Saturday, February 12, 2011

Redskins' Banks of Garner stabbed outside DC nightclub; expected to recover

The Washington Post is reporting that Washington Redskins punt-kick returner Brandon Banks of Garner has suffered a stab wound to his upper left abdomen while trying to break up a fight outside a DC nightclub, at 3 a.m. Saturday.

His agent, James Gould, said Saturday evening that Banks remains hospitalized but is expected to make a full recovery.

"He is with his parents right now, and is expected to make a full recovery," Gould said in a phone interview. "He was trying to save his boyhood friend (Christopher Nixon), and is very concerned about him right now. Brandon is very upset."

Barnes dunk sparks Heels to victory at Clemson

UNC freshman Harrison Barnes drove, twisted, turned and dunked to break a tie with three minutes to go and started an 8-2 run that bolstered Carolina to a 64-62 win at Clemson.

The Tar Heels came through on the foul line this time, hitting nine of 12 down the stretch. And, it was needed as the Tigers drained three threes in the last 23 seconds. A pair of free throws by UNC point guard Kendall Marshall with four seconds left put the game out of reach at 64-59. Marshall hit 10 of 11 free throws in the second half and didn't commit a turnover in the final stanza.

With the score tied at 51 with 3:30 left, Tyler Zeller came up with a steal. After a timeout called by UNC, the Heels wanted to get the ball to Barnes. Marshall got the ball to Barnes at the top of the key with 14 seconds left on the shot clock. He dribbled right of the foul circle, stumbled a bit, kept moving, changed hands, turned toward the basket, leaving his defender behind midway down the lane and twisted his body to go in for a right-handed dunk.

"It fired Harrison up, our team, our bench," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "To me it was just two points... I wanted us to get our butts back down on defense."

For more on the Clemson game, please click here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Former Red Sox great Dwight Evans says Carolina League is the best

In 2012 the Carolina Mudcats will drop from Double A to Single A. Some may think that's bad news but if you listen to former Boston Red Sox great Dwight Evans, going to the Class A Carolina League is no negative.

Speaking to fans of the Salem (Va.) Red Sox Thursday, Evans said that the Carolina League is "the best" Single A baseball played in the country. In fact, he said fans of Carolina League teams will see players who skip over Double A altogether and go directly to Triple A. As a matter of fact, that's what he did.

In 1971, as a 19-year-old playing for the Winston-Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, Evans batted .286 but was known from the beginning as a great fielding outfielder. The next season he was promoted past Double A directly to the Triple A Louisville Colonels of the International League. Before the end of that season, he was promoted to the Red Sox at the age of 20 and embarked on a 20-year major league career.

Evans won eight Gold Glove awards, made the all-star team three times and had more home runs in the 1980s than any other player during the decade with 251 of his career 385 homers.

His whole life is a testament to how quickly things can change. "When I was 15, I didn't make the team," Evans said. "I was an alternate and had to travel in street clothes. Two years later, I was drafted by the Boston Red Sox."

Seemingly always positive, Evans said he played with some great players but more importantly played with some great people. Interestingly, though he played only one season with the Orioles (1991), he specifically mentioned the Ripken family. Teammate Cal Jr., who played more consecutive games than anyone in major league history, was the biggest name but he reserved his biggest compliments for brother Billy who he said would "dive on cement" for the ball and his dad Cal Sr. who he said was a "great, great teacher" who would have made a great World War II military leader.

Evans' positive nature has come in handy in his personal life. Though he kept it quiet, much of the time he was playing baseball, he was worried about his children's health. Now both grown and fully functional, his sons both have Neurofibromatosis, a disease where nerve tissue grows tumors and can cause other serious problems.

One son almost died on the operating table during one procedure while the other is undergoing his 39th operation in March. Through the operations and hospitalizations, Dwight and his wife Susan kept it private. During his playing days, Evans often went to the hospital before and after a game. Sometimes he even left games mentally exhausted and went to the hospital while the game was still going on. Yet, apparently, few knew what his family was going through.

Over the years Evans has become involved in raising money for research of Neurofibromatosis, which he said is more common, even though less known, than Cystic Fibrosis or Muscular Dystrophy with one in 2500 being affected.

The Triangle Red Sox Nation club, based in the Raleigh area, got the idea to have Evans sign some balls and photos - which he did Thursday night - in order to auction them off for charity. The group, led by Sean Bunn of Raleigh, has raised more money for the Jimmy Fund than any other Red Sox fan club outside New England.

