Friday, November 21, 2014

Baseball operations temporarily halted, players suspended in hazing investigation

Baseball operations at UNC Charlotte have temporarily stopped and several 49ers players suspended as an investigation into hazing in the baseball program continues.

"We remain in close contact with members of the team and their families and are listening closely to their concerns," UNCC chancellor Phil Dubois said Friday in a statement. "The safety of our students is the foremost priority of the university."

The names of the suspended players weren't released. According to school spokesman Tom Whitestone, baseball operations are defined as player activities such as offseason conditioning, skills instruction and meetings. Coaches are still working.

In a text message to the Observer earlier this week, 49ers coach Loren Hibbs said he could not comment until the investigation is completed.

In Friday's statement, Dubois said the investigation is being conducted outside the athletics department by UNC Charlotte's Student Affairs Division under the direction of the Office of Legal Affairs in accordance with the university's Code of Student Responsibility.

In the student code, hazing is defined as "any activity, intentional or unintentional, by a Student, Student Group, or Student Organization, related to membership in a Student Group or Organization, that endangers the mental, physical, or emotional health of a person, regardless of whether such person has consented to participation in the activity. Any actions that demean, disgrace or embarrass a person may also be considered hazing."

Dubois said more information would be released "as the investigation allows."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Charlotte 49ers vs. Newberry: What to watch for

A few things to look for at Charlotte's men's basketball exhibition Tuesday against Newberry:

Backcourt rotation: The 49ers have loads of backcourt depth, and there will be any number of combinations coach Alan Major can play with. Get used to seeing senior point guard Pierria Henry and Florida-transfer Braxton Ogbueze on the court together. How they mesh will be a factor in how the 49ers' season plays out. This will be their one season together, with Ogbueze poised to take over Henry's role over the next few years. With the losses of Denzel Ingram and Shawn Lester, freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn figure to be part of the equation -- especially Woods, who might make people forget about the loss of Lester pretty quickly.

From long distance: Ingram and Ben Cherry were two of Conference USA's top 3-point shooters last season. At least two players from the guard group will need to fill that void. Henry (31.6 percent) and Terrence Williams (28.1) have never been reliable outside shooters. Ivan Benkovic showed promise two seasons ago, but he's likely going to be rusty after missing last season with a back injury.

Big and small: The 49ers will have the option of going big -- with 6-11 center Mike Thorne, 6-8 power forward Willie Clayton and 6-8 Bernard Sullivan in the front court; or small, with Clayton, Sullivan and perhaps Williams, Henry and Ogbueze in the backcourt. That smaller group is more in tune to Conference USA's style of play. But Thorne, if he continues his development, can be a significant factor for the 49ers in the post.

Last season's worries: Can the 49ers take better care of the ball (they averaged 14.7 turnovers and shoot free throws better (64.8 percent)? Clayton in particular struggled from the line, making 49.4 percent. Major said those issues have been worked on in the offseason. Now it's time to start finding out.