Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Charlotte 49rs QB Johnson week-to-week

Charlotte 49ers sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson is listed as week-to-week after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against James Madison on Saturday.

Should Johnson not be ready for the 49ers’ next game Nov. 8 against third-ranked Coastal Carolina, he would be replaced by sophomore Lee McNeill, who completed 18-of-26 passes for 190 yards and an interception after Johnson was hurt.

Johnson has completed 117 of 225 passes for 1,941 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season and is Charlotte’s second-leading rusher with 383 yards and a touchdown.

In other 49ers injury news, coach Brad Lambert said sophomore linebacker Nico Alcalde isn't expected to miss any games after injuring his shoulder against James Madison. Alcalde will likely have surgery on the shoulder after the season, which means he will miss Charlotte's offseason and spring workouts. Alcalde had similar surgery on his other shoulder after last season and also missed winter and spring workouts.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lester leaving Charlotte 49ers to turn pro

Charlotte 49ers junior shooting guard Shawn Lester is leaving the basketball program to pursue a career in professional basketball, the school is announcing Thursday.

Lester, Charlotte’s second-leading scorer last season (11.9 points per game), is in the process of hiring an agent and will look hope to sign with a team overseas.

Lester played just one season at Charlotte out of Mooresville High. He was academically ineligible in 2012-13.

“Although we are saddened that Shawn will not be with us, we are fully supporting him and his family as he makes this transition," 49ers coach Alan Major said in a statement. "We thank him for his efforts, and he will be a Niner for life.”

Lester also averaged 4.2 rebounds in 31 games as Charlotte’s sixth man last season. He had 21 double-figure scoring games and was named to the all-tournament team at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, an event the 49ers won.

"I would like to thank my teammates and coaches for their support,” Lester said.  “This was a very difficult decision for me and my family. After much consideration and talking with my family and coaches, I feel it is in my best interest to begin my professional career."

Lester would have competed for playing time in a crowded 49ers backcourt that includes returning starters Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams, Florida-transfer Braxton Ogbueze, freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn and sophomore Ivan Benkovic.

Lester is the third player from last season’s 49ers team to leave the program prematurely. Guard Denzel Ingram and forward Marcus Bryan both transferred to UNC Wilmington. Two other players, forwards E. Victor Nickerson and Darion Clark, transferred after the 2012-13 season.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Charlotte 49ers coaches Major, Consuegra talk hoops; Madness is Thursday

Charlotte's Basketball Madness is set for 9 p.m. Thursday at Halton Arena. This year's event will be hosted by 49ers alum Jesse Garber, with dunks and other activities on the schedule. The first 400 students will receive a 49ers rally towel. Students will also try out their new end zone seating sections.


Charlotte 49ers basketball coaches Cara Consuegra and Alan Major held a joint news conference Tuesday. Here are excerpts:


Thoughts on practice so far:

“We’re working hard on team chemistry, leadership skills and the ability to be great teammates. We’re starting to see that payoff in how we get along on the court.

“But, basketball, we’ve got a ways to go. We’re still pretty young. We have four returners back that I feel pretty confident about, but it’s going to be really important for us to have them leading the way with their game experience.

“After that, we drop off a lot. The challenge for us as a team is to get everybody body on the same page. Get the players in the post, where I’m worried about our depth, get them up to speed quickly.

“We don’t have time to start slowly. Our goal is the postseason, particularly the NCAA tournament. In the women’s game, you have to win games early. There’s not a lot of time for us to worry about inexperience, we have to get up to speed and get going.

“But I’ll take that. We can teach Xs and Os and strategy, but it’s a great thing not to have to teach effort and attitude.

“When I speak in terms of inexperience, it doesn’t mean a lack of skill or ability. A lot of our young kids have great skill and ability, they just don’t have game readiness.

“I’m pretty excited about our freshman Griffin Dempsey, who has the ability to be the starting point guard for us. But she is still earning that role. But if you watched us in practice, it would be hard to point out that this is her first time as a collegiate point guard. She’s hit the floor running. She has a quick understanding of what we’re trying to do. She has a great IQ for the game.”

On playing in a tournament in Cancun, Mexico:

“This is a good opportunity for our student-athletes to have that they may never have had. It’s part of my responsibility that it’s not just about basketball. It’s about giving opportunities to our young ladies and we’re fortunate to have that.”

Prediction for the season?

“One of our core principles is to embrace the process. I would be going completely against that principle if I were to talk about where we’ll be in March. It’s not what we believe in or focus on.”


On practice so far:

“There are four things we have that I’m really excited about: experience, depth, character, length and size – we have versatility with that.

“We’re trying to establish our defensive intensity and offensive aggression slash patience – to understand how they mix and how they work together.”

