Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thoughts on Spears suspension

Saturday's news that Shamari Spears has been suspended for the third time in his short Charlotte 49ers career wasn't totally surprising.

Spears had let the world know through his Twitter account that he was close to quitting the team after Wednesday's loss at Oregon State (a game in which he played just two minutes in the second half despite not being in foul trouble). He indicated in a tweet in the preseason that he wished former coach Bobby Lutz were still around.

There was at least one other incident in the preseason when Spears missed a practice when his father was visiting from out of town. New coach Alan Major said at the time that it was a misunderstanding and appeared willing -- at least publicly -- to cut Spears some slack.

But this isn't exactly the kind of vibe that a new coach like Major wants from a player -- whether he's the team's star (as Spears supposedly is) or the last guy on the bench.

So it's not surprising that Major suspended Spears. He's the new guy and it's his program. Agree or not with how Major has coached the team on its way to a pretty shaky 3-4 start, but understand that there's no way he can let a player continue to undermine him, especially in such a public way.

Spears wasn't on the bench Saturday against Radford (as he was when he sat out the first game of the season against Gardner-Webb). Major also wouldn't say if Spears will be back Wednesday against East Carolina.

But don't bet on him making the trip to Greenville. And beyond that, who knows?

49ers' Spears suspended indefinitely

Charlotte senior forward Shamari Spears has been suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules, a team spokesman announced about 30 minutes before the 49ers are to play Radford tonight in Halton Arena.

It's the second time this season Spears has been suspended. He missed the 49ers' first game, a loss to Gardner-Webb. He also was suspended for Charlotte's first game of the 2009-10 season. Last season was his first with Charlotte after transferring from Boston College.

Spears, a 6-6 forward from Salisbury, was a second-team all-Atlantic 10 selection last season. He was averaging 17.0 points and 3.2 rebounds this season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

N.C. Central added to football schedules

The 49ers have added N.C. Central to their first two football schedules.

Charlotte will play the Eagles at home on Sept. 14, 2013 and in Durham on Sept. 13, 2014.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

49ers to face 1-3-1 zone -- again

The 49ers will see a defense Wednesday at Oregon State that gave them all kinds of  problems Sunday in a loss against Coastal Carolina in the fifth-place game of the Charleston Classic.

The Beavers like to play a 1-3-1 zone, which is what the Chanticleers threw at Charlotte late in the first half after the 49ers had built a double-digit lead. That slowed things down enough to help Coastal eventually win 79-75 in double overtime.

But it's not as if the 1-3-1 zone has helped the Beavers too much. They're 1-2 and have lost to Seattle and Texas Southern.

-- Oregon State's coach is Craig Robinson the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama. Oregon State has five true freshmen, two red-shirt freshmen and three sophomores on its roster. The Beavers are led by senior forward Omari Johnson, who had a double-double against Seattle. Another Beavers senior, guard Calvin Haynes, needs eight points to hit the 1,000-point mark for his career.

-- Charlotte's An'Juan Wilderness has tried just three 3-pointers this season. The one he made tied the game at 68-68 against Coastal Carolina and helped send it into double overtime.

-- Walk-on Colby Lewis has taken advantage of Charlotte's depth problems in the backcourt. He's averaging 11.2 minutes and has made 3-of-11 3 pointers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Observations from Charleston

Three things the 49ers (1-2) need to do tonight if they're going to beat East Carolina (2-1) in a losers bracket game at the Charleston Classic:

-- Get Shamari Spears and Chris Braswell involved earlier: Charlotte's inside game was mostly nonexistent against George Mason on Thursday. Spears is settling for jump shots and Braswell didn't start going to the basket regularly until the game was way out of reach.

-- Figure out a way to get Derrio Green some easy baskets to get his offensive game going Green has started the season in a dismal shooting slump and continued that by going 3 of 12 against George Mason. He's playing lots of minutes with point guard Jamar Briscoe because of Charlotte's glaring lack of backcourt depth, but he's got to find his shot again.

