Friday, March 30, 2012

Charlotte 49ers to host 3 Atlantic 10 championships in 2012-13

-- The Atlantic 10 will come to the Charlotte 49ers' campus in a big way in the 2012-13 school year. The league's men's soccer and baseball tournaments will be held at Charlotte, as will as the track and field championships.

-- The men's basketball nonconference schedule looks like it will be highlighted with a game at Time Warner Cable Arena against Florida State and an appearance in the Great Alaska Shootout (although neither of those have been finalized yet). Other teams in Alaska include: Oral Roberts, Tulane, Alaska-Anchorage, Texas State. The 49ers will also play home non-league games against East Carolina, Oregon State, Central Michigan, Lamar and Radford, along with a games at Davidson and Miami. The 49ers might also go to the Bahamas in August for a few preseason exhibitions (the team's freshmen will be allowed to make that trip.

-- The men's soccer non-conference schedule will include home games against South Carolina and Coastal Carolina, UNC Greensboro and Elon. The 49ers -- here's a shocker -- haven't been able to get any ACC teams to schedule them. Charlotte, which was runner-up in the College Cup last season, is 5-3-1 against the ACC since 2009 (2-0 vs. Wake Forest; 2-0-1 vs. Clemson; 1-0 vs. Virginia; 0-2 vs. Maryland; 0-1 vs. North Carolina).

-- Junior Briana Gwaltney continues to hammer the softball. She had a grand slam Wednesday against N.C. State and now has 23 for her career (most in school history). I wrote a story about Gwaltney earlier this week and was unable at the time to include who the Atlantic 10's career leader is: It's Fordham’s Jocelyn Dearborn (2008-2011), with 45. But Gwaltney has nine this season and is closing in on the school's single-season record of 12. Charlotte plays today at Fordham and George Washington on Sunday.

-- Charlotte's football team will hold walk-on tryouts on April 11 from 3-6 p.m. Coach Brad Lambert says he hopes he can find 5-10 players to invite back when the team begins official practice in August in preparation for the 2013 season. The incoming freshmen recruits -- who signed in February -- are coming to campus on April 21, when they will attend the 49ers baseball game against Saint Joseph's.

-- Lambert and his assistants have been on the road watching other teams' spring practices. Among their destinations: Wake Forest, North Carolina and Clemson. The team's defensive coaches will go to East Carolina next week. Lambert said the offensive coaches have been particularly interested in how "pace of play" is practiced at North Carolina and Clemson.

-- Lambert is in the process of making a key hire: A strength and conditioning coach. Lambert will fill out his coaching staff on July 1, when he hires linebackers and running back coaches, as well as two interns (probably to oversee the secondary and H backs).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5 questions with Charlotte 49ers men's soccer coach Kevin Langan

The Charlotte 49ers named Kevin Langan their men’s soccer coach on Jan. 3. He’s got quite an act to follow: Before leaving for Stanford, Jeremy Gunn -- Langan’s predecessor -- took the 49ers to the finals of the College Cup last season, losing 1-0 to North Carolina.

This is the first head-coaching collegiate job for Langan, who was an assistant under Gunn for three seasons. He answered five questions from The Observer’s David Scott earlier this week:

Q. What have the first three months on the job been like for you?
“I took over the second-best program in the country for my first head-coaching job, which is pretty remarkable. The soccer part of the job – the on-field stuff, recruiting and scheduling -- I’m familiar and happy with. The other stuff – like public speaking and the budget – you can train a monkey to do. I’ll figure that out as I go along.”

Q. How has the public perception of the program changed since the College Cup?

“Expectations from the outside will change. There’s a bit more respect out there. More people are looking to see what we’re doing now. We’re one of the bigger boys in college soccer now, not one of the underdogs any more. We’ve done a lot of work this spring clarifying with the team what has made us successful. We don’t want to be a one-off successful program.”

Q. Will your recruiting strategy be the same as Gunn’s – which includes targeting under-the-radar players in the Charlotte area?

“Yes. We take pride here in not going after the players who are well-publicized, the top-five class guys. We don’t get caught up in the rumor mill and the over-inflated opinions of others. We’ve recently had a first-team All-American (Charles Rodriguez), two freshman All-Americans (Giuseppe Gentile and Tyler Gibson) and the national freshman of the year (Gentile). We know what we’re looking for. Before Jeremy got here, the best players in Charlotte didn’t stay here. Now they are.”

