Wootton was far from being considered a top-tier athlete.

Nearly 16 years without any real physical activity proved to be a difficult step towards playing at a high level again, but Wootton overcame.

 “I was that middle-aged guy that was overweight and I really didn’t care,” Wootton said.

Through hard work and intense training, Wootton slimmed down to a current weight of 190 pounds and is around 10-12 percent body fat.

Wootton’s journey has not been easy in the slightest. Aches and pains, back surgeries and multiple injuries have tried to slow down the 37 year old, but Wootton keeps pushing the limits of his body.

“I’m like a science project,” Wootton said. “If you make a mistake and throw a little bit of the wrong chemical in your science project, it’s just going to blow up and that’s kind of the way I am now.”

UT Tyler

During the fall semester, the Patriot tennis team practiced for three weeks and competed in two tournaments that provided the team a chance to get better in the offseason before their season begins in February. After transferring to the University this fall, Wooten has already made an impact on the team.

Senior Patriot tennis player Ryan Spencer, a leader by example for the University, had nothing but praise for Wootton.

“Chris stepped in and immediately people were looking up to him,” Spencer said. “He is here to make decisions, he has awesome insight and the way he understands the game is incredible. He is definitely a leader.”

Wootton’s relationship with the coaching staff is unique compared to other players and it was a big reason for him coming to the University in the first place. Wootton played for Mississippi College, who is also in the ASC along with the University, and had been in contact with Patriot head coach Chris Bizot.

The work ethic Wootton exudes is something that brings energy to the team’s practices, Bizot said. Even though Wootton is quite a bit older than his teammates, Bizot still has higher expectations for him.

“The potential that he has to compete at a national level, and to lift our team up to places we have never been is pretty high,” Bizot said. “There are not too many players that have high expectations then their coaches.”

Wootton’s age and leadership sets him apart from his teammates. Before he came to the University though, Wootton wanted to make it clear to Bizot that he was a player and not a coach. He wanted to be coached and was willing to absorb any knowledge the coaching staff had for him to learn.

Regardless of Wootton’s desire to be a player, his age and seasoned professionalism sets him apart from his teammates and his coaches take advantage of his experience.

“Bouncing ideas off of him, it is almost like having a third coach out there,” Bizot said. “It is really beneficial to our team and so far he has done everything we have asked of him.”

Wootton is a business major with plans of pursuing a master’s degree in an undetermined field. Wootton hopes to have his strength and conditioning certification upon his graduation and plans on becoming an assistant coach or graduate assistant at a university.

“I would really like to be a head coach somewhere,” Wootton said. “At 55 I would like to be an intercollegiate athletic director somewhere and be at a school where I could be there for 20 years and then retire.”

Experience mixed with the will to be the best tennis player and the best person he can be, Wootton has defied the ordinary and become extraordinary. Playing college tennis at 37 is a feat in itself but Wootton has endured the good and the bad in life to become a role model for anyone with aspirations of playing collegiately. His accomplishments at the age of 37 are unique and should be considered incredible in their own right, but Wootton has shown that age is just a number and that nothing in life should stop you from accomplishing your goals.

Turning things around

A new head coach, players revitalize women’s basketball at UT Tyler

 

Written by: Bryan Savens, Tyler Maxwell, Logan Smoak, Schuyler Wick and Chris Jones

 

            Mediocrity had become the norm, women’s basketball wasn’t respected anymore and UT Tyler students hardly realized the potential of a team that hadn’t proven themselves since it was an established program four years ago.

            Stasha Richards coached the UT Tyler women’s basketball team in 2011-2012, where the team had a third straight sub .500 season at 12-13, finishing sixth in the East division of the American Southwest Conference.

            A change was in order, which led the University to bring in a new head coach, Kevin Baker. Baker, formerly the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at West Texas A&M, came to UT Tyler to change the culture of the team and turn the program around.

            Baker, in his first season with the Patriots, finished at 18-9, 12-7 in conference, which was good for third in the ASC. After defeating defending ASC champion Concordia University in the first round of the conference tournament, the Patriots faced powerhouse and No. 1 seed Louisiana College and went into overtime, eventually falling 82-79.