-- Hit the offensive boards. Charlotte shot poorly (38 percent) against George Mason, then basically gave up, grabbing just eight offensive rebounds. George Mason used all those defensive rebounds to run Charlotte into the ground in the second half. Coach Alan Major said that's all about toughness and his team doesn't have it yet. Charlotte forced just 8 turnovers and allowed the Patriots to shoot 65 percent in the second half.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dewhurst easing his way back

Noting the 49ers as they prepare for Thursday's game against George Mason at the Charleston Classic:

-- Injury update: Charles Dewhurst (knee) has been doing some light running at practice and might be back as early as next week. K.J. Sherrill (knee) is still several weeks from being back.

-- Shamari Spears' 13-of-16 free throw performance against S.C. State were career highs for attempts and makes for him. Same for Chris Braswell, who was 11 for 17 (the 11 made tied his career high against Richmond last season).

The 49ers would do well to pound it inside like that against George Mason.

-- The 49ers have averaged 28 3-pointers per game and are hitting just 26.8 percent. That's dragged down by Derrio Green (3 of 18) and Gokhan Sirin (3 of 11).
-- Charlotte is shooting 39.2 percent from the field. Take away the 3's, however, and it jumps to 50 percent.
Just saying.

-- George Mason has five starters back from a team that played in last season's tournament. Watch for guard Cam Long and forward Ryan Pearson, both dangerous scorers and effective rebounders.

-- Funny quote from Derrio Green, when I asked him to compare the coaching styles of Alan Major and Bobby Lutz: "I'm not trying to be mean, but there's something about short people getting mad. When coach Lutz got mad, he got your attention. I love coach Lutz. Coach Major is a little more laid back. But they both know how to get their point across."

--  Charleston ticket info: All six sessions (12 games) , $90 each. Single-session tickets (two games), $20 each. Booster tickets are available for $50, allowing entrance to all three sessions (six games) involving the pre-designated team of choice. Groups of 10 or more receive half off on booster tickets. Information: or call 843-953-2632.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

49ers women to play Hampton in WNIT

Charlotte's women's basketball team will play Hampton at 7 p.m. Friday in Halton Arena in the consolation round of the Preseason Women's NIT.

The 49ers (1-1) are coming off a 76-70 loss at Florida on Monday in the second round of the tournament.

Guard Epiphany Wilson is leading Charlotte with a 14.5-point average.

Gators coach Amanda Butler won her 100th game at Florida in Monday's game. It came against Charlotte, the team she used to coach before heading to Gainesville.

Early-season numbers

Here's how the 49ers rank in several Atlantic 10 categories after their first two games (Shamari Spears, An'Juan Wilderness and Phil Jones, who were each suspended for one game, aren't included since they haven't played in 75% of Charlotte's games).

-- Point guard Jamar Briscoe is sixth in the league in scoring (22.5 ppg), third in steals (3.5 ,per game) and tied for first in minute played (39.0). Shooting guard Derrio Green is sixth in minutes (37.5).

-- The 49ers are third in the league in scoring offense (80.0), but 12th in scoring defense (79.5).

-- Charlotte ranks high in free-throw percentage (69.9, fourth in the league), rebounding offense (41.0) and  steals (9.0, tied for third).

-- The 49ers are near the bottom in field goal percentage (39.2, 11th), field goal defense (44.9, 10th), rebounding defense (39.0), turnover margin (0, tie 11th) and assist/turnover ratio (.7, 13th).

Not a lot of conclusions to draw from yet, especially since Charlotte hasn't fielded its entire team in any one game: But the 49ers need to take better care of the ball, although Briscoe and Green have been active themselves in swiping it. And don't expect to see Briscoe and Green's minutes go down appreciably.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Observations from a 1-1 start

-- Friday's loss against lowly Gardner-Webb was never the disaster so many people seemed to think it was. Charlotte's not good enough to be able to lose five players -- including two starters and a sixth man -- to suspension, injury and eligibility, and still expect to win (which was the prevailing feeling in some quarters), no matter who it's playing.

Like the late Skip Prosser used to say, "The other team gives scholarships, too." It was a quality and quantity issue for Charlotte. They didn't have all their best players out there, and that also affected their depth, especially when two players fouled out. When you've got two walk-ons on the court, the problems are compounded.