Q. How tough will it be to replace the three starters you lose from last season (Rodriguez and Isaac Cowles and forward Evan James) --  especially their leadership?

“We’ve got guys like Gibson, Aidan Kirkbride and Owen Darby who will step up. They’ve got to say, ‘It’s on us, now.’ It’s the natural evolution of any four-year program. Just as soon as you get happy, it’s time to rebuild.”

Q. Offensively, you have two dynamic players returning – Gentile (Ardrey Kell High) and Donnie Smith (Charlotte Catholic). How has their off-season gone?

“Donnie realizes it’s time for him to take his level of consistency up. We all saw in the College Cup how he can impart his personality on a game. He needs to say, ‘Get me the ball,’ and have confidence to take on these defenders. In the (College Cup), it was wonderful how he did that.
“I don’t think ‘Giussi’ has a ceiling for his game. That’s what makes him so special. He is so self-critical and works hard at his game. He’s out there on his own practicing his left-foot striking – because we might have had a conversation a few months ago where we said he might want to work on his left-foot striking a little.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Charlotte 49ers add Chapel Hill point guard

The 49ers have added a fourth freshman recruit for the 2012-13 basketball season. Chapel Hill High point guard Denzel Ingram, named the state's 3A player of the year by, visited Charlotte over the weekend and made his decision immediately afterward.

"It really seemed like a good fit for me,” said Ingram, who is second on Chapel Hill’s career scoring list with 1,390 points. "I’m a pass-first point guard, but if I’m needed to score, I’ll do that. I really just try and make the guys around me better.”

The 5-foot-11 Ingram averaged 23.9 points last season for a Tigers team that went 25-0 in the regular season. Only former North Carolina guard Ranzino Smith scored more points in Chapel Hill history than Ingram. He said he also considered Tennessee State, Morehead State, Georgia Southern, American and Appalachian State. Ingram said Cincinnati also expressed interest in him recently.

The 49ers' other freshman recruits are power forwards Willie Clayton (Thomasville, Ga.) and Darion Clark (Oak Hill Academy) and guard Shawn Lester (Mooresville).

49ers notes

-- Charlotte's Briana Gwaltney recently set the 49ers' career softball home run record when she hit her 21st in a 9-7 loss against Temple on Friday. Gwaltney's homer was her second of the season. Charlotte hosts N.C. State in a doubleheader on Wednesday.

-- 49ers midfielder Will Mayhew has recovered from a knee injury and returned to spring soccer practice Monday. Mayhew tore his ACL last season against Maryland and missed the 49ers' run to the College Cup final. The 49ers' spring season continues March 31 with two games in Rock Hill against East Tennessee State and College of Charleston, then concludes with home games against the alumni (April 14), Davidson (April 17) and Appalachian State (April 21, on the practice field).


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jamar Briscoe has left Charlotte 49ers program

Charlotte 49ers guard Jamar Briscoe has left the program, Briscoe’s mother told The Observer on Thursday.

The school later confirmed Briscoe’s departure, saying in a statement that Briscoe has been granted a “release to speak with other institutions in order to transfer from the program.”

“It came down to us wanting to be able to help 'Deuce' find a place where he can be the happiest," 49ers coach Alan Major told The Observer.

Trinita Ricks, however, said he son's departure was not voluntary.

 “(Briscoe) was told by the coaches that they couldn’t make him happy,” said Ricks.

Briscoe, who transferred to Charlotte from N.C. Central after the 2008-09 season, averaged 7.3 points and 1.1 assists for the 49ers last season. He was Charlotte’s starting point guard in 2010-11, averaging 12.5 points and 3.0 assists.

Briscoe lost his starting point guard spot last season to freshman Pierria Henry, but finished the season as the starting shooting guard ahead of senior Derrio Green.

Briscoe transferred to Charlotte to play for former coach Bobby Lutz, who was fired after the 2009-10 season. Briscoe was the nation’s second-leading freshman scorer at N.C. Central in 2008-09, averaging 17.8 points. He trailed only Liberty’s Seth Curry, who is now at Duke.

