PSU's Royster believes he will be a successful pro

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PSU's Royster believes he will be a successful pro

Friday, February 25, 2011
Posted: 5:03 p.m.

By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

INDIANAPOLIS Evan Royster knows the biggest knock on him is that hes just not fast enough to be a big-time NFL running back.

He also believes a Penn State-record 3,932 rushing yards means just a little bit more than his 40 time.

I trust that the scouts and coaches out there know what kind of player I am, Royster said Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine. Thats what those guys get paid for. There are definitely a lot of things (other than 40 time) that go into what kind of player you are.

Its not that Royster is slow. But hes not going to run a 4.2 or 4.3 when the running backs sprint here at Lucas Oil Stadium. Then again, 2010 NFL rushing leader Arian Foster ran 4.73 at his Pro Day. You never know.

Its not like Im going to come out here and run a 4.7 or something like that, Royster said. I dont really know what to expect out of my 40. Id like to get in the low 4.5s or high 4.4s.

Roysters 3,932 rushing yards broke the school record of 3,398 yards set from 1979 through 1982 by Curt Warner.

That was very big for me, Royster said. To be at the top of the list, a list with some very good running backs on it, that was really a big deal for me. Thats something I can tell people every day.

Depending how things go at the Combine, Royster could be drafted anywhere from the end of the second round to early in the fourth. But you cant argue with the production. Hes the only back in Penn State history with three 1,000-yard seasons, and he produced despite having to share time in Joe Paternos rotation something that wasnt easy for him to get used to.

Rotating was definitely tough at times, but it does help the team because it keeps defenses off-balance, Royster said. But it did take some getting used to. Im a back that in high school and at times in college, I need to get into a rhythm, and thats not always easy to do when youre rotating. But if it helped us win, it was fine with me.

Penn State football history is full of terrific college tailbacks who struggled at the next level. Ki-Jana Carter was the first pick in 1995, Blair Thomas was the second pick in 1990, Curtis Enis was the fifth pick in 1998 and D.J Dozier was the 14th pick in 1987. All were busts.

Eagles fans remember Tony Hunt, a third-round pick in 2007 who was out of the league after just 14 carries.

There have been some pretty good ones, too, like Franco Harris and Larry Johnson. But the reputation is out there that Penn State backs wont make good pros.

Pure coincidence, Royster said. I dont think it means anything. Im sure you could pick out any school and find some guys that didnt perform in the NFL. Im out to prove that it is a coincidence and that Im not going to be one of those guys.

Royster finished his career in State College with 32 touchdowns and 15 100-yard games all of them Penn State wins.

He said one challenge facing him this week is proving he has the mentality to be an NFL player. Royster is a soft-spoken, quiet kid off the field, and he said he needs to prove in the interview process this week that he has the personality to succeed as a professional.

A lot of people question my desire, he said. Thats crazy. I think I play with a lot of desire. I think the coaches and scouts will see that.

Royster said he often hears comparisons with Bears running back Matt Forte, another tailback without blazing speed he ran a 4.59 at the 2008 Combine and he said hell be glad to become a player like Forte.

If I can turn myself into that guy, that would be great, he said. Thats the goal.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

NCAA Tournament wrap: UNC edges out Kentucky on Maye game-winner

NCAA Tournament wrap: UNC edges out Kentucky on Maye game-winner

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Luke Maye hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds left, and top-seeded North Carolina held off Kentucky 75-73 to earn the Tar Heels' second straight trip to the Final Four and 20th all-time in Sunday's showdown of college basketball's elite in the South Regional.

The Tar Heels (31-7) will play Midwest champ Oregon on Saturday in Phoenix in the national semifinal.

North Carolina took control with a 12-0 run within the final 5 minutes. Kentucky's freshmen De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk hit three quick 3s, the last two by Monk and his second with 7.2 seconds left tied it up at 73.

Theo Pinson brought the ball down, passed back to Maye. The sophomore from Huntersville, North Carolina, knocked it down for the win with his feet on the 3-point line.

The Wildcats had one last chance, but Derek Willis' inbound pass went out of bounds on the far end.

Kentucky (32-6) will miss out on the Final Four for the second straight year.

South Carolina beats Florida to reach first Final Four
NEW YORK -- It's only right that South Carolina's first trip to Final Four was earned through its defense.

A team known for a swarming zone used it effectively down the stretch to beat Florida 77-70 on Sunday and win the East Regional at Madison Square Garden.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) against the fourth-seeded Gators (27-9) in the all-Southeastern Conference matchup.

South Carolina will face Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed from the West Regional, in the Final Four on Saturday at Glendale, Arizona.

"Gamecock Nation, we heard you loud and clear," coach Frank Martin roared as the team prepared to cut down the nets. "We'll see you in Phoenix."

The game was as close as expected until the final minute. There were 14 lead changes and 10 ties. The last lead change came on two free throws by Thornwell with 2:24 left that made it 65-63. Florida managed just three field goals over the final 3:55.

Thornwell, the regional MVP, followed the deciding free throws with a nice assist to Maik Kotsar for a 4-point lead. It seemed Thornwell, who scored eight straight points for the Gamecocks, was always where he needed to be including making a steal with 40 seconds left that turned into a 73-68 lead.

"I just made plays," Thornwell said. "Plays needed to be made down the stretch and I stepped up and made plays."

"Thornwell was just being Thornwell," Florida coach Mike White said of the SEC player of the year. "He's one of the best players in the country."

PJ Dozier added 17 points for the Gamecocks, Chris Silva had 13 and Kotsar 12.

It all totaled to a Final Four trip for Martin, he of the booming voice and terrifying faces.

Justin Leon had 18 points for the Gators who managed a 40-33 halftime lead on 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. But that was it. Florida was 0 for 14 from beyond the arc in the second half, a lot like the 0-for-17 effort the Gators had in their first meeting with South Carolina this season.

South Carolina, which forced Florida into 16 turnovers, finished 23 for 31 from the free throw line, including a 9-for-10 effort from Thornwell.

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyler Dorsey poured in 27 points, Dillon Brooks added 17 and plucky Oregon ended Kansas' romp through the NCAA Tournament with a 74-60 victory Saturday night that gave the Ducks their first Final Four trip in nearly 80 years.

Dylan Ennis added 12 points for the Ducks (33-5), who took the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed again, giving coach Dana Altman his first trip to the national semifinals.

They'll face the winner of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Kentucky in Glendale, Arizona.

Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III had 21 points in his final game for the Jayhawks (31-5), who had rolled to the Elite Eight by an average margin of 30 points. But their dream season ended with a thud just 40 minutes from campus on a night where very little went right (see full recap).

Gonzaga beats Xavier to reach 1st Final Four
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona (see full recap).