Saturday, November 29, 2008

Paulus on mend against Dukes

DURHAM — Duke senior guard Greg Paulus returned from a one-game absence to score nine points with three 3-pointers against Duquesne.

Paulus is the team's best 3-point shooter but had trouble launching the 20-foot, 9-inch shots with a deep bruise in his right forearm, also his shooting side, against Rhode Island, Southern Illinois and Michigan. He rested for about a week, missing the Montana game before returning.

"He's not there yet but it was great today to get him 23 minutes," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Two days ago we didn't know how much he'd play today. ... We think he's on the way up but he's not there yet."

Paulus will be able to play on Tuesday in Duke's first true road game of the season at Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Paulus missed the first game of his career when Duke beat Montana on Sunday.

The rest helped. His six shots against Duquesne looked like real shots instead of forced ones. Paulus also dished three assists with two steals. -- Luciana Chavez

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Parting shots from Maui: Hansbrough still rusty?

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Top ranked North Carolina planned to eat Thanksgiving dinner and perhaps enjoy a little beach time and cliff diving before flying back to Chapel Hill later today, with the Maui Invitational title in tow.
Some final thoughts after watching the Tar Heels throttle No. 8 Notre Dame 102-87 in the finale:

* If Tyler Hansbrough thinks he's still out of shape, imagine what he'll look like when he scrubs the rest of the rust off. His 34 points marked the sixth 30-plus point performance of his career, and he now needs only 60 more points to break Phil Ford's career scoring record at UNC.

* Coach Roy Williams likes to play in the Maui Invitational because it has such a challenging field; playing here this year, he said, was as valuable as ever. "I think it’s extremely important for each and every team to have challenges each and every day," he said. "And I think coming to a tournament and playing three days in a row like this is extremely important for any team. Every team that comes and plays in the tournament has an opportunity to improve. We faced zone, we faced man, we faced the press, we faced a myriad of different styles that I think will help us out later on."

* It’s safe to say that small forward Danny Green has adapted to his starting role. The senior had the best two scoring days of his career
(26 and 21 points) during the first two games of the tournament, then added eight points and six rebounds in the finale to be named to the All-Tournament team.

* Who knew Deon Thompson could be so aggressive? The junior power forward pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds, plus 19 points, in the finale, but also threw down a pair of rousing dunks during a first- half 12-2 run; on one, he grabbed a rebound at the free throw line and took it down the lane for the slam.

* The championship game may have been a runaway, but it wasn’t without its intense moments. At one point in the second half, freshman Ed Davis didn’t get back on defense, allowing Notre Dame big man Luke Harangody to score an easy basket. Williams’ response: a slam to the scorer’s table that echoed all the way through the tiny Lahaina Civic Center. (Think he wants this team to improve defensively?)

— Robbi Pickeral, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Q&A with Tar Heels' Ed Davis

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Freshman forward Ed Davis recorded the second double-double of his career during North Carolina's semifinal victory against Oregon in the Maui Invitational on Tuesday night. Here's some of what he had to say after the game:

Q: What has been your key to rebounding so well?

A: That's just one thing I know can add to this team, night in and night out, is my rebounding. I might not be able to score or defend as well as I want to, but I know one thing I can do is rebound every night, so that's my goal every night.

Q: Are rebounds more important to you that points right now?

A: I just feel like on this team, with my role this year, rebounding would be a good thing to do to get the playing time because that's what I do night in and night out.

Q: When you came in, did you know that's something the team would need from you?

A: Coach always talks about rebounding, and hustling, so that's something I focus on - trying to get every rebound I can.

Q: What do you know about Notre Dame and Luke Haragody (who the Tar Heels play tonight)?

A: I know he's a first-team All-American in the preseason, and Tyler (Zeller's) brother is on there (the Notre Dame team), so he tells us stuff. It's going to be a good game for us.

Q: What do you think of all the injuries to all the big men around you this year?

A: I see it as an opportunity. But with Tyler (Zeller) going out for the year, that really hurt, because we're a family ... but we just have to pick up for his slack, and hope he gets better for next year.

Q: Do you take pride in the fact that you have two double-doubles already this year?

A: I'm just glad that we're 5-0, so that's all I'm happy about.

— Robbi Pickeral

Has Davidson soured on "Sweet Caroline"?

Has "Sweet Caroline" turned just a bit sour?

Last year, the pep band played the old Neil Diamond song throughout Davidson's magical run to within a three-pointer of the Final Four. The song became part of the magic, with fans singing along at every venue.

Now we need to decide; has the song become part of the Wildcats' basketball tradition, or was it simply a piece of a very special time? Should it be retired and remember only as the soundtrack of that remarkable 2007-2008 season?

I bring this up because a number of fans posting on have tired of the song and want it gone. I think this is a decision to be made by the fans themselves, the true supporters who read every word about the 'Cats and attend every game they can.

Tell us what you think; keep the song in the game rotation or remove it?

-- Stan Olson

Loyola coach's strategy was bizarre

First, the questions were about whether Stephen Curry was hurt.

Those of us on press row during Tuesday night's game at Belk Arena between Davidson and Loyola (Md.) spent most of the time wondering what was going on with Curry, the nation's leading scorer.

He took one shot in the first half and was scoreless. Was he hurt? There was a little bandage just below his right knee. Was that there on Monday? What was wrong?

As it turned out, nothing was wrong with Curry. He simply spent the game playing the role Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos wanted him to - uninvolved in Davidson's offense. So Curry played the game, drawing two Loyola defenders away each Davidson offensive possession and watched his teammates dismantle the Greyhounds in a game of 4-on-3.

What was surprising was how long Patsos kept the strategy in place - the whole game.

