Top QB in 2019 heading to Oklahoma

 

By Michael Kinney

In the world of recruiting, quarterbacks tend to fall under one of two categories. They are either described as a pro-style or dual threat.

In the past, dual-threat often meant they were just kids who relied on their athletic ability to play the position. They were not seen as players who could fling the ball around the field from the pocket.

Those terms are starting to go by the wayside and players like Spencer Rattler are the reason why the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Phoenix, AZ. Native is the No. 1 ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class. But that term almost doesn’t do justice to the actual skill set Rattler brings to the position.

“I think it starts with playmaker. He’s a guy that does a lot,” Pinnacle High coach Dana Zupke said. “He can create a lot just on his own. Incredible arm strength, incredibly accurate passer, and then just a great athlete. Really has a knack for extending plays, moving around in the pocket, and keeping his eyes downfield.”

Even though Rattler is considered a quarterback with the ability to run the ball. the passing numbers he has put up so far in his career support the assertion that he is more than just an athlete who plays the position.

In three seasons at Pinnacle High Rattler has compiled 9,220 passing yards and 93 and 30 interceptions. He completed 643 of his 1,046 pass attempts to go along with another 901 rushing yards and 11 TDs on the ground.

As a junior last season, he threw for 3,946 yards and 45 touchdowns on 246 of 379. He also tossed 11 interceptions in 13 games. That is comparable to Auburn commit, Bo Nix, who is the top-rated pro-style QB in the class. He threw for 4,446 yards, 56 touchdowns and 7 INTs, but didn’t come close to Rattler’s ground attack.

“I feel like I played great and helped my team out well,” Rattler said of his junior season. “Stat-wise, I did very good.”

While his induvial accomplishments were impressive, Rattler was more concerned with how his Pinnacle High team. They finished the year with 9-4 record and made it to the quarterfinals of the Arizona state playoffs.

In Pinnacle’s final game of the season, Rattler may have had the best game of his career. The Pioneers lost 77-52 to the Chandler High, despite 587 passing yards and 6 total touchdowns (5 pass, 1 rush) from Rattler. It was the second time in the season he threw for nearly 600 yards.

“One game that really stands out is our last game of the playoffs a loss that was a shootout with the state champs, Chandler High School,” Zupke said. “Nobody put up points on Chandler like we did, and we basically committed to throwing the ball. I think we threw the ball 70 times in that game and threw for all kinds of records including 580 yards passing. He just absolutely made play after play after play after play.”

Yet, in the same contest, Rattler displayed why the same intangibles that make him a fierce competitor, can also cause him problems. That included throwing an interception on the goal line during the comeback attempt.

“I don’t mean this in a negative way. He’s a gunslinger and sometimes he believes he can make every throw and so sometimes that comes back to haunt you, because in that game, that ended up being a pick-six going the other way,” Zupke said. “It was over a 100 yard return for a touchdown. I don’t mean that negatively, that’s not a knock on the kid at all, it’s just that’s what you get with that kind of guy. He’s gonna go for it and we know that and we embrace it. It’s part of his deal. He’s gonna continue to evolve and make better decisions. I’ve seen that over the last three years. The decisions he’s making now compared to what he made as a freshman are night and day, but he’s still gonna go for it. He trusts his receivers and he’s gonna also let them go up and make plays.”

Rattler’s desire to put winning above all else spread over into basketball season where he helped the Pioneers win a state championship earlier this year. But what impressed Zupke is that he did it playing second fiddle on the team to highly touted junior guard Nico Mannion.

“He’s not the star,” Zupke said. “He’s kind of the second guy, and it’s really cool to see him embrace that role and be a key guy.  I was at the basketball banquet when he got voted their varsity defensive player of the year, and that says a lot about a kid right there that as a quarterback that plays great defense in basketball.”

In many ways Rattler is similar to Oklahoma’s quarterback for the past three years. Baker Mayfield also had complete faith in his arm and the ability to get it into tight spaces.

That confidence helped lead the Sooners to a pair of trips to the College Football Playoffs and a Heisman Trophy for Mayfield. Zupke sees that confidence in Rattler, who he has watched grow since he was six-years-old.

“I think that competitiveness that he has is that driving force. He wants to win, he wants to make plays. Whatever it takes to make that happen, and the confidence he has in his own ability,” Zupke said. “I think it’s really that entire thing, it’s the moxie combined with the ability that makes him so special. He knows he’s good and he’s gonna show that in the way that he plays. There’s no point where you look at him and go ‘Okay, he’s doubting himself, or he’s tentative, or whatever.’ He is very confident.”