“There’s a ton of encouragement in the gym, even in competitive situations. They’re dapping up, giving high fives – we won, you lost, we get a drink, you run. But there’s a lot of encouragement.”

On front court depth:

“With Mike (Thorne) and Willie (Clayton), it’s always good to have players who have been in the fire. Willie’s had one more year. Mike made that jump last year, now he has to match that jump and that’s more difficult. Now you throw in a hybrid, like Bernard (Sullivan) and Terrance (Williams), and they can play with Mike and Willie together or separately.

“Cameron (Blakley) made strides over the summer. He trusts more what he’s doing and is shooting the ball better.  He’s sustaining his ability to compete after his freshman season.

“With these five guys, we have pieces there that can go in a lot of different directions.”

The backcourt:

“It’s great to have a guy like Pierria (Henry) who triggers it all with all the guys between. Terrence is at the back end of all the perimeter guys. He can play inside and out. The big thing we’ve told all the guys is the ability to play with great speed and control, to take care of the ball, make open shots and defend your position. We’ve got some versatility back there.”

On freshman Keyshawn Woods:

“He was coached so well in high school by Byron Dinkins, a former 49ers legend. I give him a ton of credit on how well he developed him. He’s still learning and going through development, but he came in with a lot ingrained. He handles the ball well, has a good feel for the game, makes open shots and defends his position. He had a strong, good summer physically.

“He’ll go through some bumpy times at the beginning.”

Will he play point or shooting guard?

“He’ll be a guard. That’s we told him when we recruited him. I’m not taking a number out of my pocket and sticking it on your forehead. Over your four years here, your skill will define your position. He’s a combo, with skills for the point. He’s an all-around solid basketball player.”

What was the root of the problem last season, when the team struggled during conference play after winning the tournament in Puerto Rico?

“We coach humility, and I feel like we lost a part of that after Puerto Rico. But you’ve got to have some of that to learn. It’s hard. You don’t wake up and roll out of bed and be an outstanding team. It takes time. It’s a process. Part of our humility process was coming out of Puerto Rico and things not going so well.

“We can manage our success if we maintain our humility. That was a good lesson from last year.”

The nonconference schedule:

“It’s probably as challenging as we’ve had. We have some games on the road, at Elon, at Davidson, at George Washington and at Georgetown and Georgia Tech. So nonconference, we’re going to be tested for sure.

“We open with Penn State at Charleston, and if we’re fortunate enough to get to the championship game against Miami, we could face Miami again in 48 hours in our home opener.”

Turnovers were a consistent problem last season. What’s being done about that?

“The work comes more in a team setting. You can work on ball handling over the summer, but once you get in a group, you have more of an understanding of where the ball is supposed to go.

“Sometimes you make the right play and the defender is doing his job. Sometimes the offense makes the wrong play and the defense didn’t do anything at all.

“But everybody knows in practice what their turnover-assist ratio is on a daily basis. If it’s negative, you always know in practice where that’s coming from.

“It’s a big focus for us. We’ve always been a pretty good offensive rebounding team, and we’ve been able to get some of those possessions back because of that. Now we want to cut down the turnovers and still maintain the offensive rebounding. We can get some separation in those possessions.”

On Pierria Henry’s development:

“I’m very proud of his ability to communicate because a point guard or quarterback is an art form. He knows what his teammates’ buttons are. It’s like delivering the mail: some like the mail in the front door, through the slot. Some say to wrap it around a brick and throw it and throw it through the front window. Other guys say keep in the box out in the street, I’ll get it later. Every mailman knows how the mail is delivered.

“Mike Thorne wants his news and information given to him this way; Keyshawn Woods wants it that way.

“Pierria has done such a great job of learning how to do that since his freshman year. His experience, and he’s a warrior, he does so many things that are contagious. Anytime your point guard is your most experienced player, I feel like that can be an advantage.

Is the NCAA tournament the goal?

“It’s realistic and it’s our goal every year without a doubt. We’d be cheating our kids and staff if we sights any lower.

“But I’m probably more consumed with how I want things to be than what the outcome is. I’m more consumed with how we are every day.

“I tell them the best teams do the next right thing. If it’s about practice, the next right thing is to have a great practice. If it’s class, the next right thing is to go in, sit down, take your hat off, put your cell phone in the bag, be attentive and listen.

“If it’s community service, it might be putting your hand on the forehead of a kid who might be dying from cancer. Be thankful you get about $118,000 worth of scholarship, gear, hotels and food each year.

“The next right thing plays out in every fact of your life. The best teams, how they end up, string together a whole bunch of days of doing the next right thing.