Ricks said Briscoe was to return home to Baltimore later Thursday and will  spend the weekend with his family. She said he plans on finishing the semester at Charlotte and hopes to transfer again. He has one year of eligibility remaining – next season only
and can play again if he goes to a Division II or III program.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mayfield's case continued

Charlotte 49ers basketball player DeMario Mayfield, who faces misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, had his case continued until June at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Mayfield was arrested Feb. 14 after he failed to stop at a red light, according to police reports. Police found marijuana in a subsequent search of the car.

Mayfield was suspended one game and was taken out of the starting lineup for another, as dictated by 49ers athletics department policy, according to athletics director Judy Rose.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Report: Charlotte 49ers 'candidates' for Sun Belt

The 49ers are among the "leading candidates" for membership in Sun Belt Conference expansion, according to a report.

It's the second Football Bowl Subdivision league the 49ers have been linked to recently. Charlotte -- which begins football in 2013 -- has has been mentioned if a potential new conference merging Conference USA with the Mountain West were to expand.

Athletics director Judy Rose has said she will not comment on conference affiliation, but that the 49ers will look at all available options.

Charlotte will begin football as a Football Championship Subdivision independent. It will have to wait at least two years to move up to FBS and will need to be invited by a league to do so.

The report says the Sun Belt -- where the 49ers played from 1976-91 -- is also considering Texas-San Antonio, which began football last season. No formal invitations have been offered, but the report says Charlotte and UTSA could join as early as 2013.

UTSA, however, has already accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference. Rose said last week that the 49ers are happy to remain in the Atlantic 10.

Charlotte 49ers, Davidson headed for WNIT clash?

The Charlotte 49ers and Davidson will both play first round Women’s National Invitation Tournament games on Thursday.

The 49ers (16-13), playing in the postseason for an 11th consecutive season and WNIT semifinalists last season, will play Wake Forest (19-13) at 7 p.m. Thursday in Halton Arena.

The Wildcats (22-9), who were Southern Conference regular-season co-champions, travel to James Madison (24-7).

The 49ers and Wildcats would play each other in a second-round game this weekend if they both win Thursday.

Other Thursday first-round games involving N.C. teams include High Point playing at N.C. State and Appalachian State at UNC Wilmington.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Judy Rose: Temple's exit doesn't change outlook; Niners keeping eye on CUSA-Mountain West

Charlotte 49ers athletics director Judy Rose said Thursday that the impending departure of Temple from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East doesn’t alter Charlotte’s commitment to the conference.

“It doesn’t change our outlook at all,” said Rose. “We’re definitely not concerned about the A10 in basketball. I’d be crazy to say that losing Temple wasn’t big, but there are plenty of other schools in this league that have excellent programs.”

The Atlantic 10 doesn’t sponsor football, and Rose is continuing to look for an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision league for football. The school begins play in the sport in 2013. She is also looking for a place for Charlotte to potentially land in the Football Bowl Subdivision somewhere down the line.

Charlotte’s football program will start as an FCS independent. The Southern Conference and Big South have said they wouldn’t extend football-only invitations for the 49ers, and the Colonial Athletic Association offered Charlotte a spot, but only in all sports.

If the 49ers are to move up to FBS, they’ll have to be invited by a conference and meet several NCAA-mandated criteria, including having an average attendance of at least 15,000 over a two-year rolling period.

The 49ers have already been mentioned in media reports as a possibility when and if a potential new league formed by a merger of Conference USA and the Mountain West adds programs. That league would also include current CUSA-members East Carolina and Marshall. Appalachian State, which is looking to move up to FBS, could also be a possibility.

“It could make sense, but we don’t know enough about it yet,” said Rose. “It would certainly be of interest and be something we’d have to look at. But we’re trying to find out as much as we can about all different kinds of scenarios, all of it being driven by football.”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Charlotte 49ers: Looking back, ahead

The Charlotte 49ers’ basketball season ended Tuesday with an 80-64 loss at Saint Joseph’s in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Let’s wrap up things up and look ahead:

(Note: I'll have a story with coach Alan Major and AD Judy Rose's take on the season soon).

