Vol. 49, No. 2 • January 2012 • .pdf version
• Lenox Rawlings: History will keep taking twists and turns
• Joe Mitch: Start your Final Four with USBWA breakfast
• Cushman, DeCourcy, Finney form Hall of Fame class
• Shining moments found in glare of Penn State negativity
• Winn snares another first, second in best writing contest
• Complete writing contest results

Winn snares another first, second in best writing contest

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Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated and SI.com finished first and second in the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's best writing contest, claiming at least one first-place finish and multiple place-winners for the third year in a row. Winn took first place in moderate length features and second in enterprise/investigative reporting.

• 2011 Best Writing Contest winners
• Invite a colleague to join the USBWA
• Nominate a deserving award candidate

Other first-place winners included Sean Gregory of Time in magazine length features; Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville Observer in enterprise/investigative reporting; David Teel of the Newport News Daily Press in column writing; and David Woods of the Indianapolis Star in game story/spot news.

Other multiple winners were John Feinstein of the Washington Post, who took a third in game story/spot news and a fourth in column writing, and Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News, who finished third in moderate length features and fourth magazine length features.

Winn's winning entry, The Gift of Grab, was a feature story on Morehead State's Kenneth Faried, who broke the NCAA's modern-day record for career rebounds, and the relationship with his mother, who has lupus.

Winn wrote: "What separates the player who gets 10 to 12 rebounds per 40 minutes from the one who gets 17, as Faried does? He's oversized for his conference, which helps; he has long arms, an excellent second bounce and loads of lateral quickness, which help even more. He has a few tricks that he learned from Kenneth Sr., including a jujitsulike swim move Faried uses against opponents who have him boxed out; it typically involves a deft blow to the solar plexus that pushes the opposing player away from the basket. But elite rebounders have an intangible force as well. Former Pitt star DeJuan Blair, for example, said he was powered by something like greed. "I love money," he explained during his sophomore season. "I pretend that every rebound is a million dollars, and I'm going to go out and get my millions." Faried has a deeper drive, and this is what major-conference recruiters missed: They could see 6'7", 185 pounds and they could see his raw athleticism – but they could not gauge the depth of his will to rebound."

In his second-place story – Up Three, Under Seven – Winn explored coaching strategies for teams with a three-point lead and seven seconds remaining.

In the magazine length features category, Gregory drew on his experience as a benchwarmer at Princeton to reflect on the Tigers' historic upset of UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament.

Gregory wrote: "As the country gears up for this year's version of March Madness, another group of underdog teams – including the 2011 Princeton Tigers, who reached the tournament after hitting a buzzer beater against Harvard in the Ivy League playoff – are trying to repeat Princeton's feat and win the hearts of all those sports fans who love the long shots. (Or, conversely, the enmity of office-pool participants who picked that big-time team to make the Final Four). Over the past 20 or so years, fans have witnessed a series of first-round stunners in the NCAA basketball tournament. In 1991, for example, Richmond shocked Syracuse to become the first 15th-seeded team to take a tournament game; two years later, Santa Clara University, led by a funky freshman point guard named Steve Nash, toppled Arizona. Back in 2005, tiny Bucknell, of Lewisburg, Pa., knocked off Kansas, a perennial favorite to win the championship. These games were all classics. But they still haven't gained the same level of lasting resonance, among hard-core, casual and even marginal sports fans, as Princeton vs. UCLA."

Wiederer, who now covers the Minnesota Vikings for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, won the enterprise/investigative reporting category for Duke's Family Guy, about Mike Krzyzewski's strong family ties.

Wiederer wrote: "Before chartered plane trips became the norm, Lindy recalls tagging along on the team bus, playing the role of little sister as the Blue Devils, without cell phones or handheld video games, set up mazes and mock haunted houses on the bus to keep themselves entertained. Now Lindy is the elder to Duke's players, the team counselor and performance development coordinator, using her psychology background to monitor the squad's mental state. Krzyzewski's oldest daughter, Debbie, is the assistant director of Duke's Legacy Fund, with her office on the same floor as her dad's at the Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center. Jamie, meanwhile, while not employed by Duke, has co-authored two books with her dad. And her husband, Chris Spatola, is the Blue Devils' director of basketball operations. ‘You've heard of mom-and-pop grocery stores?' Lindy said. "This is a mom-and-pop basketball program."

Teel won the column writing contest for questioning the NCAA's decision to allow Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith to remain the chairman of the tournament selection committee even after Yahoo! Sports exposed a scandal involving former football coach Jim Tressel.

Teel got right to the point: "Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has no business chairing the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee this weekend. Two reasons. His preposterous support Tuesday of Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes' unrepentant rogue of a football coach, leaves Smith with zero credibility. The scandal engulfing Ohio State football demands his total attention and undoubtedly will distract him as the basketball panel is sequestered in Indianapolis to construct the 68-team bracket."

Woods won the game story/spot news category for his story on Butler's unlikely return to the Final Four. Here's Woods' lead: "NEW ORLEANS – Last year's run to the Final Four was pure storybook. This one is saccharine fiction. Butler lost Gordon Hayward to the NBA, lost nine of its first 23 games, lost its crunch-time magic and defensive mojo. Yet the Bulldogs never lost their way. And now? They have won 13 in a row – the nation's longest active streak – and are headed to Houston. College basketball's ongoing drama continues.

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