Monday, July 27, 2009

UNC's title teams could face off

Ever since North Carolina won its fifth NCAA title in April, there's been a good-natured debate brewing about which championship team is better: 2005 or 2009?

On Sept. 4, those bragging rights will be on the line.

Nine members of the 2005 team (Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, Byron Sanders, Reyshawn Terry, Jackie Manuel, Quentin Thomas, Marvin Williams and Jawad Williams) plus six from the 2009 squad (Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Michael Copeland) are among the two dozen former Tar Heels players who have agreed to participate in the Pro Alumni Game.

The 8 p.m. event will tip off the yearlong 100th-year celebration of basketball at UNC, and the $20-per-ticket (still available at ) proceeds will go to the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and UNC Children's Hospitals

"The one common thing we all have is that we all ran through that tunnel, we all have the same beliefs on and off the court, and we all share a friendship, whether you played at Carolina five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago," said forward Antawn Jamison, a National Player of the Year in 1997-98 who now plays for the Washington Wizards. "So it's exciting that so many guys are back, ... and no matter how the teams break down, it's going to be a lot of fun."

The game is limited to Tar Heels currently playing professionally (Frasor and Copeland plan to play overseas next season). In February, there will be a second alumni game in which any former player is invited to play.

Nike is providing special uniforms for the four-quarter, NBA-format game at the Smith Center. UNC alums who are coaching professionally have also been invited to the event and could end up on the sidelines.

The toughest decision could be how to split the players into opposing teams (although putting the '05 and '09 title squads on opposite sides for a couple of stretches is an obvious must).

"Those two teams obviously brought Carolina to the top, so of course they think they're the best that ever came through," Jamison said, laughing. "Those two teams matching up against each other ... that's something I may even have to sit back and watch. Who's better? I can't pick a favorite."

Especially because there will be so many other All-American mixes, considering the rest of the pro alumni who have agreed to participate: Vince Carter, Joseph Forte, Brendan Haywood, Jamison, Jeff McInnis, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Shammond Williams and Brandan Wright.

My pick for starting lineups (with caveat that '05 and '09 have to stay on opposite teams): Felton, McCants, Stackhouse, May and Wallace vs. Lawson, Ellington, Carter, Jamison and Hansbrough.

"One thing is certain: No matter how they divide the teams, we're all going to want to win,'' Jamison said. "But the most important thing is to put on a show for the fans and make sure everyone has fun." -- Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't blame Olympics for Duke's slide

Mike Krzyzewski’s announcement Tuesday that he will coach the U.S. national team for three more years will be unpopular with some Duke fans.

Some blame Duke’s recent decline on Krzyzewski’s involvement with Team USA, which he coached to the Olympic gold medal last summer in Beijing. It’s logical to assume that Duke suffers if Krzyzewski is distracted by his “other” job – restoring the United States as the pre-eminent power in international basketball.

But a closer look at Duke’s shortcomings over the last few seasons shows that recruiting failures are the cause of the Blue Devils’ failure to advance beyond the regional semifinals in the last five NCAA Tournaments.

Krzyzewski’s involvement with the Olympic team probably doesn’t have much of an impact on those recruiting shortcomings. Rival North Carolina’s rejuvenation under coach Roy Williams has been a much bigger factor in Duke’s modest recent slide.

The Blue Devils seemed to land virtually every recruit they wanted in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Bill Guthridge and then Matt Doherty were running a lurching North Carolina program.

When you can sign Elton Brand, Shane Battier, William Avery, Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Corey Maggette and Carlos Boozer within a three-year period, you’re going to dominate college basketball even though some of those players will leave early for the pros.

But under Williams, North Carolina now is getting players – Brandan Wright is an obvious example – who might have gone to Duke if the Tar Heels were coached by, say, Doherty. Most importantly, Williams has done a better job than Krzyzewski of developing multiple options in recruiting.

Williams was bitterly disappointed to lose frontcourt targets Samardo Samuels to Louisville and Delvon Roe to Michigan State in the Class of 2008. But Williams still landed an elite big man in Ed Davis, who played a key supporting role as a freshman in the team’s run to the 2009 NCAA title.

Krzyzewski also missed on a coveted post player in the Class of 2008 when Greg Monroe picked Georgetown. The difference is, the big guys the Blue Devils signed – Miles Plumlee and Olek Czyz – didn’t come close to matching the production of Davis as freshmen.

One part of Krzyzewski’s recruiting strategy puts him at a disadvantage in developing multiple options. Krzyzewski has said in the past that he prefers not to sign Duke’s full allotment of 13 scholarship players because that leaves many talented players on the bench and headed for transfer if they don’t get much playing time.

So Duke suffers more than North Carolina on key recruiting misses because Williams is recruiting for a deeper bench and rotates more players. And Krzyzewski has missed on a lot of key targets – Monroe, Patrick Patterson, John Wall and Kenny Boynton in particular – in the last three classes.

Again, this subtle difference in program-building strategies has little or nothing to do with Krzyzewski’s involvement with the Olympic team. But it has everything to do with North Carolina participating in three of the last five Final Fours with two NCAA titles while Duke has failed to reach any of those Final Fours.