The Jimmy Fund supports the fight against cancer in children and adults at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The relationship between the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund is the longest standing, most extensive, and most significant team-charity relationship in all of professional sports.

Half the proceeds from the sale of Evans memorabilia will go to the Jimmy Fund for Cancer Research and the other half will go to the neurofibromatosis nonprofit that Evans and his wife Susan have long supported, NF Inc., Northeast.

For information about the Jimmy Fund, visit www.JimmyFund.org, and information about NF Inc. Northeast can be found at www.nfincne.org. Membership in the Triangle Red Sox Nation is free. Baseball fans can join by visiting www.TriangleRedSoxNation.org.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lack of threes and poor foul shooting catches up to Heels as Duke rallies

Erratic three-point shooting and poor foul shooting finally caught up to Carolina this year in a game against rival Duke as a 16-point lead evaporated and ended with a 79-73 Blue Devil victory.

Despite being 7-1 in the ACC coming into the game, Carolina was next to last in the ACC in three-point shooting and eighth in free throw shooting.

It was really a remarkable first half for the Tar Heels as they made Duke look slow and led by 14 at the half. Carolina players were hitting their shots and, with freshman Kendall Marshall at the helm, getting out quickly on the fast break.

But in the second half Duke picked up its intensity and Carolina couldn't buy a basket from outside of about five feet away from the basket.

Carolina was still there late in the game and would have had a good chance at winning if the Heels could have hit their free throws and at least a couple of three pointers.

The Tar Heels were 0 of six from behind the arc in the second half and only two of 14 for the game. Duke got 18 more points from three-point land and two more free throws. That's a 20-point differential.

Carolina hit just 13 of 22 free throws plus the two players best from beyond the arc went a combined one of nine. Freshman Reggie Bullock was 0 of four from three while Leslie McDonald was 1 of five from three. Dexter Strickland, who had been shooting well lately, was in foul trouble and didn't even take a three and took only four shots.

Meanwhile Duke's Nolan Smith scored a career-high 34 points and Seth Curry added a career-high 22. The two scored 41 of Duke's 50 second-half points.

For more on the Duke-Carolina game itself, please click here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Williams more comfortable with the team he's taking to Duke this year

North Carolina might be coming off a big win over Florida State and UNC may have found a solid point guard but now the Tar Heels have a week where they play at Duke and at Clemson, two teams that beat them by a combined 51 points on their home floors last year.

The Heels, who play at Cameron Indoor Stadium Wednesday night, were embarrassed 82-50 at Duke last year. While the Tar Heels weren't playing with their full complement of players a year ago, they just weren't very good. Carolina was 16-15 and 5-11 in the ACC after that game.

This time the Tar Heels are 17-5 and 7-1 in the ACC as the teams meet in Durham. Coach Roy Williams, during his weekly media teleconference today, said he was "scared to death" but feels more comfortable with the team he is taking over to Duke this year, especially considering the way they are playing.

He said it would be a "monumental task" to beat the Blue Devils but he is confident that his team will try extremely hard and will play together.

Some have marveled at how quickly the Tar Heels seem to have gotten over the loss of point guard Larry Drew II. Freshman Kendall Marshall, who had won the starting job from Drew four games earlier, had 16 assists in Carolina's impressive 89-69 win over Florida State.

"Kids get over things so much easier and quicker," Williams said adding that coaches have a harder time with adversity. "But it was a tough 48 hours for all of us."

Earlier Dexter Strickland seemed to indicate that Drew along with the Wear twins and Will Graves - four players no longer on the team - were not "all in" when he came to being a part of the Carolina team.

For his part, Williams said that the team practiced really well the two days after learning that Drew had left the team. He said that team chemistry is built throughout the course of the entire season and that adversity, within reason, tends to bring a team together.

"I love coaching the guys we have left," Williams said.

Former Tar Heel and Redskin Hanburger elected to football hall of fame

As we told you back in August, former UNC and Washington Redskins great Chris Hanburger was up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This past weekend, he was indeed elected to the Hall.

Induction ceremonies are Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio. Hanburger, now 69 years old, was a center and middle linebacker for the Tar Heels from 1962-1964 and was twice named All-ACC.

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound linebacker played 14 years for the Washington Redskins, appearing in 187 games. He was selected first-team All-NFL four times in five-season span in the mid-1970s. He was voted to nine Pro Bowls.

