USC’s Okongwu declares for NBA draft

LOS ANGELES — Southern California forward Onyeka Okongwu has declared for the NBA draft after one season.

He averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks for the Trojans. Okongwu broke the school record for blocks by a freshman and was named to the Pac-12’s All-Conference first team and All-Freshman team.

Okongwu signed with an agent this week and announced his plans Wednesday on social media. The 6-foot-9 forward from Chino, California, is projected to be a lottery pick in the draft.

“What a ride it’s been my first year at USC. My freshman campaign at the school has been nothing short of spectacular,” Okongwu wrote in a message to Trojans fans. “However, all good things must come to an end. I want to take the next step when the opportunity presents itself.”

Okongwu thanked the Trojans coaching staff, his teammates and his family in a message he signed with his nickname: Big O.

Dayton’s Obi Toppin heading to NBA

Dayton’s Obi Toppin is headed to the NBA after leading the Flyers to a 29-2 record and No. 3 ranking as a redshirt sophomore.

Toppin tweeted his decision Wednesday, a day after he was honored as The Associated Press’ men’s college basketball player of the year. The Flyers’ Anthony Grant was voted coach of the year.

“Thank you Flyer Nation. Love you always,” Toppin tweeted.

Toppin, who was a late bloomer in high school and didn’t get much recruiting notice, led the way in one of Dayton’s greatest seasons. He averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds and punctuated each game with a variety of dunks.

The 6-foot-9 forward was a unanimous choice for the AP All-America first team. He beat Iowa’s Luke Garza for player of the year honors. 

Panthers sign QB Teddy Bridgewater

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Panthers have officially signed free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year contract.

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press last week that the contract is worth $63 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity last week because the team doesn’t release financial terms of a contract. Bridgewater replaces 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, who was released on Tuesday after nine seasons with the team.  The Panthers also announced they have signed former XFL quarterback P.J. Walker to a two-year contract. Walker is expected to battle for the backup QB spot with last year’s third-round draft pick Will Grier.

Bridgewater enters his seventh NFL season after spending four seasons with the Vikings and two with the Saints. After Drew Brees injured his thumb early last season Bridgewater stepped in and went 5-0 as a starter putting New Orleans firmly in control of the NFC South.

7-inning doubleheaders? MLBers open to considering new ideas

TORONTO — If Major League Baseball needs to squeeze more games into a condensed season without exhausting pitching staffs, perhaps this idea could get tossed into play: seven-inning doubleheaders.

“Maybe that’s something we have to consider,” Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said on a conference call Wednesday.

Opening day has been postponed until at least mid-May because of the new coronavirus pandemic. The regular season had been scheduled to begin Thursday.

Minor league teams and college teams typically play seven innings in each game of a doubleheader. But twinbills are rarely planned in the majors — only a handful were originally scheduled over the last decade.

The final total of big league doubleheaders, most of them caused by makeup games, ranged from a low of 14 in 2014 to a high of 34 in both 2011 and 2018, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black said last week that frequent doubleheaders might be necessary to help fit more games into a shorter window. 

Timberwolves’ Towns says mother hospitalized with COVID-19

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns says his mother is hospitalized and in a medically-induced coma after contracting the coronavirus. Towns talked about the condition of his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, Wednesday on his Instagram page. He urged his followers to take COVID-19 seriously and practice social distancing.

Towns said both his parents went to the hospital recently and were tested for the disease. While his father was released and told to quarantine at home, his mother’s condition deteriorated to the point where she was put on a ventilator and placed in a coma.

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