COTA REACHES FIBA'S FINAL FOUR
* Ed Cota has worked his way into another Final Four. This time it will be in FIBA's Europe League (FEL) competition with Dynamo St. Petersburg (Russia). Cota scored 15 (7-12 FG, one three-pointer) and had five assists on Friday as Dynamo SPb closed out Mariupol (Ukraine) 2-0 with an 81-72 victory to advance with a league record of 18-0.
Art Long (Cincinnati) had a big impact on the game for Mariupol with an impressive double-double of 32 points and 18 boards. Kelly McCarty (Southern Miss.) had a team high 17 points for Dynamo.
* In other FEL action, Shammond Williams of UNICS Kazan (Russia) helped force a third and deciding game when he poured in 35 points, going 14-for-22 on field goals including hitting 6-of-8 from the arc, in a win over BC Khimki (Russia), 83-75, last Friday.
The signing of Shammond Williams has been the key acquisition for Kazan this season and he was at his best against BC Khimki. The former NBA guard was unstoppable in the second quarter, scorching Khimki for 14 points, according to fibaeurope.com's game report.
Williams then scored 11 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter, including a game breaking three-pointer. With 52 seconds remaining and a 75-73 lead Williams' clutch three put Kazan ahead 78-73 at the 30 second mark. Williams added nine rebounds to his dominating performance.
Williams and Kazan, the defending FEL champs, travel to Moscow to meet BC Khimki on Wednesday, needing a win to stay in the competition. The site of the FEL Final Four (April 27 & 28) will be selected from among the finalists when the other three participants are determined next week.
J. WILLIAMS TO PORTSMOUTH
* North Carolina senior forward Jawad Williams is among seven ACC players expected to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament from April 6 through April 9 in Portsmouth, Virginia, according to a press release by the tournament.
In addition to Williams, the tournament announced commitments from ACC seniors Daniel Ewing (Duke), Luke Schenscher (Georgia Tech), B.J. Elder (Georgia Tech), Elton Brown (Virginia), Devin Smith (Virginia), and Carlos Dixon (Virginia Tech) to be among the 64 players displaying their talent for NBA and European scouts.
Go to http://www.portsmouthinvitational.com for more information about the PIT.
LANG, CAPEL, OKULAJA UPDATES
* Former Tar Heels Kris Lang and Jason Capel played at Portsmouth in 2002.
Lang went on to play pro basketball in Poland with Anwil Wloclawek, last year he played in the NBDL for the Asheville Altitude and has just completed the 2004-05 season in Seoul, South Korea (KBL) with the SK Knights (24-30).
Lang was voted the KBL's Best Foreign Player, over last year's winner Charles Minlend (St, John's), and led the Knights with 21.9 points (7th), 11.6 rebounds (5th) and 2.3 blocks (1st) in 54 games played. He was also an All-Defense first team selection.
* Capel played two seasons in the NBDL with Fayetteville and is now playing in Japan (JBL), where his Tokyo-based Aisin Sea Horses (22-6) are in the Japan Super League finals (currently down 0-2 in a best-of-five series).
Capel will be in the league's all-star game in Tokyo on March 31 along with teammates J.R. Henderson (UCLA) and Eric McArthur (UC Santa Barbara).
* Spain's Pamesa Valencia (14-11) got some good news Saturday when Ademola Okulaja showed he is recovering from a knee injury and surgery, as he scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds during 27 minutes in a Spanish League win over Caja San Fernando (11-14), 84-78. It was Okulaja's best performance in four games since returning on February 27 after having knee surgery in December.
Okulaja is getting healthy just in time to help Valenicia in the ULEB Cup (a competition among 42 European teams) semifinals against Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania) in a two-game series. Pamesa Valencia has a home game on Tuesday (March 22) and visits Vilnius, Lithuania for the second game next Tuesday (March 29). The 2005 ULEB Cup final is scheduled for April 19 in Charleroi, Belgium.
FORTE FILLING IT UP AGAIN
* After not playing pro basketball for a year and missing the first 19 games of the Asheville Altitude's NBDL 2004-05 season, former Tar Heel high-scorer Joseph Forte might just be getting back in stride. In his 30th game for Asheville (22-17) on Saturday, Forte came off the bench, for the 28th time, and led all scorers with 25 points in a 106-85 thrashing of the Florida Flame.
Forte managed the season-high of 25 points by making 11-of-23 from the field (that includes making his lone 3-point attempt) and going 2-of-3 on free throw tries in just 25 minutes of playing time. Forte now has a scoring average in double figures, 10.1, for the first time this season to go along with 19.7 minutes, 2.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
"Joe looked real comfortable coming off the bench. That could be a good role for him at the next level," Asheville coach Joey Meyer told the Asheville Citizen-Times two weeks ago after a 17-point performance in 28 minutes by Forte.
JONES TO BE HONORED AT FINAL FOUR
* Former Tar Heel and pro basketball star Bobby Jones has been selected as the winner of the 2005 Coach John Wooden "Keys to Life" Award. The award is given annually to a basketball figure for best displaying outstanding character and leadership at home, on the court and in the community.
Jones will be presented the award on April 2 in St. Louis during the Final Four at the 2005 Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast. Jones is active with a youth program -- 2XSalt Ministries -- that features sports camps and a mentoring program in Charlotte, N.C.
YOUNG JORDAN A PROSPECT?
* Check this note from a column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week:
"Michael Jordan's son, Marcus Jordan, has been described as the best eighth-grade basketball player in the state of Illinois. We can't tell you much about the seventh-grade and sixth-grade crop of basketball players in Illinois, but there must be a Web site somewhere tracking these middle school magicians. But apparently, the 6-foot 2-inch Marcus Jordan appears to be a high-level prospect."
The Milwaukee-based columnist then recommended that Sen. Herb Kohl sell the Milwaukee Bucks to Jordan and for Marquette coach Tom Crean to sell Jordan on the benefits of the Marquette basketball program. Jordan could then see his son's college home games in the same building (Bradley Center) that his pro team would call home.
Let the recruiting battle begin.
BLAZE REPLACE BROWN; REID TO COMETS
* After being sidelined with a knee injury, Coretta Brown has been replaced on the roster of the National Women's Basketball League's Chicago Blaze (9-9) by guard Kelley Gibson (Maryland) of the WNBA's Houston Comets.
Brown, a member of the WNBA's Indiana Fever, played 13 games for the Blaze and averaged 20 minutes, 6.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in the NWBL.
* Former Tar Heel Tracy Reid, a WNBA veteran and 1998 Rookie of the Year, did not play in the WNBA last year, but has been signed by the Houston Comets for 2005.