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POSTED April 4, 2012 10:59 p.m.


NEW NCAA RULE FORCES PLAYERS' NBA DECISIONS SOONER: Testing the NBA waters seemingly has become a thing of the past for college players. These days, they're likely either in or out.

The reason is, players have less time to make a decision.

A new NCAA rule says players who entered the NBA draft early but want to return to school only have until next week to withdraw. That April 10 deadline is about a month earlier than before and 19 days before the NBA requires players to say they're entering early.

The NCAA says the change keeps players focused on academics and gives coaches a measure of certainty for their rosters as they prepare for the next year.

NBA Commissioner David Stern says the conflicting deadlines make it harder on players.

SULLINGER GIVES UP LAST 2 OSU YEARS FOR NBA: COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Two-time Ohio State All-American forward Jared Sullinger is moving on to the NBA.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore announced on Wednesday that he is giving up his final two seasons with the Buckeyes to make himself available for the NBA draft on June 28.

Sullinger averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds a game while shooting 52 percent from the field, 77 percent at the line and 40 percent on 3-pointers while leading the Buckeyes to a 31-8 record and a Final Four berth.

Deshaun Thomas, a 6-7 sophomore at Ohio State, is also considering the NB

PLAYER SCORES 113 POINTS IN LEBANESE LEAGUE GAME: BEIRUT (AP) — Basketball's world governing body says Mohammad El Akkari has joined the elite century club after scoring 113 points in a Lebanese league game.

The guard led Moutahed to a 173-141 victory over Bejjeh in a Division A league game on Tuesday.

The FIBA website says El Akkari is the first player to score more than 100 points in an official league game in any of its Asian national federations.

Two players achieved the feat in non-league games. Lou Salvador had 116 points for the Philippines against China in the 1923 Far Eastern Games, and Jeron Teng scored 104 for Xavier School against Grace Christian College in a high school game in the Philippines.


REDS' VOTTO AGREES TO $251.5M, 12-YEAR CONTRACT: CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto got a big payday by staying in a small market, agreeing to a $251.5 million, 12-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday that is the longest guaranteed contract in major league history.

The agreement adds $225 million over 10 years to his previous contract. The deal includes a club option for 2024, when the 2010 National League MVP turns 41.

After watching NL Central rivals St. Louis and Milwaukee lose their first basemen to bigger markets, the Reds secured Votto with a package that easily eclipsed Ken Griffey Jr.'s $116.5 million, nine-year deal from 2000 as the largest in franchise history. In the majors, it trails only Alex Rodriguez's $275 million and $252 million deals, both over 10 years.

DESPAIGNE BREAKS CUBAN HOME RUN RECORD WITH 35: HAVANA (AP) — Alfredo Despaigne has broken the Cuban league regular-season home run record.

Despaigne hit two homers on Tuesday to lift his season total to 35, breaking the old record of 33 shared by Yoenis Cespedes, who now plays for the Oakland Athletics, and Jose Dariel Abreu.

Cespedes defected from Cuba and recently signed a $36 million, four-year contract with Oakland.

An outfielder with the club Granma, Despaigne is hitting .343, leads in runs scored with 90, and RBIs with 98.

Granma has 11 games remaining in the regular season.


UFC BOUT IN JEOPARDY AFTER OVEREEM FAILS DRUG TEST: LAS VEGAS (AP) — Alistair Overeem failed a drug test in Nevada, putting plans for a scheduled heavyweight championship matchup in jeopardy.

Nevada Athletic Commission chief Keith Kizer said Wednesday the Dutch kickboxing champion needs to pass a second urine test or appeal to the regulatory panel to obtain a license to fight Junior Dos Santos as scheduled May 26.

Kizer says Overeem tested unacceptably high for testosterone.

Overeem representatives didn't immediately respond to a message through Overeem's lawyer, David Chesnoff.

Chesnoff represented Overeem last week in a plea deal that could clear a misdemeanor battery allegation that Overeem shoved a woman early Jan. 2 at a Las Vegas Strip casino.

The scuffle occurred just days after Overeem knocked out heavyweight Brock Lesnar in the first round of UFC 141.


RAMS HONOR 7-TIME PRO BOWLER: ST. LOUIS (AP) — Wide receiver Torry Holt signed a one-day contract so he could retire with the St. Louis Rams, where he was a key part of a Super Bowl champion and the Greatest Show on Turf.

He'd like to be remembered as a player who respected the game, gave it his all and made sure he had fun.

Despite his statistics, Holt doesn't expect he'll land in the Hall of Fame anytime soon with several other wide receivers ahead of him. He said Wednesday that a farewell news conference was enough validation.

Holt was a seven-time Pro Bowler with St. Louis from 1999-2008 and was selected to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s, setting a league record with six consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 yards receiving.

PANTHERS SIGN FREE AGENT S REGGIE SMITH FROM 49ERS: CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers announced they've signed free agent safety Reggie Smith from the San Francisco 49ers.

Terms of the deal have been not announced.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Smith played in all 16 regular season games and both playoff games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. He recorded 16 tackles and one interception during the regular season. Smith also contributed on special teams with six special teams tackles during the regular season and two during the postseason.

Panthers' general manager Marty Hurney says Smith "has been on our radar since the beginning of free agency" and "is a player we think can come in and compete at safety."

Smith spent four seasons with the 49ers after being selected by the team in the third round of the 2008 draft.


FRANCE, US WITHOUT KEY PLAYERS FOR DAVIS CUP: PARIS (AP) — France captain Guy Forget believes the United States will be significantly weakened by the loss of Mardy Fish in their Davis Cup quarterfinal on Friday.

Both teams were rocked by withdrawals to key players this week.

The ninth-ranked Fish pulled out because of fatigue and was replaced by Ryan Harrison. Meanwhile, Forget is without the 14th-ranked Gael Monfils, a former French Open semifinalist, because of an abdominal injury.

Forget says "I think these last-minute withdrawals are more harmful for them than for us," adding that "Harrison is a player for the future."

Courier, who won French Open titles in 1991-92, was tightlipped about why he chose the 19-year-old Harrison. He'll be joined on the U.S. team by John Isner and doubles players Mike and Bob Bryan.

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