In the second half, word began leaking out that Curry could go scoreless. The press row phone was ringing off the hook with national media outlets keeping an eye on the game via the Internet wanting to know why Curry had a zero on the box score. Was he hurt? What's the story?

In the end, the story was less about what Curry didn't do and more about what Patsos did. At some point Patsos probably had in place a legitimate defensive strategy. By halftime, when his team had scored 17 points, he should have known that strategy wasn't getting him anywhere. At some point his strategy became an obsession.

In a wild, bizarre post-game interview, Patsos all but admitted his team could take pride in being the only one so far to hold Curry scoreless. But was it worth the cost?

A 30-point loss later combined with the ridicule Patsos is getting today, it's hard to see how.

- Jim Utter

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hansbrough in starting lineup

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, who sat out Monday’s game against Chaminade, was in the starting lineup for UNC’s game against Oregon on Tuesday night. Hansbrough made his season debut at UC Santa Barbara on Friday but did not play in the opener of the Maui Invitational because Roy Williams feared playing the forward three games in three days; Hansbrough was previously out three weeks because of a stress reaction in his right shin.
If the top-ranked Tar Heels win, they will play No. 8 Notre Dame, which survived a last-second comeback attempt by seventh-ranked Texas in the other semifinal game, at 9:30 Wednesday in the championship game. The past two times UNC won the eight-team tournament — 1999-2000 and 2004-05 — it advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

Robbi Pickeral

Curry is SoCon player of week for 10th time

Davidson's Stephen Curry averaged 37.7 points last week and has scored 25 or more in nine straight.

Davidson guard Stephen Curry was just named the Southern Conference player of the week--again.

Curry has won the award 10 times.

In three games, he averaged 37.7 points and 6.7 assists. He made 44.4 percent of his three-pointers and 93.9 percent of his free throws.

Curry, making a remarkably quick adjustment to moving to the point from shooting guard this season, has scored 25 or more points in nine straight games.

He's in action again tonight at about 8 p.m., in an NIT game against Loyola (Md.). That's part of a doubleheader, with Florida Atlantic and James Madison playing at 5:45 p.m.

Tickets are available.

--Stan Olson

Frasor finally hits a 3 for Heels

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina coach Roy Williams praised guard Bobby Frasor's defense after the Tar Heels blew out Chaminade on Monday night.

But one of the loudest roars of the first-round Maui Invitational came because of the his offense.

With 6:28 left, Frasor — who was 2-for-18 shooting this season at that point — finally swished a three-pointer.

"It was good to finally have one go in,'' said the senior reserve, who has missed everything from three-pointers to layups this season.

Particularly because it seemed like it was such a long time coming.

Frasor said that his long layoff after ACL surgery last year didn't have an effect on his shooting (and after all, he did make a show of making three pointers from the bench during the NCAA tournament last season). He said that this season, "a lot of the shots looked good, they didn't go in."

Now he and the Tar Heels hope they keep going in, beginning tonight, when top-ranked North Carolina faces Oregon in the second round of the Maui Invitational.

"Kept Bobby in a little bit longer because he's been struggling so much with his shot and just needed one to go in," Williams said after the game, "but he was sensational defensively."

Frasor is 16-for-57 over the last two seasons.

— Robbi Pickeral

Up next for Tar Heels: Oregon

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Oregon, making its first appearance in the Maui Invitational, held Alabama to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half Monday night to advance to a semifinal matchup with top-ranked North Carolina tonight. The 9:30 p.m. EST tipoff will be televised on ESPN.

Notes on the Ducks:

PLAYER TO WATCH: Six freshmen played for the Ducks on Monday, but junior point guard Tajuan Porter could give UNC the most headaches.

The 5-foot-6 junior missed his first nine three-pointers against Alabama, but made his last two, finishing with 12 points. He's sixth on Oregon's career three-point list, and he speedy guard from Detroit should make an interesting test for UNC point guard Ty Lawson, who didn't have much trouble running by — and over — Division II Chaminade on Monday night.

SERIES AGAINST UNC: The Ducks are 0-3 all-time against UNC.

A HAWAIIAN HUE: Oregon, which is outfitted by Nike, donned specially designed uniforms Monday for the Invitational. They were black, with a yellow stripe down the left side that also featured Hawaiian printed flowers in green. The pattern was also on the toes of their yellow Nikes.

Asked after the game if there might be anymore uniform twists, coach Ernie Kent said, according to The Oregonian: "I can't tell you that, gang; I can't give away all our secrets."

KENT ON UNC: ''I think there are a lot of teams in the country that would love to play a No. 1 team, but there are some things we have to pay attention to,'' Kent said, according to The Oregonian. "They get up and down the floor, they shoot it really well. The opportunity is there, but we have to be ready to play. They are a team that will make you pay. Hopefully we can match their intensity and be ready to play - it is going to be a battle for us.''

— Robbi Pickeral

Game ball presented by former Tar Heel

LAHAINA, Hawaii — The game ball for Monday's North Carolina-Chaminade game was presented by Tom Butler, who played on Dean Smith's first freshman team in 1958 -- 50 years ago.

Butler, who went to school at Broughton High and now lives in Wilmington, planned the trip to Maui with his wife, son and grandsons to coincide with his 48th wedding anniversary. It just happened to fall at the same time UNC was playing in the Maui Invitational, so his son contacted the organizers to find a way to buy tickets, and the organizers, in turn, asked Butler to be a part of the game ball presentation.

"It was a fun time,'' Butler said of playing on the freshman team, which boasted only four scholarship players at the time. "Coach Smith remembers everyone who crosses his path; he knows my children, which is amazing."

Five decades later, he's a proud season ticket holder to both Carolina football and basketball games, and was pleased at the chance to watch his alma mater play while on vacation.

