Could this finally be Banyana Banyana’s year?

If preparation, organisation, and motivation were the measures of champions, the rest of the field might as well surrender the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations trophy to South Africa.

Banyana Banyana, AWCON finalists in 2012 and fourth place finishers at the last two tournaments, appear to have zeroed in on a target of winning their first-ever title, and with it their maiden trip to a FIFA Women’s World Cup.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Banyana are second only to Nigeria in number of appearances at Africa’s premiere championship for women, since the inaugural competition in 1991. Of the 12 official tournaments, South Africa have only missed one, the 1995 edition when they withdrew.

In that period, they have been runners up four times, finished third twice and fourth two times for a total of nine top four finishes behind Nigeria and Cameroon. Their points haul of 71 is second only to Nigeria, although a long way shy of the Super Falcons’ 126.

For all of the impressive numbers, the one thing they have never managed is to claim the top prize. Outside of Nigeria, who have won 10 out of 12, only Equatorial Guinea have managed that honour.6

After four near misses, Banyana now look primed to make a strong play for the top prize. And they have made no bones about it.

Of all the teams going to Ghana, Banyana Banyana can claim to be the most prepared. By the time they run out for their friendly against hosts Ghana on November 11, they would have played a total of 15 games in 2018. That is way more than any other team on the continent.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Their results in those games have not been shabby, either. They racked up eight wins, three draws, and three losses. Those losses came against tough European and South American opposition in Sweden, Belgium, and Chile. They did beat Hungary and drew with Korea DPR, Slovakia, and Chile.

All their other wins came against African opposition, including 2016 AWCON finalists Cameroon, whom they despatched 2-1 in the COSAFA Cup final.

By contrast, Nigeria have only played eight games. Five of those were at the WAFU Cup, where they were beaten in the semifinals by Ghana, one was a friendly which they lost scandalously to France 8-0, and the other two were the two-legged AWCON qualifiers against Gambia, which they won 7-0 on aggregate.

Canberra’s Refiloe Jane may hold the key to Banyana’s success

Much is made of South Africa’s players that turned out for Houston Dash this season in the USA, but arguably the most consistent Banyana Banyana player has been Canberra United’s Refiloe Jane.

The silky midfielder is not often given the plaudits she deserves, but is the heartbeat at the centre of the park for the national side, and has added another string to her bow – scoring goals.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

She and striker Rhoda Mulaudzi, who has not been selected for the African Women Cup of Nations in Ghana later this month, recently signed contracts with Canberra in Australia, joining the likes of Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana (both Houston Dash) and Leandra Smeda (Gintra Universitetas, Lithuania) as players who ply their trade abroad.5

Jane has started well with two goals, albeit both penalties, and an assist in her opening couple of games for Canberra, following on from her good form that saw her net twice in the final of the COSAFA Women’s Championship in September, which saw Banyana defeat Cameroon.

“The hard work I have put in … I have playing well but not scoring through the years,” she admits. “It is one of the aspects that I have worked hard on, because sometimes I get in those positions to score but would miss.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I have been working hard on boosting my confidence in front of goal. I just want to be a better player.”

It has been a demanding few months for Jane, who has criss-crossed the world, and she knows that all the travel could have a negative effect on her performance in Ghana, but believes she is in good hands.

“Things have been going well [in Australia], we’ve settled in well. The people have been good for us,” Jane told reporters ahead of the trip to Ghana this month. “Everything is on track, in the two games we have played we have gelled with the team.”

How does Markelle Fultz fit with the 76ers, Jimmy Butler?

From the moment Markelle Fultz double-clutched the second of two free throws midway through the second quarter of Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat, his shooting form once again became a blazing-hot topic of conversation.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, however, had no time for such discussions. Instead, his focus is on something else: balancing his personal and emotional investment in trying to get Fultz back on track with his job to lead this season’s Sixers to a credible challenge for the Eastern Conference title.

And now that the Sixers have acquired Jimmy Butler, who will join the team for Wednesday’s road game against the Orlando Magic, Brown’s already difficult task has suddenly become nearly impossible.6

“It is [difficult],” Brown told ESPN.com after Monday’s game, a 124-114 Philadelphia victory. “Because you’ve got a human side, and a responsibility to the individual, but mostly you’ve got a responsibility to the team, and somewhere in that pyramid of layers I’ve got to figure it out.

