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Sports briefs for July 17, 2014

By Staff and Wire Service Reports, Special to the BDN

UMaine’s Ondish recognized

ORONO, Maine — University of Maine senior punter Jeff Ondish of Elkton, Maryland, has been named to the 2014 College Football Performance Awards FCS Awards Watch List.

In 2013, Ondish punted 57 times with an average of 40.4 yards per punt, including a 66-yarder against Stony Brook. He pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 20 times and kicked 10 punts of 50-plus yards.

Award recipients are selected exclusively based upon objective scientific rankings of the extent to which individual players increase the overall effectiveness of their teams. Twenty-eight CFPA winners have been first-round NFL Draft selections.

Celtics great Russell falls ill during speech

NBA legend Bill Russell was expected to return to his home in the Seattle area on Thursday after collapsing during a speech in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, earlier in the day.

The 80-year-old Russell was removed on a stretcher from an event after feeling faint but never lost consciousness and was taken to a local hospital, according to information released by the Celtics.

Russell, a Hall of Fame center and popular speaker, was reported to be feeling better after the scare and planned to fly out of Lake Tahoe on Thursday evening.

He attended the NBA Finals last month and presented the MVP trophy named in his honor after Game 5 in San Antonio.

A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player, Russell won 11 titles with the Celtics from 1956 to 1969, including nine consecutive championships.

James dethrones Jordan as most popular U.S. athlete

LeBron James has overtaken Michael Jordan as the United States’ most popular athlete, according to a Harris poll.

Almost from the moment James exploded onto the NBA scene as the number one overall pick in the 2003 draft a debate has raged over who was the better of the two basketball superstars.

Jordan had held the top honor from 1993-2005 and again in 2013 before being supplanted this year by James, who was ranked number two in 2013.

It is likely that James is even more popular after the four-time NBA most valuable player decided last week to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers following a successful four year run with the Miami Heat that brought the team two NBA titles.

Veteran Pierce joins Wizards

Paul Pierce is officially headed to his third team in three years, signing a contract Thursday with the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards did not disclose details of the deal, but The Washington Post reported it is for two years and a full mid-level exception of $10.8 million.

Pierce said earlier that he left the Brooklyn Nets after one season for Washington because he believed the Wizards have opportunity to contend for a championship.

The 10-time NBA All-Star played in 75 games for the Nets last season and averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists game, shooting 45.1 percent from the floor and 37.3 percent from 3-point range.

The 36-year-old Pierce spent a majority of his career with the Boston Celtics. In 1,177 career games for Boston and Brooklyn, Pierce averages 21.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals.

Patriots cut two rookie wide receivers

Rookie wide receivers Jeremy Johnson and Reese Wiggins were released Thursday by the New England Patriots.

The 22-year-old Johnson signed with the Patriots as a free agent on May 29. Last season at Southern Methodist University, he led the team with 112 receptions for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns as a senior.

The 23-year-old Wiggins joined had 26 receptions for 372 yards and four touchdowns as a senior last year at East Carolina.

Sabres sign Ennis to 5-year deal

The Buffalo Sabres signed forward Tyler Ennis to a five-year deal reportedly worth $23 million Thursday. His new salary cap number of $4.6 million will put him behind only Matt Moulson ($5 million) among Buffalo forwards.

Ennis, 24, led the Sabres with a career-high 21 goals last season and finished second on the team with 43 points. He also average a career-best 18:51 time on the ice per game.

Ennis has 69 goals and 166 points in 267 games since being the 26th overall pick in 2008.


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