"I cannot believe how good they are,'' he said of the current basketball team, "and what a good job Roy Williams is doing, and how successful he is -- not just with his coaching, but with his recruiting. He's got the No. 1 team now with all these skilled athletes, and he's going to lose a lot of them, and he's got more coming next year."

— Robbi Pickeral

(Photo courtesy of EA Sports Maui Invitational)

Hansbrough questionable for tonight

Coach Roy Williams said forward Tyler Hansbrough would have played during North Carolina's 115-70 blowout of Chaminade "had it been for a national championship."

But he not was sure whether the senior would play in tonight's second game of the Maui Invitational, either, calling him questionable. The Tar Heels play Oregon, which beat Alabama 92-69, at 9:30 tonight (ESPN).

"I made a decision before we left Santa Barbara that I was not going to play him three straight games,'' Williams said. "He tweaked his ankle a little bit against Santa Barbara; that's the problem right now, it's not even his shin, so I have no idea if he's going to play tomorrow night. I did not plan for him to sit out two games, so if he does sit out, it would be because of his ankle, not his shin."

Hansbrough made his season debut at UCSB on Friday after sitting out more than three weeks because of a stress reaction in his right shin.

MISSING PLAYERS: Chaminade played with only seven players; an additional one will return to the team in time for tonight's game, and a ninth player has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA, coach Matt Mahar said.

"They're pretty good, obviously,'' Mahar said of the Tar Heels. "We were outmatched all the way around. I'm glad they got to rest Tyler, I'm glad we didn't have to see him. We got into some foul trouble anyway; we certainly didn't need to add to it. But I think our guys played hard; we had to adjust to some things. But for the most part, I'm pleased with our effort.

GREEN ON A ROLL: Forward Danny Green scored a career high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. At one point, he scored 11 straight points for Carolina.

"It wasn't like they were hard baskets; they were easy baskets,'' he said. "Just run the floor and get layups. So, easy finger rolls, as coach said."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Monday, November 24, 2008

Students, in droves, attend Clemson game

If you thought there was a large student turnout at Halton Arena on Saturday night for the Charlotte-Clemson men's basketball game, the ticket numbers back you up.

According to John George, the 49ers' assistant athletic director for ticket operations, 4,373 student tickets were used for the game, a 71-70 Clemson victory. In 9,105-seat Halton Arena, there are 4,500 seats reserved for students.

Saturday's mark was the largest student turnout since the homecoming game with Southern Mississippi in the 2004-05 season, for which all 4,500 student tickets were used. Since the 2001-02 season, student turnout has surpassed 4,000 just nine times, including Saturday.

-- Jim Utter

Hansbrough, Frasor ready to take another leap

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Just down the beach from North Carolina's team hotel rises "Black Rock," a 40-foot ledge of hardened ebony lava that draws plenty of recreational cliff divers, particularly at sunset.

Considering Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor's history of taking plunges — remember those internet pictures last summer, showing them diving from the second floor of a frat house into an above ground pool? — of course they won't be able to resist.

"Actually, me and Bob were just talking about it – we're going to go do it,'' Hansbrough said Sunday. "Hopefully, someone will get some pictures of it. It will give us a little buzz."

They'll take the leap with coach Roy Williams' blessing.

"It should be easier for them; they're more experienced than the rest of the team,'' he quipped.

This marks Williams' fourth trip to the Maui Invitational, and he said at least half of his players (including his son, Scott, and a couple team parents) from Kansas and UNC have taken the leap on Kaanapaali Beach over the years. Other visiting teams have done it, too.

Williams' only rules: do it after the tournament is over, and don't even considering asking him to participate in the freefall.

"If I go off, it's because one of my players pushed my rear end, because I didn't jump,'' he insisted.

At least one Tar Heel, senior Marcus Ginyard, said he didn't plan to jump either — but only because he was worried about the impact on his still-healing broken foot.

But even though his team has been injury-plagued of late (including Hansbrough, who was out three weeks with a stress reaction in his right shin), Williams said he's not worried about additional bruises, twists, breaks or strains.

" They can step off the bus today and step on something and roll an ankle … people don't jump off the cliff unless they think they can make it,'' he said."

Hansbrough and Frasor certainly think they'll make a splash — even if it is a little higher than their starting point last summer.

" I think we'll be good,'' Hansbrough said. " I think it will be a little deeper down there than a four-foot pool."

— Robbi Pickeral

Getting to know Chaminade

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina's first-round opponent, Chaminade, may be only 5-65 all-time in the Maui Invitational, but it can pull an upset. Its 1982 stunner over Ralph-Sampson-led Virginia is still considered one of the greatest college basketball shockers of all time, and eventually helped lead to the formation of the tournament.

Its last win in the tournament occurred last season, when it beat Princeton 74-70 in the seventh-place game.

Other things worth noting:

* Nickname: Silverswords.

* Although Chaminade is the host school for the tournament, it is actually located in Honolulu. Tonight marks its season opener.

* The Division II school lost all five of its starters from last year, but it boasts three Division I transfers. Center Mohamad Tangara, a graduate student, formerly played at Arizona. He also went to prep school at Mt. Zion in Durham. Forward Shane Hanson, a junior, played for UC Davis for two seasons. And guard Joe Smith, also a graduate student, previously played at Washington.

* UNC has never faced the Silverswords.

* Said head coach Matt Mahar: "Obviously we're excited to be the host of this tournament; it's fantastic for our University and our program. We're just hoping to get better; we have a whole new group, and we're just trying to figure out who's going to do what. We have three D-I transfers; I love my kids, they're good kids. Off the court, they're fantastic; on the court, we've got a lot to work on. So we're hoping to do that this week."