When Rattler visited Oklahoma, he was able to spend time talking with Mayfield.

“We had a meeting with Baker Mayfield on my visit last summer.  It was my dad, myself, and Baker,” Rattler told Sports360az.com. “He told me about his love for the program and all the coaches at OU.  He is a really cool guy.  My parents also met Baker’s parents on our second visit.  I look up to him and how he plays the game.  He’s a very emotional player and a great leader. Right after I saw Baker plant the flag at Ohio State, it gave me chills. I just can’t wait to get there. I love the swagger they have.”

Even though Rattler was impressed with Mayfield, he was already locked into the Oklahoma camp long before they met.

Rattler committed to the Sooners June 27th of last year. But OU had been after the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder since his freshman year. As were many other programs. They included Alabama, Arizona, Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Texas.

Rattler whittled his choices down to Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Oklahoma. The Sooners won out.

“It’s the perfect setup at OU,” Rattler said. “Coaches are amazing, facilities are crazy, school, everything literally. I love everything about OU. Oklahoma blew everybody out of the water.”

However, that didn’t mean the decision was easy. At least it wasn’t until he visited Oklahoma.

“I knew it once coach (Lincoln) Riley became the head coach,” Rattler said. “I told coach Riley on the phone ‘Once I get up there to visit I’m committing.’  They were very excited but kept it low key until I committed.”

Rattler is the only quarterback that the Sooners have committed for 2019. According to Rattler, that was due to a promise Riley made to him about not recruiting any other quarterbacks from that class.

Regardless, barring any transfers, when Rattler does arrive on the Oklahoma campus in 2019, he will have plenty of competition to deal with. Kyler Murray, Austin Kendall and Tanner Mordecai (2018) will all be looking to secure the starting spot.

“It means a lot that he would keep his word to me,” Rattler said. “He said right when I step on campus I’ll be able to compete for the starting job. If I need to redshirt, I’ll redshirt. But I want to play.”

Regardless when Rattler takes the reigns at Oklahoma, his aspirations are the same as others who have worn the uniform.

“National Championship and the Heisman Trophy,” Rattler said. “Those are the goals.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com

Trae Young taking his talents to Atlanta

By Michael Kinney

Just over a year after graduating from Norman North High school, Trae Young saw his dreams come true. The former Oklahoma point guard was drafted taken by the Atlanta Hawks Thursday in the 2018 NBA Draft.

 “I have been waiting for this night my whole life, it’s crazy,” Young said. “This is such a special moment for me and my family. I want to thank Coach Kruger and the entire OU community for supporting me and my coach from North Norman High School, Coach Merritt, for starting this process with me. Oklahoma will always have a special place in my heart and I will always be a Sooner.”

The 19-year old Young was originally drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the No. 5 spot. But he was immediately traded to Atlanta for their No. 3 pick Luka Donic and a protected 2019 first round draft pick.

Young knew before he left the stage that the trade had gone down and was already focused on joining the Hawks.

During the pre-draft process, it was the Hawks who showed the most enthusiasm towards Young. As draft night got closer, it became evident they would make a move to grab the playmaking guard.

“We love his ability to pass the ball, to make other players better with his court vision,” said Hawks General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk.  “Obviously, he gets a lot of notoriety for his long-range shooting, but I think his ability to pass the ball is what we really liked about him.”

Young is the sixth Sooner to be selected in the top-five an NBA Draft and was taken the highest of any guard in Oklahoma history.

“We are thrilled for Trae as he fulfilled his dream of being drafted into the NBA,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “The Oklahoma program has a long history of Sooners reaching the NBA and it’s an honor to see Trae added to that list. He had a fantastic season as a freshman and did things we had never seen before in college basketball, such as leading the country in both points and assists. Trae’s skills as a scorer and a distributor should be an exciting addition to the Hawks and we’re excited to see him compete at the next level while representing the University of Oklahoma and the city of Norman.”

Young is the second player in the Lon Kruger era who has been a lottery selection. Just two years ago, Buddy Hield was the sixth pick by New Orleans.

Young’s selection caps off what has been a banner year for the Sooners when it comes to professional drafts. Baker Mayfield was taken No. 1 in the NFK, Kyler Murray No. 6 in the MLB and Paige Lowary and Paige Parker were No. 1 and No. 5, respectively, in the National Fastpich Association draft.