            The Patriots season was a success. The Patriots had the best regular season record in program history and made it to the second round of the conference tournament, something they hadn’t done in the conference since the team became tournament eligible. Although they have won the ASC East before, meaning they had the best regular season record, this was the first time the Patriots made it out of the first round of the conference tourney.

            There has been a change in culture at UT Tyler, and Baker has been the main cause for such a dramatic turnaround.

            “Coach Baker and staff really care for us,” senior forward Brittany King said. “Baker really prepares us to win and treats us great. He puts a lot of trust in us.”

            King was a transfer student in Baker’s first season at UT Tyler, and helped lead the Patriots to their stellar season. King also tied the UT Tyler record for most points in a game with 34 against Concordia on Feb. 22, 2013. King also holds the record for highest field goal percentage in a season at .602.

            Being a transfer student, King was on a new team with a new coach and teammates she didn’t know, but she led by example and helped the Patriots reach the ASC tournament for the first time in four years.

            Assistant coach Cassi Little is going into her seventh season as the Patriots’ assistant coach, having served under three different head coaches, most recently coach Richards before Baker arrived last season. With Baker at the helm and an experienced Little to assist him, the Patriots were able to put together a strong season with basically a new and very young team.

            “Baker just came in and picked up where we were three years before, and just demanded excellence,” Little said. “When you do that from the student athletes, then they buy in and demand excellence among themselves, and it makes it a lot easier.”

            Having coached under Richards while the team struggled from 2009-2012, Little knows the difference between a winning and losing culture. With the team hungry for a winning season, Little and Baker tried to bring a sense of togetherness and unity to last year’s team, and it showed on the court.

            The Patriots showed guts and determination last season, but coach Little would describe the team differently.

“If I can’t say crazy, I would say family, for sure,” Little said.

            Former UT Tyler men’s basketball coach Kenny Bizot, who stepped down as the head coach after last season to coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Mississippi, developed a close relationship with Baker in his first year in Tyler and still stay in touch to this day.

            “I miss working with Coach Baker.  He has a great sense humor and he had me laughing many times,” Bizot said. “We bounced a lot of things off each other to improve both our teams.

            Bizot, who also coached the Patriot men to their best season in school history, attests to Baker’s determination as a coach and believes that Baker not only teaches the fundamentals of the game, but he also teaches the importance of hard work and life lessons in the game of basketball.

“Coach Baker’s work ethic is one of the best in the coaching business,” Bizot said. “When you have the type of system, the energy and passion that coach Baker has, you will be a success from year to year.”

She’Cara Humphrey, a senior on the women’s team, has been through the ups and downs in her three years in the program, including time under coach Richards, who was unable to produce a winning season in Humphrey’s first two seasons. With Baker arriving last year, Humphrey helped the Patriots to a record season, receiving Second-Team All-East Division honors, averaging 10.6 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game. Humphrey praised her coach, saying he has complete experience at all levels at basketball and she enjoys playing for him.

“I definitely think he will be around for a long time. He is changing the program around,” Humphrey said. “Women’s basketball is going to have a different look now, thanks to Coach Baker.”

After inheriting a program that was once strong and established, but fell under new coaching, Baker revitalized a team that had all the potential to be as good as it was last season. He looks to continue that success as he coaches a core group of girls that are returning from last season’s record-breaking team.

“I tell the girls all the time, ‘if you play really hard and you care about one another, then I’m good,’” Baker said. “‘If we win a championship and it all works out to where we are cutting down the nets and we’re putting a ring on our finger at the end of the year, then I’m really happy for you that you were able to accomplish that.’”

The Patriots began their 2013-14 season with a 101-57 victory over the Ladies of Centenary College on Saturday, Nov. 16 at home. The Patriots will face Rhodes College on Friday, Nov. 22 at home, where they will look to continue the success they had last season and continue to turn things around for UT Tyler women’s basketball.

 

Happy Trails?

Students and faculty weigh in on recreational trails possible overturn

Written by Bryan Savens, Logan Smoak, Tyler Maxwell, Schuyler Wick and Chris Jones

 

The runner’s left foot lands harshly on asphalt as the knee takes a beating. The runner then changes pace and launches onto the dirt trail, where the right foot meets soft dirt and leaves the knee comfortable and durable.

For University of Texas at Tyler runners, the on-campus trails provide a place for comfortable running that helps reduce the wear and tear of the joints that can be damaged during long distance running.