-- Charlotte proved all this Saturday with Shamari Spears and An'Juan Wildnerness back in the lineup against S.C. State. Against a markedly better opponent, Charlotte imposed its will because it had better players available. End of story. Doesn't mean it will be that way every night, but that's what having your best players available will do for you.

-- A good start for new point guard Deuce Briscoe. Briscoe played 78 of 80 minutes in both games. With Spears back, he didn't shoot as much Saturday as he did Friday (9 of 17 for 30 points against Gardner-Webb; 5 of 13 for 15 points against S.C. State). He's a little guy (listed at 5-10, but probably not big) and had several of his shots blocked as he went to basket. But as he gets more comfortable, he'll continue to figure out his role in the offense. One thing is for sure, he's not afraid to shoot it when the offense clogs up.

And guess who had eight rebounds to lead his team in that department against S.C. State? Briscoe.

-- Derrio Green also played huge minutes (75). His shot is way off to start the season. He's 8 of 31, including 3 of 18 from 3-point range), but he had just four turnovers in the two games. The 49ers are shooting the 3 as much as they ever did under Bobby Lutz, taking 56 of them in the two games (making 15 of them).

-- Chris Braswell was a force inside against S.C. State. He kept getting to the basket and kept getting fouled, making 11 of 17 free throws. He got into early foul trouble (he also fouled out against Gardner-Webb) but kept himself in the game.

-- George Mason, Charlotte's first-round opponent in the Charleston Classic on Thursday, beat Harvard 66-53 in its season opener Saturday. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

3 players suspended this weekend

49ers men's basketball coach Alan Major has suspended three players -- Shamari Spears and An'Juan Wilderness for today's game against Gardner-Webb and Phil Jones for Saturday's against S.C. State -- for "violating team policy."

Major, in making the announcement just hours before today's season opener against Gardner-Webb would not discuss the nature of the violations, which occurred between the end of last season and the start of this season, according to a university news release.

“Our student-athletes understand the rules and that they are going to be held accountable,” said Major in a statement. “As we move forward, we want to continue to build a program in which players understand how they can impact the team as individuals, and strive to ensure that the mark they make is positive.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baseball schedule released

A schedule that features 29 of their first 34 games at home and contests against three ACC teams highlights Charlotte's 2011 schedule released Thursday.

The 49ers open their Atlantic 10 season March 25 with a series against Rhode Island at Hayes Stadium.

Charlotte plays home and home games against North Carolina (March 1 at Chapel Hill, March 29 at Charlotte) and Wake Forest (March 15 at Charlotte, March 22 at Winston-Salem) and at Duke March 16.

The season opener is Feb. 18 at home against Coppin State, the first of a four-game series.

The 49ers were 39-17 last season, tying school records for home victories (29) and consecutive home wins (17).

49ers announce their 3 signings

The 49ers made official Thursday what's been known for weeks: Guard Terrence Williams of Charlotte, big man Mike Thorne of Fayetteville and small forward E. Victor Nickerson or Norcross, Ga. have signed their letters-of-intent. All three had made verbal committed to the program earlier.

"All these guys possess high character and they love the game," said coach Alan Major of his first recruiting class. "They wanted to be part of this first class here at Charlotte and that's exciting to us."

Williams, from West Mecklenburg High, is a 6-4 forward who averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds last season.

"Whenever you can bring in a local product, it's exciting and we definitely wanted a guy in our first class," said Major. "Now we hope he's the first of many."

Thorne is 6-foot-10 center who has a 7-2 wingspan. He averaged 5.0 points, 6.2 rebounds as a junior in mostly a backup role at Fayetteville's Trinity Christian.

"Mike has a world of potential," said Major. Earlier this week, recruiting specialist Dave Telep told The Observer that Thorne "could wind up being the sleeper in this whole deal."

The 6-7 Nickerson averaged 10-plus points and 5 rebounds last season. "Someone with that type of well-rounded ability is exciting to bring in."

