OKULAJA HELPS GERMANY QUALIFY
* With impressive wins over Belgium and Ukraine, Germany has qualified for the 2005 European Championship in Serbia & Montenegro that will determine the European teams that will be eligible for the 2006 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Former North Carolina star Ademola Okulaja took over the role of Germany's top scorer from superstar Dirk Nowitzki in both contests. Okulaja produced 22 points and 10 rebounds in the 20-point win over Belgium (Nowitzki scored 11 with 14 boards), on Wednesday. Following the game, Okulaja stated: "I don't look at it like I stand in the shadow of Dirk Nowitzki. We all stand next to each other, not one behind the other," according to the German national team's offical website.
In Saturday's 95-69 thrashing of Ukraine, Okulaja again paced the Germans with 21 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Nowitzki helped the cause by scoring 19 and taking in seven missed shots to bring his team-leading totals through four games to 22.8 ppg and 10.3 rpg. Okulaja is second in both categories at 19.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Germany (4-0) will play the final two games of the 2005 Eurobasket qualifying round on the road next week against Hungary (2-2) on Wednesday and Belgium (1-3) on Saturday, but without Nowitzki, who is leaving the team to prepare for the start of Dallas Mavericks' training camp in October.
NO REST FOR SHAMMOND
* After three games in international competition for the Republic of Georgia, former Tar Heel Shammond Williams is averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals while playing the entire 40 minutes of each contest.
Last Wednesday, Williams tallied a game-high 27 points on 9-15 from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, and 5-for-6 on free throws along with six assists and seven turnovers, but that was not enough to keep Macedonia (2-0) from an 81-77 win over Georgia (1-1) in the Division B qualifying round for the 2007 European Championship qualification field.
Georgia (2-1) got back on the winning side on Saturday with an 87-61 thumping of Luxembourg (0-3). Even in the 26-point win, with a 23-6 fourth-quarter advantage, Williams never went to the bench as he compiled 15 points (5-18 FG, 1-8 3-pt. FG, 4-4 FT), five rebounds, nine assists, six steals and one blocked shot. For Luxembourg, former Georgia Tech star Alvin Jones had an outstanding performance with 25 points and 22 rebounds.
Georgia's bid to advance to Division A in 2006 for a chance to qualify for Eurobasket 2007 is on hold until September of 2005 with games against Macedonia (3-0), Finland (1-2) and Luxembourg (0-3). Only the group winner is promoted to Division A.
Reports continue to circulate overseas that Williams is negotiating to play in Turkey for Ulker Istanbul.
CURRY FINDS END ZONE
* The Oakland Raiders' 13-10 win over Buffalo yesterday featured "the debut of a new go-to receiver, deep threat Ronald Curry, that kept the ball moving and produced a highlight-film 43-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter," according to the game report filed by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The game also brought an end to legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice's remarkable run of 274 consecutive games with at least one catch -- a record streak that began almost two decades ago on Dec. 9, 1985.
Curry caught five passes for 89 yards and scored the Raiders' lone touchdown against Buffalo as he "emerged from the pack of young, fleet Raiders receivers," noted the Chronicle. Veteran quarterback Rich Gannon looked Curry's way twice on a third down play, "then hit paydirt. Backed up to 3rd-and-27 at the Bills' 43, Gannon found Curry streaking toward the end zone and hit him with a perfectly placed ball with 14:46 remaining in the first half."
"The ball was coming and Rich made a great throw, I made a good read and the guy (rookie safety Rashad Baker) bit,'' said Curry, after scoring his first NFL touchdown.
REPORT: DOHERTY TURNED DOWN FAYETTEVILLE
* According to The Fayetteville Observer last week, former Tar Heel head coach Matt Doherty was considered to be the frontrunner to become the new head coach of the Fayetteville Patriots of the National Basketball Development League, the NBA's minor league operation, but decided to stay with the College Sports Television (CSTV) cable network as a basketball analyst instead.
"I've got a nice deal with CSTV in hand that was a good financial package and it afforded me the opportunity to stay in Mooresville (N.C.) and not move away from my family for six months," Doherty told the paper. "The financial package and the opportunity to be with my family through the course of the year were tough to turn down."
Fayetteville has named former George Washington star and NBA veteran Mike Brown to be the team's new coach.
TEASLEY BACK IN WNBA PLAYOFFS
* For the third consecutive year, Nikki Teasley will play in the WNBA playoffs for the Los Angeles Sparks (25-9).
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