“There’s no book that tells you how to do that. I use my gut feel and best judgement and just keep it very candid. When I feel something, or see something, and you can convey it to you, or the team, or whatever, that’s when I feel comfortable.
The Butler trade — which saw Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a future second-round pick go to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Butler and Justin Patton — marked the end of “The Process,” the much-discussed rebuilding plan the Sixers embarked on several seasons ago.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Fultz was supposed to be that final cornerstone piece, joining with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to form a young triumvirate of stars who would lead Philadelphia into championship contention. But while Embiid and Simmons have more than lived up to their end of the bargain, Fultz’s odyssey over the past 17 months has been one of an endless series of twists and turns — and, along the way, him losing the ability to consistently shoot a basketball.

It is a trip that could be encapsulated by that second free throw he took with 6 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the second quarter, and with Philadelphia trailing 46-44. Despite Fultz having just made the one before it, he practically pump-faked on the second attempt before letting it go. It clanged off the side of the rim and bounced away.

Caris LeVert is still a cornerstone for the Brooklyn Nets

No one who has gotten to know Caris LeVert over the past half-decade — as an almost redshirt at the University of Michigan, and breakout star with the Brooklyn Nets — will be surprised to hear there will be minimal sulking after LeVert’s foot injury Monday.

It is one of LeVert’s defining traits — something that has made him a beloved teammate, and cultural keystone of the Nets’ long rebuild: He takes joy in the success of others, even when things are not going well for him. At Michigan, those in the program were stunned LeVert sustained such positivity even as three foot surgeries derailed his career.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Across the Nets, there had been universal exhilaration at LeVert’s rise from preseason backup to franchise centerpiece. Even rivals for that status found themselves swept up in it, in part because LeVert always offers them the same emotional support.

“It is all genuine with Caris,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said during an interview at the team’s practice facility two weeks ago. “He is real.”5

It all overflowed after Brooklyn’s second game, when LeVert dusted Tim Hardaway Jr., his college teammate, and coaxed in a tilting layup to beat the Knicks. When Atkinson embraced LeVert in the locker room, LeVert smiled and told him, “I owed you one, Coach,” referencing some crunch-time error from Brooklyn’s season-opening loss in Detroit that Atkinson couldn’t even recall.

Player and coach fast developed a special relationship. Two years ago, Atkinson called LeVert to wish him a happy birthday but activated FaceTime by accident. (“I don’t even FaceTime my wife,” he said, not joking.) LeVert, surprised, picked up. Ten months later, on Atkinson’s birthday, his FaceTime went off again. It was LeVert, unprompted, creating a tongue-in-cheek tradition.

“Like, who even remembers their coach’s birthday?” Atkinson asked. “And then remembers we have this silly thing?”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Jacque Vaughn, the Nets assistant who has worked most closely with LeVert, searched him out after that game winner. That shot, Vaughn told him, was proof of what coaches preached all summer.

“Never feel rushed,” Vaughn said, repeating a mantra they had developed. “You can get to any spot you want. You dictate everything. That was the shot you wanted, and no one was able to get you off of it. Never feel rushed.”

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott help save Cowboys’ season — for now

The Dallas Cowboys’ storylines entering Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles weren’t exactly positive.

The list included: a coach’s job security, a quarterback struggling to make plays, an offensive coordinator perhaps on his last chance and a defense left wobbly after its previous game. All in all, it added up to a season on the line.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But the Cowboys left Lincoln Financial Field with a 27-20 victory that seemed improbable after losing their first four road games of the season, and they find themselves alive and breathing, if not entirely well just yet.

“When you’re feeling low and you’re seeing the Grim Reaper and then come in and have your team perform the way these guys did, I promise you it’s a special feeling,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “I won’t need any wings on that airplane getting back to Dallas.”6

They left Philly with a win after Jason Garrett rallied a young team that had been rattled and a coaching staff that had been questioned.

They left with a win after Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes in a road game for the first time this season. After Ezekiel Elliott rushed for more than 150 yards against the NFL’s second-best run defense and scored twice.

“I don’t know that I learned anything new [about his team],” Garrett said. “You try to build a team of guys who love football, who are mentally tough, and I think those things get revealed when you have to go through some adversity over the course of the season.

“I thought they did a great job coming back after [the Cowboys’ 28-14 loss to Tennessee the previous week], just getting back to work, not blinking. Just going back to work and understanding the importance of what this next opponent is and playing 60 minutes. Thought we did a better job of that in this game than we have in the last few games. Dealing with the adversities of the game and keep playing. Dealing with the successes of the game and keep playing.”

At times early in the game, Prescott was bad. He held on to the ball too long, which resulted in sacks — including a 13-yard sack in the second quarter.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

At times, Prescott was brilliant: At the end of the first half, he connected on five passes for 79 yards and sneaked in from a yard out with 19 seconds left for the Cowboys’ first touchdown.

With season saved for a week, Cowboys need to go on a run

It took Jerry Jones a little time to get from his suite inside Lincoln Financial Field to the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room on Sunday night.