Several hours after Young was selected, the Oklahoma City Thunder made their first picks of the night. With the 53rd selection in the second round, the Thunder drafted Devon Hall, a 6-foot-5, 211-pound guard out of the University of Virginia.

One of the few seniors taken, Hall averaged 11.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 43.2 percent from the three-point line during this past season.

“We feel like we know him really, really well,” said Vice President of Identification & Intelligence Will Dawkins. “He’s a guy who improved his shooting every single year he was in college, in attempts and accuracy. He’s able to play on the ball and off the ball. We’re interested in seeing him just kind of get on the floor and fit in with our other wings.”

A few minutes later Oklahoma City was back on the clock and chose Kevin Hervey from Texas-Arlington. The 6-foot-9 forward averaging 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in his senior campaign.

“We’re really excited about the guys that we were able to add this evening,” General Manager Sam Presti said. “Anytime you’re picking in the late 50’s there, really your main objective is to try to shift the odds the best that you can and give yourself a chance to find a player who has a chance to play in the NBA.”

Oklahoma City also made a late trade with Charlotte for their 45th overall pick in Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo. Due to league rules, the trade can’t go into effect until July 6th, so no one from the Thunder organization could discuss it.

Diallo will be the third former Kentucky Wildcat on the Thunder roster. He joins Patrick Patterson and Dakari Johnson.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com

NBA Draft: Trae Young already showing his brand is strong

By Michael Kinney

The 2018 NBA draft will take place Thursday at the Barclays Center in New York City. At some point in the first round, Oklahoma native Trae Young will be selected.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard is projected to be a top-10 lottery pick.

When Young is chosen, it will be just over a year since he graduated from Norman North High School as one of the premier players in the country. He will have gone from an everyday teenager living with his parents to being on the verge of becoming a millionaire with his first NBA contract.

Twenty years ago that would have been all any professional athlete would have wanted. Throw in a shoe deal and a few commercials and they were set.

But now, in this new generation of young men and women gaining instant wealth and fame before they can even legally take a drink, the team contract is just the starting point.

For athletes like Young, the aspirations aren’t just to conquer their sport. It’s also to build their own brand and create a business empire.

“I dreamed of it. You ask me a year ago if I wanted to do this in a year. I would tell you that I’m gonna work my butt off to get to this point,” Young said. “But you never know. All I can do is focus and control what I can control. That was just playing and trying to do whatever it takes to help my team win. Ultimately that got me to this point. I envisioned it, I dreamed of it, but now that it’s reality … my dreams all come true on Thursday. It’s definitely something that is a blessing.”

While the verdict is still out on who will be the best player in the 2018 draft, there seems to be very little debate on who has the potential to be its biggest star. Earlier this month ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell said Young would be the most marketable player in this year’s draft.

Young seems to agree with the assessment.

“It means everything, courtside, on the court, off the court. Being able to attract fans, attract people,” Young said. “As far as on the court, make my teammates better, my overall skill set, you know, shoot the ball, spread the floor, but also be able to get in the lane, get my teammates involved, stuff like that.”

But Young knew that was a possibility early on in his basketball career. When he started getting recruited as an eighth-grader, he had his eyes set on creating a brand that others would want to be involved with.

“Well that was something that I knew I needed to do,” Young said. “ Back in the day there wasn’t social media, you weren’t as marketed like players are now. Even some of the best players weren’t. But, I think that’s something that I’ve learned … I think that I’m very mature at, is knowing that there’s always someone watching. Just making sure I’m doing the right thing at all times, is something I’m focused on.”

Part of that brand building meant staying away from trouble. He knew if he was going to be the face of multimillion-dollar corporations, he couldn’t give them a reason to have a second thought about his character.

“It involved just making sure that I have a clean brand, everything about me is clean,” Young said. “I’m not perfect by any means, but just trying to make it as clean as possible. Trying to do things the right way. Give back to my community. Do different things like that. Just making sure that my off the court is just as good as on the court.”

So far the plan has worked. Young has already inked deals with NBA 2K19 to be one of the featured players on the game. He also signed endorsement deals with Express, the fashion retailer. It will be their suit he is wearing when he crosses the stage on draft night.

Young is also part of Footlocker’s One and Done campaign. Other new partners include Panini Memorabilia, the watch company Tissot and New Deal Custom Hats. According to his father, Ray Young, he was the only player in the 2018 class to have a deal in place with Panini.