— Robbi Pickeral

Williams shoots free throws for charity

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Looks like North Carolina coach Roy Williams hasn't lost his free throw form. As part of a charity event before the Maui Invitational begins on Monday, Williams and the other head coaches shot free throws with local youths for charity after Sunday morning's news conference; the funds went to local schools.

Williams, who played on UNC's freshman team in 1968-69, made three of his five shots.

How long had he been practicing?

"In 2004-05 I didn't shoot it,'' he said, laughing as he referred to the last time UNC played here. "I wasn't going to do it this morning, but the press conference got over so quickly I could stay because I have a 9 a.m. staff meeting. Little pressure, missed the first two, hit three in a row so I feel better now."

Notice he didn't let his lei get in his way, either.

photo courtesy of J.D. Lyon, Jr./UNC

-- Robbi Pickeral

Maui to put a strain on Tar Heels

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina’s coaches have worried about the strain playing three games in three days might put on the stress reaction in Tyler Hansbrough’s shin. But that’s not the only player they’re worried about as they prepared for the Maui Invitational, which begins tonight.

"In the summer, I said 'Gosh, it's going to be great in Maui since we have so much more depth than anyone else,' and now we don't have it,’’ said coach Roy Williams, whose top-ranked team plays Division II Chaminade tonight. “We're still going to try and play people because this early in the year I don't think I can put that kind of load on people by playing somebody 35 minutes a game."

Along with Hansbrough — who may or may not play — wing Marcus Ginyard is still out because of surgery, forward Mike Copeland is still rehabilitating his knee and forward Tyler Zeller is likely sidelined for the season after breaking his wrist.

UNC still has plenty of healthy players to come off the bench, including Bobby Frasor, Ed Davis and Will Graves. But with so many games in a row, with no practicing in between, Williams said one of the keys for his team in the tournament is to make sure that “mistakes don't become habits during the course of playing three games in three straight days.”

Still, Williams said he likes the format because it gives his team a chance to learn and bond on and off the court, regardless of its overall health.

"The first time I came [here] was the fall of '96, and we played great,'' he said. "I thought it was a great experience for our team, getting them on the road, spending some time together. I thought it was wonderful for our chemistry. But the thing about it, playing three straight days against the type of competition we have here, the different types of basketball [styles] you play against, I just think it’s a great experience for the team."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hansbrough's Maui minutes a concern

LAHAINA, HAWAII — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Sunday he hasn't decided how much forward Tyler Hansbrough will play in the three-games-in-three days Maui Invitational. He said he's not even 100 percent sure whether the senior will play in top-ranked UNC's opener against Chaminade on Monday, because the team hadn't practiced since beating UC Santa Barbara on Friday night.

Hansbrough made his season debut there after sitting out more than three weeks with a stress reaction in his right shin; he scored 13 points in 25 minutes.

"I don't think it will be a game-time decision, but I really don't know what I'm going to do,'' Williams said. "I really wanted to play him 20 minutes, and he kept bugging the dickens out of me on the bench, and the only way I could get rid of him was to put him in the game so I ended up playing him 25.

"We did not practice yesterday, we got to the LAX Marriott about midnight Friday night and then came here. So we're going to practice this morning and see how he feels. I'm extremely concerned about going three straight days but nobody really knows – the only person that gives you the kind of input you have to have is Tyler. Is there any pain there? If there's pain there, we stop. And he's feeling great.

"Also, I love him to death, but I'm not sure he would be 100 percent honest with me, so I have to keep asking him."

— Robbi Pickeral

Copeland leads Tar Heels to victory

LAHAINA, Hawaii — The Maui Invitational doesn't start until Monday. But thanks to the nimble fingers of senior Mike Copeland, North Carolina has already won the first game of the tournament.

The forward topped teammate Ty Lawson 35-30 Saturday night (Sunday morning EST) in the final of the EA Sports Maui Invitational videogame tournament at the Xbox 360 Players' Party. Playing EA Sports' NCAA Basketball '09, the Tar Heels beat out foes from the other seven teams participating in the Maui Invite to advance to their friendly head-to-head duel.

"I play all the time,'' Copeland said, "so I guess the key is just getting a lot of practice in."

The victory was sweet for Copeland because although he's played a lot of basketball via video games, he hasn't been able get much practice the court over the last few months after offseason knee surgery. He's been back in uniform the last two games, and said he should be able to participate in more contact practice after the Tar Heels return home from this trip.

"The knee's feeling good, it's getting strong,'' he said, holding the videogame tournament's crystal championship trophy. "… It's nice to win something, with my teammates cheering, because I haven't been playing."

Copeland and Lawson — who often face off during their spare time at home —were nominated by their teammates to represent UNC in the 16-player tournament, and neither disappointed. Lawson beat Chaminade's Shane Hanson, then Oregon's Teondre Williams to advance; Copeland topped Chaminade's Jamar Berry and Alabama's Mikhail Torrance in order to face Lawson.

UNC's coaches, players and managers circled the bank of televisions at the Sheraton to cheer on Copeland and Lawson as they were playing in the opening rounds. Some — including coach Roy Williams — walked back and forth between the TVs to watch the action on both.

"Since Coach is here, my strategy is defense, defense, defense,'' Lawson told the onlookers at one point.

During the final, teammates didn't choose a favorite, although they shouted out plenty of advice, including "Put Danny in!" when they were changing line-ups.

Copeland figures the victory will give him a few bragging rights over Lawson for a while. More important, the players hope it will perhaps be a precursor to more.

Said wing Danny Green: "Hopefully, we can play like Mike in the videogame and win [the tournament]."

