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South Carolina’s Lattimore entering NFL draft

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore is finished with college football. How long it takes the Gamecocks junior to make his NFL debut is anyone’s guess.

Lattimore announced Wednesday he was giving up his final season to enter the NFL draft. He was considered a can’t-miss, first-round talent after his first two seasons. However, a horrifying right knee injury in October has dropped his draft stock and it is unclear when Lattimore might return to action.

Lattimore dislocated his knee and damaged three of four ligaments when he was tackled against Tennessee. Doctors say surgery on his knee was successful and Lattimore easily walked into his first gathering with media since the injury.

He came into this season off ligament surgery to his left knee, an injury that cost him the final six games of the 2011 season.

Despite his injuries, Lattimore said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

He and Dr. Jeffrey Guy said it would take 12-to-15 months to recover, meaning it is unlikely Lattimore would play anywhere during the 2013 season. Guy, among the team that operated on Lattimore, said Lattimore’s prognosis for full recovery was good.

Lattimore finished his career as the Gamecocks’ all-time leader with 41 overall touchdowns and 38 rushing scores in 29 games.

Still, even draft experts are puzzled about Lattimore’s prospects next April.

“I just put wild card next to his name,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a media conference call Tuesday.

Lattimore had told Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier before a student rally of support in October that the player hoped to return to the field for the Gamecocks. About a month ago, Lattimore talked with his family and decided entering the NFL draft was the better choice.

Dodgers get Schumaker from Cardinals in trade

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired infielder-outfielder Skip Schumaker from St. Louis for minor league infielder Jake Lemmerman on Wednesday.

Schumaker hit .288 with 23 home runs and 211 RBIs in 810 games from 2005-12 with the Cardinals, where he had spent his entire career. The left-handed hitter has a .305 career batting average against right-handers.

The 32-year-old Schumaker, from Torrance, Calif., has split time between second base (412 games) and the outfield (389 games) in his career, appearing at all three outfield positions. Last season, he played 61 games at second base, 15 games in center field, 10 games in right field, and one game in left field.

He played for the Cardinals’ winning World Series teams in 2006 and 2011.

The 23-year-old Lemmerman batted .233 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 116 games with Double-A Chattanooga last season.

Alabama QB McCarron to return for senior year

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who has led the Crimson Tide to its second straight national title game, said he will return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft.

McCarron made the announcement in a statement released by the school on Wednesday.

“I had many goals for myself when I came to the University of Alabama,” the junior said. “I have been lucky enough to achieve some of those goals, but some are still ahead of me. There were many factors in my decision to return to Alabama for my senior year but, after talking with my family and coaches, I knew it was the right choice for me.

“I love the University of Alabama, my coaches, my teammates and our fans. I am excited to have the opportunity to play with my brother (sophomore tight end Corey McCarron), continue to grow as a leader, continue to help our team win football games and develop even further as a quarterback. The NFL has long been a dream, but I think another year at Alabama can only help my chances of being successful at the next level.”

McCarron leads the nation in passing efficiency headed into the BCS championship game against Notre Dame on Jan. 7 in Miami, and he was MVP of the BCS championship game against LSU last season. He is 24-2 as a starter.

McCarron has thrown for 2,669 yards and a school-record 26 touchdown passes against just three interceptions this season. His 45 career TD passes is second in Alabama history.

NHL, union remain apart on issues and in meetings

NEW YORK — The latest round of NHL labor talks ended with the two sides in different rooms from each other.

The players’ association and league negotiators met separately Wednesday with federal mediators in suburban New Jersey, holding discussions that didn’t appear to have moved the sides any closer to a deal to save the hockey season.

There was hope going into Wednesday that negotiations could get back on track to the point they were last Thursday before talks fell apart.

When the NHL agreed last week to increase its make-whole offer of deferred payments from $211 million to $300 million it was part of a proposed package that required the union to agree on three nonnegotiable points. Instead, the players’ association accepted the raise in funds, but then made counterproposals on the issues the league stated had no wiggle room.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman then said that the offer was being pulled from the table. However, mediators asked the union on Wednesday, if that proposal was back in play, would the players take it or leave it?

“It wasn’t much of a decision,” said Brendan Morrison, one of 13 players to attend Wednesday’s talks. “I thought the gap would be closed much quicker, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet, so we have to keep working.”

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins suspended one game

MILWAUKEE — Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins was suspended for one game without pay by the NBA on Wednesday for striking Dallas’ O.J. Mayo in the groin area in the Kings’ road loss Monday night.

Cousins sat out the Kings’ game Wednesday night at Milwaukee.

“Obviously, you miss a tremendous piece to your team when you have been playing pretty decent of late,” Kings coach Keith Smart said before the game against the Bucks.

It’s the second suspension of the season for Cousins, who missed two games in November after confronting San Antonio Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott following a game. Cousins leads the Kings in scoring (17.2 points per game), rebounds (9.9) and steals (1.4).

From wire sources