Athletics in the news

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Wayne State football team powered by former local stars

The Wayne State University football team aims to bounce back from a 2-9 season in 2018, and will look to some former area stars to do it. The following players from the Hometown Life coverage area are on the 2019 roster. James Hill is the most important player on the list this fall for the Warriors. He is the team’s starting running back and rushed for 831 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He also caught 17 passes for 172 yards, making him the team’s second-leading receiver. Marcus Bailey is expected to be more involved in the offense this year, after catching two passes last season. Jacob Mass played in all 11 games and recorded nine tackles and one tackle for loss. Assistant running backs coach Dylan Dunn is also a Livonia native and played football at Livonia Stevenson, where he graduated in 2012. Wayne State opens the season at home on Thursday, Sept. 5, against No. 10 Slippery Rock.
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On the trail: A dive into Michigan high school recruiting

Scott Wooster, a recruiting coordinator and offensive line coach at Wayne State University, said social media can help those in his line of work get an early character evaluation on a player based on what they post. The coach also noted that social media can hurt the evaluation of a player in more ways than one. “Because of all this attention you can get on social media, I think some young men have fallen in love with recruiting and don’t necessarily love football,” he said. “You better love football, because you’re going to spend a lot of time with it at the college level.” While there have been copious number of changes to recruiting over the years, one thing that has stayed constant in Wooster’s job is where he starts his evaluation of a high school player. “To me it all starts with the coach,” Wooster said. “I think any program worth their salt, that’s how they’re going to operate too. For the kids, don’t just be the best player on your team — be the best young man on your team. … Do everything your coach says so that when we go in there, your coach says, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy.’” Wooster said he makes contact with every coach in his recruiting area, which includes both Oakland and Macomb counties. He physically visits 80-90 percent of the schools to make sure he and his staff aren’t relying on what they see on Twitter or recruiting databases. Wooster said there are some myths when it comes to recruiting. “I think one of them is you need a recruiting service to get recruited,” he said. “It all goes through the high school coach for us.” Running hand in hand with recruiting services are recruiting combines, places where kids can go with hopes of getting more eyes from D-1 scouts. Wooster believes it’s best to stay away from those types of camps. “Don’t waste your money on the combines and all that kind of stuff,” Wooster said. “Instead, have that honest conversation with your high school coach about what level they see you playing at. Then go to those camps, go to the camps; where that (college’s) staff is going to be there. That’s the way to get recruited.”
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Deiontae Nicholas back for last hurrah, seeks to lift Wayne State from doldrums

Sometimes the hardest part of football is figuring out when to let it go. After injuries limited him to playing in only seven games in the past two seasons, that time seemed to be drawing nigh for Wayne State’s Deiontae Nicholas. Nicholas was a redshirt senior and after a productive five years, he was poised to hang up his cleats for the final time, after an injury in the third game ended his year. Not quite. “After (the injury) happened, for the next two or three months, I was convinced that it was my last year and I was done,” Nicholas said. “Thoughts kept creeping back and things like getting accepted into grad school and teammates talking about our season not going well and next year being better. “Being around the team the rest of the season motivated me to give it another shot.” Nicholas got a medical waiver for a sixth year of eligibility and gets another shot to help Wayne State improve of its dismal 2-9 finish last season. In some ways, the sour taste from a poor showing helped motivate Nicholas to give it another shot.
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Wayne State looks to 'create a new culture' to bounce back from two-win season

Wayne State football coach Paul Winters hadn’t experienced a season like 2018’s 2-9 campaign since his first season in 2004 when the rookie head coach got his feet wet at Wayne State with a 1-9 mark. Winters isn’t shy about the team falling short of expectations, describing his 2018 team Monday as struggling quite a bit at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's media day. In order to get back to respectability in the GLIAC, Winters said his team will have to embrace the grindstone, highlighting work ethic as the key to engineering a turnaround. “The GLIAC is the SEC of Division II,” Winters said. “Every week it’s a great challenge. Our guys are all upset with the results of last season. We’ve got guys that are anxious to show that that’s (last season’s record) not us.” Last season’s low win total brought Winters’s career record at Wayne State under .500, but if anyone knows how to steer Wayne State football to the national stage, it’s probably Winters. His 2011 squad was the Division II national runner-up and Wayne State had winning seasons from 2008 to 2012. Plus, Winters has put players into the NFL, including Joique Bell. Anthony Pittman, a linebacker last season, is vying for a spot with the Lions.
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New arena approved for WSU basketball and Pistons’ G League affiliate