Since the day Young said he was turning pro most fans and sports business analyst were waiting to see which shoe company he would join. That wait came to an end Tuesday when it was announced that Young would join the Adidas family. He and Miami’s Lonnie Walker were the only players to sign a footwear and apparel endorsement deal with the 69-year-old German company.

“After seasons of holding down highlight reels, Trae and Lonnie are both heralded for their elite skill set and creativity on-court,” Adidas said in a statement. “Their path to the NBA started with loyalty to family and community and further solidified by their character, passion and dedication to the game. Trae and Lonnie will play an instrumental role in driving performance insights, in addition to creating deeper connections within basketball communities across the globe. They will also be featured in upcoming brand campaigns and activations.”

While the numbers sound great, Young is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead for him in building a global brand. He is now basically a CEO and that means being involved in every aspect of his business dealings.

“Well, that’s something I’ve looked into. I’m very involved on the business side of my brand,” Young said. “Wanting to figure out who I’m going to sign with. Just little things like that. I’m very involved and every part of Team Young. Especially the business side.”

Young relies heavily on his parents, Ray and Candice Young. One of them is normally with the 19-year old wherever he goes while the other is back in Norman with his younger brother, Timothy, and two younger sisters, Caitlyn and Camryn.

“They are going to be a big a big factor to that,” Young said of his parents. “The way they feel about things is a big determining factor on certain things. They are going to be very involved in it. I talk to them all about what they think on certain deals and certain marketing opportunities, different things like that. They’re involved heavily.”

Others who have had an influence on Young have been the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who he has known since his high school days. Both have turned their names into global brands and helped paved the way for what Young wants to accomplish.

However, there is another player who Young is trying to pattern his business path after.

“I really like Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers). How he controls everything. He’s branded,” Young said. “The way he carries himself, he’s a big role model for me. He’s a big person that I look up to like that.”

Young isn’t looking to be a flash in the pan on the court or off. He building his brand for the long term and that means making smart decisions on who he associates with himself.

“Every decision I make now is going to affect me in the future,” Young said. “ Focus on what I can do now to make sure my brand is right, make sure my decisions going forward are looking good. Everything that I do now effects ultimately affects your future. I’m looking at everything,  not just on a short-term basis, but long term.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth

Trae Young wants the NBA to know he’s ready

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

Trae Young knows what he brings to the table. So when the former Oklahoma point guard makes the statement that there is no player like him in this year’s NBA draft, he means it.

“It means everything, courtside, on the court, off the court. Being able to attract fans, attract people,” Young said. “As far as on the court, make my teammates better, my overall skill set, you know, shoot the ball, spread the floor, but also be able to get in the lane, get my teammates involved, stuff like that.”

The 2018 draft is set to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in New York City. Young, who has resided in Los Angeles since declaring for the draft, flew out to NYC Monday morning to prepare for the event.  The Norman North graduate will be on hand at the Barclays Center with a handful of other players who are expected to be drafted in the first round. Young is projected to be a top-10 lottery pick.

However, there is no consensus on where Young will land.

At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Young may be the smallest of the elite players in the draft, but his game fits into the new NBA. In his one season at Oklahoma, Young averaged 27.4 points and 8.8 assists. He also shot over 36 percent from 3-point range.  Of his 261 field goal made, 118 were from behind the arc.

Young had 17 games in which he hoisted up double-digits shots from 3-point range. He also had 11 games where he handed out at least 10 assists.

“A potent perimeter shooter and playmaker, Young displayed, and more importantly sustained, serious ability as the fulcrum of Oklahoma’s offense,” said Sport’s Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo. “His deep shooting range and intelligent use of ball screens open up room for his creative dribble penetration, and turning the Sooners into an elite offensive team for a large stretch of the season was no small feat.”

In the weeks leading up to the draft,  Young has visited only a handful of teams for individual workouts. They included Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago and New York. As of right now, they have the No. 3, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 9 picks in the draft.

“Going out to different teams, it’s been a very busy few weeks just flying different places,” Young said. “Luckily I put myself in a good situation where I only had to work out for a few teams. I just got in and worked out and met  the whole staff, had dinner with them and everything. I mean that was good.”

Young has also seen strong interests from other teams, including Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland.

According to Young, each club that has shown an interest in him have all pretty much approached him in the same way.

“It wasn’t necessarily asking me a bunch of questions, really just wanted to get to know me,” Young said. “Because they know they have a high pick, they want to know who they’re drafting because when you’re picking this high you don’t want to miss. They’re picking people and they want them to be a part of this franchise. They want to get to know me and stuff like that. That’s really all that it really was.”

