JAWAD, JACKIE MEET IN PORTSMOUTH
* UNC seniors Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel arrived in Portsmouth, Va. after accomplishing one goal -- a national championship -- and in pursuit of another -- getting invited to the NBA's Chicago Pre-Draft Camp that starts on June 7.
Manuel got off to a flying start in his first game on Thursday, making 10-of-12 shots from the field, pulling down six boards and swatting four shots.
"He was easily the most athletic player we've seen so far, but he also played some outstanding defense, put the ball on the floor and finished, there was simply nothing that he didn't show," noted DraftCity.com's reporter after Manuel tallied a game-high 22 in an 86-81 loss. "Manuel put himself firmly on the NBA draft radar with the skills he showed today."
In game two on Friday, Manuel had a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double with a perfect 8-8 from the stripe. That was against Jawad Williams' squad, and another loss, 91-88. The second defeat ended Manuel's run at the PIT with 36 points in 56 minutes while shooting 13-19 from the floor (missing his lone try from long range) and 10-11 free throws with 16 rebounds. Manuel told DraftCity.com he thought he showed the scouts in Portsmouth his offensive capabilities. "They know I can play defense, and I play hard, but they may have thought I was kind of suspect regarding what I can do on the offensive end of the floor," Manuel said.
Williams had a bit of a slow start at the tourney. Just eight points (3-8 FG, 2-3 FT) with only one board in 25 minutes in a 103-69 drubbing in his first game on Thursday.
Things picked up for Williams in game two (against Manuel's team). He poured in 20 points (9-17 FG, 2-3 FT) and cleared 10 rebounds in 35 minutes in the 91-88 win. Game three on Saturday was an uneven 17-point, 4-rebound effort by Williams over 29 minutes. All 17 points (7-14 FG, 3-4 FT) came in the final 10 minutes being on the wrong side of a 122-100 rout.
"A couple of good shots rimmed out for him, the three ball wasn't falling, all of a sudden he had an airball, and then it was if he was absolutely invisible until the game was basically done. Then a strange thing happened ... he came back in and started looking for his shot again. His first field goal of the game came off a monster put-back dunk and that was the spark that got him going," according to the reporter from DraftCity.com. "He started scoring around the rim with some aggressive moves, and then moved his game outside to show off his jumper and spin moves."
When asked by DraftCity.com if it was it hard coming off a national championship straight to the PIT to impress scouts, Williams said, "No, if you love the game of basketball you can always come out and play your best no matter what the circumstances are." Williams hit 19-of-39 FGs, was 0-of-9 on threes, with 45 points, 20 boards and three assists in 89 minutes over three games.
Kentucky's Chuck Hayes was named the MVP of the event. Check out www.draftcity.com for more about Williams and Manuel at the 2005 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.
COTA SALUTES HEELS, ENJOYS RUSSIA
* Former Tar Heel Ed Cota just concluded the Russian Superleague "A" regular season on Saturday with an 81-75 win over Khimki Moscow Region (16-8, fourth-place). His Dynamo St. Petersburg club finished the season at 15-9, in fifth-place. However, the playoffs and the Cup of Russia games still await, with a trip to Nicosia, Cyprus coming up for the FIBA Europe League All-Star Game on Thursday (Shammond Williams is also scheduled to be in that game). And then to Istanbul, Turkey, for the FIBA Europe League Final Four on April 27 & 28.
But Cota was able to keep up with the Tar Heels and that sensational 75-70 win over Illinois last week. "Carolina played a great game. I liked the way the team came together for the tournament, and I am very happy for them. Carolina was long overdue for a national championship," Cota told Inside Carolina over the weekend. "Hopefully, all the underclassmen will stay in school so that we can win it again next year."
As we noted last week, Cota was interviewed recently by a reporter for Sport Express (a Russian sports daily) on a variety of topics. Here's a sample from that article:
Soviet Express: Compare the Europe League run by FIBA (FEL) with the ULEB Euroleague, where you appeared in three previous seasons?
Cota - The quality of play in the Euroleague of ULEB is better. The leading clubs of Italy and Spain play there. Plus CSKA of Moscow, Russia (The Central Sports Klub of the Army), is today's leader of European basketball. However, the Final Four of FIBA's Europe League also has strong teams.
Soviet Express: Your team -- Dynamo St. Petersburg -- passed through the FEL tournament without defeat so far, 18 victories in 18 matches! Why in the Russian Superleague "A" has your club not been as stable (15-9)?
Cota - The Russian league has a limitation on the number of imports (non-Russians) who can simultaneously be in the game (note: not more than three). Nothing against the Russian players of my team, but their experience is not sufficient. Nevertheless, the coach is forced to use them even in critical situations - in order to observe the rule.
Soviet Express: What result by Dynamo SPb in the national championship playoff will please you?
Cota - Only first or second-place. I know that in the semifinals of the playoffs we, most likely, will play CSKA Moscow (24-0). I believe that we are capable of that.