In May of this year, Wayne State’s board of governors approved plans for the construction of an arena that will host Wayne State men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as contests for the Pistons’ G League affiliate. Rob Fournier, Wayne State director of athletics, expects the arena — which he said will have a seating capacity of about 3,000 — to be completed in July of 2021 on the campus of Wayne State, near the intersection of Warren and Trumbull avenues in Detroit. “Anytime your athletic program can be associated directly with a professional team, there’s no downside to it,” Fournier said. “Can you imagine showing a recruit around the facility and say, ‘Oh, by the way, we have a partnership with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA.’ How does that hurt your recruiting? Those are the kind of intangibles that separate you from other institutions.” The projected cost for the arena is $25 million. “The basic formula is we’re putting the money upfront, and then they’re paying us back money over a number of years to cover that cost,” Fournier said of the lease agreement with the Pistons.
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Wayne State's Hunter Brown goes in fifth round to Astros

Wayne State right-hander Hunter Brown saw the pre-Major League Baseball projections, that had him a top-100 prospect. But he tried not to get caught up in that as one pick after another went by, first Monday night, then mid-day Tuesday. The patience paid off when the Houston Astros took him in the fifth round. "Honestly, you know, you wait your whole life, as long as you play baseball starting in Little League, to hopefully sit there and hear your name called," Brown said. "And you see your name go up on the screen. It's a pretty exciting feeling. It's nothing like you've ever felt. It was awesome." Brown, 20, was taken with the 166th pick in the draft. Interestingly, Wayne State's best showing in the draft was another right-hander, Anthony Bass, who was selected in 2008 — with the 165th pick. "So he went one ahead, huh?" Brown said, laughing. "We were trying to find out what pick he went. We knew he went in the fifth round. Anthony's great, he's had a big-league career. And he's been kind of a mentor to me, this year especially. So, hey, 165 or 166, or anything range, it's awesome." Bass, 31, is in his eighth season in the major leagues, now with the Seattle Mariners. But over the offseason, during a fall scout day on campus and during Bass' annual camp at Wayne State, he made sure to pass along his cell number to Wayne State coach Ryan Kelley — to give to Brown.
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'Game-changer': Wayne State to build $25M athletic facility, house Pistons' G-League team

Built in 1965, the Matthaei Center has been the hub of Wayne State's athletic campus in midtown Detroit. Intramural and club sports, the swimming facility and almost every other sport were housed in the same outdated facility.  The upgrade is coming.  With an 8-0 vote, the school's Board of Governors unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to build a new $25-million on-campus athletic facility that will house its men's and women's basketball teams. In addition, the Pistons announced that the new facility will be home to their affiliate in the Gatorade League.  The new 70,000-square-foot facility — seating 3,000 — will be near the corner of Warren and Trumbull, where an intramural field
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Pistons say Detroit G League affiliate beneficial all-around

The NBA G League is coming to Detroit. The Detroit Pistons announced plans Wednesday to bring a developmental team to the city as part of a multi-faceted partnership with Wayne State University. The G League team will play in the arena Wayne State is planning to build for its men’s and women’s team. A specific timeline has not been determined, but the $25 million facility, with a capacity of 3,000, is scheduled to be compete in time for the 2021-22 season. The Pistons and their current G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, recently extended their operating agreement through the 2020-21 season. Discussions with G League officials continue, regarding whether the new team will be part of an expansion or whether the Drive will relocate. “We continue to invest in the success of our franchise and the success of our community,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement. “Bringing a G League team to Detroit delivers on both fronts. It will give our players and coaches the best tools available to maximize performance, and it will add more fuel to the revitalization underway in Midtown and throughout Detroit.”