For Young’s part, his main objective during the workouts and informal meetingshas been to convey to the teams why he should be their top pick.

“Just let them know how much of a team player I am, a competitor,” Young said. “Someone who’s going to come out and compete for his teammates. Just someone who’s an ultimate winner. That’s my main thing. They know what I can do. They know what I’m capable of doing on the court. I wanted to give them a little piece of how I think the game, little things about my mindset and everything.”

Until Young’s name is called Thursday, his future is still up in the air. The 19-year old could land on a rebuilding team, a possible contender, a small market franchise looking for a foundation to build on or a big market needing a star.

Regardless of where Young ends up, he says he is ready for whatever comes next.

“I dreamed of it. You ask me a year ago if I wanted to do this in a year, I would tell you that I’m going work my butt off to get to this point,” Young said. “But you never know. All I can do is focus and control what I can control. That was just playing and trying to do whatever it takes to help my team win. Ultimately that got me to this point. I envisioned it, I dreamed of it, but now that it’s reality … my dreams all come true on Thursday. It’s definitely something that is a blessing.”

This story first appeared in The Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com

Track coach looking to beat the odds in battle with ALS

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY –The changes in his body can already be seen. A couple of months ago, friends and family would have had to look closely at Adam Helms to notice anything was wrong with the Putnam City track coach.

But now, with his arms and hands thinning as his muscle mass disappears, it has become evident that Helms has found himself in the middle of a battle with an opponent that is undefeated.

In March Helms was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a disease in which muscles waste away due to the death of the nerve cells that control them.

“I started feeling stuff in January. In my hand. My index finger wouldn’t straighten,” the 38-year old Helms said. “I finally decided to go to the doctor I would say mid to late January and it took a while to get into a neurologist so it was March before I got in. And I actually got diagnosed the same day as our track meet. So March 30th, I left my doctor’s appointment and went and ran a track meet. I was devastated originally.”

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. According to the ALS Association, the disease usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and it is estimated there are more than 20,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time.

Once ALS starts, it progresses and takes away the ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow and breathe. It eventually leads to death. The life expectancy for someone with the disease is three to five years and there is no cure.

“The future’s kind of an unknown. There’s not a formula. There’s not a blueprint for them to follow. It’s different with everybody,” Helms said. “And in some ways I got lucky because there are two types of it. There’s one that starts in your arms and legs, it’s called limb onset. And there’s another one that starts more in your throat and in your mouth and tongue which means you don’t swallow. You need help breathing. You can’t drink by yourself. Feeding tubes have to go in a lot quicker. So it’s just kind of one of those diseases that there’s no timetable. There’s no rationale or blueprint on what the future’s going look like.”

Helms is currently under the care of Oklahoma City neurologist Dr. Brent Beson. He gave Helms an unfiltered breakdown of exactly what his situation is.

“My first doctor, he was just trying to not drop the bomb on me,” Helms said. “But my current doctor (Beson) is more the band-aid approach guy. Just rip it off and we’ll just deal with it. I feel pretty confident in him. I don’t think he’s your typical doctor. He’s pretty open to a lot of things. If I want to try something he’s not going fire me as a patient. I’m going to have to fire him as a doctor before he’ll give up on me. Which is great.”

Yet, in the three months since Helms has found out he has ALS, he admits there have been some hard days. From informing his parents and sister to telling the members of his track team.

“I was more worried about the kids that I teach and coach because you don’t know what they are going through in their lives half the time,” Helms said. “I don’t think it’s fair to them until it’s absolutely needed.”

But there was nothing that could prepare Helms for sitting down and trying to explain to his three kids, who attend school in Yukon, what is wrong with him.

“That was rough. That was rough. My oldest son had a lot of questions. My daughter was a little numb. And my youngest son just didn’t really understand it at first,” Helms said. “So I ended up having to have a little bit deeper of a conversation with him. They still don’t know the name of it. Because I don’t want them Googling it. But other than that, they’re at a full understanding of what’s gonna happen, and how it’s gonna work. They know that my hands start getting a little bit worse, my arms start to get a little worse, my legs start coming into it. They’ve learned it eventually works its way into my lung area. The muscles around the lungs, that’s when you die.

“So they get that. They understand that it could be two years from now or 20 years from now,” They know. Stephen Hawking lived with it for 51 years.”