— Robbi Pickeral

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Curry sneaks into prominence

Since so many schools missed on Davidson's Stephen Curry, you might think they would have taken a longer look at his younger brother Seth, so that it wouldn't happen again. And yet it did.

Seth finally signed with Liberty of the Big South Conference, and is a Flames freshman. After two games, he's averaging 20.5 points.

Most teams thought Stephen was too small and slight in high school, but he grew and blossomed into an all-American guard at Davidson.

Most teams thought the same things about Seth. Not Liberty coach Ritchie McKay, who plucked him out of Charlotte Christian.

"There were a number of circumstances that played into it," McKay said. "Stephen really hadn't exploded on the national scene yet; that happened after Seth had already signed with us.

"I think people would have taken him on the reputation of his father and Stephen's success. We were the benefactor that that hadn't happened yet. And he was hurt over the summer."

McKay talked about seeing Seth Curry in the spring of 2007 and being impressed with his range. The fact that at that point he was still "165 pounds of skin and bone" likely hurt him with some teams, the coach said.

"The best thing about him was his knowledge of the game; his competitiveness. You could see some Dell Curry (his father) in Seth. I think he had the audacity to choose a smaller place over maybe a larger school, and since it had worked out for his brother, I think he was more comfortable with that."

And Seth, like his brother, added height late, and is 6-foot-3.

"I think we were just really blessed," McKay said. "His parents are two of the neatest people I've ever met in the world and I think he was really solidly grounded.

"I think it was just circumstances. Others were recruiting him, but Seth kept it kind of kept it narrow. And if you go out there and see a skinny kid who kind of has a throwback shot, you wonder, 'Can he do it?' "We were fortunate."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brother: Zeller's wrist broken in two places

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller’s wrist is broken in two places, his brother Luke told reporters covering Notre Dame on Wednesday. Luke Zeller said his brother is having surgery this afternoon.

It is unclear how long he will be sidelined.

"He broke the bones on each side of (the wrist)," Luke Zeller said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "They're putting in plates and screws. Thank goodness it's his left hand and not his right hand, but that's all you can be happy about right now."

Tyler Zeller, a freshman who averaged 10 points and 1.5 rebounds his first two games, was hurt with 1:26 left in Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky. He was going for a breakaway dunk when he was fouled in transition by Wildcats forward Ramon Harris, came down hard on his left hand, walked off the court alongside the trainer and was taken to the hospital for tests.

His injury leaves on starting forward position in limbo as the Tar Heels prepare to play at Santa Barbara on Friday, then in the Maui Invitational next week.

Coach Roy Williams said Tuesday night that he did not know when Hansbrough — who has been sidelined for three weeks because of a ‘stress reaction’ in his right shin — would play again, but it sounded like the upcoming road trip could be a possibility.

“I think, and emphasize the word ‘think,’ he probably could have already played,’’ Williams said. “But why rush something like that? We want to be extremely conservative, and that’s what we’ve been already.”

If Hansbrough isn’t ready to return Friday, the Tar Heels could start freshman Ed Davis, who has averaged 9.5 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in his first two games.

The top-ranked Tar Heels are also missing Marcus Ginyard, last year’s starting small forward. He’s out until at least next month because of foot surgery.

Zeller's injury is a disappointment to his brother, because they could have matched up in the Maui Invitational field.

"Being out in Maui together, we were joking around, Wednesday night would be the only night we could hang out," Luke Zeller said. "It just makes it tough. Me and him are really, really close. We were talking about (Maui) for a while. Now they're saying he's in surgery today, won't go with the team to L.A., but hopefully he'll go to Maui. Just kind of depends on how he feels and everything else."

-- Robbi Pickeral

November unkind to Heels so far

This is supposed to be UNC's year, another national title in basketball, the second in five years. It certainly hasn't started that way.

First, it was Marcus Ginyard, then Tyler Hansbrough and likely Tyler Zeller (44 at right) on Tuesday. All three injured, or in Zeller's case, probably injured and due to miss significant time.

UNC's so good, as Tuesday's dismissal of a sad Kentucky program can attest, the Tar Heels can afford to miss Hansbrough for a stretch, maybe even into January, but when was the last time a basketball team won a title with so many injuries?

It's just not a good sign if you're reading the tea leaves. Zeller's wrist injury could prove more costly than the setbacks of Ginyard (stress fracture foot) or Hansbrough (stress reaction shin) because once March starts and the top-end teams start running bodies at Psycho T, like Kansas did at the Final Four, the Heels are going to need depth.

Zeller and fellow freshman forward Ed Davis were expected to give the Heels those reinforcements. Even when he was healthy, Zeller didn't look that great on Tuesday, granted he was matched up with Patrick Patterson.

Neither Zeller nor Davis looked like an immediate impact player, along the lines of Hansbrough as a freshman or Antawn Jamison. Yes, it's a limited sample and, yes, those are great players to be compared to, but given the high school credentials of Zeller and Davis, they are expected to do more than just be the eighth and ninth guys in the rotation this season.

Maybe Hansbrough will return sooner now if Zeller is out for an extended period. Maybe Deon Thompson will continue his production when Hansbrough returns. Maybe we'll all write in April how much "adversity" UNC overcame to win Roy Williams' second national title.

We'll see, but if I'm a UNC fan, I don't like the karma of November.

-- J.P. Giglio

Davidson's Curry: N.C.'s best college player

When Tyler Hansbrough returns from the injured list, the 2008 national player of the year will be the best player in the ACC but not in his own state.

That distinction belongs to Davidson guard Stephen Curry (left). Just in case you thought the four-game NCAA Tournament clinic Curry put on last March was a fluke, he put up 44 points at Oklahoma on Tuesday in an 82-78 loss.

