The skinny Archive

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Rocky Mount’s Buck Williams should be in the Hall of Fame

By Clifton Barnes (NOTE: Barnes is a Rocky Mount Senior High classmate and former junior high football/basketball teammate of Buck Williams.) Brash. Trash talker. Controversial. Showy. A jerk. Ah, no. Competitive. Hard worker. Consistent. Team player. A winner. Yeah, that’s more like it. That’s Rocky Mount native Buck Williams. You could also say he’s overlooked, underappreciated, forgotten even. Known through much of his childhood as Charles, the Buck that came to be led the Rocky Mount Gryphons to the 1978 4A state basketball title. He took his game to the University of Maryland, where he helped lead the Terrapins to […]

By Clifton Barnes

(NOTE: Barnes is a Rocky Mount Senior High classmate and former junior high football/basketball teammate of Buck Williams.)

Brash. Trash talker. Controversial. Showy. A jerk. Ah, no.

Competitive. Hard worker. Consistent. Team player. A winner. Yeah, that’s more like it.

That’s Rocky Mount native Buck Williams.

You could also say he’s overlooked, underappreciated, forgotten even.

Known through much of his childhood as Charles, the Buck that came to be led the Rocky Mount Gryphons to the 1978 4A state basketball title. He took his game to the University of Maryland, where he helped lead the Terrapins to a 64-28 record over three years. He was ACC rookie of the year in 1979 and earned all-conference honors in 1980 and 1981.

He was the third player picked in the 1981 NBA draft, going to the New Jersey Nets where he was selected to the NBA All-Star team three times. He was traded to the Portland Trailblazers, where he made the NBA All-Defensive first or second team four times and helped lead the Blazers to two NBA finals. He finished his 17-year career with the New York Knicks in 1998. His number 52 was retired by the Nets.

Williams, who served a term as president of the NBA Players Association, has been eligible for consideration for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 2004 but was never nominated until 2020.

Why not? Some might say probably because he wasn’t all those things listed in the first paragraph. In addition to not being flashy, he also never won an NBA title, through no fault of his own. He’s also never been a self-promoter.

But there has been a concerted effort this time to finally get Buck Williams into the Hall of Fame, helped along by a high school analytics club in New York.

A group of students, 14-18 years old, at Fordham Prep in the Bronx took on the task of comparing Williams’ stats to other players already in the Hall of Fame. None of the students were born when Williams retired and none of them knew who he was until watching a video titled, “Portland Trail Blazers: Return to Rip City.”

The Sports Analytics Club Program CEO Robert Clayton, a sports attorney in Washington, D.C. who had known Williams for years, suggested the Fordham group take a look at Williams’ numbers.

“We went into this blindly,” Dr. Raymond Gonzalez, coordinator for the Fordham club, told me. “When the students uncovered the truth, we were blown away. Our stats show an unsung hero that should be in the Hall.”

He said the club compared Williams’ stats to those of seven players already in the Hall of Fame – Walt Bellamy, Vlade Divac, Bob Lanier, Ralph Sampson, Jack Sikma, Nate Thurmond and Chris Webber. “When you lined them up side by side, in almost every category he was No. 1,” Gonzalez said, pointing particularly to his lead in field goal percentage and rebounding.

Williams, at a relatively short 6-foot-8 and a playing weight of only 225 pounds, ranks third all time in offensive rebounds and 16th in total rebounds. As for scoring, when playing in the ACC at Maryland, Williams learned an effective jump hook in order to score over his taller, bigger opponents like Virginia’s Ralph Sampson and Duke’s Mike Gminski. It served him well in the NBA where he averaged a double-double in scoring (12.8 points) and rebounding (10) for his entire career, a rare feat.

The Fordham Prep club compared a relatively obscure statistic that really shows Williams’ worth to his team – win shares and defensive win shares. In short it uses combined player, team and league-wide stats, including points allowed, to show how much players contribute to wins. The results showed that Williams ranks 50th all time.

The unassuming Williams said that he never thought about the Hall of Fame when he was playing and didn’t really think he could be inducted until he heard how he compared with others already in the Hall of Fame.

“These kids that put together this project convinced me that I should be in the Hall of Fame based on the numbers,” Williams said. “It kinda got my juices going. It would be a crowning moment.”

Buck and Mimi Williams.

Buck and Mimi Williams.

He told me he has a good life as a realtor in Potomac, Md. with his cherished wife of 37 years, Mimi, so he’ll be fine if he doesn’t get in. But he really wants it for his former teammates, his friends and his family, which includes two grown sons.

