* Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors has decided to pass on a chance for a second gold medal at the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Carter cited a busy summer schedule that includes a wedding (his in mid-July) and youth basketball camps, as well as the impact that six more weeks of basketball would have on his body, according to the Toronto Star last week. "I don't think my body would take it," Carter told the Star. "This year I'm a little worn down, I feel it. The last time (in 2000) I felt it but, it was the Olympics, we had a good team, but it's playing, travelling, practicing, it's non-stop."
However, last night in New Orleans, Carter worked a little extra to pour in 42 points (13-20 FG, 12-13 FT) and hand out 12 assists to push the Raptors past the Hornets in OT, 121-120. The Toronto (30-39) win moves them within one game of Cleveland (31-38) for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Carter has a scoring average of 27.6 points per game in the 10 games he has played since returning from an ankle injury on March 2.
COTA ON A FINAL FOUR RUN
* Ed Cota is in somewhat familiar territory these days -- again in the midst of trying to reach the Final Four. This time Cota is on the Euroleague circuit with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania. Three games of the Top 16's six-game schedule have been played and Zalgiris is among three of the four teams of Group G tied for first-place at 2-1. Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) and Pamesa Valencia (Spain) are also 2-1, while Ulker Istanbul (Turkey) is 0-3.
Over the next three weeks, Cota and his Zalgiris teammates, which include Arvydas Sabonis and Tanoka Beard (Boise State), will face each Group G team one more time with the group winner advancing to the Euroleague Final Four in Tel Aviv, Israel beginning on April 29.
Zalgiris Kaunas has two home games remaining -- vs. Istanbul on March 25 and Valencia on April 1 -- but must travel to Maccabi Tel Aviv for the final game of the Top 16 round robin format on April 8.
A three-game sweep by one of the teams currently tied for first would earn that club a trip to the Final Four. Anything less will likely involve a tie-breaker (head-to-head or point differential) to determine the Final Four qualifier for Group G.
In Lithuanian League play, Zalgiris has a first-place mark of 30-1 and Cota leads the league in assists at 4.8 per game.
* For Vasco Evtimov it was just another day at the office. His office happens to be around the baskets of whatever arena he is playing in. Yesterday in Spain, Evtimov recorded his 12th double-double of the Spanish League (ACB) season when he scored 12 points (6-12 FG) and pulled down 10 boards to help Sevilla (12-16) to a 93-81 victory.
Three weeks back, Evtimov controlled 19 rebounds to go along with 14 points to claim the ACB's player of the week honor. The former Tar Heel, now overseas veteran, is the ACB's top rebounder at 10.3 per game followed by Ruben Garces (Providence) at 9.6, Brent Scott (Rice) and NC State's Kevin Thompson.
Evtimov is averaging a double-double with 10.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 27 minutes per contest through 27 games played.
FREDERICK, CHERRY STILL KICKING
* Former Tar Heel Brad Frederick ('99), now an assistant coach with Vanderbilt, has moved into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament following Vanderbilt's win over North Carolina State on Sunday. Vandy will meet Connecticut in the Phoenix regional semifinals on Thursday night (CBS).
* George Mason assistant coach and UNC grad Scott Cherry ('93) has also moved on in postseason play. After two wins in the NIT -- over Tennessee and Austin Peay -- George Mason (23-9) will visit Oregon on Tuesday (ESPN2, 11:30 p.m.). The GM - Oregon winner gets the Saint Louis at Notre Dame winner in the quarterfinals. The survivor of that bracket goes to New York City for the 2004 Postseason NIT semifinals on March 30.