In review

-- The 49ers’ record (13-17, 5-11 A-10) improved – somewhat – in Major’s second season. Their overall and league marks were both three games better than 2010-11 and they returned to the league tournament after failing to qualify last season. But after a promising 2-0 start in the league, the 49ers lost 11 of 14 regular-season conference games the rest of the way.

-- Center Chris Braswell continued to develop into one of he league’s top big men, averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. Freshman point guard Pierria Henry was a revelation, finishing among the nation’s leaders in steals and providing the 49ers with a tough defensive presence on the perimeter. The versatile DeMario Mayfield had a strong second-half, scoring and rebounding, and he often took over ball-handling duties for Henry.

-- But the 49ers never found offensive cohesiveness (shooting 41.2 percent for the season). Javarris Barnett was the closest thing Charlotte had to a No. 2 scorer behind Braswell, but Barnett’s senior season was marked with inconsistency. The backcourt depth Major hoped for vanished when Luka Voncina left school in December and senior Derrio Green’s defensive liabilities (something his streaky shooting couldn’t make up for) cost him a spot in the rotation.

Looking ahead

-- In Braswell and Henry, Charlotte will have two of the Atlantic 10’s top players at two key positions, and Mayfield and shooting guard Jamar Briscoe will also return to the starting lineup. But Braswell will clearly need help offensively, and there’s no veteran who has shown he can fill that gap.
It could come from Briscoe (the nation’s second-leading freshman scorer at N.C. Central three years ago), Mayfield or even E. Victor Nickerson, who got plenty of minutes as a freshman this season. 

Incoming freshman Shawn Lester was a proven scorer at Mooresville High, but counting on a freshman is dangerous business. Finding that No. 2 scorer will be a huge priority for Major.

Henry, for all his defensive prowess, will need to work on his offense in the offseason. If he can find – and make – more shots, Charlotte will be better.

-- Rebounding help is on the way from incoming freshmen Darion Clark (6-6) and Willie Clayton (6-8). And if Braswell’s eventual replacement in the post is to be recruiting-gamble Mike Thorne (who played three minutes this season), he’s going to have to quickly develop and contribute as a sophomore.

-- As Major continues his re-building effort, it can be argued that this the lowest point for 49ers basketball in nearly 30 years. The last time Charlotte had back-to-back losing seasons was 1985 and '86, Hal Wissel’s final season and Jeff Mullins’ first. Another three-game improvement would only move Charlotte into the middle of the Atlantic 10. Will that be enough to satisfy 49ers fans who are yearning for a return to the NCAA tournament, where Charlotte hasn’t been since 2005?     

Monday, March 5, 2012

Charlotte 49ers' Henry, Braswell pick up A-10 honors

Charlotte 49ers point guard Pierria Henry was named to the Atlantic 10's all-rookie team today, while forward Chris Braswell made the all-conference third team.

Henry is among the nation's leaders in steals and started every game he played this season. Braswell is averaging 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.

St. Bonaventure center Andrew Nicholson was named the league's player of the year; Temple's Fran Dunphy the coach of the year and Richmond's Kendall Anthony the rookie of the year.

First-team all-conference: Nicholson, Saint Louis' Brian Conklin, Temple's Ramone Moore, Xavier's Tu Holloway and UMass's Chaz Williams.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Can Charlotte 49ers beat Hawks again?

The 49ers will return to the scene of one of their five Atlantic 10 regular-season victories Tuesday when they face Saint Joseph's in a first-round conference tournament game at Hagan Arena.

Charlotte beat the Hawks 57-52 on Jan. 7 in what was the 49ers' second A-10 conference victory in as many tries. But after that 2-0 league start, Charlotte lost six straight in the league and ended up with a 5-11 record (13-16 overall) and the 12th seed in the tournament.

Saint Joseph's, which lost just three regular-season games at home (Charlotte, Saint Louis and Pennsylvania), went on to finish 19-12 and 9-7 and is the fifth seed.

Charlotte's victory in January wasn't pretty: The 49ers shot just 34 percent from the field. But they forced 16 Hawks turnovers and got a superb performance from freshman point guard Pierria Henry (11 points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists).

The 49ers-St. Joe's winner will play fourth-seed St. Bonaventure in a quarterfinal game Friday in Atlantic City, N.J.