Overall, 2018 has not been a great year for the Helms and his family. His grandfather died in January. Three days before that, his friend of 22 years and fellow Putnam City coach Gary Wright passed away.

“It’s been a rough kind of year,” Helms said. “Whoever says it happens in threes is a liar. This happens in fives and sixes.”

For now, Helms is taking it day by day, trying not to let ALS control him. But he knows changes will have to be made. He will no longer coach basketball due to the schedule. However, he still plans to be leading his cross country and track teams for as long as his body allows.

“Biggest differences I see is the strength in my arms and hands. And then the second aspect is I get tired a lot,” Helms said. “I used to be able to work 15, 16 hour days and three or four in a row. Now if I work one day like that it takes me three or four days to recover. My doctor told me that I kind of live in that area after you’ve had a hard workout, you know, really hard workout and you know later on that night, your arms don’t want to move? Or your legs don’t want to move? Because that’s kind of where you live now. And when you do too much you live in that spot and then it takes you a couple days to get back to where you were before you did that other stuff.”

While Helms is preparing for the worst-case scenario, that doesn’t mean he isn’t planning to fight the disease in any way he can. He’s been in contact with former Jenks football coach Allan Trimble, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2016.

Helms is also enrolling in a new clinical study using stem cell research to combat the effects of ALS.

“There’s like six places that are trying it in the United States. It’s an Israeli-based company with a satellite office in New Jersey but I put in for it at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota,” Helms said. “I’ve gotten them all my medical records. They think everything looks good but I’m just waiting on approval from the doctor and apparently, that could take a month or two for a spot to open up and stuff like that.”

However, in order to be in the clinical study, he can’t take any of the normally prescribed medication (Radicava, riluzole) for ALS patients that have shown to slow progression of the disease slightly.

Before Helms even knew about the clinical study, one of the coaches at Putnam City started a GoFundMe page to help with the expenses that were sure to come. More than $6,500 has been raised.

Helms will use the money to pay for the 14 trips he will need to take to either Boston, Los Angeles or Minnesota for the stem cell study.

Despite how grateful Helms was, it was difficult for him to accept the help. Since word got out about the ALS, he has noticed a change in people.

“At times people have treated me like I was a kid in a bubble. And to be honest with you, that makes me feel a little bit worse than anything else, than even what my body feels,” Helms said. “Because they’re treating me different. And I don’t want to be treated differently, just let’s keep going. I’m sick but I’m still gonna be the same person till the day I die, whenever that is. Two years, 10 years, 30 years. Who knows when it is so I’m going to force myself to be happy.”

Yet, even with Helm’s determination to keep a positive mindset, dark times do hit. He said when he is home alone, it has given him time to reflect on his life.

“It’s made me realize that I have a lot of regrets. That life, personally, professionally, stuff, and it’s never good to live in the past to live with those regrets,” Helms said. “Because all that regrets do is stifle you for the future. Put them aside. Say the things you need to say to people that you need to say things. Quit living in fear. Because it’s not going help you, all it’s going to do is handcuff you. It limits you more than it does anything else.”

Helms knows at some point ALS will win. His body will break down, he will lose total control of his arms, legs and breathing. Then the tough decisions will have to be made because he doesn’t want to live on a feeding tube or respirator.

Helms one goal is to be around for at least seven more years to see all of his kids graduate high school. He said after that everything is gravy and they can “pull the plug”.

“Fortunately for me I know, my family will be taken care of, my kids will be taken care of,” Helms said. “They’ve got a good mom. They’ve got a good stepdad. They’ve got my parents. Their other grandparents, you know, my sister. Lots of good people in their life that’s not going to let them go without or need something. Within the Yukon schools I know the parents family, I don’t have to worry about it. You know, so there’s a lot of comfort in that.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com, @EyeAmTruth

Seminoles claim first WCWS title

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY –  Sydney Sherrill grew up a few miles away from USA Hall of Fame Stadium. In fact, as a freshman in high school, she won her first state championship in the same location.

So when Sherrill found herself five years later on the same field holding up her first national championship, it was a surreal moment for the Florida State freshman.  A moment no one outside Tallahassee saw coming.

“It feels amazing. This is a dream come true for me and my team,” Sherrill said. “We knew we could do it. But we really fought this whole entire tournament really. It’s been so incredible. I really can’t describe it. I’m just so happy to be here. I really am.”

No. 6 Florida State defeated No. 5 Washington twice in the championship final of the Women’s College World Series (May 31-June 5) to not only win its first-ever national championship, but also the first for the ACC.