Curry's not only the best shooter in college basketball, he finds his shot when everyone in the building knows he's going to shoot. And it's not like he's Michael Jordan. He's not 6-6 and he can't shoot over most players outside of the Southern Conference.

What he lacks in size, he's suspiciously listed at 6-2, 185 pounds, he makes up for with a ridiculously quick release and unbelievable ability to make seemingly every open shot he takes.

Unlike Hansbrough, a power forward, Curry does not get the benefit of garbage points, easy putbacks from under the basket, and unlike Hansbrough, Curry does not have the benefit of playing with Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington.

Curry does more with less help against teams whose entire mission is stop him. They still can't.

Jason Richards was a great point guard in Davidson's system and did more of the heavy lifting in the tournament than he got credit for. But Richards is gone, which makes Tuesday's performance against a physical Oklahoma team even more impressive.

Let's be honest about Hansbrough — he's going to end his four-year career as the most productive player in ACC history. He will likely be the leading scorer in league and UNC history and the leading rebounder in UNC history.

He'll also go down as the best free-throw shooter in college basketball history.

But he's a limited college basketball player. The words "Cole" and "Aldrich" should squash any argument to the contrary.

Let's put it this way, Hansbrough has missed two games and UNC hasn't missed a beat. Where would Davidson be without Curry?

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Charlotteans keyed VMI's upset of Kentucky

Two Charlotteans keyed VMI's remarkable upset 111-103 win at Kentucky Friday night, and both won Big South Conference weekly honors for their efforts.

Senior forward Travis Holmes (left), who played for Christ School, was named the league's player of the week after scoring 30 points and collecting seven rebounds against the Wildcats. He made 10 of 13 field goals and had four steals. He also had 20 points and four rebounds at Virginia Sunday. Holmes added 20 points and four rebounds Sunday at Virginia.

Guard Keith Gabriel, who starred for United Faith, won the freshman of the week award. He scored 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting at Kentucky, making four of six from three-point range and picking up two steals in a 19-minute reserve role. He added 14 points at Virginia.

-- Stan Olson

Hansbrough practiced Monday, won't play tonight

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough will not play tonight against Kentucky. But he did begin practicing again Monday, coach Roy Williams said on his radio show.

"We let Tyler do dummy offense,'' Williams said on the Monday night show, according to "It's the first time he's done anything in three weeks. He did fast break drill No. 1, which is just run down there and shoot a layup and you run back. Then we did dummy offense, trying to make sure he still knows the plays. He dunked about 10 of them, and I took him out, because I said,'Tyler, it's OK to lay it up.' I think he was trying to show me that he's OK. But that's all we let him do."

Hansbrough has been sidelined three weeks with a stress reaction in his right shin. Williams said he still doesn't know whether Hansbrough will play Friday at UC Santa Barbara, or in the Maui Invitational, which begins Monday.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Davidson experiencing good life, Sooner style

The Davidson basketball team is getting a good taste of life in Sooner land during their visit to Norman, Okla.

It’s impossible not to know the Oklahoma football team is playing Texas Tech here Saturday in the latest game of the year in the Big 12 Conference. Just like it’s impossible not to notice the football stadium that sits in the middle of campus and towers over the flat landscape.

The Wildcats are staying in Norman, which is about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City. As if they needed any reminders of where they are, their hotel, the Sooner Legends Inn and Suites, is a shrine to Oklahoma athletics, stuffed with memorabilia.

Les Robinson, the former N.C. State coach, is staying there as an NCAA representative. The first thing he saw in the hotel was a giant photo of the Sooners’ basketball team squeaking by his East Tennessee State team 72-71 in the 1989 NCAA tournament, the closest a 16-seed has ever come to beating a No. 1 seed.

“Worst loss of my career,” Robinson said, “and I got reminded of it as soon as I walked in.”

Davidson coach Bob McKillop marveled at the history on display, paying special attention to former football coach Bud Wilkinson, one of McKillop’s early heroes.

Even the rooms are themed. McKillop said he’s in a room honoring football coach Bob Stoops. “Maybe that’s a good omen,” McKillop said.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Heels' Hansbrough to miss game against UK

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough will not play against Kentucky as he continues to rest the stress reaction in his right shin.

"There's not really any change, and he will not play,'' coach Roy Williams said Monday. "We're trying to give him a little more work, but when I say that, it's more conditioning and those things as opposed to doing anything in practice."

Hansbrough, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, has been sidelined for almost three weeks with the injury, and he missed his first college game when the Tar Heels beat Penn on Saturday.

The senior is known for his work ethic, so when asked about how he's dealing with being on the sidelines, Williams answer was not unexpected.

"He's pretty snotty. He's not enjoying life a little bit,'' Williams said. "I say, 'How are you doing?' and he says, 'Great.' I say, 'Don't tell me that,' and he says, 'I'm GREAT.' And I say, 'OK, excuse me for asking.'

"He wants to play badly. He's ready to go, he feels really, really good right now. But until the doctors and the family and the coach, until we we all get together and make that decision for him, we're going to be conservative, and we may continue to be."

Williams said he will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, but he's not certain when or if he will play.

"We'll wait to see what happens the next three or four days,'' Williams said. "If you ask me whether he'll play Friday [at UC Santa Barbara] I have no idea, so if I have no idea on Friday, I have no idea next week in Maui, either." -- Robbi Pickeral

Friday, November 14, 2008

Frasor may miss UNC opener with ankle sprain

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina reserve point guard Bobby Frasor sprained his left ankle Monday and hasn't practiced since, meaning he may not play Saturday when the top-ranked Tar Heels open the season against Penn.

