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Softball: Former Cal star Valerie Arioto up for big award

Former Cal softball star Valerie Arioto was named a finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year, it was announced Monday.

Arioto (2008-12) was selected in the team category for her achievements with Team USA over a one-year period that ended July 31.

Arioto, from Pleasanton, helped the U.S. squad to a silver-medal finish at the International Softball Federation’s World Championships in Haarlem, Netherland, batting .474 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Sportswoman of the Year award winners will be determined by a combination of public vote (50 percent) and the WSF’s Awards Committee’s vote (50 percent). The winners will be the two athletes – one individual sport finalist and one team sport finalist – who receive the highest combined share of a public vote and the Awards Committee vote.

Fans can visit  http://wspr.tc/VoteTeamSOY201 to cast their vote for the Sportswoman of the Year award through 11:59 p.m. ET on Sept. 8.

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Football: Director says Lynch photo was staged

NFL star Marshawn Lynch of Oakland is being lampooned on the internet and TV for a photo showing his parked white Lamborghini protected by velvet ropes.

His people want to set the record straight.

The scene was staged, according to Mario Bobino, the director of “Family First — The Marshawn Lynch Story,” which concluded filming in Oakland last weekend.

“It was a prop for the movie,” Bobino said Thursday. “We did that.”

Lynch’s representatives reached out to this newspaper to “set the record straight” about the photo, which was taken from an upstairs apartment window across the street from where the car was parked Sunday.

Since then, the photo has gone viral on social media, and has been shared by websites including CBS Sports, Deadspin, Washington Post and NFL.com. Bobino said two Bay Area news stations showed it.

Click here to see the photo and the rest of this story.

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Football: Ex-Cal star Marshawn Lynch encourages kids to ask for help and seek their own path

Marshawn Lynch’s white Lamborghini was parked well out of sight, but that was about the only thing the Seattle Seahawks running back and former Cal star held back from two dozen young teens during a motivational speaking appearance Tuesday.

Lynch’s contract status never was a topic of discussion, nor was his decision to skip the Super Bowl champions’ visit to the White House in May.

Lynch and fellow Oakland Tech High grad Josh Johnson, a backup quarterback with the 49ers, sat under the trees on a sunny day outside Pleasanton and encouraged East Bay youngsters to ask for help and seek their own path.

Dressed in a black “Beast Mode” sweat outfit, Lynch, 28, talked comfortably about his own childhood in Oakland, where he could have permanently taken a wrong turn. He explained how he went to Piedmont to steal bicycles and shoplifted from grocery stores as a grammar-school kid.

“I was doing bad things,” he said.

Then things got serious.

“The people I was out there doing bad stuff with, they started dropping off,” Lynch said.

After attending a funeral for a neighborhood friend slain at the age of seven, Lynch told himself, “I don’t want that to be me.”

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Football: Cal legend Joe Roth’s courageous story traced in new documentary — `Don’t Quit’

Former Cal football coach Mike White called it, “the biggest secret in the history of college athletics.”

Even White didn’t know during the fall of 1976 that Joe Roth, his All-America quarterback, was playing out his senior season while battling an aggressive strain of malignant melanoma. By February 1977, just 21 years old, Roth was dead.

Roth’s remarkable tale — the way he lived and the way he died — unfolds in “Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story,” a documentary film five years in the making by Cal grads Phil Schaaf and Bob Rider.

The 85-minute film, which made its debut in April at the Newport Film Festival, had its first Bay Area showing Wednesday night in front of about 300 Cal fans at Memorial Stadium.

The home crowd — including his former coach and a handful of ex-teammates — watched as Roth arrived in Berkeley from Grossmont junior college, became almost an overnight star who won friends with his low-key charm, then silently labored through his final painful months.

“In the end it has nothing to do with the sport,” Schaaf said. “Instead, it’s about humam elegance in the face of unfathomable adversity. In Joe’s case, it’s against this backdrop of athletic greatness.”

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Basketball: Cobbs gets on the floor

Former Cal star Justin Cobbs got off the bench and into the game for the first time Tuesday during NBA summer league play in Orlando, Florida.

Cobbs played nine minutes and contributed two points and an assist to the Memphis Grizzlies’ 80-73 win over Orlando. Cobbs, who did not play in the Grizzlies’ first two games, shot 1 for 3 and also had a steal and a turnover.

For the third straight game, Richard Solomon did not play for the Houston Rockets in their 92-71 loss to Philadelphia.

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Basketball/baseball: Earl Robinson dies

Earl Robinson, one of Cal’s greatest two-sport athletes, died Friday at the age of 77 after a long illness.

Robinson, who starred in basketball and baseball in the late 1950s, was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988. He was voted into the Pac-10 Hall of Honor in 2010 and a year later received the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award, which is presented to the Cal men’s basketball alumnus who upholds the highest ideals of Coach Newell and the University of California.

Robinson was modest in his acceptance of the Newell award.

“When they talk about an achievement award, you must remember that you never do this by yourself,” Robinson said. “It’s because of so many people. It is you that I share this award with. I am humbled by this award. You, the fans, supported us – I don’t care whether Wilt Chamberlain came in here, the great Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Elgin Baylor or whoever it might be. It was your support that made us feel that we could always compete. And so I accept this award in your honor.”

A graduate of Berkeley High, Robinson was a 6-foot-1 guard on the basketball team, helping Cal to conference titles in 1956, ’57 and ’58. He was twice an All-Coast selection and three times was named to the All-Pacific Coast Conference team.
 
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Basketball: Cobbs, Solomon sit in summer debuts

Former Cal stars Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon never got off the bench Saturday as their NBA teams made their season debuts in the Orlando Pro Summer League.

Cobbs was signed this week to a summer-league contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, who beat Oklahoma City 84-63.

Solomon is with the Houston Rockets, who lost 95-89 to Detroit.

Jorge Gutierrez, who won Pac-12 Player of the Year honors for Cal in 2012, had eight points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal in Brooklyn’s 101-81 win over Indiana. Gutierrez played the latter portion of the 2014-14 NBA regular season with the Nets.

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Basketball: Rockets sign Solomon

Former Cal forward Richard Solomon signed a summer league contract with the Houston Rockets.

The 6-foot-10 Solomon led the Pac-12 in rebounding at 10.2 per game while also averaging 11.0 rebounds. He was among just three players in the six power conferences to average a double-double.

Solomon and the Rockets begin play in the Orlando summer league on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons.

Solomon’s signing came one day after former Golden Bears teammate Justin Cobbs was signed by the Memphis Grizzlies. The two will face each other when Houston meets Memphis on July 10.

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Basketball: Cobbs to Memphis summer team

Former Cal point guard Justin Cobbs has signed to play for the Memphis Grizzles in the NBA summer league in Orlando, Fla.

Cobbs, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection as a senior this past season, will debut with the Grizzlies on Saturday against the Miami Heat. The team will play five games, which can be seen on NBA TV.

*****

BTW, I’m back from vacation. You cover college sports and you figure June is a safe month to be away. Go figure.

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Basketball: Ex-Cal star Justin Cobbs makes Warriors his latest stop on pre-NBA draft tour

I visited the Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland on Wednesday to talk with ex-Cal star Justin Cobbs, who was among six NBA draft hopefuls who worked out in front of club officials.

Here’s my story on how Cobbs and former Saint Mary’s College guard Stephen Holt are faring in the leadup to the June 26 NBA draft.

Cobbs also said he and his Cal teammates were completely surprised when coach Mike Montgomery announced his retirement after the season.