Dr. Gonzalez said he and his students feel as if Williams has become part of their family. They are looking forward to meeting Williams in person one day as they have heard he is “an exceptional human being.”

The folks in his hometown of Rocky Mount know what a genuinely good person he is. And many believe that should also be taken into account when deciding whether or not he should be in the basketball Hall of Fame.

On social media, several people shared comments and anecdotes with me about Buck Williams. Most of the memories revolved around Buck as a person. Among the descriptions were “gentle giant,” “a good sport,” “humble,” “polite,” “well-mannered,” “respectful,” “friendly,” and “kind.”

His basketball prowess is certainly remembered and appreciated too, especially among those who remember how hard he worked to get better and better.

Buck was skinny, a bit lanky and perhaps even a little clumsy as an eighth grader. While he would have been the tallest player on the team, he didn’t play that year. Within a year or so, Buck’s hard work (and the fact that he physically matured and grew into his body, so to speak) turned him into a good ball player. He got stronger and better each year throughout high school, not only becoming the best player on the team but perhaps the best player in the state.

By his senior year, the usually quiet, never cocky Buck Williams had become more confident in himself. Two of Rocky Mount’s best players, Reggie Barrett and Jeffrey Battle, who ended up going to Memphis State on a scholarship, got in foul trouble in the first half of the state championship game in 1978. Rocky Mount coach Reggie Henderson, after the game, said, “Buck came up to me at the halftime break and told me not to worry. He said we had come too far to lose and he would see to it that we didn’t lose.”

Buck scored 28 points – hitting 10 of 13 shots along with eight free throws – and hauled down nine rebounds, earning tournament MVP honors, and leading his team to the state title, 91-83, over Greensboro Grimsley.

Buck likes to point out that he was a country boy that came from humble beginnings. Williams, who is the youngest of six children, learned his work ethic from his parents, Moses and Betty Louise, who grew up sharecropping on farms. Moses even built the house that the family lived in for more than 20 years.

Having someone of Williams’ caliber in the Hall of Fame can do nothing but help the image of the NBA and the Hall itself. It would have a much-needed positive effect on the psyche of Rocky Mount as well. In addition, Buck wants to help start a Sports Analytics Club at Rocky Mount High School as a result of this process.

To bolster his case for induction into the Hall of Fame, there is a bit of a letter-writing campaign among Rocky Mount natives, classmates, teammates and citizens. Anyone can join in. If you’d like to see Buck Williams in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, please send a respectful note to John Doleva, President & CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 Hall of Fame Ave, Springfield, MA 01105.

Ask Doleva to share it with the 24 voters, who are unknown to the public. Ten finalists will be named on Feb. 18 so please don’t hold back. Buck Williams never did.

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Eddy Alvarez selected as Team USA flag bearer for the Olympic Games 

Alvarez is the first athlete from the sport of baseball to carry the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony TOKYO – U.S. Olympic Baseball Team infielder Eddy Alvarez was selected as Team USA’s flag-bearer for the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced today. The Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday, July 23 at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Four-time Olympic Champion basketball player Sue Bird was also named a Team USA flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. Alvarez and Bird were chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA athletes […]

Alvarez is the first athlete from the sport of baseball to carry the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony

TOKYO – U.S. Olympic Baseball Team infielder Eddy Alvarez was selected as Team USA’s flag-bearer for the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced today. The Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday, July 23 at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Four-time Olympic Champion basketball player Sue Bird was also named a Team USA flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. Alvarez and Bird were chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA athletes and are the first duo to share the honor of leading the delegation into the Opening Ceremony, which serves as the official start to the Games. Of the 613 athletes who were named to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, more than 230 are set to walk in Friday’s Opening Ceremony.

In March 2020 – and prior to the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games due to the COVID pandemic – the International Olympic Committee amended its policy to allow national teams to appoint two flag bearers – one female and one male – in a nod to promote gender parity. The IOC also required that at least one male and one female athlete be included in each of the 206 national delegations that will compete in Tokyo.

Alvarez brings Olympic experience to Tokyo having competed in the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and won a silver medal as part of the 5,000-meter four-man short track speedskating team. Alvarez currently plays professionally in the Miami Marlins Minor League system and, in addition to being the first Winter Olympic Games medalist to play in Major League Baseball, is the first athlete from the sport of baseball to carry the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be named as one of the flag bearers by my fellow Team USA athletes for the Opening Ceremony,” said Alvarez. “Being a first-generation Cuban-American, my story represents the American Dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly. I am grateful for my time with U.S. Speedskating and USA Baseball, as well as for all of my teammates, and I am humbled to lead Team USA into the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Determined by the language of the host country and according to IOC protocol and executive board decision, Greece will march first, followed by the Refugee Olympic Team second. As upcoming host countries, the United States and France will be two of the final three countries to walk, with host country Japan closing out the Opening Ceremony.

