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Wildcat resigned to new role

Ray Lions will be with the Linfield Wildcats on Saturday when they play at St. John's (Minn.) in a NCAA Division III playoff showdown, but he won't be in uniform.

Lions, a first-team All-America safety as a junior last season, broke his neck in the Wildcats' first game against Redlands, Calif.

It ended Lions' career Ñ 'he came a few millimeters from being paralyzed,' says Kelly Bird, Linfield's veteran sports information director Ñ but the one-time Sunset High standout has made nearly a full recovery.

'I can play racquetball, ride a bike, do most of the physical things I like to do,' he says. 'I can do just about anything except play football.'

And that's been tough to come to grips with, especially as Linfield has won its first two playoff games.

'This is the best time of the year,' Lions says. 'This is what I enjoy the most Ñ being out there alongside my friends on the football field, waging the biggest battles.

'It has been a huge, emotional roller coaster. It was devastating at the time, and it's still hard.'

Lions has helped coach defensive backs this fall and will be on the Linfield sideline Saturday.

'It helps a little bit, going to the games and still being a part of the program in some way,' he says.

Lions will graduate in a few weeks with a degree in business and already has begun to train for a job as a personal trainer in Vancouver, Wash.

'It's a promising start to what might be my career,' he says.

• Come on. As soon as Bob Whitsitt left the Blazers to devote himself full time to the NFL, you knew the Seattle Seahawks would turn it around.

• This is the time of year when sports teams can do a lot of good for a lot of folks in need. Kudos to the Winter Hawks, whose annual Teddy Bear Toss reaped a record 5,448 fuzzy animals to distribute to various local children's charities. Tip of the hat to the Trail Blazers, whose pre-Thanksgiving Harvest Dinner fed about 4,000 and whose Holiday Express gave away 1,000 Christmas trees and provided a pancake breakfast for countless low-income families.

• Lincoln junior point guard Omar Leary is the latest of a long list of standout guards from the PIL that includes Trail Blazer Damon Stoudamire, who went to Wilson.

Stoudamire knows all about Leary: 'I haven't seen him play since I worked out with him a couple of summers ago, before his freshman year. He was so young then, but it was clear he can be a player. Omar can be good. What I try to tell guys in high school, the stuff you're getting away with now, you're not going to get away with at a higher level. I tell him to work on his jump shot. He has the quickness and things like that, and he is going to get better, obviously. I'm going to try to check him out at a game this year.'

• Then there's Derek Raivio, the 6-1 freshman at Gonzaga out of Vancouver's Mountain View High. Raivio, son of former University of Portland star Rick Raivio, is the heir apparent to starting point guard Blake Stepp, the former South Eugene standout who was West Coast Conference player of the year as a junior. Raivio scored only nine points in the Wildcats' first four games, but coaches are excited about his potential and ability to run a team.

• Here's a boon for players during holiday month: The 5 percent surcharge has been lifted for December at Oregon's 18 off-track betting sites for Multnomah Kennel Club greyhound racing and Portland Meadows horse racing. MEC Oregon Racing Inc., the management group for both facilities, will cover the costs, giving gamblers a chance to pile up a little more stash for the Christmas stockings.

• The latest Slam Magazine takes a look back at several past greats of the NBA, including a feature on Clyde Drexler.

• After San Jose defeated Chicago for the MLS championship Nov. 23, Earthquake captain Jeff Agoos accepted the Alan Rothenburg trophy while wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with the words 'We miss you, Clive' handwritten across the chest.