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Ford named Kent State men's basketball coach

Geno Ford, an assistant coach during a chunk of the school's 10-year run of 20-win seasons, was named Kent State's new coach. He takes over for Jim Christian, who resigned last week after six seasons and is heading to TCU.

• Jim Larranaga, who took George Mason to the Final Four two years ago, signed a three-year extension to remain coach of the Patriots, turning down an offer to move to his alma mater, Providence College.

• Nebraska basketball coach Doc Sadler received a two-year contract extension after leading the Cornhuskers in their first 20-win season in nine years.

Pro basketball

All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas has made a surprise return to the Washington Wizards, playing his first game since having knee surgery in November. Showing a flare for the dramatic, Arenas waited until the 5:30 mark of the first quarter of the Wizards' game against Milwaukee night to emerge from the locker room in uniform.

• Dirk Nowitzki got back in the playoff race with Dallas last night, starting a pivotal game against Golden State after missing the previous four with a high left ankle sprain.

Hockey

Ryan Jones of Miami of Ohio, Nathan Gerbe of Boston College and Kevin Porter of Michigan were named as the three finalists for the 2008 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which honors college hockey's top player.

• Six seniors from Robert Morris have signed professional contracts, including Ryan Cruthers, who became the first Colonials player to sign with an American Hockey League team. Cruthers signed with Bridgeport, the New York Islanders' AHL affiliate. Also signing pro contracts were Apollo's Sean Berkstresser (Wheeling, ECHL), Tom Biondich (Gwinnette, ECHL), Joel Gasper (Johnstown, ECHL), Chris Kaufman (Bakersfield, ECHL) and Rob Cowan (Port Huron, IHL).

High schools

Linebacker Dorian Bell and wide receiver Corey Brown, both of Gateway, accepted invitations to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

• Oakland Catholic basketball coach Chris Walker resigned after one season. Walker left the program after leading Oakland Catholic to a 16-12 record and a loss in the WPIAL semifinals because he said he is no longer able to make the time commitment. As a professor at Slippery Rock University, Walker decided it was best to take some time off from the basketball court. "It's just one of those things that for me right now, career-wise, the demands at Slippery Rock became too much, along with what I was doing with basketball," he said.

• Christa Rogers, a senior and three-sport star at Quaker Valley, made a verbal committment to play volleyball at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Rogers received Division I scholarship offers in volleyball, basketball and track.

Tennis

Rafael Nadal powered to a 3-6 6-3 6-1 victory over James Blake yesterday to reach the sem-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open. Blake had 31 unforced errors compared to just 13 for Nadal.

Off the field

A three-day festival at the Heinz History Center will give Steelers, Pirates and Penguins fans a chance to meet more than two dozen sports legends ranging from 1960s Pirates pitcher Bob Friend to Olympic wrestler Kurt Angle. The "Parade of Champions" will be June 20-22 at the Strip District museum as part of Pittsburgh' 250th anniversary celebration. The event will feature visits from former Negro league baseball players James Tillman, of the Homestead Grays, and Ted Toles, of the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Ticket offers were sent to Penguins, Pirates and Steelers season ticket holders. Other fans will have an opportunity to by one- and three-day passes for $20 or $50, respectively, beginning April 7 at www.ticketmaster.com . Children younger than 12 are $12.50 and those younger than six get in free.

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