NBC Olympics will provide unprecedented full-day coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics this Friday, July 23. The day will culminate on NBC in what is always one of the most popular nights of the Olympics with the primetime presentation of the Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT. The day begins on NBC with the network’s first-ever live morning broadcast of an Opening Ceremony at 6:55 a.m. ET/3:55 a.m. PT, followed by a special edition of TODAY with reaction and athlete interviews, and then NBC’s first-ever Olympic Daytime show on the opening Friday of the Games.

Following the year-long postponement of the Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Opening Ceremony will take place Friday, July 23, with competition beginning today and concluding Sunday, Aug. 8.

Team USA fans can follow the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team at TeamUSA.org and across Team USA’s social channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. The U.S. Olympic Team microsite will offer Team USA results from the Olympic Games, as well as athlete biographies, sport previews, a history book, competition schedules, and facts and figures about the U.S. delegation.

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Alvarez, Kivlehan homer for U.S. Olympic team in win

CARY, N.C. – The U.S. Olympic Team kicked off a three-game series against the Collegiate National Team on Sunday night, tuning up for their trip to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with an 8-3 win in a rain-shortened seven-inning game at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. Playing against the country’s top collegiate players, the Olympic Team scored eight runs in the game’s first two innings and got five strong innings from starter Scott Kazmir (AAA San Francisco Giants) to secure the series-opening win. The Olympic Team got started early, with the first three batters reaching […]

CARY, N.C. – The U.S. Olympic Team kicked off a three-game series against the Collegiate National Team on Sunday night, tuning up for their trip to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with an 8-3 win in a rain-shortened seven-inning game at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.

Playing against the country’s top collegiate players, the Olympic Team scored eight runs in the game’s first two innings and got five strong innings from starter Scott Kazmir (AAA San Francisco Giants) to secure the series-opening win.

The Olympic Team got started early, with the first three batters reaching base. Jack Lopez (AAA Boston Red Sox) led off the inning with a walk, before Eddy Alvarez (AAA Miami Marlins) and Todd Frazier followed with back-to-back singles. Collegiate National Team starter Gabriel Hughes (Gonzaga) nearly escaped a bases-loaded jam, but Eric Filia’s (AAA Seattle Mariners) two-run single started a two-out rally for the Olympic Team. With a pair of runners on, Patrick Kivlehan (AAA San Diego Padres) cranked a three-run homerun to left field to put the Olympic Team up by five runs in the opening frame.

Kazmir, who struck out the side in the top of the first, continued to dominate in the second inning. The left-hander struck out the first two batters of the second – his fourth and fifth of nine punchouts in the game – in a perfect inning to keep the Olympians up by five.

The Olympic Team offense stayed hot in the second inning, extending its lead to six on a Lopez sacrifice fly. Then, one batter later, Alvarez hit a two-run homer to center field, driving in Nick Allen (AA Oakland A’s) to make it 8-0.

After the early offensive outburst, the Olympic Team was held at bay by the Collegiate National Team bullpen. Paul Skenes (Air Force) tossed two scoreless frames in relief, scattering three hits before the Collegiate National Team finally cracked the scoreboard in the fourth on a two-run homer by Jordan Berry (LSU). Berry drove in Brock Jones (Stanford) – who led off the inning with a single – to put the Collegiate National Team within six.

The college squad then trimmed its deficit by one more in the top of the seventh against Edwin Jackson. Hayden Dunhurst (Ole Miss) started the inning with a leadoff bunt single before Kyle Teel (Virginia) and Drew Gilbert (Tennessee) hit back-to-back singles to make it 8-3. Anthony Gose (AAA Cleveland) replaced Jackson though and was able to escape further trouble with a strikeout and groundout to secure the win.

The Olympic Team had nine hits in the win. Kivlehan had a pair of hits, leading the team with three RBIs. Alvarez went 3-for-4 in the win, adding two singles and a stolen base to his homer and Allen reached base in all three of his plate appearances, singling once and walking twice. Kazmir secured the win with his strong five innings of work, finishing the night with nine strikeouts while allowing just three hits and a pair of runs.

Aaron Nixon (Texas) and Jack Washburn both turned in a scoreless inning out of the bullpen for the Collegiate National Team. Gilbert led the team with two hits, while Berry’s two RBIs were a team-best.

