UConn in the Pros: Blake receives honor; Bouknight prepares for new season

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Andre Blake, GK, Philadelphia Union 

A month after making his 200th career Major League Soccer start, Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake was crowned the 2022 John Wanamaker Athletic Award winner, an award presented since 1961 to the athlete, team or organization which has done the most to reflect credit upon Philadelphia and the team or sport in which they excel. “I am grateful to be recognized by the Philadelphia sports community and honored to accept the Wanamaker Award on behalf of my family, teammates and the entire Philadelphia Union organization,” Blake said on receiving the recognition. “Throughout my career, I have strived to set an example on and off the field of what it means to be a strong leader and community advocate. I hope that I’ve inspired the future generation of young athletes to work hard and keep chasing their dreams.” 

Blake currently leads all MLS goalkeepers in save percentage (84%) and clean sheet percentage (43.8%) while ranking third in saves (99). With Blake protecting the net, the Union are on the verge of breaking the record for fewest goals allowed in a 34 game season as they have given up 22 scores with two games remaining (the record is 27 by Sporting Kansas City in 2012). A four-time MLS All-Star and two-time ESPY award nominee for best Major League Soccer player, Blake’s performance this season will likely result in him being named Goalkeeper of the Year for the third time in his career. Philadelphia currency sits in first place in the Eastern Conference and the team is once again in contention for the MLS Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular season record.  

George Springer, OF, Toronto Blue Jays 

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Springer smacked a pair of home runs on Sunday in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, helping lead his team to a 7-1 victory and a split of the four-game series. The round-trippers were Springer’s 22nd and 23rd of the campaign, moving his tally to one more than his 2021 total. With the Major League Baseball postseason approaching quickly, the Blue Jays have welcomed Springer’s recent heroics and are confident that his play will continue into October. “He’s been through it,” manager John Schneider said of Springer following the two-homer game. “He’s been through the biggest games the sport has to offer and he doesn’t get too high or too low…He’s the definition of a gamer when it comes to this time of year.” 

“All of [these games] are big. There’s not a time left,” Springer said following the victory. “As a team, we [are showing] we can do it, that we can play in these high-stakes games. We understand what it takes. At this point of the year, everything matters…I think over the last month, this has been a team that has been able to play some good baseball.” At 86-67 through Monday, Toronto is 2.0 games ahead of Tampa Bay for the second American League Wild Card spot and 2.5 games above the Seattle Mariners for the third spot. With three consecutive series against A.L. East opponents, the Blue Jays’ offense will look to stay hot as they attempt to advance past the Wild Card round for the first time since 2016.  

Andrew Adams, S, Tennessee Titans 

Before their matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders this weekend, the Titans announced that they had signed safety Andrew Adams off of Pittsburgh’s practice squad to their active roster. Adams initially entered the NFL with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2016, starting a career-high 13 games that season. Following two seasons in New York, Adams bounced between the Buccaneers, Lions, Eagles and Steelers. He has played in 87 career games, including 35 starts, and he’s recorded 190 tackles, seven interceptions and 22 passes defensed in his career. The 2021 campaign saw Adams play in 14 games for the Buccaneers, his third stint with the team, where he made three starts and recorded 24 tackles and an interception. He was a Super Bowl champion in 2020 with Tampa Bay. Adams joined the Steelers practice squad earlier this month after being released from the Giants in late August. In his final season at UConn, he was one of four team captains and led the Huskies with 103 tackles, as well as adding three interceptions and seven passes defended. Tennessee will hope that Adams can provide depth for a unit that has been depleted by injuries in the early parts of the season 

James Bouknight, G, Charlotte Hornets 

As NBA training camp gets underway, second-year guard James Bouknight will look to establish a permanent piece in Charlotte’s rotation following an up-and-down rookie campaign. The 11th overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, Bouknight was available for Charlotte’s media day on Sunday, where he addressed new head coach Steve Clifford and his role for the upcoming campaign. When asked if a fresh start under Clifford would be good for him, Bouknight replied “Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I don’t really want to get into it. I just want to focus on this year and what we got going on now.” Many will recall that Bouknight was disgruntled with his playing time last season under the leadership of then-coach James Borrego, with whom he had a slight altercation in a game against the Miami Heat in early February. He showed his displeasure as he got up from the bench to confront Borrego, but his teammates held him back before he left to the locker room. He saw little to no playing time following the altercation. It’s clear that Bouknight is looking forward to the opportunity to earn his playing time under Clifford, as Bouknight noted that the two have gone over film so that Bouknight “understand what is expected of [him].” The Hornets’ first preseason game will be this Sunday against the Boston Celtics at 1 p.m. 

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