Friday, February 4, 2011

Drew II's move makes no sense

Ok, I get it that Larry Drew II didn't like losing his starting position and I get it that his minutes were down about six minutes a game from last year. But quitting in February with your team in a virtual tie with Duke for No. 1 in the ACC?

He has to sit out a year to play at another Division I school regardless of whether he quits now or at the end of the season. Plus, he had been playing well coming off the bench. I remember John Havlicek was an all-star as the Celtics' sixth man a couple of seasons. There's something special about being able to come off the bench and excel. And Drew was doing that.

While he scored no points against Boston College the other day, he dished out nine assists and had only one turnover. That's a valuable contribution. He also was one of the strongest defensive players on the team. However, he didn't have real strength - both in character to stand up to his father, who very well may have made the decision that he leave, or the thoughtfulness to discuss the possibility with his coach before making the decision.

By leaving now, rather than at the end of the season, he has forfeited his opportunity to be part of the Carolina family for the rest of his life. I felt a little of that feeling just as sports editor of The Daily Tar Heel when I was in college. I occasionally traveled with the team, including to the Final Four twice - once on the team plane and once with the cheerleaders.

To give up that connection and cameraderie for life to simply sit out the next two months makes little to no sense. And it certainly won't make him a better player to not be playing those games.

Further, word is that his teammates didn't know about the decision until ESPN broke the story. Heck, we may have had it up on capitalsportsnc.com before all his teammates knew.

This leads me to believe there is more to this story than just the loss of a starting position. I'm not going to speculate now about what that could be. But it does appear that, as my mom used to say, "he wanted to show his rear end." He wanted to make a spectacle out of himself and the situation, possibly to hurt Coach Roy Williams, his teammates and/or the Carolina program.

Or maybe his father did.

Drew departure continues California exodus from Chapel Hill

The stunning decision by North Carolina guard Larry Drew to leave Chapel Hill in the middle of the semester continues a trend in which recruits from the state of California have not remained in Chapel Hill.

Under Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge, the Tar Heels rarely went to California for players. Center Scott Williams was one of the few from that state to play in Chapel Hill. But Roy Williams had established deep connections to California in his time at Kansas, and he continued to recruit that state, with success, at UNC.

But the shocking news that Drew is leaving marks the fourth time a California product has left Chapel Hill early under Williams. Alex Stepheson transferred to Southern Cal after playing the 2007 and 2008 seasons in Chapel Hill.

Last season, David and Travis Wear surprised Williams after the season when their father told him after the season they were transferring. They eventually picked UCLA.

Drew continued that trend Friday, and in a manner similarly surprising. Williams, in a news release, said Drew’s father told him the son would leave. (You’d think the players, in the cases of both the Wears and Drew, would have had the nerve to tell the coach themselves).

Regardless, it’s a stunning development for a team that appeared to be hitting its stride with that win at Boston College.

Carolina never seemed to play to its potential with Drew at point guard, and UNC fans heaped criticism on him for last season’s failures. Fair or not, it was clear Carolina had renewed fire when Kendall Marshall took over at point. Marshall is a deft passer and his teammates just exude more joy and confidence with him on the floor.

Drew had appeared to take the demotion gracefully. He played 19 minutes in the impressive win at Boston College Tuesday. He didn’t score a point but had nine assists. From the outside, he certainly appeared ready to share the ball and put winning first.

With Drew gone, that knocks a hole in Carolina’s depth, but not one that is unsurmountable. It solidifies Marshall’s job at point guard and means Reggie Bullock will get more minutes. Not a bad thing but still, a stunning development in Chapel Hill, where players rarely voice public displeasure over playing time.

Report: Larry Drew II leaves Tar Heels, will transfer

ESPN is reporting, "In a jarring February development, North Carolina point guard Larry Drew II has left the Tar Heels team and will transfer, according to a source close to the situation."


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Super Bowl players, coaches have links to the ACC

ACC RELEASE - No fewer than 20 players or coaches on the Super Bowl participating teams have connections to current Atlantic Coast Conference schools. Below is a listing of players and coaches from the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers who have connections to current Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
Also five former Super Bowl MVPs have been from current ACC schools. They are listed as well.

Pittsburgh Steelers (13)
Coaches (3)
Bruce Arians, Offensive Coordinator
Quarterback at Virginia Tech (1971-74)
Graduate Assistant Coach at Virginia Tech (1975)

Scottie Montgomery, Assistant Coach, Wide Receivers
Lettered four season as a wide receiver at Duke
Assistant Coach, Wide Receivers, Duke (2006-09)

Jerry Olsavsky, Defensive Assistant
One season as strength coach at North Carolina (2002).

Players (10)
Crezdon Butler, DB, Clemson
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech
Nick Eason, DE, Clemson
James Farrior, ILB, Virginia
Keyaron Fox, LB, Georgia Tech
Bryant McFadden, CB, Florida State
Heath Miller, TE, Virginia
Lawrence Timmons, ILB, Florida State
Greg Warren, LS, North Carolina
Jason Worilds, OLB, Virginia Tech

Green Bay Packers (7)
Coaches (3)
Winston Moss, Assistant Head Coach, Inside Linebackers
Lettered four years at Miami (1983-86) including 1983 National Championship Team

Edgar Bennett, Assistant Coach, Running Backs
Four–year starter at fullback for Florida State (1987-91)
Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame

Jimmy Robinson, Assistant Coach, Wide Receivers
Lettered four years as wide receiver at Georgia Tech (1971-74)
Assistant Coach at Georgia Tech (1987-89)
Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame

Players (4)
B. J. Raji, NT, Boston College
Sam Shields, CB, Miami
Robert Francois, LB, Boston College
Morgan Burnett, DB, Georgia Tech (IR)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bullock's four three pointers changed the game quickly for UNC

The three-point shot can certainly change games in a hurry and it did so during North Carolina's 106-74 drubbing of Boston College. It looked as if BC might continue its ACC dominance at home after hitting four threes in a row to get out to an 18-13 lead.