The three-game series will continue with game two on Monday night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina, with first pitch set for 6:35 p.m. ET. The contest will be streamed live on USABaseball.com, as well as Facebook and YouTube Live.

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Word circulates on social media that NC football great Danny Talbott has died

Danny Talbott, perhaps the best high school football player in Rocky Mount history, died early Sunday morning according to multiple social media accounts. Talbott, 75, has been suffering from cancer for several years. In 2018, Nash General Hospital dedicated a cancer center in his name. Talbott had been treated for multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. He had a stem cell transplant in 2011 at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center that showed great promise. Talbott led the Rocky Mount Blackbirds to state titles in baseball, basketball and football during his […]

Danny Talbott, perhaps the best high school football player in Rocky Mount history, died early Sunday morning according to multiple social media accounts.

Talbott, 75, has been suffering from cancer for several years. In 2018, Nash General Hospital dedicated a cancer center in his name.

Talbott had been treated for multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. He had a stem cell transplant in 2011 at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center that showed great promise.

Danny Talbott

Danny Talbott.

Talbott led the Rocky Mount Blackbirds to state titles in baseball, basketball and football during his senior year in 1963. He followed that success up in college at the University of North Carolina where he was named the ACC Player of the Year in football in 1966 and led the baseball team to the College World Series the same year.

He was drafted 17th overall by the San Francisco 49ers the following year before being picked up by the Washington Redskins where he backed up Sonny Jurgensen during Vince Lombardi’s only year coaching the team.

While professional football ultimately didn’t work out for him, he also played in the Baltimore Orioles organization under coach Cal Ripken Sr.

In 2003, he was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. His No. 10 jersey hangs in honor at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.

He continued as an athlete, winning several senior tennis tournaments where he played both left and right handed.

Rocky Mount native Steve Moore, who lives in Holly Springs now, said that everyone has a positive story about Danny Talbott. “He was a class act and a great guy,” Moore wrote on Facebook. “Men and women like Danny come along once in a lifetime.”

Moore coached Danny’s son in Little League baseball and Talbott never interfered “although he knew more about the game than all of us put together.”

Rocky Mount football games in the days of Talbott were big events that drew large enthusiastic crowds.

In an interview five years ago, Talbott said, “If I die, then I go to heaven. If I beat this, then I get to stick around and give my friends a hard time. It’s a win-win.”

One of those friends was UNC baseball coach Mike Fox, who, despite coaching at Rocky Mount’s Wesleyan College, didn’t really know Talbott until he came back to Carolina to coach the Tar Heels baseball team. Despite struggling with cancer, Fox said that Talbott was there for him during his ups and downs.

“He’s one of the best athletes – if not the best – that has ever come through this university,” Coach Fox once said. “He’s a big-time Tar Heel, and he’s a really big supporter of the program and of me personally, which I appreciate. But more important, I’ve gotten to know him on a personal level, and he’s a wonderful person.”

Funeral Home Notice

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Longtime Redskins fans in North Carolina rejoicing with win over Panthers

It’s been 25 years now since the Panthers presence in Charlotte took the Redskins off TV in North Carolina. Social media took off with vigor as Redskins’ fans in North Carolina rejoiced and blew off some steam following the Redskins 29-21 win over the Panthers in Charlotte. For those of you newer to the Triangle area, you might not know about the history of the Redskins in North Carolina. The Redskins were on local radio for more than 50 years and on each week on local TV for more than 30 years. In addition, Redskins players used to make appearances […]

It’s been 25 years now since the Panthers presence in Charlotte took the Redskins off TV in North Carolina.

Social media took off with vigor as Redskins’ fans in North Carolina rejoiced and blew off some steam following the Redskins 29-21 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.

For those of you newer to the Triangle area, you might not know about the history of the Redskins in North Carolina. The Redskins were on local radio for more than 50 years and on each week on local TV for more than 30 years.

In addition, Redskins players used to make appearances in North Carolina during the offseason to sign autographs and help sell cars at dealerships, for instance. Many people don’t know that the words to the fight song originally ended with “Fight for Old Dixie” and not “Fight for Old DC.” The Redskins were The Team of the South before there were Falcons, Dolphins, Bucs, Jaguars or Panthers.

The NFL and the Redskins cultivated North Carolina as Redskins country. Not only were the games on local TV, trains and buses were chartered to take Redskins fans in North Carolina to the games.