Soviet Express: Are you looking forward to a duel with point guard Melvin Booker (Missouri) of Khimki (first round playoff opponent and FEL Final Four semifinal opponent)?
Cota - Certainly. Booker is a big player for them. But I don't have any specific problem with him. In recent years I have played against many excellent playmakers. For example, Shammond Williams from UNICS (17-7, third-place). In my view, he is more of a challenge than Booker.
Soviet Express: Is this because you and Williams were together at North Carolina?
Cota - Yes, we are old friends. Although this does not prevent me from sensibly evaluating the abilities of Shammond. That he is stronger than Booker, this is a fact (he laughs).
Soviet Express: You achieved the staggering result in four seasons in the NCAA of becoming the first player in history to collect more than 1,000 points, with more than 1,000 assists and 500 rebounds.
Cota - I know. However, for me it is more important the fact that with me North Carolina went three times to the Final Four. Although, we did not win the championship.
Soviet Express: Why after college were you not drafted by any club in the NBA?
Cota - Probably, because then I did not concentrate totally on basketball. I was in the CBA (Gary Steelheads) first. Then I went to Belgium (Oostende). The NBA rapidly forgot about me. After two years in Lithuania with Zalgiris, I restored my image. But some injuries brought me down. In 2003, I stretched my groin muscle. This past summer, it was a knee injury. In both cases, I was prevented from being on an NBA summer league team.
Soviet Express: Are you pleased with the new team, and the city?
Cota - Certainly. Everything here pleases me. The team is friendly and St. Petersburg is a very beautiful city. It is considerably more so than Kaunas, Lithuania. Here, I frequently meet Americans, who are tourists or here to study.
Soviet Express: What place in St. Petersburg do you love to go to most of all?
Cota - The Japanese restaurant called Kudo. It is always full of Americans.
Soviet Express: Who invited you to be with Dynamo St. Petersburg this past summer?
Cota - David Blatt (St. Petersburg coach) talked to my agent. We had a personal conversation. Blatt convinced me that Dynamo SPb was the best move for my career. And I'm not sorry about making the selection. We have an outstanding team. And Blatt is an outstanding coach.
Soviet Express: Is Blatt the best coach in your career?
Cota - ... (a pause) No, the best was Dean Smith (the famous coach of North Carolina, that gained a record quantity of victories in NCAA - 879). Blatt is in second place.
Soviet Express: Have any of your relatives been to St. Petersburg yet?
Cota - No, that would be very difficult for them. But my girlfriend will arrive here very soon and will stay with me until the end of the season.
*Note: The interview content was published in Russian and has been translated here to English using online translators. This should be considered as a general translation of the original interview and not as a verbatim translation.
GUTHRIDGE TO BE HONORED IN KANSAS
* Former North CarolIna assistant coach and head coach Bill Guthridge will be inducted in the State of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on April 16 in Wichita, Kansas. He will be introduced by former Kansas State coach and longtime NBA assistant coach Tex Winter.
FORTE TO NBDL FINAL FOUR
* The NBDL regular season concluded on Saturday, as the Asheville Altitude (27-21) edged Huntsville (27-21) 96-94. Joseph Forte started for Asheville and in 27 minutes contributed 12 points, five boards and six assists.
With the win, Asheville became the league's two-seed (via head-to-head tiebreaker) heading into the four-team NBDL Champion Tournament next week. The Altitude will host the Huntsville Flight on Saturday (4/16, 7 p.m.) at the Asheville Civic Center. Columbus (30-18), won the regular season and will host Roanoke on Saturday. The winners will meet for the tournament title on Saturday, April 23 on the court of the highest seed.
For the 2004-05 NBDL season, Forte started six of the 39 games he played with per game averages of 11.9 points, 22.6 minutes, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. He had season-highs of 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Check NBA-TV for tape-delayed telecasts of the tournament.
McCANTS TO ANNOUNCE WEDNESDAY
* He's not officially a Tar Heel Pro yet, but according to Sunday's Denver Post, Tar Heel junior Rashad McCants was at the Detroit Pistons' practice in Miami on Saturday. The Pistons have the NBA's largest Carolina connection with head coach Larry Brown, assistants Phil Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan, and forward Rasheed Wallace all on Detroit.
McCants said he will have a news conference Wednesday at the Dean Dome to announce whether he will declare for the NBA Draft, the paper reported. McCants said it would be hard for him to return to school, and added, "I'm doing what's best for my family."
Numerous reports, including quotes from teammate Sean May and coach Roy Williams, that McCants will opt to turn pro.
McINNIS: VIDEO STAR?
* According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jeff McInnis is part of the upcoming And 1 Mix Tape, Volume 8. The video will be out this summer.
"They followed me around Cleveland," McInnis told the Plain Dealer. "It was a day-in-the-life feature. I didn't do too much because I stay at home anyway. They followed me to the arena, home and to the store."
McInnis isn't ruling out being on camera again. "There's life after basketball," said McInnis with a smile, according to the article. "So you never know what can happen."