Some players were talking about the hows and whys of their 27-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Others were getting dressed, cinching up their ties for the plane ride back home. Others were making sure they had some ice on hand to numb their aches.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Heard clear above it all was Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, letting loose with a loud “Wooooh,” like he was Ric Flair, as he entered the room. Some players responded with their own “Woooohs.”5

Less than a week earlier, the players were deflated inside their AT&T Stadium locker room after the loss to the Tennessee Titans. At 3-5, the Cowboys saw their season slipping away and knew Sunday’s game against the Eagles was a must-win.

Ezekiel Elliott was asked if beating the Eagles saved the season.

“I think we did,” said the running back, who finished with 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a TD catch.

In reality, the victory has saved the Cowboys’ season for a week.

At 4-5, they remain in the NFC East chase, two games behind the Washington Redskins. A loss would have kept them alive only in a mathematical sense.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Now they have to show they can win back-to-back games. And they get the chance to do it where their 2017 season effectively died. Last November, the Cowboys lost 27-7 to the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Dak Prescott was sacked eight times. Elliott did not play, serving the first game of a six-game suspension. It was the start of a three-game losing streak that ultimately led the Cowboys to a 9-7 finish that kept them from the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard is leaving few clues about his upcoming free agency

When Kawhi Leonard was a kid growing up in Southern California, he was surrounded by Los Angeles Lakers fans. His adolescence matched the heyday of Kobe Bryant’s tenure with the franchise, and his family — like so many others in Riverside and other parts of the Inland Empire where he grew up — was full of devoted followers of the purple and gold.nfl cheap jerseys nike

For the past two offseasons, the Lakers have kept their powder dry in the trade market. Rather than sacrificing any of their young core — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart — to pursue a trade for someone like Paul George or Leonard, the Lakers have been content to sit back, let them grow and hope the combination of a young talent base and the bright lights of Hollywood will be enough to lure star power back to Los Angeles again.

It turned out to be enough to get the biggest star of all, LeBron James, to join the Lakers on July 1. But George spurned the chance to play alongside James this summer, opting to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder at the start of free agency. And while there is plenty of time for things to change, there is a sense within the league Leonard will do the same next summer.

It was a throwaway line at the end of a short, perfunctory postpractice interview — one that, like virtually every such session Leonard is a part of, he dutifully worked to end as quickly as he could. But it also was a small window into the mindset Leonard has employed as he has lifted himself from being a high school star plying his trade 60 miles east of Los Angeles into the sport’s best two-way wing player.10

A survey of several league executives this weekend had the Lakers trailing, even among Staples Center tenants, in the competition to get Leonard, with the LA Clippers universally being placed ahead of them. Rather than seeking to team up with James, the thinking is that Leonard would prefer to have control of his own team, which the Clippers would offer, while still giving him the ability to return to his native Southern California.

The Lakers explored a potential Leonard trade this summer, but the San Antonio Spurs’ asking price prevented a deal from ever coming close to fruition. The Clippers, meanwhile, have relentlessly pursued Leonard since the summer but didn’t have the assets necessary to get a deal done.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Toronto, however, did, ultimately sending an All-Star (DeMar DeRozan), a young talent (Jakob Poeltl) and a first-round pick to San Antonio for Leonard and Danny Green. And now that the Raptors get to spend a season recruiting Leonard to remain north of the border, the Raptors have a quiet confidence about their ability to get him to stick around next summer.

One source of optimism stems from the fact that Thunder general manager Sam Presti was able to hang on to George — despite George having openly stated he wanted to play for the Lakers, Oklahoma City being one of the league’s smallest markets and the Thunder having lost in the first round of the playoffs last season. But the bigger source of optimism is what Toronto has to offer Leonard if he does decide to stay.

Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: A golden night for Jamal Murray

Multiple overtime games, 40-point performances and blockbuster 20/20 (points and rebounds) efforts defined just another high-scoring night in the NBA.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The most exciting performance of Monday’s nine-game slate featured Denver’s Jamal Murray compiling a career-high 48 points as his Nuggets downed the Boston Celtics. Not only did the breakout scoring display secure Denver a pivotal win to improve to 9-1, with signature wins over contenders such as the Warriors, Jazz and now Celtics, but Murray’s 48 points are the most by a Nuggets player since Carmelo Anthony dropped 50 against the Rockets in February of 2011.