Each year there used to be a “North Carolina Day” in Washington where a high school band from NC played at halftime of a game and the governor of North Carolina was in attendance. Those on each team from North Carolina were singled out and photographed together.

The people bringing the Panthers to Charlotte lobbied the NFL to have exhibition games featuring the Redskins to prove North Carolina would support a team (they had historically supported the Redskins for sure). The games were successful and Charlotte was awarded a team.

They specifically named the team “Carolina” instead of “Charlotte” in order to stake a claim to fans throughout the wide state of North Carolina and all of South Carolina as well.

They also fought to be placed in the NFC rather than the AFC because, in part, they knew if Redskins fans could continue to watch their team on another over-the-air station, their ratings would suffer.

Had they put Charlotte in the AFC, which perhaps they should have, Redskins’ fans could root for the Panthers and vice versa. But they wanted to kill out Redskins’ fans. A radio station, which was tied to the TV station airing NFC games, even held a bonfire and gave Panthers t-shirts and jerseys to (former) Redskins’ fans who would burn their Redskins’ items in the bonfire.

They didn’t kill the Redskins fans out – although the teams’ woes have taken their toll.

Still, a DirecTV study a few years ago listed the Raleigh/Durham area as having more Redskins fans than any other market in the country (outside the DC market of course). Many older fans stayed true to the Redskins while their children grew up as Redskins’ fans. With a more mobile society and North Carolina a popular destination, many people have also moved down from Virginia, Maryland and D.C.

Redskins’ fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about but, but considering the history, there is some satisfaction that the Redskins beat Charlotte’s Panthers – and they got to watch it on regular TV right here in what they still deem Redskins’ Country.
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Hello, goodbye Cole Anthony; leads Heels with 34 points

Cole Anthony, we hardly knew ye. If any North Carolina fans thought the highly regarded freshman might stay for two years, they don’t now after Anthony torched Notre Dame for 34 points, the most ever by a player in his Carolina debut, en route to a 76-65 Tar Heel win. The home opener wasn’t easy though as Carolina trailed the Irish with 13 minutes to play. That’s when Anthony took over the game with everyone in light blue’s approval. Anthony drilled a three from the top of the key to tie the score at 46-all and less than a minute […]

Cole Anthony, we hardly knew ye. If any North Carolina fans thought the highly regarded freshman might stay for two years, they don’t now after Anthony torched Notre Dame for 34 points, the most ever by a player in his Carolina debut, en route to a 76-65 Tar Heel win.

The home opener wasn’t easy though as Carolina trailed the Irish with 13 minutes to play. That’s when Anthony took over the game with everyone in light blue’s approval.

Anthony drilled a three from the top of the key to tie the score at 46-all and less than a minute later popped in a jumper off a screen to put the Tar Heels on top for good.

A 22-6 run over five minutes of play, highlighted by 11 Anthony points and a big three by Andrew Platek from the right wing, allowed the Heels to take control of the game. Platek also delivered a fast break alley-oop pass to freshman Armando Bacot, who dunked it for a 65-52 lead with just over eight minutes to go.

The largest lead of the game came at 73-57 with four minutes left after back-to-back threes by Anthony.

“Cole was pretty impressive in the second half,” UNC coach Roy Williams said nonetheless lamenting that he can’t be the only player to make a shot and get a rebound.

“We have to have other guys to step up,” he added.

Junior Garrison Brooks, the only returning starter, scored 10 points and added nine rebounds in 39 minutes of play but Coach Williams said he “didn’t have a great game.” He was the only other Tar Heel in double figures.

Anthony bested Rashad McCant’s 28 first-game points and is the first Tar Heel freshman to score at least 30 points and haul in at least 10 rebounds since Tyler Hansbrough had 40 points and 10 rebounds against Georgia Tech in 2006.

Anthony said it was “an honor” to be part of Tar Heel lore but he added that “it’s a long season and we have a lot more work to do.”

He was upset that he turned the ball over four times and that he didn’t defend as well as he could.

No Tar Heel defended much late in the first half when Notre Dame went on a 12-2 run over less than three minutes’ time to go up 28-23. While the Heels led by as many as nine in the first half, they trailed the Irish 31-30 at the break.

Prentiss Hubb led the Fighting Irish with 22 points.

It was the first time the Tar Heels started a season with a conference game since 1967. The 1-0 Tar Heels travel to UNC-Wilmington Friday night.

For more on the game, along with a box score, please click here.