Duke’s Class of 2010 recruiting may indicate a shift in strategy on Krzyzewski’s part. The Blue Devils already have a commitment from forward Josh Hairston plus backcourt commitments from Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton. There’s a good chance Dawkins will report to campus a year early to help Duke fill a gaping void at guard created by Elliot Williams’ unexpected transfer.

And Duke still is chasing multiple targets in the class, particularly at point guard, where Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving both hold scholarship offers from the Blue Devils, according to

A monster Class of 2010 haul could quickly halt Duke fans’ angst over their coach’s dual coaching responsibilities. Roy Williams doesn’t appear to be leaving North Carolina anytime soon, so the Tar Heels will remain an obstacle for Duke.

But if Krzyzewski can get the right talent in place, coaching the national team shouldn’t hinder the Blue Devils.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Krzyzewski to coach U.S. Olympians again

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has agreed to a second three-year commitment as coach of the U.S. men’s senior national team.

Krzyzewski will coach Team USA in the 2010 world championships, and in the 2012 Olympics in London. USA Basketball, the national team’s governing body, made the announcement this evening on its web site.

Krzyzewski, 62, was 36-1 in his first three-year stint as head coach of the national team. He coached the team to a gold medal win in Beijing last summer that restored the United States’ reputation as an international power.

Team USA placed sixth in the 2002 world championships. The U.S. earned bronze medals in the 2004 Olympics and in Krzyzewski’s first major international tournament, the 2006 world championships.

“It was a huge honor to be selected as the USA National Team coach the first time," Krzyzewski said in a statement released by USA Basketball.

"It is still a huge honor. The experience of being the head coach of the USA National Team for three summers was the best experience I've ever had in coachin. The upcoming three years will be a new experience and hopefully, it will be as rewarding."

Though some have questioned whether he can remain totally focused on Duke while coaching the national team, Krzyzewski said earlier this summer that his work with Team USA has been helpful to him, Duke’s program and the university.

Before Krzyzewski first was named coach of the national team in 2005, Duke was 648-187 in his 25 seasons with 10 Final Four appearances and three NCAA titles. In four seasons since, the Blue Devils have been 112-28 with no trips to the Final Four.

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan, a former N.C. State player, will join Krzyzewski again as the entire Olympic coaching staff will remain intact.

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and the New York Knicks’ Mike D’Antoni also will rejoin the staff.

USA Basketball released statements from six players from the 2008 team praising the decision. Among them was former Wake Forest guard Chris Paul, who sounded as though he plans to continue with the program.

"We had great chemistry as a unit and worked well with the entire coaching staff,” Paul said. “I am looking forward to having another great experience with everyone.”

For more information on this developing story, please stay tuned to The Charlotte.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Duke recruit may come a year earlier

Andre Dawkins, a highly ranked 2010 basketball recruit who has verbally committed to Duke, is considering joining the Blue Devils sooner as a member of the class of 2009.

"It's not a done deal at all," said Andre Dawkins, the recruit's father who goes by the same name. "It's a possibility we're looking into."

Dawkins' father said they will make a decision around Aug. 24.

Dawkins, who attended Atlantic Shores Christian School (Virginia Beach, Va.), would be a high school senior this fall.

He is considering enrolling at Duke early because he has almost met his graduation requirements, having completed his freshman year of high school at a public school before transferring and reclassifying as a freshman at his current school.

He has completed four years of high school.

Dawkins, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard, is currently enrolled in a course that if completed could help him possibly join the Blue Devils.

"He still has to complete something before that would take place," Dawkins' father said. "He has all of the requirements as far as credits. He did real well on the entrance exams."

He would also need to be cleared for eligibility by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Dawkins' father said they looked at Elliot Williams' departure from Duke last month and contemplated the idea of leaving for Durham early.

He said the family had already decided Dawkins would leave Atlantic Shores and enroll at a prep school like Hargrave Military Academy.

-- Edward G. Robinson

Friday, July 3, 2009

Singler: Duke may use zone in 2009-10

DURHAM – Junior forward Kyle Singler floated a possibility that seems to make sense for Duke’s unusually configured 2009-10 basketball team.

“What we’ve been talking about. . .is we might be playing a little more zone this year than in years past,” Singler said during an exclusive interview Thursday. “That might not be the way Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) wants to do it, but with the personnel that we have, we are a big team.”

Krzyzewski is known to disdain zone defenses and prefer a high-pressure man-to-man. But over the last three years or so, since he became involved with the U.S. Olympic team, Krzyzewski has softened his stance.

In 2007-08, Duke dabbled in a matchup zone Krzyzewski called “Orange” in honor of his close friend, Jim Boeheim. At Syracuse, Boeheim often uses a matchup zone to keep opponents out of the lane.

Last season, the Blue Devils experimented with a zone trap briefly at Georgia Tech and for a longer sequence at Boston College in a loss when they were struggling to defend opposing point guards.

Over the past few seasons, Krzyzewski also has taken pride in his willingness to change strategy to fit his personnel. In 2009-10, Duke’s personnel might be suited to a zone.

