Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Davidson can't avoid D-III opponent

Davidson’s schedule has almost everything a Wildcats fan could want, including games against North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and UCLA. But there’s one thing fans were hoping to avoid: a game against a Division III opponent.

Fans at davidsoncats.com have been posting for weeks that they wanted the Wildcats to have every game against a Division I opponent. Yet, the Wildcats open the season against Division III Emory Nov. 9.

It wasn’t because Davidson didn’t try to find a Division I opponent. Davidson coaches spent the past month trying to schedule the last nonconference game, and athletics director Jim Murphy estimated the team spoke to 20 Division I schools. Davidson had some talks with UMass – a team Davidson played two years ago – but couldn’t get a deal done.

Then, last week, the Wildcats almost had a deal with a Patriot League team. Even though the two-year agreement would have started with Davidson on the road, nothing worked out. In fact, the other team decided to play a 28-game schedule this season – one below the maximum.

So, Davidson ended up with Emory, which has lots of Davidson connections. Head coach Jason Zimmerman is a former Davidson assistant, and assistant Matt McKillop is the son of Davidson coach Bob McKillop and played for the Wildcats.

That will make for a nice family reunion, but it won’t help the Wildcats’ RPI. But Davidson didn’t have many other options. Most other Division I teams had filled out their schedules. Emory almost had to be the choice, albeit not the ideal one.
-- Kevin Cary

Friday, September 21, 2007

Recruiting timeclock speeds up

Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports has been covering recruiting for longer than Mike Krzyzewski has been coaching at Duke, but can’t remember North Carolina accepting a commitment from a player as young as Kendall Marshall.

A 6-foot-3, left-handed point guard from Bishop O’Connell High in Arlington, Va., Marshall committed Wednesday to North Carolina. He’s a high school sophomore rated one of the top half-dozen players in the Class of 2010 by Gibbons.

“He’s really an excellent addition for them,” said Gibbons, who lives in Lenoir, N.C.

Marshall’s commitment also demonstrates that even the traditional college powers no longer are waiting for players to mature before offering scholarships. As of Thursday, Gibbons said 108 of the top 150 seniors in the rankings he provides to ESPN.com are committed.

C.J. Leslie, a 6-7 forward from Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh in the Class of 2010, has been committed to N.C. State since June 22.

“The (recruiting) clock has just moved up,” Gibbons said.

He said schools are taking risks with early scholarship offers and commitments. Players who commit early can change their minds. Taylor King was an eighth-grader when he committed to UCLA; he enrolled at Duke this fall.

Sometimes players who commit early don’t mature and develop the way college coaches expect. If colleges withdraw their scholarship offers, coaches’ reputations with future recruits can be harmed.

“(Coaches) are gambling a bit,” Gibbons said. “They (players) have still got three years of high school left.”

But if coaches wait until players are seniors to offer scholarships, there won’t be many uncommitted players left to recruit.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just call it 'McKillopville'

Just how much are Davidson fans excited for this season?

Guard Stephen Curry found out last week.

Curry and a handful of other Davidson players brought doughnuts for students who were camping out beside Belk Arena waiting for tickets to go on sale for the games against Duke and North Carolina at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Student tickets for those games were $10; face value is $25. Tickets for games at Belk Arena are free for students.

"I had never seen anything like that here," Curry said. "They were lined up down the street just for tickets."

Davidson sold its 800 tickets for students within an hour Sept. 13, and then took orders for 400 more.

"I know they expect big things this season, and we do, too," Curry said. "But we have to take it one step at a time. It's just nice to know how much support we have here."

-- Kevin Cary

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mob boss 'infiltrates' UNC basketball

North Carolina athletes gathered in the Smith Center on Monday night gazed intently at former mob captain Michael Franzese.

“You (athletes) were our targets,” Franzese said. Franzese, who agreed to a 10-year prison sentence for racketeering, has left the mob and counsels athletes on the dangers of gambling.

He has spoken at 350 colleges and to major league baseball, NBA and NFL athletes since his release from prison. Here’s what he said Monday:

  • “Michael Vick, take a lesson from this. His cousin, his good friends, the people he financed . . . they turned on him.”
  • “Some of them (athletes he targeted) got hurt. Some of them were forced to compromise the integrity of the game.”
  • “If I got what I deserved, I’d either be dead or in prison the rest of my life.”
Franzese told the players he had fixed games. He wouldn’t answer directly when North Carolina basketball player Michael Copeland asked how many people he had killed.

“One of the biggest regrets I have in life is that a lot of my friends did not make it out of the (mob) life,” he said.

He warned them about poker, disputing “marketing” that denies those who participate in the popular card game are gambling. He told them illegal, offshore sports betting web sites steal clients’ identities.

Franzese said a prominent major league baseball player recently told him that two men extorted $50,000 from the player after obtaining his personal information from a sports betting web site.
North Carolina senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Franzese eloquently delivered a message that the school and NCAA constantly preach.

“Hearing it from a mob guy made a big impact,” said North Carolina basketball center Tyler Hansbrough. “Definitely seeing it from an inside point of view changed how you look at things.”

Marcus Ginyard, Hansbrough’s teammate, said he hadn’t been aware of how gambling interests penetrated college campuses.

“A lot of people don’t think there’s a problem,” Ginyard said. “For him to be here and tell us the things he’s seen, you’ve got to listen.”

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Roy Williams reminisces

You might think North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ 2004-05 national champions would be the first team that came to mind when he reminisces about his career.

Turns out he liked the next team – which had lost the top seven scorers from 2004-05 – just as much. He loved taking a bunch of freshmen and sophomores and proving wrong everybody who thought North Carolina wouldn’t be any good.

“Each and every year presents a different challenge,” Williams said Wednesday. “That team was fun to coach.”

Williams will do a lot of reminiscing this week as he gets inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Wednesday, he and his mentor, Dean Smith, met with the media to share their thoughts as Williams prepares to join Smith in the Hall of Fame.

Smith said Williams should have gotten into the Hall of Fame earlier.

“He’s got it all,” Smith said. “You go into a home (of a recruit), and he’s just as honest and straightforward (as could be).”

Before he makes a speech, Williams usually jots a few notes on an index card and ad libs. His induction speech is just the third one he’s ever written out. His two keynote speeches at alma mater, T.C. Roberson High in Asheville, were the others.

He says he wrote out the speech because the Hall of Fame wanted him to keep it brief. But he also is afraid he will get emotional as he thinks back about his past teams, coaches, friends and family.

“I had great, great, great help along the way,” he said.

– Ken Tysiac