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UNC basketball won’t look the same but results could be very similar

With eight new faces on the UNC basketball team for the 2019-2020 season, who knows what’s going to happen? Coach Roy Williams certainly re-loaded in the offseason with grad transfers and top recruits but will the players – new and old – gel into a cohesive team by March? That’s the mystery. The talent is there to win an ACC regular season title, an ACC tournament title and an NCAA tournament title but with so much youth and pieced-together parts, it would seem unlikely that the Heels can pull it off. Of course, when the Tar Heels lost seniors Luke […]

With eight new faces on the UNC basketball team for the 2019-2020 season, who knows what’s going to happen? Coach Roy Williams certainly re-loaded in the offseason with grad transfers and top recruits but will the players – new and old – gel into a cohesive team by March? That’s the mystery.

The talent is there to win an ACC regular season title, an ACC tournament title and an NCAA tournament title but with so much youth and pieced-together parts, it would seem unlikely that the Heels can pull it off.

Of course, when the Tar Heels lost seniors Luke Maye, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams, and transfer Seventh Woods, along with early NBA defectors Coby White and Nassir Little (Little should have stayed), Carolina fans were bracing for a below-par season.

But when the Tar Heels landed a pair of highly-regarded transfers in scoring guard Christian Keeling and forward Justin Pierce, the pieces started to fall into place.
The addition of likely one-and-dones Cole Anthony, a magician who plays guard, and Armando Bacot, a big demolition man who plays forward, set the Carolina universe ablaze at the possibilities.

Only 6-foot-9 junior Garrison Brooks returns as a starter and significant scorer from last year’s team so the additions were imperative to compete with the Dukes and Louisvilles of the world. While he led the team in field goal percentage and scored in double figures 12 times, Brooks is primarily a defensive stopper.

Expectations of Anthony, Carolina’s new point guard, as a scorer are through the roof (or the ceiling). There is talk about potentially not just being the nation’s freshman of the year but the player of the year. That’s pretty high praise but also something that cannot be relied upon.

With leadership from Brooks and senior Brandon Robinson and progression from guard/swing man Leaky Black, this could be a special group.

There were chemistry issues back in the day when Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace stepped into significant roles as freshman for a team that was laden with upper classmen who saw their minutes diminish. That shouldn’t happen with this team as only Brooks played significant minutes last year.

While chemistry will ultimately tell the tale for the Tar Heels, the difference may well be Leaky Black. The 6-8 sophomore showed so much promise last season even though he missed 13 games with a sprained ankle. He has the size, speed and tools to do just about anything on the court. He can score (including threes), rebound, dish the ball off, steal, play tough defense and do it all with panache. While some compare him to Theo Pinson, if he stays four years, I suspect he will be better because of his ability to score.

With five players 6-9 or taller, Coach Williams figures to see a lot of his scoring coming in the paint this season. Brooks and Bacot figure to be the primary beneficiaries of the emphasis while 6-11 Sterling Manley (if he can get healthy) and 6-10 Brandon Huffman getting in on the action as well.

In addition to Manley’s health woes, Robinson has been slowed with a preseason injury as have solid, if not spectacular, junior guard Andrew Platek, four-star freshman guard Anthony Harris and three-star freshman guard Jeremiah Francis. All could be contributors before the end of the season.

Per usual, Carolina has a tough non-conference schedule (Gonzaga, UCLA, Ohio State, Alabama and Iowa State or Michigan) and will no doubt lose two or threes games before the ACC schedule gets into full swing in January as the players settle into their roles.

Duke, even without Zion, is considered the top team in the ACC per the basketball writers. Last year’s national champion Virginia Cavaliers lose a lot of personnel and don’t figure to be a top three team. UNC, Duke and Louisville should be the top three teams.

This mysterious UNC team, full of unknowns, could very well be a contender come ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament time. I’m predicting a 32-8 campaign with the Tar Heels falling in the ACC Tournament final and catching fire in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out, barely, in the national semi-finals.

While this will be a season like no other for Carolina, with all the changes in personnel, it should be another highly satisfying one for Tar Heel fans.

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USA collegiate team tops Cuba 5-1 in Hickory

HICKORY, N.C. – The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team began its 15-game schedule Tuesday with a 5-1 win over Cuba at LP Frans Stadium. Team USA opened a 1-0 lead in the 8th Annual USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series, a five-game series played in five consecutive days around North Carolina. “Right now we’re in a good place,” said head coach Dan McDonnell (Louisville). “Pitching and defense can say a lot about your team. Back-to-back nights we’ve done a good job.” Team USA was efficient on the mound with Max Meyer (Minnesota) starting and going four scoreless innings before Chris […]

HICKORY, N.C. – The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team began its 15-game schedule Tuesday with a 5-1 win over Cuba at LP Frans Stadium. Team USA opened a 1-0 lead in the 8th Annual USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series, a five-game series played in five consecutive days around North Carolina.