Murray’s 48 points are the most by a Nuggets player since Carmelo Anthony dropped 50 against the Rockets in February of 2011. They were also the most points ever scored by a Canadian-born player, while Murray became the seventh different player from the University of Kentucky to score 40 in an NBA game during the last three seasons — more than twice as many as any other school. A rising fantasy asset, Murray is enjoying a 16 percent leap in shots per game and a 13 percent jump in scoring output in his third professional season compared to last season’s strong sophomore effort.5

While impressive box scores defined the night in the positive sense, seeing Oklahoma City’s superstar Russell Westbrook leave Monday’s win over the Pelicans with a seemingly serious ankle injury was undoubtedly a tough takeaway from Monday. Westbrook needed help leaving the court and subsequent tests revealed a high-ankle sprain, although thankfully with x-rays proving negative in regards to any fracture.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Westbrook was on the way to yet another triple-double performance, with the Thunder earning their fifth straight win after starting 0-4, becoming just the third team since the merger to start 0-4 and then win as many as five straight. Though Westbrook’s status is currently unclear, the Thunder have a favorable upcoming schedule; each of their next six games come against teams with losing records, including four against the Suns, Mavericks and Cavaliers — owners of three of the four worst records in the NBA.

As Westbrook heals, shares of Dennis Schroder could prove profitable, as he’s available in roughly a third of ESPN leagues and unsurprisingly posted a season-high usage rate of 33.2 percent last night. With a strong offensive rating of 114 (team points per 100 possessions while he’s on the floor) and a usage rate at 28.3 percent the past three games, Schroder could capably turn in rewarding fantasy production with Westbrook sidelined.

With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let’s delve into the night that was in the NBA.

Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce have special homecomings in Cleveland

When it comes to being prepared to play, coach Andy Reid doesn’t worry about two of the Kansas City Chiefs in particular: running back Kareem Hunt and tight end Travis Kelce.

“They don’t need much to get them going,” Reid said. “That little extra doesn’t hurt. They were excited to be here. They get to play in front of family and friends. It can be expensive at times, but it’s worth it.”nike nfl cheap jerseys

Hunt and Kelce showed a lot to the hometown crowd. Hunt accounted for 141 total yards, while Kelce led the Chiefs with seven catches and 99 yards in the 37-21 win over the Cleveland Browns.

The two scored all five Kansas City touchdowns. Hunt had three and Kelce two.6

“We definitely can relate because we both came from this area,” Hunt said. “We know everything about it. It’s kind of special we’re on the same team going out there and having a big game for both of us. He had a big game and I had a big game. I think only Cleveland people scored today. That’s a good thing.”

Said Kelce, “That just tells you the type of special place that lies here in Northeast Ohio. It’s dear to my heart, and I love it to death … Browns fans, I’m sorry we had to do it, but we’re about business in Kansas City.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Each player shelled out for tickets for family members and friends. Kelce said he “couldn’t even count” how many people from the area he had at Sunday’s game.

Hunt, as a gesture of appreciation, bought tickets for the players and coaches at his former high school, Willoughby South.

“It’s really a dream come true that I’m able to do something like that for the high school and for the program, for the coaches,” Hunt said. “I just really wanted to go out there and win this game because it meant more to me, this game, than a lot of the other ones.

“I was definitely very excited coming into the game. It’s a stadium I used to drive by every day, almost. Now actually getting to play on the field in the NFL is really an honor.”

Christian McCaffrey’s leap reminds he’s still Panthers’ most dynamic weapon

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey didn’t anticipate having to jump about 5 feet to get over Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis during his 32-yard, first-quarter reception on Sunday.

It just instinctively happened, as everything seems to with the eighth pick of the 2017 draft.

But McCaffrey did anticipate some of the comments he heard after the 42-28 victory.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“‘White man can jump,'” McCaffrey said with a laugh. “Got a lot of those, but I saw those coming.”5

McCaffrey has been relatively quiet the past month, in terms of big games and spectacular plays. In some ways, he has been overshadowed by 2018 first-round pick DJ Moore and 2017 second-round pick Curtis Samuel.

Samuel actually stole the spotlight on this day, with a 33-yard touchdown run on a double reverse on which he covered 103.9 yards.

But the leap was a reminder that McCaffrey is just as dynamic as anybody on Carolina’s offense. He picked up another 25 yards after the catch to set up the first of his two touchdown runs after having only one in the first seven games.nike nfl cheap jerseys

His overall play was a reminder of just how valuable he is.

McCaffrey rushed 17 times for a team-high 79 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes on six targets for a team-high 78 yards. That’s a substantial increase from the past month.

McCaffrey averaged 11.5 rushes for 38 yards the past four games since gaining 184 yards on 28 carries in a Week 3 win against Cincinnati. He averaged 4.8 catches per game for 30.6 yards in the five games since he caught 14 passes for 102 yards in a Week 2 loss at Atlanta.