Tar Heel Pros News & Notes

This week's update on former Tar Heel hoopsters ... Pictured -- Ademola Okulaja.


* The EuroBasket 2005 (aka the FIBA European Championship) began on Friday in Serbia-Montenegro. Just before the German national team departed for the competition it was determined Ademola Okulaja was not sufficiently recovered from a knee injury and would not be on the roster.

At his official website – www.okulaja.com – Okulaja informed viewers that although he thinks his knee is getting better, it is not strong enough to play the seven games over nine days the schedule requires at the European Championship. "It is the first [national team] competition since 1995 that I will miss. I will go to Cologne [Germany] and get specific rehab and get my knee back in perfect form," Okulaja noted.

Germany went 2-1 (2nd) in Group A over the weekend without Okulaja and moves into the Elimination Round against Turkey on Tuesday. The winner meets Slovenia in the Quarterfinals on Friday.

Former Tar Heel star Dante Calabria is with the Italian national team, but went into Sunday's game having scored only nine points (3-13 FG) in Italy's first two games against Germany and Russia. But Calabria, playing as a naturalized citizen, came to life on Sunday versus Ukraine as he hit four three-pointers in the first quarter and eventually scored 20 points (7-13 FG, 4-9 3-pt. FG, 2-2 FT) to lead Italy over Ukraine 99-62.

With a 2-1 (3rd) record in Group A, Italy goes to the Elimination Games against Croatia on Tuesday. Spain awaits the winner in the Quarterfinals on Friday. The Semifinals will be played on Saturday and the Finals on Sunday.

In three games played, Calabria is averaging 23.3 minutes, 9.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He shot 10-26 (.385) overall from the field, 5-17 (.294) from the three-point line and 4-for-5 (.800) from the free throw line.


* Former Tar Heel Steve Bucknall has signed on for what will be his 17th pro season. Bucknall will return to play in England for the Leicester Riders and will also have duties as an assistant coach.

Riders' head coach Karl Brown, a former player at Georgia Tech, noted at the team website, "Steve is probably the most successful English player of all-time," said Brown. "His career speaks for itself and in many ways he paved the way for English players in the United States with his performances at high school, college and in the NBA."

Bucknall has not played a full season in England's top league – the BBL – since he was with the London Towers in 2000-2001. Last season Bucknall was in France (Pro B) with Olympique Antibes. Prior to that he played three seasons in Greece.

Karl Brown has also added Georgia Tech's Anthony McHenry, a 6-7 guard/forward, to play for the Riders. The BBL season will begin on September 24.


* Union Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia has signed center Vasco Evtimov to a one-year contract. Evtimov spent time last season with Caja San Fernando in Spain before being sent on loan to Lottomatica Roma in Italy.

Evtimov was sidelined last season shortly after arriving in Italy when medical tests revealed a possible heart condition related to an arrythmia (an irregular heartbeat or abnormal heart rate).

The former Tar Heel of Bulgarian and French citizenship has also played in France, Russia and Greece since leaving North Carolina.

Evtimov's new team is based in Slovenia's capital city of Ljubljana and will play a domestic schedule, an Adriatic League schedule and also will be involved in Euroleague, Europe's highest level of competition. Former Tar Heels Derrick Phelps (GHP Bamberg - Germany), Shammond Williams (F.C. Barcelona - Spain) and Dante Calabria (Armani Jeans Milano - Italy) will also play in Euroleague this season.


* The Bergen (N.J.) Record reported last week that "pending any last-minute snafus," Dave Hanners and Phil Ford will be joining the New York Knicks' coaching staff as assistants to Larry Brown. Herb Williams, the head coach in New York prior to Brown, will also be part of the coaching staff.

Assistant coach Mike Malone officially left for Cleveland last week, and returning assistants Mark Aguirre and George Glymph could be reassigned within the organization, the paper reported.

Hanners has been with Brown since his days in Philadelphia. Ford was with Brown last season in Detroit, his first as an NBA assistant coach. NBA training camps are scheduled to begin on October 4.

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