“Right now we’re in a good place,” said head coach Dan McDonnell (Louisville). “Pitching and defense can say a lot about your team. Back-to-back nights we’ve done a good job.”

Team USA was efficient on the mound with Max Meyer (Minnesota) starting and going four scoreless innings before Chris McMahon (Miami) worked the next five innings and allowed just one run for the save. Meyer allowed only two hits and struck out four, while McMahon allowed three hits and fanned three.

Tanner Allen (Mississippi State) led Team USA offensively with a 2-for-2 day and an RBI. Heston Kjerstad (Arkansas) drove in two and Austin Martin (Vanderbilt) and Luke Waddell (Georgia Tech) both had RBI singles.

The Collegiate National Team continues the 8th Annual USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte.

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Newly selected USA Baseball collegiate national team faces Cuba

USA Baseball, whose facility is in Cary, unveiled the 26-man 2019 Collegiate National Team roster on Monday, highlighted by the return of Patrick Bailey (NC State), Max Meyer (Minnesota) and Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) to Team USA for the second consecutive year. The Collegiate National Team will host a five-game international friendship series against Cuba before traveling to Taiwan and Japan next week. Six alumni of USA Baseball will return to the stars and stripes in 2019. Bailey is making his third appearance with Team USA after competing with the 2018 Collegiate National Team and winning a gold medal at […]

USA Baseball, whose facility is in Cary, unveiled the 26-man 2019 Collegiate National Team roster on Monday, highlighted by the return of Patrick Bailey (NC State), Max Meyer (Minnesota) and Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State) to Team USA for the second consecutive year. The Collegiate National Team will host a five-game international friendship series against Cuba before traveling to Taiwan and Japan next week.

Six alumni of USA Baseball will return to the stars and stripes in 2019. Bailey is making his third appearance with Team USA after competing with the 2018 Collegiate National Team and winning a gold medal at the COPABE Pan Am “AAA” Championships with the 2016 18U National Team. Logan Allen (FIU) was also a member of that gold medal-winning 2016 18U National Team, while Doug Nikhazy (Ole Miss) will don the red, white and blue again in 2019 after participating with the 15U National Team in 2014. Cole Wilcox (Georgia) won a World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup gold medal with the 2017 18U National Team.

Nikhazy also participated in the USA Baseball 14U National Team Development Program (NTDP) in 2013. The NTDP offers athletes an opportunity to connect with USA Baseball staff to better prepare for future national team experience.

Team USA will host the 8th Annual USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series July 2-6. The five-game series will kick off at LP Frans Stadium in Hickory, North Carolina, followed by games at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) in Durham, North Carolina, and the National Training Complex. The series will then return to the DBAP for the finale on July 6.

The Collegiate National Team leaves for Taiwan on July 7. Team USA will travel to Taichung, Taiwan, for the 19th USA vs. Chinese Taipei International Friendship Series from July 9-12 and close out its summer schedule with the 43rd USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series, which will take place in various cities throughout Japan from July 16-21.

Louisville Head Coach Dan McDonnell was named the manager of the 2019 Collegiate National Team in July 2018. He will be joined on staff by assistant coaches Mark Kingston (South Carolina) and Tony Skole (The Citadel), pitching coach Greg Moore (Saint Mary’s) and bench coach Dave Turgeon (Pittsburgh Pirates).

Three of the 8th USA vs. Cuba International Friendship Series games will be streamed live on USABaseball.com (July 3, July 4, July 6) and the remaining domestic Collegiate National Team games will be broadcasted on USA Baseball’s Facebook channel. Stay tuned to USABaseball.com, and follow @USABaseballCNT on Twitter, for the latest information.

The 26-man roster is as follows. The roster will be cut to 24 for the series in Japan. Please note that all roster spots are subject to change.