Now that guard Elliot Williams has transferred to Memphis, the Blue Devils have few options in terms of players who can pressure the ball. Kyle Singler’s move to small forward at 6-foot-9 means Duke will have a big lineup that will be difficult for opponents to shoot over if the Blue Devils play a zone.

“When you see big guys in that zone with their hands up, it takes a lot of space,” Singler said. “Teams, you don’t practice against it because you don’t have the size. It’s something teams don’t see day in and day out.”

Singler said Krzyzewski has discussed the idea with the team. During his yearly summer news conference on Tuesday, Krzyzewski mentioned that the Blue Devils will have to change the way they defend, but didn’t specifically talk about playing zone.

“You adjust to the people you have,” Krzyzewski said. “So I don’t see us picking up full-court man and dogging somebody with Kyle on a 5-11 guy. We’re not going to do that. You just figure out a little bit different way of playing your defense.”

Playing a lot of zone would certainly be different for Krzyzewski. Singler said it’s a good idea. With just two true guards – Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith – on a roster that includes a wealth of forwards, Krzyzewski is going to have to be creative.
That might mean playing some defenses that wouldn’t ordinarily be his favorite options.

Ken Tysiac

For more on Kyle Singler and his new role with Duke, read The Charlotte Observer or the Raleigh News & Observer on Monday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nike, Tar Heels agree: 10 years, $31.6 milllion

North Carolina has signed a 10-year deal with Nike to be the exclusive supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and accessory products to the Tar Heels, the school announced.

This marks UNC's fourth contract with Nike, and it is retroactive to July 1, 2008.

“The University of North Carolina is proud of its long-standing relationship with Nike,” UNC athletics director Dick Baddour said in a prepared statement. “This partnership has
benefitted all 28 varsity sports and provided millions of dollars for academics and student scholarships at the University.”

In addition to apparel and equipment — the value of which ranges from $2.8 million in the first year of the contract, to $3.4 million in the 10th, for a total of $31.6 million — Nike will give the University $2 million to the Chancellor’s Academic Enhancement Fund. Chancellor Holden Thorp says he will direct the funds to faculty support, according to the news release. The athletics department will also receive $1 million for signing the contract; those funds are being used to overhaul lighting and sound at the Smith Center.

Nike has also entered into individual contracts with each of UNC’s head coaches; only seven coaches had individual contracts with the company in the past.

UNC and Nike also affirmed their commitment to fair labor practices, which they adopted in the 2001 agreement — meaning Nike will continue to produce licensed products and
provide product to the University made in factories that provide fair working conditions and operate consistent with the labor standards in the University's license agreements and Nike's own Code of Conduct.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Krzyzewski dislikes 'one-and-done' rule

Mike Krzyzewski addressed the media Monday, talking on topics from his interest in the Lakers to his interest in coaching the 2012 Olympic team and his Duke squad's roster makeup.

Add Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to the list of college basketball coaches speaking out this summer against become known as the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule.

Three years ago, a new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA’s owners and players association effectively prevented players from entering the draft right out of high school.

The rule states that players must be at least 19 years old and one year beyond the graduation of their high school class before they can enter the draft. That’s led to a lot of players enrolling in college for one year of basketball before moving on to the pros.

Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley have made big splashes in their only collegiate seasons. Krzyzewski said that’s helped the NBA by making them household names before they turn pro, but questions its value to college basketball.

“They’re part of the NCAA marketing machine and college basketball,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday at his annual summer news conference. “It’s a smart move (by the NBA). They don’t have to pay a cent. They get to see a kid for a year longer. And they’re marketed. I think it was fool’s gold, really (for college basketball). Oh, we get a kid for a year. I don’t think college basketball has benefited from that.”

Other coaches, including Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel, are bemoaning the rule that essentially forces some players to attend college against their will even though they may be ready for the NBA.

Brandon Jennings’ recent success in the NBA draft after a year in Italy might inspire more players to spend a year making money overseas rather than playing college basketball.

But some still will choose college even though they don’t have much interest in attending class. Capel told the Kansas City Star that the rule makes a mockery out of education.

Krzyzewski said a culture has developed among elite players outside of academic programs where it’s best that they go to the NBA.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad culture,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m saying it’s a different culture that leads to the NBA. Now you’re forcing them to go into our culture for eight months. I’m not sure that’s (good). We’ve already seen problems from it.”

Nonetheless, Krzyzewski sounded pessimistic that the one and done rule will change. It’s in the hands of the NBA players’ union and the owners, and Krzyzewski said it’s not the most pressing issue those parties bring to the bargaining table.

Krzyzewski said college basketball would be popular without one-and-done players because it can market the tradition of schools such as Duke vs. North Carolina while the pros hype player matchups such as Kobe vs. LeBron.

And the two most scandalous college stories of the summer – investigations of O.J. Mayo at Southern California and Derrick Rose at Memphis – both involved one-and-done players.

That’s not good for college basketball, and Krzyzewski doesn’t have an easy solution.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know how you change it.” – Ken Tysiac