Monday, July 30, 2007

Niners get the boot

A growing number of Charlotte 49ers men's basketball players are starting to employ protective medical boots as part of their summer wear.

Add sophomore center Phil Jones and sophomore point guard DiJuan Harris to the list of 49ers players who have to spend time with a foot in the soft cast.

Jones, a 6-foot-10 center, has a stress reaction in his right foot. A stress reaction is a sports-related injury usually as a result of overuse which can eventually lead to a fracture.

Harris' right foot is also in a boot. He has a possible stress fracture in the area under his toes. He is scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging test on Tuesday. Neither injury is considered serious.

Both were assisting in coach Bobby Lutz's basketball camp Monday at Halton Arena, along with several other current former 49ers players.

Redshirt freshman forward Charles Dewhurst spent most of last season in protective medical boot as a result of a high ankle sprain. He wore it for about a week again this summer, when he slightly sprained the same ankle.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Q&A with Gaby Ngoundjo

Gaby Ngoundjo (pronounced NA-GOON-JO) is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward who led Little Rock (Ark.) Christian Academy to the Arkansas 3A state championship game two of the past three seasons, including a state title in 2004-05.

A native of Cameroon, Ngoundjo is one of three incoming true freshmen for the Charlotte 49ers this season. The others are forward An'Juan Wilderness from Dunwoody, Ga., and shooting guard Javarris Barnett of Charlotte.

Ngoundjo was recruited by Charlotte, Purdue, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Illinois State, among others. He arrived on campus this summer and has been attending class and playing in the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation/Jeff McInnis Summer League at the Grady Cole Center.

I caught up with Gaby following a series of pickup games last Friday at Belk Gymnasium on the UNC Charlotte campus.

Q: How did you get interested in Charlotte?
Ngoundjo: I got scholarship offers from a lot of schools -- Illinois State, New Mexico, Charlotte. My last visit was here at Charlotte. I wasn't planning on coming here. Coming here just opened my eyes. I saw it was the right place for me. First of all, I like coach (Bobby Lutz). I like where I live. I like the campus, the dorms and the players here. I am fortunate to play with guys like Lee (Goldwire), Ian (Andersen), An'juan (Wilderness) and Phil (Jones). I think we are going to be good this year.

Q: Do you think you're getting a head start by starting school and playing with some of your teammates this summer?
Ngoundjo: Definitely, I can already feel the connection. I don't know a lot about the other guys, the ones from juco (Lamont Mack and Charlie Coley). I think we are going to be fun to coach. I know we have a long way to go. We have to play hard, work hard and run. But we can do it.

Q: Will this be a fast-paced team?
Ngoundjo: With speed guys like DiJuan (Harris) and Lee, it's going to be a fast break almost every time.

Q: Do you consider yourself a defensive specialist?
Ngoundjo: I'm comfortable both ways, offense and defense. For me, I put defense first. Without defense you can't win. Defense wins games. You have to play defense first. If you don't rebound, you're going to get beat.

Q: Tell me what you think of strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene?
Ngoundjo: I love Preston because he is so hard on me. (Friday) morning I had to run an extra 10 laps and he is extra hard on me. I like that. He is pushing me and pushing me. I know I have to do it to get in shape and I will do it.

Q: Predictions on the season?
Ngoundjo: I want to go to the NCAA Tournament and have fun. I want to make a good connection with the other guys and the school. I like the college atmosphere.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Niners look good in pickup games

Some observations from watching three pickup games involving Charlotte 49ers players Friday afternoon at Belk Gymnasium:

  • Leemire Goldwire is pushing newcomer DiJuan Harris hard in the pickup games. Harris, a Charlotte native and sophomore transfer from junior college, needs the workout to prepare for the start of the season. Harris may well be called on to start -- or at least play significant minutes -- at the point before Pepperdine transfer Michael Gerrity becomes eligible in mid-December.

  • Freshman 6-foot-7 forward Gaby Ngoundjo has been tapped as a defensive specialist and his rebounding and shot blocking are impressive. But Ngoundjo also has a nice touch around the basket on offense and can throw down some nasty dunks with the best of them.

