Temple Dancing: A Chat With Juan Fernandez

Temple Dancing: A Chat With Juan Fernandez

It's been a long four days. The stretch of time between the selection show and the beginning of the tournament always seems to go way slower than it should. I'm chomping at the bit for 12:30 tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, so is Juan Fernandez. The A-10 MVP and local heartthrob was kind enough to grant us an interview after arriving in Jacksonville yesterday with the rest of the Owls. Q&A below.

Nick: I remember reading last year that you were a bit confused by the seeding process and the selection show, and that [former Temple center and fellow Spanish-speaker] Sergio Olmos was kind of explaining it to you as it was happening. Is this true, or just a story? Likewise, how much different is your second go around compared to your first experience last year?

Juan: That's actually true and I can realize now how different it is compared to last year. Last year, I only knew the team we were playing against and that was it. This year, I know the whole bracket. I know how the teams play. I'm even aware that we probably deserved a higher seed, but in the end it only matters that we are again in the NCAA tournament with a really good chance of winning a couple games.

What did it mean to you to be voted the Most Valuable Player in the Atlantic-10 tournament?

I really enjoyed it, especially because I could share it with my family who were there; but, sometimes when they give a recognition like that it kind of feels that its not fair in a way since this is a team sport. I couldn't have done anything without my teammates so its really a recognition of the team effort.

Has the success of this season surpassed your initial expectations for the year or were you always confident that you could perform at this level?

Actually, I didn't know how everything was going to work out when I first got here. Everyone that knows me tells me now that they didn't expect all this to be happening to me in only my second year. Personally, I just try to go out and play without thinking that I should do this or that, because it is only my second year. It's a good thing that everything is happening so fast if you learn how to handle it and stay focused on keeping your feet on the ground. 

How have you found the adjustment to the American game given the difference in officiating as compared to international play?

The hardest part was to adjust to the rules. The style of basketball is probably faster, but I adjusted fast enough, I think. What took me more time was the 35-second shot clock, since i was used to playing with 24-seconds. Some other rules, like being able to call timeout as a player, don't even exist in South America.

How far do you think this team can go in the tournament and were you at all disappointed by your seeding?

I'm hoping we can go really far. Every game is going to be tough, but if we stay prepared for every challenge, we could make a big run. About the seeding, it really matters more who you play against than what seed you got in my opinion, but, if you ask me, I would say that, yeah, we probably deserved maybe a four seed, at least.

How anxious are you to get on the floor against Cornell, Friday?

I'm really anxious. I can't wait to start the game and see how everything works out. Hopefully we'll be able to get that win and advance to that second round.

Finally, any funny stories from this year you care to share?

[Laughing] I have a bunch of stories but I don't want to kill any of my teammates. And by telling you, I'd definitely have to.

Thanks Juan. Give em' hell.

Assorted Links:

John Gonzalez has a great article in the Inquirer discussing why Temple's outrage over their seeding is largely unjustified. It basically flies in the face of everything I wrote a few days ago. I like it anyway.

The Inqy also has a nice piece on Juan Fernandez success this season. Somebody must be making the media rounds.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

MIAMI — The Phillies will be without their best utility man and bat off the bench for at least six weeks.

Andres Blanco needs surgery to repair his broken left index finger. He suffered the injury making a tag play at third base during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. According to manager Pete Mackanin, Blanco will have a pin inserted in the finger during surgery on Wednesday.

“That’s a shame,” said Mackanin, who has called Blanco the best utility man he’s seen in his 47 years in pro baseball. “He was one of our best players. Maybe in six weeks he can come back. But it’s going to be a while.”

With the trade deadline a week away, Blanco would have been a nice fit on some contending teams. Now, he will stay put. 

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Peter Bourjos remain strong trade possibilities. Hellickson started Monday night against the Marlins, who are interested in his services. A source confirmed a FOX Sports report that the Phillies have been scouting the low levels of the Marlins farm system in preparation for a potential deal (see story). The Marlins are considering other pitchers, as well. Some industry insiders view Hellickson and Bourjos as backup targets for teams looking for pitching and outfield help. Translation, the fate of bigger names on the trade market might have to shake out before the Phillies know if they can strike a deal. The trade deadline is next Monday.

The Phillies recalled infielder Taylor Featherston from Triple A to take Blanco’s roster spot (see story).

Mackanin gave a succinct answer when asked whether the team considered bringing up top prospect J.P. Crawford.

“None,” he said “No talk about him.”

Crawford could still see time in the majors later this season.

The Phillies are expected to make another roster move later this week when Aaron Altherr’s minor-league rehab assignment expires after Wednesday’s game. Altherr, who suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in March, is playing at Triple A. The Phillies could bring him up Thursday. To clear a roster spot for Altherr, the Phils could trade Bourjos or subtract a player such as seldom-used Jimmy Paredes.

Altherr was on target to be a starter in the Phillies outfield before he went down in spring training. He will play a corner outfield spot when he arrives.

“I'm sure he'll be here sooner rather than later,” Mackanin said. “I'm anxious to see him. He's important for us to get a good look at. I'd like to see two months' worth if I could.”