No. 55 was honored in 2002 as one of the 70 greatest Washington Redskins players of all time. On Sunday, he was introduced at the Super Bowl.

Interestingly, Hanburger, who majored in history, now spends much of his time reading books about American history and says he doesn't keep up with pro football much because it just doesn't interest him. Still, he was excited to get the call.

"It's wonderful," Hanburger said in a conference call. "I am just overwhelmed. It's just a tremendous honor to have been nominated, much less get in. ... It's just a select group that make it."

Lowe blames Leslie's suspension on 'youth,' says he will play Sunday at Wake Forest

N.C. State doesn’t have a game until Sunday at Wake Forest, and perhaps it comes at a good time for the Wolfpack. Tracy Smith’s knee is ailing – again – and State is also looking to get freshman C.J. Leslie back on course after he was suspended from Saturday’s loss at Duke for violating team rules.

Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said Monday that he expects Leslie to practice Tuesday and play Sunday.

As for the suspension, Lowe said, “I characterize that just as youth, just not understanding the importance of things, little things. …

“It’s just youth. It’s just growth and maturity and understanding there is structure, there is discipline, and it has to be done.”

Lowe also made a pointed remark about the club circuit and its impact on the elite players. Lowe suggested that some of the behavior seen at the college level has its roots in club basketball.

“Unfortunately sometimes kids today – and I hate to talk about the AAU circuit – but there is not a lot of structure and discipline there. And then we get the kid and we have to show them that.”

Wake's Desrosiers develops, gives Deacons hope for future

This has felt like a lost season for Wake Forest, with one ACC win  and a new coaching learning the league and his personnel. But there may be more hope for the Deacons longterm than one believes.
The Deacons lost 91-70 at Maryland Saturday, dropping them to 8-15 overall. But the Deacons started two freshmen and two sophomores, and one of those freshman, center Carson Desrosiers, is starting to show potential. Desrosiers is a slender 7-footer but he is a decent shooter and should improve rapidly.

He scored 11 points and had five rebounds against the Terps. Those are hardly All-ACC numbers, and he is averaging only 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds for the season. Tall players take time to mature, though, and Desrosiers may be a center Wake can build around.

“In a quiet way Carson is slowly becoming one of the the elite freshmen in this league,” Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said Monday. “Down the road as he acquires the necessary strength to finish around the rim and be able to hold and contest his position around the rim, he will develop into one of the elite big men in the ACC in the future.”

Elite? That’s a strong word, and Bzdelik used it later in the ACC teleconference when referring to freshman point guard Tony Chennault. But the idea that Wake could have high-level players at those two critical positions is important.

Desrosiers, the first native of New Hampshire to play at Wake, had already committed to the Deacons before Bzdelik was hired.

“He could have reneged and gone somewhere else. But a the same time whwne we met, it took him abut 10 mintues to say coach, ‘I’m in.”

“I’m sure glad he did. He’s a cornerstone of our program.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Marshall may just make opponents sick now that he's in charge

Kendall Marshall said he threw up at halftime of North Carolina's 89-69 win over Florida State. If his first game without Larry Drew II sharing time is any indication, he's going to be making a lot of opponents and their fans throw up.

Marshall dished out 16 assists, two shy of the all-time Carolina record held by Raymond Felton and breaking the record for a game against an ACC opponent.

He made some spectacular passes including a nifty driving underhand job to Tyler Zeller who dunked it and a long upcourt fastbreak assist to John Henson who dunked it.

Carolina might want to get a bodyguard for Marshall, who saw his minutes go from about 20 a game to 36 against Florida State. Without Drew, he'll have to stay healthy for the Heels to have a chance at an ACC title and a long run in the NCAA tournament.

UNC coach Roy Williams said he'd like to get Marshall's minutes down a bit but backup Dexter Strickland, a shooting guard, hasn't had time to get up to speed at the point.

Williams said Marshall not only is smart but he has a good feel for the game and has good court vision. He can also score when he needs to. He drained a pair of threes against the Seminoles.

The team's shooting percentage should improve as Marshall gets the ball inside for dunks. Carolina will miss Drew's defense but there may be better chemistry now with Marshall playing more minutes.

Maybe the amount of playing time as much as his nerves led to Marshall throwing up. But it was Florida State that felt sick after this game.

For more on the Florida State game itself, please click here.