2019 Collegiate National Team Roster
(Name; Position; Hometown; School)

Andrew Abbott; LHP; Halifax, Va.; Virginia
Logan Allen; LHP; Deltona, Fla.; FIU
Tanner Allen; IF/OF; Theodore, Ala.; Mississippi State
Patrick Bailey; C; Greensboro, N.C.; NC State
Tyler Brown; RHP; Ashland, Ohio; Vanderbilt
Alec Burleson; LHP/1B; Denver, N.C.; ECU
Burl Carraway; LHP; College Station, Texas; Dallas Baptist U.
Cade Cavalli; RHP; Bixby, Okla.; Oklahoma
Colton Cowser; OF; Cypress, Texas; Sam Houston State
Jeff Criswell, RHP, Portage, Mich.; Michigan
Reid Detmers; LHP; Chatham, Ill.; Louisville
Justin Foscue; IF/OF; Huntsville, Ala.; Mississippi State
Nick Frasso; RHP; Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.; Loyola Marymount
Heston Kjerstad; OF; Amarillo, Texas; Arkansas
Asa Lacy; LHP; Kerrville, Texas; Texas A&M
Nick Loftin; IF; Corpus Christi, Texas; Baylor
Austin Martin; UTL; Jacksonville, Fla.; Vanderbilt
Chris McMahon; RHP; West Chester, Penn.; Miami
Max Meyer; RHP/OF; Woodbury, Minn.; Minnesota
Garrett Mitchell; OF; Orange, Calif.; UCLA
Doug Nikhazy; LHP/OF; Windermere, Fla.; Ole Miss
Casey Opitz; C; Centennial, Colo.; Arkansas
Spencer Torkelson; IF; Petaluma, Calif.; Arizona State
Luke Waddell; INF; Loveland, Ohio; Georgia Tech
Cole Wilcox; RHP; Chickamauga, Ga.; Georgia
Alika Williams; IF; San Diego, Calif.; Arizona State

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Seniors lead Heels over young Zion-less Duke

North Carolina seniors Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the Tar Heels to an 88-72 upset at No. 1 Duke, who played all but 36 seconds without super freshman Zion Williamson. (2/20) Without the injured Williamson clogging up the paint, Carolina went inside for points, especially after the Heels missed their first 12 three-point shots of the game. Maye and Johnson combined for 30 of Carolina’s 42 first half points with only three coming from beyond the arc. In fact, the Heels had a 34-18 edge in points in the paint en route to a 42-32 halftime lead. Just 36 […]

North Carolina seniors Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the Tar Heels to an 88-72 upset at No. 1 Duke, who played all but 36 seconds without super freshman Zion Williamson. (2/20)

Without the injured Williamson clogging up the paint, Carolina went inside for points, especially after the Heels missed their first 12 three-point shots of the game.

Maye and Johnson combined for 30 of Carolina’s 42 first half points with only three coming from beyond the arc. In fact, the Heels had a 34-18 edge in points in the paint en route to a 42-32 halftime lead.

Just 36 seconds into the game, Williamson slipped while dribbling across the free throw line, with his foot splitting right through the shoe. The knee took the brunt of the twisting fall.

“Let’s be honest,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “When the big fella goes out of the game it changes a lot for them. I hated that – it was a huge blow for them.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed, saying that they had prepared for the game based on having Williamson, who is expected to be picked first in the NBA draft, in the game.

“He and R.J. (Barrett) are the key guys,” Coach K said. “It’s tough trying to figure it out while playing an outstanding team.”

Carolina took even more control of the game in the first few minutes of the second half. A 17-5 run in the first four minutes had the Heels in command by 22 points at 59-37. Johnson scored eight during that run but was shaken up and out of the game for a couple of minutes after taking a hard fall on a fastbreak layup.

Duke stayed in it by hitting four of its next five shots, including two three-pointers and an old-fashioned three-point play by Cam Reddish to cut the deficit to 15.

Even with an effective pressure defense that rattled UNC freshman point guard Coby White, who turned the ball over six times, the Devils never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.

One key stretch, led by backup point guard Seventh Woods, kept the Devils at bay. Woods hit a drive-by layup, hit a free throw, went coast to coast for a layup and drew a charge. After UNC’s Brandon Robinson’s pass to Garrison Brooks for a bucket, the Heels were in command by 19 points at 76-57 with 6:35 left.

But it was Maye, who scored 30 points and hauled in 15 rebounds, and Johnson, who had 26 points, that received the most praise from both coaches who each independently called the veteran leaders “sensational.”

Maye was aggressive inside while Johnson hit mid-range jumpers and drove to the hoop to create buckets. The only other Tar Heel in double figures was Brooks, who scored 14 points and collected eight rebounds.

The lead moves the Tar Heels into a three-way tie with Duke and Virginia for first place in the ACC.

Carolina improves to 21-5 and 11-2 in the conference while Duke, led by freshman R.J. Barrett’s 33 points, falls to 23-3 overall and 11-2 in the ACC.

The Tar Heels host Florida State Saturday afternoon while Duke plays at Syracuse Saturday evening.

For more on the game, including a box score, please click here.