The 49ers are still waiting on a decision from guard Elijah Carter from Brewster (N.H.) Academy. Carter's coach said he might not announce until the spring.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

4 49ers make 1st team all-conference soccer

Four 49ers men's soccer players were named first team all-Atlantic 10 Wednesday. Senior forward Andrew Cuero, freshman midfielder Tyler Gibson, sophomore midfielder Donnie Smith and junior defender Charles Rodriguez all made the league's first team.

Rodriguez was named defender of the year and Gibson was honored as midfielder and rookie of the year
Defender Isaac Cowles also made the all-conference second team and Gibson led the all-rookie team.

49ers sign 4 women's players, including Spears' sister

The 49ers' women's basketball program signed four players today, including the sister of men's player Shamari Spears

Olivia Rankin, a 6-foot-2 forward from Salisbury, joins guard Desiree Drayton of Greensboro Dudley, guard Hillary Sigmon from Hickory and Salisbury guard Ayanna Holmes as coach Karen Aston's recruiting class of 2011.

Drayton, who verbally committed to the 49ers early in her junior season, has scored more than 700 points in her career and helped Dudley to a state title as a sophomore

Sigmon averaged 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and 4.5 rebounds for the Red Tornadoes last season.

Rankin averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds last season and Holmes, the MVP of the state championship game, averaged 7.1 points.

New golf facility being dedicated today

The 49ers' new golf facility at Rocky River Golf Club is being dedicated today at 3 p.m.

The facility -- located off the second tee -- is a field house that will include coaches' offices, meeting rooms, lockers, an indoor putting surface and two hitting bays equipped with swing analysis computer technology.

It's a great upgrade for a program that has won five straight Atlantic 10 championships and has been to the NCAA tournament six consecutive seasons.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thoughts on a trip to Norfolk and ODU

I returned the other day from Norfolk, Va., with a group of 49ers officials who were on a football fact-finding trip to Old Dominion, which re-started its own program in 2009.

I'll have an extensive story on the trip in the paper next week, but here are a few thoughts I came away with:

-- If Charlotte can come close to replicating what Old Dominion has, football would be a smashing success. The Monarchs nearly sold out their on-campus (renovated) stadium for a game against lowly Savannah State. The atmosphere around the campus before the game was great -- tailgating, thousands of alumni returning to campus -- on a beautiful Saturday. No other sport can bring school spirit to a campus the way football does.

-- AD Judy Rose was accompanied by several staff members, most of whom are chairs of various football subcommittees (business operations, internal operations, sports medicine, sports information, Athletic Foundation, tickets, marketing, academic affairs, etc.). They all met with their ODU peers.

-- One of those ODU officials -- Bruce Stewart, associate AD for facilities/event management and football -- said there is one key to making the overall program successful: "Our football culture is working because we're winning," said Stewart (the Monarchs were 9-2 last season and are 6-3 so far this season). "I don't know anybody -- donors, alumni, students -- who don't want to be associated with a winner. When that happens, then you get traditions, and more school involvement. People are coming for the experience. If you provide that complete experience, everything else takes care of itself."

-- The Monarchs have already started new traditions -- a "Monarch March" team walk to the stadium on game days, pregame radio show on a campus quad, the marching band playing in a parking lot near the stadium, pep rallies and a "fan zone" that includes live music, food and drink.

-- To the winning point, Stewart, who handles ODU's scheduling, says that scheduling FBS teams for "guarantee" games is foolish for start-up programs. That's Rose's philosophy, too.

-- I talked to several alumni. One of them, from Virginia Beach, is an '87 graduate. He hadn't been back to the ODU campus until football started last season. He feels connected now.

-- ODU's Ballard Stadium was built in 1930 and seats 19,782. It was renovated and new suites and loges were added in one end zone. The Monarchs have sold a whopping 14,000 season tickets.

-- The Charlotte folks learned a lot about tailgating -- where to have it and what is legal (read: alcohol) to serve and where. For instance, Charlotte's campus has plenty of parking near where the stadium will be, but much of it is decked. Can't tailgate in parking decks. So they will be figuring that one out.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Men's soccer gets top seed

Charlotte's men's soccer team has the top seed in this weekend's Atlantic 10 tournament at Transamerica Field.