He would be the fourth player sidelined for the game, joining starters Tyler Hansbrough (shin) and Marcus Ginyard (foot), and reserve Michael Copeland (knee).

"Right now, I'm more apprehensive than I have been in 21 years,'' coach Roy Williams said Friday. "I'm concerned -- you choose any word you want to right there because it's really been an unsettled preseason. You've heard me say our 8, 9 and 10 are a lot better than everybody else's 8, 9 and 10. Well, when I walk out there at practice Wednesday and I don't have Tyler and I don't have Marcus and I don't have Bobby and I don't have Cope, that's four of our five seniors.

"So we spend the whole spring, summer and fall saying we want to speed up the tempo, we want to play faster, we want to make more possessions in the game, and all of a sudden we don't have the same depth that we had."

Williams said one of two freshman forwards — Tyler Zeller or Ed Davis — will start in place of Hansbrough, who definitely will not play.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Coach: Ga. prep star signs with N.C. State

Although N.C. State apparently hadn’t received a letter of intent from Richard Howell as of Friday morning, the Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler High standout’s coach indicated that there’s no reason to worry.

Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said Howell signed with N.C. State during a ceremony Wednesday in Marietta and then mailed the paperwork to N.C. State.

“They mailed it back,” Lipscomb said Friday afternoon.

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe was asked Friday morning about his signing class, and only mentioned guards Lorenzo Brown of Roswell, Ga., and Scott Wood of Marion, Ind.

“Lorenzo Brown is going to be a great addition to our ballclub,” Lowe said during a news conference. “Scott Wood is an excellent shooter. He has got to provide some of that outside shooting first. We have some others. I can’t really talk about them but we are optimistic. There are no problems with the other people, but those two gentlemen are signed and are ready to go.”

Lowe could not talk about Howell because NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about recruits until they receive a signed letter of intent from the player.

Howell, a 6-foot-7 forward, is rated the No. 51 player in the nation in the senior class by

– Ken Tysiac

Q&A: N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe

Q&A from N.C. State basketball coach Sidney Lowe’s news conference on the morning before Saturday’s 8 p.m. opener at New Orleans:

Q: What about New Orleans concerns you? The only have three guys back, but some of them are pretty talented.
A: Yeah, the three guys they have coming back (Kyndall Dykes, T.J. Worley and Jaroslav Tyrna), especially two of them, played a major part in their win here last year. Confidence wise, they feel good about themselves, and they had some success here in that one game, and we’re playing in their building, so you know they’re going to come out with a lot of confidence. And they’ve added some players that we don’t quite know about yet, because they haven’t played an exhibition game.

Q: How much is that a challenge for this game, finding a scouting report (on the newcomers)?
A: That was a very difficult thing. Very difficult. So you try to use all your sources that you can, and then you try to watch film from last year knowing the personnel is a lot different at a lot of those positions. But us coaches, we don’t change a lot, so he (Joe Pasternack) has got his system and he’s been doing it for a long time.

Q: Coach (Monte) Towe has been kind of reluctant to talk about facing his former team – he (talked) last year. Can you talk about what going back there means to him?
A: I’m sure there’s mixed emotions. And not so much the game itself, but I just think the atmosphere, going back to New Orleans, having been there during that tough time with Katrina, it’s an emotional thing for him. . . .As far as the game itself, we know where his heart is on that one.

Q: How do you envision the point guard rotation going? Is Farnold (Degand) going to be ready for a full game in and out, or is he going to have to ease into a real game situation with the knee?
A: We have to watch his minutes. Whether he comes off the bench initially or whether he’s starting, we’re going to have to watch his minutes. I don’t think he’s ready to log long periods of time. But I also feel that Javi (Gonzalez) has earned to play his minutes as well.

Why would Pack open at New Orleans?

N.C. State ended the 2007-08 season with a nine-game losing streak that’s tied for the longest in school history.

That begs the question – why schedule the 2008-09 opener on the road at 8 p.m. Saturday against New Orleans, which upset the Wolfpack last season at the RBC Center?

A look at the New Orleans roster reveals the answer, though N.C. State officials would never admit it. The Privateers return just three players from last season.

Better to play them now while their rookies are nervous in their first Division I game. New Orleans no longer has Bo McCalebb, who averaged 23.2 points last season.

The returnees are Kyndall Dykes (13.6 ppg), Tim Worley (who banked in a game-winning 3-pointer at N.C. State) and Jaroslav Tyrna (who scored 12 points with six rebounds against the Wolfpack).

Even if N.C. State wanted to change the date of this game, it wouldn’t have been easy. Dates typically are set years in advance, and N.C. State was obligated to play this game as part of a three-game contract to satisfy assistant coach Monte Towe’s buyout with a school he once served as head coach.

With Friday as sort of the unofficial opening of basketball season (except for the tournament benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer), it wasn’t possible to schedule the Sisters of the Poor for a debut earlier in the week.

So N.C. State gets an opener that could be challenging if New Orleans’ new players aren’t intimidated. But there’s also a potential benefit to this game.

“The NCAA committee looks at road games very importantly now,” said N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler. “So us going to New Orleans will be considered, we went on the road. And if we can win a game there, that will be important to us.”

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Russian recruit chooses Sendek over Wolfpack

Score a recruiting victory for former N.C. State coach Herb Sendek over his former school.

Ruslan Pateev, a 6-11 Russian player for Montverde Academy in Florida, chose Sendek's program at Arizona State over N.C. State and Florida State on Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period.

Montverde coach Kevin Sutton said Pateev had "three great schools to choose from."

"He felt very comfortable when he went out there (to Arizona State) to visit," Sutton said.

Because of distance, Sendek and N.C. State don't often compete on recruits. But a couple of years ago Sendek did beat N.C. State on Jamelle McMillan. He's the son of former N.C. State player and current Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan.