The Seminoles used the long ball and dominant pitching to sweep the Huskies in two games by a combined score of 9-3 (1-0, 8-3). It’s the sixth time since 2010 that the series was won in a sweep.

“We learned how to fight from the ACC Tournament on, and I give credit to the team and the girls,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said. “ As much as that comes from our culture and our coaching staff, they have to buy in and they’re the ones that have to implement it. And our lesson from last year from Team 34 was to have a little more fun. Last year’s team was amazing. We did everything right, but we forgot to celebrate the little things. So this year we celebrated everything and we had a blast with it. I’m so proud of them and thankful for the lessons I learned from every team to be able to move them forward.”

The 2018 WCWS field several big name programs that had won titles or made deep runs in the tourney before. That includes the two-time defending champion Oklahoma,  two-time winner Florida and No. 1 UCLA.

But it was the young Noles who outlasted all of them.

“I think starting in postseason we really bought into the one-pitch mentality. We didn’t take a pitch off. Although we did have the 8-3 lead, still one pitch can change this game,” said Jessie Warren, who was named the MOP. “So we have to focus on this one pitch and stay in it because the moment you let up on the momentum, it carries away. So I think the girls and myself did a really good job taking those breathers when we needed the breathers, taking a step back and soaking it all in and having fun.”

Just to get to the championship series, Florida State took the long road. They lost their first game of the tournament to No. 3 UCLA and automatically dropped to the loser’s bracket.

The Seminoles came back  to beat No. 7 Georgia 7-2 and Oregon 4-1 on the same day. The next day they swept the Bruins by a combined score of 15-3.

In the finale, the pitching of Meghan King and a solo homer from Anna Shelnutt was enough for FSU to shutout UW 1-0.

In Game 2 of the series, it looked like the Huskies were going to force a winner-take-all Game 3.

On King’s first pitch of the game Washington’s Taylor Van Zee lifted a single into centerfield. King then threw a wild pitch that sent Van Zee to second.

The Huskies Sis Bates laid down a bunt and FSU catcher Dani Morgan tried to throw her out at first, but the ball got past Carsyn Gordan and rolled into right field to allow Taylor Van Zee to score.

Julia DePonte then popped up a flyball that the Seminoles were unable to handle. UW had two runners on base and no outs.  A sacrifice fly from Noelle Hee plated another run.

By the time the Huskies were done batting they had a 3-0 lead against a stunned FSU squad.

But the Seminoles stormed back in the bottom of the inning when sophomore Anna Shelnutt hit a 2-run homer. It was her second homer in two days.

The homerun came one play after UW pitcher Taran Alvelo thought she had struck out Shelnutt and was walking toward the dugout before she saw it was called a ball.

Alvelo was back in a jam in the second inning when she put two runners on base. Freshman Elizabeth Mason hit a shot into rightfield that Trysten  Melhart misplayed. Two runs scored giving the Seminoles their first lead.

Gordon drove in another run to push the advantage to 5-3 after two innings.

In the fourth inning, Washington had two runners on base and two outs. Melhart hit a comebacker to King, who was unable to field it. That loaded the bases and was UW’s best chance to get something started.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, Kelly Burdick grounded out to second baseman Sydney Sherrill to end the inning. Mason cranked out a 2-run homer in the fourth inning, which knocked Alvelo out of the game.

“I feel like as softball players there are days you’re on and days you’re not,” Alvelo said. “It’s not like I felt like anything was off. I got emotional. It’s the championship series. I felt like I didn’t give my seniors the best chance to win that game.”

UW freshman Gabbie Plain entered the contest and promptly gave up a solo homer to Warren to put the contest away.

“Unfortunately I think we just kind of ran out of gas,” UW coach Heather Tarr said. “Things happened this day because of things you get to do and you accomplish way beforehand. Whether that’s in your off-season or your fall time and that kind of stuff. So you wish you could have held the lead in those kind of things, but it wasn’t today that ended up, oh, we lost 8 to 3 or whatever the heck the score was. It was lost before we could win it.”

The Noles will lose the likes of Warren and Morgan Klaevemann from its championship squad. But the bulk of its starters will be back next season to defend their crown.

And now that they have gotten a taste of being the best, it doesn’t sound like they are ready to give it up anytime soon.

“I came into this program as a kid, and I’m leaving a strong woman that wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because this coaching staff cares for you as a person, not just a player,” Warren said. “You leave this program so much better than you came into this program, and they prepare you for life. I’m so happy I chose Florida State. And I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll bleed garnet and gold until the day I die. I love Florida State.”