The 49ers will play a semifinal game at 8 p.m. Friday against the tournament's lowest remaining seed.

Thursday's games
No. 3 Temple vs. No. 6 Xavier, 5:30
No. 4 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 5 Saint Louis, 8

Friday's games
No. 2 La Salle vs. highest remaining seed, 5:30
No. 1 Charlotte vs. lowest remaining seed, 8

The championship is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. Charlotte, which finished 8-1 in the league, has won 10 of 11.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wingo's hot streak continues

Not only does Macky Wingo have one of the best names in women's college soccer, but she's playing as well as anybody in the country these days.

Wingo scored three more goals Friday in Charlotte's 3-1 victory against La Salle in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at Rhode Island. She's now got eight goals in three games. Her five goals in two victories last week earned hear national player of the week honors by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

Wingo and the 49ers face rival Dayton at 1 p.m. Sunday for the league title. A berth in the NCAA tournament is at stake.

-- Charlotte's men's soccer team, the A-10's regular season champion by virtue of Friday's 2-0 victory against UMass, gets a first-round bye in the league tournament next week at Transamerica Field and will play a semifinal game at 8 p.m. Friday.

It's going to be a huge weekend on the 49ers' campus. In addition to all the men's soccer (which begins Thursday), the men's basketball opens its season at 4 p.m. Friday at Halton Arena, followed by a volleyball game.
On Saturday, both basketball teams play at Halton, with the soccer final scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

49ers might have to wait on recruit

With the national early signing day for basketball approaching (Nov. 10), Charlotte already has secured three verbal commitments for its recruiting class of 2011. But the 49ers might have to wait several more months before hearing from their final big target -- 6-2 guard Elijah Carter of Brewster (N.H.) Academy.

"Eli might wait until the spring when things might be clearer," Brewster coach Jason Smith told me Thursday. "I think he'd like to sign early, but that might not happen."

Carter committed last year to St. Bonaventure when he was playing in high school in Jersey City, N.J. Circumstances changed with the Bonnies -- an assistant coach left and some players got in trouble with the police -- so Carter backed out of his St. Bonaventure commitment and went to prep school in New Hampshire.

Smith said Carter -- a combo guard -- is having a good preseason. He'll start at shooting guard for Brewster alongside point guard Naadir Tharpe, who's going to Kansas. When Tharpe is out of the game, Carter will shift to the point, Smith said.

Charlotte continues to work hard to get Carter. Smith said coach Alan Major visited Wednesday. But Seton Hall is there Thursday and Oregon State will be there Friday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

49ers won't pursue Big East

One of the big unanswered questions about Charlotte's startup football program is which conference the 49ers might end up in when they move up to the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision level (formerly I-A).

It apparently won't be the Big East.

A day after the Big East announced it plans to expand from eight to 10 football members and that the league was already evaluating possible candidates, 49ers athletics director Judy Rose said Charotte would not be one of them.

"We have to crawl before we walk," said Rose. "We're committed to (Football Championship Subdivision) for an indefinite amount of time."

The Big East -- which announced no timetable for the expansion -- is reportedly already considering Villanova, a basketball member and the reigning national FCS football champion. Other possiblities for the league have been reported to be Texas Christian or Central Florida.

Charlotte officials have privately said the Big East might be their best-case scenario in the future. But unless the conference were to decide to expand again, that's not looking likely.

Other 49ers notes

-- Women's soccer play Macky Wingo was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's national player of the week after scoring five goals in victories against Temple and Saint Joseph's last weekend. The top-seeded 49ers begin play in the Atlantic 10 tournament on Friday at Rhode Island.

-- Charlotte's volleyball team raised $10,000 in October in its "Dig Pink" campaign for breast cancer research. The 49ers raised the money in a variety of ways, including selling pink T-shirts during a match against Temple, a five-set victory for Charlotte.

ODU added to football schedule

Charlotte's latest football opponent for its first two seasons: Old Dominion.