-- Ken Tysiac

Hansbrough 'extremely doubtful' for opener

CHAPEL HILL — Forward Tyler Hansbrough is "extremely doubtful" to play in Saturday's season opener against Penn, coach Roy Williams said today in a prepared statement.

"We’ve made the decision to hold Tyler Hansbrough out of action a little longer," Williams said in the statement. "It’s extremely doubtful that he would play against Pennsylvania, and I emphasize extremely doubtful. We will continue to evaluate him and have more information when it becomes available."

Hansbrough has been sidelined since the last week of October with a stress reaction — which is a precursor to a stress fracture — in his right shin.
The senior has played all 108 games the Tar Heels have played the previous three seasons, and is 123 points away from breaking Phil Ford's school scoring record.

— Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tar Heels on regional Sports Illustrated cover

Click on the image for a larger view.

Is Heels' Watts ready to Jump Around?

CHAPEL HILL — For the North Carolina seniors, part of grooming freshman for the basketball season is helping them understand the plays, pushing them on defense, encouraging them to speed on the court.

But for Danny Green, there’s an extra responsibility: teaching someone to “Jump Around.”

Now that the swingman is in the starting line-up, he’s looking to pass the torch on his frenetic, hopping, twisting, grinning, pre-game routine in front of the bench that was born to the beat of the House of Pain song.

His leading candidate: Justin Watts, a 6-foot-4 guard from Durham.

“He’s a real happy-go-lucky kid who likes to get out there and dance, especially when we go out and stuff,’’ Green said Saturday. “ … He’s a dancer, so in my book, he’s close to earning that positio for sure. … Dancing all the time, he reminds me a little bit of me.”

Watts hasn’t quite earned the nod yet, partially because he injured his knee in Friday’s practice and was in a suit for Saturday’s exhibition game. When the song came on, the reserves were rather still as Green walked onto the court. Eventually, a few of the guys moved bobbed their heads and shimmied their upper bodies, but there was no true jumping around, Danny style.

“I missed it a little bit,’’ said Green, who will start only the second regular-season game of his career when the No. 1 Tar Heels play Penn this Saturday. “As soon as the music started, Coach looked at me, waiting to see what I was going to do. He knows I can’t dance on the floor, so hopefully someone will take over eventually.”

— Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Freshman C.J. Williams shows poise

With perfect timing Thursday night, N.C. State freshman C.J. Williams sprinted through the lane while teammate Ben McCauley had the ball on the block.

McCauley, a senior center, always has been known for his passing. During a 94-65 win in N.C. State’s exhibition opener over Fort Valley State at Reynolds Coliseum, Williams demonstrated that he knows how to take advantage of McCauley’s best trait.

Williams got open for a feed from McCauley and made an easy layup for perhaps his most impressive play on a night when he started as a freshman.

“If you don’t have the ball in your hands, it doesn’t mean you can’t score,” Williams said. “Someone can make a pass, and you’re right there. Every time I pass the ball into the post, I try to cut. Maybe I’m open. And that also frees up Ben. If my man stays with me, there’s nobody on that side. It’s one-on-one for Ben. And I’ll take Ben one-on-one any day.”

Before the preseason started, N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe spoke glowingly of Williams’ ability to move without the ball and his knowledge of the game. Sometimes those phrases are coachspeak for a guy who’s not athletic enough to make an impact.

Early on, at least, that appears not to be the case with Williams. Though he wasn’t highly recruited out of Jack Britt High in Fayetteville, Lowe said Williams was well coached by Ike Walker.

Williams’ knowledge has landed him in the starting lineup at the shooting guard spot vacated when senior Courtney Fells moved to small forward. In the exhibition opener, Williams looked comfortable as he hit a couple short jumpers and finished with eight points, two assists and no turnovers.

“He’s just a solid basketball player,” Lowe said. “Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s very poised as a freshman. . . .He just knows how to play.”

A solid game against a Division II opponent doesn’t necessarily predict great things against ACC foes for a freshman. But if Williams keeps playing smart basketball, there’s probably a spot for him in the rotation on an N.C. State team that needs backcourt help. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tar Heels tip off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina's basketball exhibition game against UNC-Pembroke on Saturday will tip off at 5:30 p.m. at the Smith Center. That follows UNC's noon football game against Georgia Tech at Kenan Stadium.

Wolfpack makes noise in recruiting

Although N.C. State finished last in the ACC last season and was picked ninth in the conference’s annual preseason media poll, there is plenty of buzzing in recruiting circles about coach Sidney Lowe’s efforts for the Class of 2009.

During a conversation about another subject Monday morning, veteran All-Star Sports analyst Bob Gibbons brought up the Wolfpack.

“N.C. State has positioned themselves where this may be just wishful thinking, but they apparently have a shot at John Wall and Derrick Favors,” Gibbons said.

Wall, a 6-foot-4 point guard Raleigh’s Word of God Christian Academy, is the top-ranked player in the class by Favors is a 6-9 center from Atlanta who’s ranked No. 1 in the class by many other recruiting analysts.

Gibbons said he has a “gut feeling” that Wall will choose N.C. State rather than Memphis or Baylor. But he said even if Lowe doesn’t get either of those marquee players, he will have a solid class.

Lowe (above, coaching his team this fall) has commitments from 6-4 combo guard Lorenzo Brown of Roswell, Ga.; 6-7 forward Richard Howell of Marietta, Ga.; and 6-5 shooting guard Scott Wood of Marion, Ind.

“It’s a very good class,” Gibbons said. “It doesn’t have that star power, but Richard Howell is very underrated nationally. He could have a major impact as a freshman.”

– Ken Tysiac