“You’ve got to act like a champion before you become one. You’re not entitled or owed anything. It’s earned and it’s a steep price to pay.

"That said, we’d love to part of that. To be in the tournament is something we want. I know this sounds like coach-speak, but it’s important to do the right thing and stay on the rails.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

Charlotte 49ers getting help for basketball ticket sales

Facing steadily declining attendance in men’s basketball, the Charlotte 49ers announced Friday they are partnering with IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions.

The IMG ticket staff will have an office in Halton Arena, where it will work with the 49ers athletic department in an effort to increase attendance and ticket sales.

The 49ers’ average attendance last season was 5,190, the lowest in Halton’s 18-year history. Attendance has dropped steadily since the 2007-08 season, when Charlotte averaged 7,312 fans.

After the season, Charlotte chancellor Phil Dubois acknowledged the attendance problem.

“Attendance waxes and wanes,” Dubois told the Observer in March. “You’ve got to win to get attendance. It’s a matter of winning games and generating excitement.”
The 49ers, who have not been to the NCAA tournament since 2005, were 17-14 last season, their third straight winning season under coach Alan Major. They are picked to finish third in Conference USA this season.

IMG College has been handling Charlotte’s multimedia and sponsorship rights since 2011. The 49ers have also been using IMG’s ticket division for their fledgling football program. Charlotte had an average attendance of 15,541 in 15,314-seat Richardson Stadium in its inaugural season of 2014. The 49ers are averaging 15,186 in their two home games this season.

“This partnership will help us continue to build on our strong tradition of basketball while developing our football presence across the region and nation,” 49ers athletics director Judy Rose said in a statement. “The experience they bring will be extremely beneficial to both current and future 49ers fans.”



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Charlotte 49ers chosen 3rd in C-USA preseason poll; Henry all-conference

The Charlotte 49ers, who return four starters from last season's team that went 17-14, have been picked to finish third in the Conference USA men's basketball race by the league's coaches.

Charlotte guard Pierria Henry also made the 10-player preseason all-conference team. Henry was the only player in C-USA last season to average double figures in points (12.3) and more than five rebounds (5.1) and assists (5.8).

Louisiana Tech and Texas-El Paso were chosen to finish ahead of Charlotte, with Old Dominion the coaches' pick to finish fourth.

Preseason all-conference team:
Charlotte: Pierria Henry, Sr. G
Louisiana Tech: Raheem Appleby, Sr., G; Alex Hamilton, Jr., G; Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, Sr., G.
Old Dominion: Aaron Bacote, Jr., G.
Alabama-Birmingham: C.J. Washington, Jr. G.
Texas-El Paso: Vince Hunter, F, Soph.; Julian Washburn, Sr., F/G.
Western Kentucky: George Fant, Sr., F; T.J. Price, Sr., G.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

'Dig Pink' volleyball campaign underway for Charlotte 49ers

-- The Charlotte 49ers’ volleyball team, perennially a national leader in the “Dig Pink” breast cancer campaign, is hoping to raise more than $10,000 for the cause this month.

The 49ers, who have led the nation in fundraising two of the past three years, will host their “Dig Pink” match Oct. 10 against Florida International at Halton Arena, as well as several other events over the next few weeks.

-- Basketball practice begins next week: the 49ers women on Tuesday, the men Wednesday. The men's season opens Nov. 16 at Elon, with an exhibition Nov. 11 at Halton against Newberry; the women open Nov. 14 at Liberty, with a Nov. 5 exhibition against Catawba.

-- The 49ers’ men’s soccer team didn’t hurt its national rankings with a 3-1 victory against William & Mary on Tuesday night at Transamerica Field. Heading into the game, Charlotte’s RPI was seventh, while the 49ers were ranked 10th by the NCSAA, 12th by College Soccer Weekly and 16th by Soccer America. Defender Nick Barnhorst was named to’s team of the week for his assist and defensive work in a 2-0 victory against New Mexico. The 49ers (6-1) have won five in a row.

Next up for coach Kevin Langan’s team is a tough swing through South Carolina, with a Conference USA game Saturday at South Carolina and a contest next Tuesday against Clemson.

-- 49ers women’s soccer player Martha Thomas also made Top Drawer’s team of the week. She scored twice in the 49ers’ 2-1 victory Sunday at FIU. Thomas leads Charlotte with six goals and assists. The 49ers (4-4-1, 1-1 C-USA) play Marshall on Friday at Transamerica Field.

-- Charlotte’s baseball team will practice at Gastonia’s Sims Park on Thursday and Friday. Phillips Field in Hayes Stadium is being over-seeded, forcing the move. Both practices (Thursday 4-8 p.m.; Friday 1:30-5 p.m.) are free and open to the public.