  • Speaking of an offensive touch, sophomore center Phil Jones looks to have a nice jumper out to about 15 feet or so. Jones and Ngoundjo on the court at the same time would definitely give the 49ers an inside game they were lacking last season. Jones' wing span is 7-4, Ngoundjo's is 7-3.

  • Goldwire, Ian Andersen and Sean Phaler were all bombing away from the outside and looked good doing it. Phaler is also showing himself to be an effective passer and finding the open man on the break.

  • Rising junior Jerrell Lewis recently suffered an injury to the lateral collateral ligament of his left knee. He does not require surgery, but rather is going through rehabilitation. Lewis said he will be ready to play by the start of the season.

  • Redshirt freshman Charles Dewhurst is wearing a protective boot on his right foot. He said he suffered a mild sprain and expects to lose the boot by the beginning of next week.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Niners make All-Atlantic 10 lists

Six members of the defending Atlantic 10 champion Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer team have been voted preseason All-Atlantic 10 by the league's 14 head coaches.

Seniors forward Nikki Labuda (Climax, N.Y.) and midfielder Lindsey Ozimek (Charlotte) were named to the preseason All-Atlantic 10 team.

Four members of the 49ers nationally-ranked recruiting class were named to the preseason Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team. Named to the team were freshmen defenders Whitney Bryant (Marietta, Ga.), Katie Davies (Xenia, Ohio), Samantha Huecker (Crestwood, Ky.) and Ashley Roberto (Fairfield, Ohio).

Charlotte’s 2007 recruiting class was ranked among the nation’s Top 20 by Soccer Buzz, which is the highest ranking ever for the program. The 49ers' recruiting class was ranked 19th-best by Soccer Buzz. Four members of the highly touted recruiting class were named to the A-10 All-Rookie team.

Bryant, Davies, Huecker, Labuda, Roberto, Ozimek and the rest of the Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer team kickoff the 2007 season when they host The Citadel at Transamerica Field on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Help Cass drag in drag

Many of you will remember Cass Ferguson, who just graduated from Charlotte and spent the past four seasons as a manager on the men's basketball team.

He has moved on and currently works for the Winston-Salem Warthogs minor league baseball team. The organization is taking on a unique fundraising activity on behalf of the Special Olympics of Forsyth County and Cass could use your help.

All of the men who work in the Warthogs front office, including the mascot, Wally the Warthog, are participating in a fundraising drive in which the four who raise the most money will perform the infield drag "in drag" during the Warthogs' Aug. 3 game against the Potomac Nationals.

During the rest of this month, fans can donate money to whichever man they would like to see "Drag in Drag." Fans can vote at Warthogs games at Ernie Shore Field or by calling the front office at (336) 759-2233 to place donations. All proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics of Forsyth County.

I know many of you recall Cass dashing to the locker room at top speed to deliver halftime stats. How well he maneuvers in drag we'll have to see.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Q&A: Leemire Goldwire

Leemire Goldwire, a rising senior with the Charlotte 49ers, returned to the Charlotte area this week after a summer visit to his home state of Florida.

Goldwire, the only full-time starter returning for the 49ers next season, made his debut Tuesday night at the Grady Cole Center playing in the Mecklenburg Park and Recreation/Jeff McInnis Summer League.

He struggled with his shot some and seemed a little uncomfortable launching 3-pointers utilizing the NBA 3-point line. He played on a team with former teammate De'Angelo Alexander and former 49ers 3-point ace Demon Brown.

Goldwire had his own cheering section Tuesday night, with wife, Lakin, and three-month-old son, Leemire Goldwire III. Lee Jr, also known as "Tray," seemed quite content in the noisy gym and did well for his first media interview, smiling the entire time (no words though).

I caught up with Goldwire for a few questions following his game Tuesday night.
Q: What have you been doing this summer?

Goldwire: Just a lot of working out and working on my overall game. I'm very, very excited about the start of the season. I can't wait. I'm really happy with the guys that we'll have. We can build toward a conference championship now; everybody gets along with each other.
Q: What kind of things are you doing now that you are back on campus?