 Running is a sport that requires endurance, proper breathing and the right amount of training in order to achieve the highest level of success. One thing that is often overlooked in this rigorous routine is the continuous stress runners put on their knees and ankles

For cross country runners who spend long hours training, often year-round, running on soft and diverse land is a necessity.

With the University set to build a new building to house the pharmacy school, the location of the building sits directly on top of where a majority of both running and biking trails on campus are located. This means that these trails as they are could possibly be leveled and used for the landscaping of the building, effectively cutting off connection to the perimeter trails as well as the rest of the trails on campus.

Sophomore cross country runner Matthew Markert talked about the possibility of losing the trails and having to find somewhere new to practice.

“It sucks. It’s going to be tough. There are other parks around here, but nothing as convenient as these trails on campus.”

The trails are used by cross country runners as well as students and faculty at the University. The trails are open to the public, functioning as a running and biking trail system for all to enjoy.

Graduate student Lacey Longenbaugh has been running on the trails since she arrived at the University and is a strong advocate for their preservation.

“I believe that these trails are important to myself and other students that are not athletic participants because they are a way for us to exercise in the outdoors and immerse ourselves in nature in the middle of a city,” Longenbaugh said. “I think they are also important because they bring many people to campus to play on the disc golf course, walk and run the trails, and even walk their dogs.”

The trails themselves have created a convenient and beautiful place to exercise, which is why the cross country team has taken advantage of the trails and use them almost every day.

Losing part of the trails on-campus could not only affect continuity and overall distance of the trails, it could hurt the recruiting of future cross country runners that have an interest of attending the University to compete on the team.

“(The trails) was one of the reasons why we got three of our new freshmen this year,” sophomore cross country runner Miles Zeorlin said. “Last year when they came visiting, they were kind of on the fence, and we told them about the trails and actually took them out running with us and mountain biking with us. It was the trails that kind of sold them on our school.”

The convenience and impact of the trails has left its mark on both current and former students, one that is unique to the University.

“The reason I came to UT Tyler was because of the way the campus is set up and how unoriginal it is compared to other campuses,” senior cross country runner Jason Hamilton said. “It’s kind of upsetting we’re losing them, but it’s not all of it so it’s not the end of the world.”

The pharmacy building will not begin construction until after the spring semester of 2014, which means the current season for the University cross country teams will not be affected by the new construction and possible lack of trail.

University President Rodney Mabry spoke on the issue that the cross country runners had on the building’s location and how the trails are going to be utilized. “I feel for them but they created that but they will have to find another place,” Dr. Mabry said. “We are going to take the under brush out of all of our other land cross the [Old Omen Road] street. There will be other places where they can run. But yeah the building has to go there.”

Head cross country coach Bob Hepler, who is also the Director of Rec Sports at the University, talked about the changes in the future and what it meant for the campus and the cross country team.

After meeting with Vice President of Business Affairs Jesse Acosta about the trails and the pharmacy building, Hepler met with the architect of the pharmacy building to go over the possible ways to preserve as much of the trails as possible.

“We came up with some great ideas,” Hepler said. “If they follow through, and I don’t have any reason not to believe them, they’re going to do everything to preserve the overall trial.”

One proposal that Hepler has been pushing for, not only in the construction of this new building but on the trails that border the University, is the idea to have crushed granite instead of sidewalks.

“With crushed granite, you can mountain bike on it, it’s ADA compliant, walk, jog, everything,” Hepler said. “It’s a little bit cheaper than sidewalks.”

Hepler explained that the landscape architect agreed with him and is coming up with a plan on how to put in the crushed granite wherever possible and preserve the perimeter trail that everyone uses.

Though the team is losing part of the trails because of the pharmacy building, some students and former students are encouraged with the growth of the school and the need for more buildings to expand the range of the University.

“I have mixed feelings the situation. On one hand, I am happy to hear that UT Tyler is expanding and the new building seems to symbolize the growth and success at UT Tyler,” former UT Tyler cross country runner Jeff Chandler said. “On the other hand, I hate to see UT Tyler tear down the running trails. I ran on those trails almost every day while attending UT Tyler.”

With so many people, runners or non-runners, students, alumni and coaches using them, the University of Texas at Tyler Recreational Trails are something to love, according to Chandler.