But UNC's Reggie Bullock went unconscious over a three-minute period with four three-pointers. His three from the right corner gave Carolina its first lead at 19-18. About 40 seconds later Bullock hit a three from the left corner and just over a minute later he swished a three from the left side to put the Tar Heels up 29-22.

At the end of the day, Boston College had 13 three-pointers compared to 11 by Carolina. But the time of the game in which the threes were made was big plus BC shot a lot more threes. You live by it and you die by it. Carolina hit 52 percent of its three pointers while BC hit 39 percent.

For more on the Boston College game itself, please click here.

Florida State grabs dominant recruiting class

Back at Operation Basketball in October in Charlotte, a Florida State media relations person made an interesting comment in the hallway. The conversation turned to football, where the Seminoles had once owned the ACC.

“We’re going to be what we used to be,” he said. Really? Asked a Capital Sports reporter. Why?

Jimbo Fisher is just bringing it together, he explained. The coaching staff, the organization, the entire program was falling into place.

On signing day, we’ll see it. North Carolina has a good recruiting class and N.C. State has a perplexing one, but the Seminoles have a great one. Football coaches love to say you can’t truly gauge a class for five years, and there is some truth in that, but the teams that win big on the field tend to win big on signing day. Just look at Alabama – Nick Saban came in and turned the program around with some monster recruiting classes.

Florida State is poised for a tremendous day Wednesday. The Seminoles have 25 commitments and 10 are ranked in the Top 100 by Scout.com. Four are five-star recruits, 10 are four-star recruits and 11 are three-star recruits.

The next closest ACC team is Clemson, at No. 18, followed by UNC at No. 19. As of Tuesday night, Carolina had one five-star recruit and five four-stars. Ratings are just guesses – Russell Wilson was a two-star – but the chance of getting a stud goes up with the number of stars.

One interesting note on Florida State’s class – its only quarterback so far is three-star recruit Jacob Coker of Mobile, Ala.

Ten reasons why I liked the U.S. figure skating championships

Caitlin Yankowskas.
Becky Bereswill.Alissa Czisny.Gretchen Donlan.
Caydee Denney.
Madison Hubbell.Madison Chock.Meryl Davis.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wolfpack goes blank on Saturday, and for a moment Monday morning

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe obviously has more to worry about than the ACC media teleconference, but there was an awkward moment Monday morning when his phone line died in the middle of an answer to The News & Observer’s Joe Giglio.

Giglio asked about how hard the Wolfpack plays, and whether Saturday’s loss at North Carolina was an aberration.

“Um, I think this group will play hard. Saturday, that was just a game. I don’t know, it was a weird game. Guys seemed to be ready n the locker room, ready to go to and excited, with good energy,” Lowe responded.

“Initially, when we don’t hit a few shots early, our defense seems to suffer a little bit. Our energy goes down. And we can’t have that.

“We have to be better at overcoming that early drought of not hitting shots and picking up on the defensive end.”

Whoops! Not long after that, Lowe’s line went blank (Wonder if he has AT&T as his cell service?)

After a minute or so, he was back on the line. In the remaining time, Lowe touched on a variety of points involving the Wolfpack team. One was that State doesn’t seem to have great balance when it comes to scoring, and the return of Tracy Smith after an injury hasn’t bolstered the team as expected.

“I can’t remember the last time we had a game where everybody played well. We haven’t had that in a while,” he said. “Having Tracy back certainly helped but we need other people to play well for us. We’ve had a couple of times now where we would take three or four players who played the majority of minutes and they went 4 for 16. And we can’t do that.

“But with Tracy back we should be better defensively. I don t think we’ve taken advantage of that. I don’t think we’ve defended as well as we need. We need to get games where we have more than two guys playing well.”

Speakingly broadly, Lowe had an almost deflated tone in this news conference. He talked about how tough the Wolfpack’s schedule has been in ACC play, and how this team still has time to make a run, but if you listened to his tone of voice, you had a hard time believing this team is about to roar through the rest of the season.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vision, facilities lead to successful All-Star Weekend

The ultra-successful All-Star Weekend in Raleigh was a testament to two critical factors when it comes to professional sports – facilities and vision.

Raleigh had the foresight to commit to building the RBC Center before it had a hockey team, which was a key reason the Hartford Whalers moved south. Pro teams follow the money, and money often means a swank place to play with friendly rent.

Raleigh’s big mistake, as the weekend also highlighted, was the failure to build the arena downtown. Then-mayor Tom Fetzer led the decision to go to cheaper land at the Fairgrounds, even though the downtown renaissance was already under way. The expectation then was businesses would grow up around the new arena, but that hope has never materialized. Meanwhile, the downtown area was the focus of three days of partying for the weekend.

Also due a heaping amount of credit is Jim Cain, the Raleigh product who was the Carolina Hurricanes’ president at a time when the future of the franchise was no given. Cain’s name hasn’t come up much in the reports on the weekend, but he was essential to what happened this weekend.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised an All-Star Game in five years if the Canes hit 12,000 season tickets, and Carolina announced on May 31, 2001, that it had sold 12,309 season tickets. A late push by Harris Teeter, which bought 1,000 season tickets, put Carolina over the goal.

“People don’t have to talk about this franchise anymore as a franchise that doesn’t care about hockey,” Cain said at the time. “We’ve got a great community here, a great fan-base and a great organization.”

The NHL hemmed and hawed on its commitment but finally delivered this weekend. The wait was longer than it should have been but wow, was it worth it.