The 49ers will play the NCAA FCS Monarchs, who started their own program in 2009 and went 9-2, in Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 21, 2013. ODU comes to Charlotte on Sept. 6, 2014.
Charlotte athletics officials, incidentally, are visiting ODU this weekend on a football fact-finding trip.

Charlotte's football schedules to date:

Aug. 31, Campbell.
Sept. 21, at Old Dominion
Oct. 5, Gardner-Webb
Oct. 26, at Charleston Southern
Nov. 2, at Coastal Carolina
Nov. 23, at Morehead State

Sept. 6, Old Dominion
Sept. 20, at Campbell
Sept. 27, Charleston Southern
Oct. 4, at Gardner-Webb
Nov. 8, Coastal Carolina
Nov. 22, Morehead State

Minnix wins student-athlete honor

Charlotte senior defender Megan Minnix has been named the Atlantic 10's women's soccer student athlete of the year. Minnix is the fourth straight 49er to win the award, following Lindsey Ozimek in 2007 and Hailey Beam in 2008-09.

Dayton, which tied the 49ers for the league's regular-season title, dominated the rest of the league's individual awards. But Charlotte fared well in placing several players on all-conference teams:

First team: Midfielder Sam Huecker; Minnix; forward Whitney Weinraub.

Second team: Forward Macky Wingo.

All-rookie: Goalkeeper Alex Kubrick.

All-academic: Minnix.

Dayton had the offensive player of the year (Colleen Williams); defensive player of the year (Kathleen Beljan); midfielder of the year (Jerica DeWolfe) and coach of the year (Mike Tucker). Richmond midfielder Becca Wann was the rookie of the year.

Charlotte has a first-round bye in the A-10 tournament which begins Thursday at Rhode Island.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Queens coach offers a reminder

As he prepared for Tuesday's basketball exhibition against the Charlotte 49ers, Queens coach Wes Long studied film of last season's late collapse that saw the 49ers lose seven of their final eight games and fail to make the postseason.

Here's what he noticed about the 49ers.

"It didn't look like they played very hard at the end of last season," said Long after the 49ers won 94-57 Tuesday.

If that's what it was, then Charlotte was a different team Tuesday. This edition of the 49ers -- with a new coach in Alan Major and a new point guard in Jamar Briscoe -- played a tougher, more physical brand of basketball than Charlotte fans might be used to seeing.

"There was a Big 10 influence in their play," said Long. "They jammed the cutter and played with a physicality in their defense."

Makes sense, since Major comes to Charlotte from Ohio State, where he was an assistant for six seasons.

Charlotte outrebounded the smaller Royals 47-27, getting 27 defensive boards.

"They beat us up on defense," said Long. "Which is how they do it where he came from."

Voncina ineligible tonight

49ers freshman guard Luka Voncina hasn't yet been declared eligible by the NCAA and won't play in tonight's exhibition against Queens at Halton Arena.

Voncina, who has been practicing with the team, hasn't been cleared to play by the NCAA, which continues to review his credits from his school in Slovenia. A statement from the 49ers said: "Voncina will remain ineligible pending a possible review of additional documentation by the NCAA."

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Monday, November 1, 2010

49ers women get top seed

Charlotte's women's soccer team is the top seed in this weekend's Atlantic 10 tournament at Rhode Island.

The 49ers (15-4, 8-1 A-10) will play a semifinal game at 5 p.m. against the lowest-seeded team remaining in the tournament. Charlotte tied Dayton (16-3, 8-1) for the regular-season title but got the top seed due to a tie breaker. The 49ers and Flyers received first-round tournament byes.

First-round games Friday include No. 3 Duquesne vs. No. 6 La Salle and No. 4 St. Bonaventure against No. 5 Massachusetts.

Charlotte's Macky Wingo, who scored five goals in weekend victories against Temple and Saint Joseph's, was named the conference's player of the week Monday.

-- The Charlotte men's soccer team plays a big game Friday against UMass at Transamerica Field. The 49ers (11-5, 6-1) remain in first place in the league with 18 points, but the Minutemen (5-4-7, 4-1-2) are just four points behind in the standings and in third place.