“We’re going to lose some of the trail,” Hepler said. “They are trying to come up with a plan where even that part of the trail system would have minimal impact. They’re looking at raised walkways and if we have those raised walkways, the trail underneath the walkway would not be affected.”

Even though no soil has been upturned or any trees have been torn from their roots, the people of the University are already voicing their opinions and raising concerns for the potential loss of trails. With accommodating plans being discussed and the overall impact of the trails have on-campus, it would seem to look optimistic for the future of these trails.

“You can lose yourself in the trails and not worry about pace, time or anything besides enjoying the run,” Chandler said. “Without the trails at UT Tyler, I don’t know if I would have been the runner I am today.”

 

Brian Wilson nearing a return to the Dodgers

Originally posted on HardballTalk:

As of last week Brian Wilson was said to be in “serious” talks with Detroit, but now that the Tigers are on the verge of signing Joe Nathan as their new closer Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that Wilson is nearing a return to the Dodgers.

Wilson was fantastic down the stretch as a setup man for the Dodgers, throwing 20 innings with a 0.45 ERA and 21/6 K/BB ratio combined in the regular season and playoffs. And after missing nearly all of 2012 following Tommy John elbow surgery he averaged 93.2 miles per hour with his fastball.

Prior to the surgery Wilson put together a four-year run as the Giants’ closer in which he saved 163 games with a 3.00 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

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She’Cara Interview with Schuyler Wick

She’Cara Humphrey Interview with Schuyler Wick

With a new Coach in for the 2nd year, what is it like having him compared to Coach Richards?

With last year being Coach Baker’s first year, you could see a complete difference. Coach Baker has that complete experience at all levels at basketball. He’s been coaching for 20 years, you can tell the experience that he has compared to Coach Richard.

 

Do you like him and is he a good fit for the team and its future?

Yeah! Even just last year we set records. I definitely think he will be around for a long time. He is changing the program around. Women’s basketball is going to have a different look now, thanks to Coach Baker.

Do you like his Baker’s coaching style?

I do a lot. When I first met him he said, “There are players who think they’re good and players who know they’re good.” Before he came in, I thought I was good but ever since he came in my mind set have been like, him teaching me and telling me everything he knows and making me a better player. Now I know I’m good.

 

Have you seen a change in your team from when Coach Richards was here compared to Coach Baker?

It’s kind of a hard question because when Coach Baker came in there were only 3 people who had been with Coach Richards. It was a completely new team when Coach Baker came in. Had he been here with the old team we had with Coach Richards, I’m sure there would have been a lot of changes. We had a good team then, we should have a good coach to lead us to a championship.

 

Last year you started all 27 games with 10.6 points per game, 2nd most on the team per game. And 5.6 rebounds per game, 2nd most on the team. How do you feel about last season?

I think I had a good season, I think what I did, helped us as a whole. I had my teammates pushing me in practice, the coaches pushing all of use in practice. I can’t even take full credit for all of it, because it hadn’t been for my teammates or my coach I probably hadn’t of been 2nd lead in scoring and rebounds. So I definitely think the teammates had a role in it and pushing me and helping me get better.

 

How close is the team?

Some teams with a lot of girls have a lot of drama, this year there was none. This is surprising dealing with a lot of girls. When we first came in August, we hung out before school started, all during pre-season. And we still hang out now; we are literally with each other all the time, even outside of practice

 

Is there goo chemistry on and off the court?

 I think it’s a little different trying to find on court chemistry vs. off court chemistry. But I think are off court chemistry will help us find it on the court.

 

 

 

Report: Yankees trying to put a time limit on Robinson Cano

Originally posted on HardballTalk:

According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York the Yankees “plan on talking to the agents for Robinson Cano on Monday to reiterate that they will only be able to keep their best offer on the table for so long.”

Marchand reports that the Yankees are working on possible deals with multiple other free agents even after signing Brian McCann for $85 million and if some of them take New York’s offers the money wouldn’t be available for Cano.

Which … well, I dunno, I have a hard time believing that’s actually how things would play out. If the Yankees truly want Cano back it’s not as if they’re going to allow someone like Carlos Beltran, Omar Infante, or another similar free agent to determine whether it actually happens.

They’ll wait for Cano, because Cano is worth waiting for.

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