Friday, July 23, 2010

Rogers draws applause at N.C. Pro-Am

Rodney Rogers received an extended ovation at N.C. Central's McDougald-McLendon Gym on Thursday when he spoke to the crowd at halftime of the 6 p.m. game at the SJG Greater NC Pro-Am.

Rogers, the former NBA, Wake Forest and Durham Hillside star, has been confined to a wheelchair since a dirt-bike accident left him paralyzed below the shoulders in 2008. He was at the Pro-Am on Thursday to raise money for his foundation, which provides financial support to paralysis victims.

"Keep praying for me, that I'll get up and walk out of this chair someday," Rogers said. "I want everybody to know I made it through. It was tough at first, but I made it. I want to get to more of these games, so I can have some fun."

Rogers wasn't the only celebrity in attendance Thursday night. John Wall, only a month removed from being selected first overall in the NBA Draft, came by with a few friends to watch Duke recruit Kyrie Irving play in the 7 p.m. game.

-- Luke DeCock

Duke's Kelly gets stronger, keeps shooting touch

DURHAM -- Ryan Kelly’s most pressing need for the summer was to get stronger.
Consider it done.

Kelly, the former Ravenscroft standout, started last season at about 210 pounds and played sparingly as a freshman forward during Duke's run to the 2010 NCAA title. A rigorous workout program and high-volume diet have increased his weight, and he now carries 234 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame.

While banging against Duke teammate Mason Plumlee in a game Tuesday at the North Carolina Pro-Am, Kelly made it obvious that he is a different player.

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable out there," he said. "Not being bumped around. Taking contact. Rebounding the ball. I think that's going to translate as the season begins."

The extra weight doesn't appear to have diminished the perimeter shooting ability that helped make Kelly a McDonald's All-American as a senior at Ravenscroft. Guarded mostly by Plumlee, he poured in 28 points (to Plumlee's 26), scoring mostly on mid-range jumpers and a few 3-point shots. Being strong enough to defend and rebound in the low post could give him more opportunities to be on the floor and display those skills.

Based on minutes played last season, only Mason and Miles Plumlee are ahead of Kelly in terms of returning post players because starters Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas both were seniors last season. Kelly, who turned 19 on April 9, seems to be maturing physically at the right time.

"I'm even kind of young for my [grade] anyway," he said. "Certainly hard work is the big part, but my body is going to catch up. I'm not done yet. My body has got a ways to go, but it’s on its way to catching up."

He isn't shy about saying Duke is going to win a lot of games again, although that's hardly a revelation with Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and the Plumlees returning from last season’s championship team. Kelly also is determined to play a bigger role.

"I'm just going to compete," he said, "and I'm going to find a way on the court."

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

UNC players top N.C. State's guys again

DURHAM - C.J. Leslie clapped in disgust late Tuesday night as Ryan Harrow's pass slipped through his fingers and out of bounds, the fumble preventing what would have been an easy layup.

It was that kind of night for N.C. State recruits Leslie, Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown and Joseph Uchebo of Team McGladrey in the North Carolina Pro-Am Summer League at N.C. Central.

They ran out to an 18-point, first-half lead, but trailed by halftime and ultimately fell for the second time to Team Stackhouse, whose roster includes North Carolina freshmen Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes, Tar Heel sophomore John Henson, and Tar Heel commitment P.J. Hairston.

After defeating Team McGladrey 82-72 a week earlier, Team Stackhouse rallied for a 59-51 win in the rematch.

"We fought back," Henson said. ". . .That's what we always do at Carolina. It's a good preview of what we have to do this year, fight back from early deficits."

Barnes, the top-rated recruit in the Class of 2010, led Team Stackhouse with 18 points. Harrow scored 17 points to lead Team McGladrey, which played without N.C. State senior Tracy Smith. Leslie added 16 points, including two free throws that put his team ahead 47-46 late in the game. But Barnes answered with a 3-pointer and two free throws as the lead changed hands for the last time.

Leslie shot 4-for-12 from the foul line, missing seven in a row at one point. N.C. State fans, whose roars filled the gym as Team McGladrey built the early lead, exited quietly as Team Stackhouse ran out the clock.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, July 12, 2010

NCAA unveils complicated, new 68-team format

Cramming 68 teams into a bracket that’s ideally suited for 64 teams was bound to be complicated.

The NCAA - whose Division I bylaw manual for 2009-10 takes up 419 pages - has a new format for its Division I men's basketball tournament, which was announced Monday in a news release.

Sure enough, the 68-team field created by the Division I men's basketball committee features an unusual configuration. It has a catchy new slogan ("the First Four") for the four new first-round games that should play well on TV as the NCAA embarks on its new 14-year contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting.

But when you look at which teams will play in those first four games, it gets complicated. Two of the games will feature the teams rated 65 through 68 in the field, which will go on to face No. 1 seeds in the second round.

The two other first-round games will feature the last four at-large teams selected for a field that includes 31 automatic bids and 37 at-large bids. The at-large, first-round teams will occupy the seed line where they would normally have been placed in a bracket in the past.

For example, one first-round game might feature two No. 11 seeds and the other could have two No. 12 seeds. The winners of those games would then advance in the second round to face their proper seeds in the bracket, with No. 11 playing a No. 6 seed and No. 12 playing a No. 5.

The schedule and location of the first-round games will be announced at a later date. Teams in the new brackets will continue to be assigned to the closest geographic location while avoiding regular season rematches and conference opponents.

Second- and third-round games will be played Thursday through Sunday, March 17-20 in 2011. That includes games at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena set for March 18 and 20.

In April, the Division I men's basketball committee was charged with creating a new format for the tournament after it was decided that the tournament would expand to 68 teams from 65.

"With the new bracket essentially featuring four additional at-large teams, the committee determined it was appropriate to have the teams play in the first round," Dan Guerrero, the UCLA athletic directory and 2009-10 committee chair, said in a statement. "We believe this format provides an extraordinary opportunity for the championship's first-round games to be quality match-ups as March Madness begins."

The tournament had featured 65 teams and one first-round game from 2001 to 2010. From 1985 to 2000, the field had 64 teams. The expansion to 68 announced in April came in part as a response to a significant number of coaches who said the 65-team field wasn't large enough reward an appropriate number of teams for their successful seasons.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Duke's Chelsea Hopkins transfer to S.D. State

Duke women's basketball player Chelsea Hopkins announced on Friday that she's transferring to San Diego State after two seasons with the Blue Devils.

Hopkins, a 5-foot-8 guard, said she's leaving to pursue more playing opportunity, having seen limited time as a point guard behind senior Jasmine Thomas. She moves closer to her hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Last season, Hopkins averaged 1.2 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.7 steals in 26 games. She played in 46 games during her career at Duke.

"These last two years at Duke have been a great experience,” Hopkins said. “I would like to thank my teammates, coaches and everyone else in the Blue Devil program for making it such a wonderful time. I just think I will be able to maximize my potential at San Diego State to close out my career.”

Hopkins exits the program as Duke brings in what many are calling the top recruiting class in the nation for 2010-11 season, which includes the second-ranked high school point guard Chelsea Gray from Saint Marys High in Manteca, Calif.

-- Edward Robinson