Goldwire: We've been running. We've been playing pickup together, just playing together to try to get a feel for each other. I just got back so I haven't had the chance to see many of the new guys play. This was my first game and I plan on coming back a lot and watching everybody play.
Q: How's fatherhood?

Goldwire: Oh, it's great. He is talking a lot, and talking loud. He's not talking words but making a lot of noises. It's coming along good. We've had some long nights, but generally he's been pretty good. I've changed a lot of diapers and gotten a lot of bottles ready. I look at it as part of being a man and taking care of your family. They depend on me and I'm going to be there for them.
Q: A lot of new players coming in next season. A lot of other teams really won't know what you guys will have. Do you see that as an advantage?

Goldwire: I think it will be an advantage. I suspect a lot of teams will try to focus on me but we're going to have a lot of different options on offense. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Q&A: Curtis Withers

The thunder you may have heard Monday night wasn't all coming from the storms in the Charlotte area.

Several of the loudest sounds came from a handful of vicious dunks by former Charlotte 49ers star Curtis Withers at the Grady Cole Center.

Withers, who played for Charlotte from 2002 to 2006, helped the McNasty Team, led by Charlotte Bobcats guard Jeff McInnis, to an overtime victory against Bobby Jackson's All-Stars, part of the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Jeff McInnis Summer League action.

The 22-year-old native of Charlotte played this past season overseas in Turkey and is preparing to make a trip to France for his next professional basketball outing.

Withers averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game during his career with Charlotte. He was named All-Atlantic 10 first team his senior year and first team All-Conference USA his sophomore and junior seasons. I caught up with Withers for a few questions following Tuesday night's game.

Q: What's going on in your basketball career?

I came back from playing in Turkey where I averaged about 15 (points) and 12 (rebounds). I understand the NBA and how it works and all now. It takes a lot of patience and I'm only 22. It's been a humbling experience. I think though it will be just a matter of time. I need to play well on this team, produce, put up numbers and help them win a championship.

Q: This will be your second trip overseas to play professionally. What is it like over there?

I had played overseas briefly as part of the U.S. national team but it wasn't long term like this is. It's a lovely life. You can pick up a new language. You experience new cultures. It helps you develop as a person. As far as the basketball, playing foreign ball is like the juco for the NBA. It's a place to re-establish a name and develop in areas you are lacking.

Q: Is Charlotte still your home?

Oh yeah. I saw Coach (Lutz). I've played up there some. Other than that, it's been the same routine and waiting for an opportunity.

Q: What's the difference between playing in the NBDL and playing overseas?

It's mostly a financial decision. You understand when you play pro ball it's entertainment, it's a business. Both are beneficial. It's just a matter of which one you want to do.

-- Jim Utter

Thursday, July 5, 2007

49ers tops in A-10 recruiting

There is plenty of quantity to the Charlotte 49ers' incoming men's basketball recruiting class, but at least one recruiting Web site likes the quality as well.

HoopScoop Online ranks Charlotte the top recruiting class in the Atlantic 10, followed closely by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Temple and Dayton. Charlotte was judged on six recruits who had an average 4.2 rating (out of 10). That was the second-highest average rating in the league behind Xavier's 5.5 rating for its two recruits.

Charlotte and Xavier tied for having the league's top recruit. 49ers recruit junior college star Charlie Coley, a 6-foot-7 wing/foward, received an 8 rating. Also receiving an 8 was Xavier's Charlie Bronson, a 6-9 center and junior college transfer.

The 49ers have three additional players beginning their first season of eligibility this year, who were not used in HoopScoop's ranking -- Pepperdine transfer Michael Gerrity, redshirt freshman Charles Dewhurst and center Phil Jones, who was declared ineligible by the NCAA last season.

Here is HoopScoop Online's ranking of the men's basketball recruiting classes in the A-10 (with number of new players rated):
Charlotte (6)
UMass (8)
Rhode Island (5)
Temple (5)
Dayton (4)
George Washington (5)
LaSalle (5)
Richmond (6)
Xavier (2)
St. Bonaventure (4)
Duquesne (2)
St. Joseph's (2)
Saint Louis (1)
Fordham (1)