Michael Kinney Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

Huskies upset Sooners at WCWS

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY –  Washington upset two-time defending champion Oklahoma 2-0 in the first round of the Women’s College World Series Thursday at Hall of Fame Stadium.

The loss dropped the Sooners down into the loser’s bracket, a situation they have not had to face in their previous two titles runs.

“Losing is never fun but I know how much fight our team has and how much heart that we have, and you know, I fully believe that this team can do anything,” OU All-American Paige Parker said. “And so just having so much faith and trust in each other, I know losing is not fun, but I know we’re going to come out strong our next game, and you know, bounce back from this.”

Oklahoma will face No. 8 seed Arizona State at 11 a.m. Saturday at USA Hall of Fame Stadium. If they win, they will take on the loser of Florida and UCLA at 6 p.m. Saturday.

If they lose either of those games, the season will be over for OU.

“We know we can bounce back. Like (coach Patty Gasso) said, this road, it’s not going to be easy,” OU’s Shay Knighten said. “Everyone’s gunning to win the national championship, and we just kind of put our heads together and said, you know what, this is not how we want to go out. We want to go out with everything that we have on the field and if they beat us, they beat us, but it’s not going to be because we didn’t try. We want to finish this strong and we want to get back to where we know we can be. It’s just having the will to fight and wanting what we want and not being afraid to go for it.”

UW’s  Gabbie Plain and Parker dueled throughout the most of the day. They limited the opposing offensive attacks to grounds outs and flyballs.

Despite that, Gasso pulled Parker in the fifth inning after allowing only three hits. She was replaced by Paige Lowary.

The Huskies still continued to work as they had put runners on second and third and Sis Bates at the plate. Bates hit a comeback to Lowary and Trysten Melhart took off from third. Lowary hesitated when throwing back to catcher Lea Wodach and Melhart slid underneath for the game’s first score.

Washington wasn’t done. Julia DePonte hit a double into shallow centerfield that brought in another run.

Lowary struck out the final two batters of the inning. But the damage had been done as UW led 2-0.

“Paige (Parker) was already up into the 70s with her pitch count. This is not anything uncommon. We’ve done it all the time. It was almost expected,” Gasso said. “So we stand behind the decision and I think both of these pitchers threw well. Quite honestly, our defense did not — the pitching staff did well enough to win, our defense and our hitters were not there today.”

The Huskies stayed on the attack in the sixth inning. With two runners on and no outs, Melhart laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases.

Gasso brought Parker back into the contest to get the Sooners out of the jam. After Kelly Burdick popped out, Taylor Van Zee flew out to left field. However, Nawai Kaupe had already taken two steps toward home and had to go back and tagged up, which prevented her from trying to score.

Bates bunted, but Parker got to it quickly and threw Kaupe out at home.

Trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning, the Sooners  Sydney Romero and Jocelyn Alo both singled with two outs.

UW coach Heather Tarr brought in pitcher Taran Alvelo to relieve Gabbie Plain.  Knighten then drilled a fly ball to right field that looked like it was going to fall in for a hit. But Melhart sprinted in from near the warning track to make a diving, juggling catch for the out. The play saved at least one run from scoring, possibly two.

“I would say that ranked in the top 10 of great catches I’ve ever made, and in that moment, I felt like I had it, I went for it, and I did catch it,” Melhart said. “When I got up, people were still running and I was like — I just threw it in all nonchalant and it worked out for us and they saw what I felt, so that was good.”

The Oklahoma bench was not happy with the call as  Gasso discussed the play with the officials in between innings.

“They said that it was a 100 percent clean catch right to me,” Gasso said. “That’s what the umpire said — like I’m 100 percent sure that she made the catch, and the transfer is when the ball came out. That was what I was told.”

According to NCAA Rules Secretary, Vickie Van Kleeck, the call was correct.

“The right fielder caught the ball. She made the catch,” Van Kleeck said. “And the ball was dropped on the transfer, trying to take the ball from her glove to her hand. This is considered a secondary motion, so it’s ruled a catch. Any type of secondary motion, not standing so much as the transfer. It was ruled on the transfer. That secondary motion means that the catch was good.”

In the seventh Alvelo got the first two batters out before Nicole Mendes singled. Caleigh Clifton then singled to bring the game-winning run to the plate.

But Alvelo struck out Kylie Lundberg to end the game.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com