Sports briefs: NAZ Suns’ Cody Toppert joins Phoenix Suns coaching staff

PRESCOTT VALLEY – The Northern Arizona Suns announced Wednesday that head coach Cody Toppert has been called up to join the Phoenix Suns coaching staff.

Toppert joins Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov and his staff as Director of Player Development.

Toppert is the fourth coach in Northern Arizona Suns history to be called up to the NBA. The NAZ Suns inaugural head coach Ty Ellis, associate head coach Bret Burchard and assistant coach Brandon Rosenthal were all called up to the Phoenix Suns at the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign.

Toppert spent one season at the helm for the NAZ Suns, officially hired on the day of the team’s 2017-18 season opener. Under his watch, the NAZ Suns set a new team record for wins in a season with 23, finishing the year 23-27 (.460).

A team-record five players were called up to an NBA roster under Toppert in 2017-18. Isaiah Canaan signed with the Suns, Derrick Jones Jr. was called up by the Miami Heat, Josh Gray joined the Suns, Shaquille Harrison signed with the Suns and Xavier Silas was called up by the Boston Celtics. The five players called up to the NBA marked the most unique player call-ups any NBA G League team had last season.

Known for his offensive prowess, Toppert boosted the Suns on that end of the floor immediately. The NAZ Suns quickly set numerous offensive records, finishing tops in the league in three-point makes per game (14.9) and second in scoring (119.3 points per game).

A Cornell graduate, Toppert spent three years coaching in the NBA G League, serving as an assistant coach for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2015-17. He also played one year in the league, winning the title with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds in 2006.

­‑ NAZ Suns

Football state championship games return to ASU AIA state football championships for the 2018 season will be returning to Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium. The games will be played on Saturday, Dec. 1.

“We’re really excited to get back to ASU,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines. “We’ve held the championships many times before on that field, and it will be great to take advantage of all the upgrades and enhancements that will be available. The location and familiarity make this an ideal situation.”

The AIA will be guaranteed two championship games at Sun Devil Stadium, mostly likely the 5A and 6A contests. The university will determine feasibility for a third football game by the end of the summer.

The sites for the 1A-3A championship games will remain the same as Maricopa High School will host the 1A 8-man title tilt on Nov. 10, while Campo Verde will host 2A and 3A on Nov. 23.

In a slight departure for the 2018 state semis, additional AIA schools will serve as game hosts. Arcadia and Chaparral (2A), and North Canyon and Shadow Mountain (3A) will all host semifinals, ensuring each contest will be played in prime time.

­‑ AIA

NAU’s Brooke Andersen takes third at USATF Championships

DES MOINES, Iowa - Brooke Andersen concluded one of the best careers in Northern Arizona University history with a bronze medal in the final of the women’s hammer throw on the third day of the 2018 USATF Outdoor National Championships at Drake Stadium on Saturday.

Andersen recorded a best mark of 72.17 meters that she set on her first throw of the competition. She went on to record tosses of 71.76, 69.38 and 70.61 meters to go with two fouls that she had in the second and sixth attempt.

It was the highest finish for Andersen at a USATF national meet and a seven spot improvement from her 10th-place finish at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships. The performance was also the third-best showing of her outdoor season this year.

“It was very special to witness Brooke’s final throws in the NAU uniform today as she cemented herself as one of the nation’s best in the hammer at the US Championships,” director of track and field Michael Smith said. “A podium finish at this meet secures this season as unforgettable.”

The only two people to finish ahead of Andersen were professionals and the winner, Deanna Prince, recorded an American record of 78.12 meters. Andersen edged out Janea Stewart who was the NCAA Champion in the event at outdoor nationals.

“Brooke is truly one of the best athletes to represent this program,” Smith added. “Coach Nathan Ott has done an incredible job managing one of the top talents we have ever seen. Brooke’s competing with America’s best today was a preview of what’s to come in her post collegiate career and all of NAU Track and Field will be her greatest supporters”

Andersen was one of the best to compete in the hammer in NCAA history. She ends her NAU career being a two-time NCAA runner up in the event, ranking No. 2 all-time in NCAA history with a personal best of 74.20 meters and earning two First Team All-American honors.

The now graduated senior from Vista, Calif. was also a two-time Second Team All-American in the weight throw. She finishes up her collegiate career as an 11-time Big Sky Champion (seven team, four individual) and the NAU and Big Sky record holder in the hammer and weight throw.

Andersen signed with an agent and will be pursuing a professional career so while it was her last meet for NAU it isn’t the last that we will hear from her.

Jasmine Malone also competed and wrapped up her season as one of the best sprinters in the country as she came in 28th in the opening round of the women’s 200-meter dash.

Malone was a late add to the event and recorded a time of 24.21. She advanced to Friday’s 400-meter dash semifinals and placed 16th in the nation at 54.29.

The standout will be back for her senior campaign at NAU in 2018-19.

‑ NAU

NAU’s Ashley Taylor Takes Bronze in the 800m at Athletics Ontario Championships

TORONTO - In the last race of her career representing Northern Arizona University, Ashley Taylor went off and recorded a new personal best of 2:02.99 to take the bronze medal at the Athletics Ontario Outdoor Track and Field Championships at York Lions Stadium on Sunday.

The former Lumberjack who graduated this spring would have set a new school record along with ranking second all-time by just .04 seconds in the BIg Sky Conference if she was still running as a collegiate.

“Today was a pivotal race for me,” Taylor said. “I have been racing a variety of different race strategies. This was my ninth 800m outdoors ever and every race has been a different story so I’m definitely learning to battle through adversity.”

Most races this season have seen Taylor keep the pace and stay in striking distance before unleashing an almost unmatched kick to beat the field. She went out hard before striking again with her signature kick to take third overall in the competition.

“Today I wanted to be aggressive in the first lap and run my own race,” Taylor said. “I went out in 58 seconds and Coach Smith told me to basically run a fast 600m and close my hardest. With Smith, assistant coach Becca DeLoache’s knowledge and knowing my own strength through training and previous race kicks we decided to be bold and it worked. I am definitely becoming more confident in myself and my ability and I’m excited for the next meet that I get to compete in.”

“A great effort for Ashley Taylor as she continues to lower her personal record and gain experience in this event,” director of track and field Michael Smith added. “She wanted an assertive race today and it paid off big. This magical year continues on for her towards Canadian nationals.”

Taylor joined former Lumberjack Andy Trouard in signing with Total Sports USA as she advances to her professional career.

The next race Taylor will compete in will be at Canadian Nationals that take place July 5-8.

‑ NAU

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