Tar Heel Pros News & Notes

This week's update on former Tar Heel hoopsters ... Pictured -- Jawad Williams.


* Jawad Williams made his overseas pro debut yesterday in Spain's ACB League, playing for his new team Alta Gestion Fuenlabrada. Williams played 13 minutes in the contest and scored six points (2-7 FG, 0-3 3-pt. FG, 2-2 FT) with three rebounds and one assist with his team on the winning side at 86-84.

Williams was added to the Fuenlabrada (a city just outside of Madrid) roster to replace former Virginia star Norman Nolan. After six games (3-3) the club decided Nolan's production of 8.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 24 minutes per game was too low and reached an agreement to terminate his contract.

Williams' teammates with Fuenlabrada include Clemson's Tom Wideman (10 points, 2 rebounds) and Danny Strong of North Carolina State. Strong hit the winning shot in yesterday's game while scoring 10 points in 12 minutes. For the opposition, DKV Joventut, NBA prospect Rudy Fernandez tallied 32 on 9-14 from the field (4-6 3-pt. FG) and 10-11 at the stripe.


* Former Tar Heel Ademola Okulaja is in Cologne, Germany still working on getting his knee back in shape. "My knee is finally getting better and better. I had to take some time off and totally rest my leg to allow the knee to completely heal," Okulaja said last week. "I have been rehabbing and working out. The next steps are going in the gym and shooting, running, dribbling – all the basics. You know what follows next: PLAYING b-ball again," Okulaja exclaimed.

That news was followed by reports from Germany that Okulaja had reached an agreement that gives his playing rights to RheinEnergie Koln of Germany's BBL. The contract also allows Okulaja to move to a team from outside of Germany if he gets a better offer. A team spokesperson noted that leagues in Spain and Italy can pay a lot more for players.

This will be his seventh season as a professional, the last five have been in Spain after being released in December 2000 from the Philadephia 76ers' injured list at his request. He played his rookie year in Germany in 1999-2000 for Alba Berlin.

Okulaja, 30, has been dealing with problems from a knee injury and surgery he had early last season while playing in Spain. His recovery is now estimated to be by January 2006.

"This is of course a great day fo the BBL and RheinEnergie Koln, bringing Ademola Okulaja – a German superstar – back to the league," Koln's manager Walter Puetz said, according to fibaeurope.com. "But his complete recovery is most important at the moment."

Former Tar Heel Henrik Rodl coaches Alba Berlin in the German League and UNC grad Derrick Phelps plays in Germany for GHP Bamberg. Berlin is off to a great start under Rodl at 8-0. Phelps is averaging 31 minutes, 9.8 points and 2.5 assists for Bamberg (5-3).


* The NBA's D-League, now known as the NBA Development League or NBDL, has a couple of former Tar Heels in the mix with the 2005-06 season set to open on Friday.

Jackie Manuel is on the roster of the Fayetteville Patriots and they open the season at home on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) against the Fort Worth Flyers followed by a trip to Roanoke on Saturday (4 p.m.).

Manuel is listed on the team roster as a 6-5, 190 pound shooting guard. The Patriots' roster also lists Nigel Dixon (W. Kentucky via Florida State), Erik Daniels (Kentucky), Kevin Johnson (Charlotte) and Temple's Mark Karcher. Wake Forest's Taron Downey was allocated to Fayetteville prior to the league's 2005 draft (as was Manuel), but was released from the team last week.

Shooting guard Brian Morrison (UNC/UCLA) shows up on the roster of the expansion Albuquerque Thunderbirds along with Virginia Tech's Bryant Matthews, Kentucky's Chuck Hayes and Marcus Taylor from Michigan State.

Others from the ACC on NBDL online rosters include Maryland's Jamar Smith (Austin), Georgia Tech 7-footer Luke Schenscher (Fort Worth), GT's Will Bynum (Roanoke), Virginia's Jason Clark (Roanoke) and NC State's Anthony Grundy (Roanoke).

The Austin Toros selected former Tar Heel Neil Fingleton with the fifth pick (40th overall) in the D-League's 2005 draft on November 3. Austin placed the 7-5 Fingleton on waivers on November 10.

The NBADL has eight teams that will play a 48-game schedule that runs through April 8, 2006. Visit nba.com for the full slate of games for the Fayetteville Patriots.


* With Joe Wolf at the helm for his second season, the Idaho Stampede of the Continentel Basketball League are busy preparing for the start of the league's 60th campaign. The most recent addition to the Stampede's 2005-06 roster is former Vanderbilt star Matt Freije (6-9, F). Eric Chenowith (7-1 C), a former Jayhawk with some NBA experience is also on the squad. Jefferson Sobral (6-8, F) from Brazil and Nick Vander Laan (6-10, C), who attended Virginia before leaving for Concordia (Calif.), provide even more size for the Idaho frontcourt and should keep the 6-10 Wolf very busy providing instructions in the low-post area.

Also added to the team last week was another big man – NBA second-round draft choice (35th overall) Ricky Sanchez (7-0, F) from Puerto Rico and IMG Academy H.S. ('05) in Bradenton, Fla. Sanchez became the youngest player to be signed to a CBA contract at the age of 18 years, three months and six days. Sanchez had his NBA rights traded to Denver by Portland on draft day for Jarrett Jack (Georgia Tech).

The CBA 2005-06 regular-season starts on Friday and will end on March 12. Idaho visits the Yakima Sun Kings on Friday. The Sun Kings return the favor with a trip to Boise, Idaho on Saturday.

Some other CBA preseason transactions include: Albany waived Exree Hipp (Maryland), the Dakota Wizards waived Quintarus "Scooter" Sherrill (NC State) and the Rockford Lightning signed Lenny Cooke (G, 6-6, 240) and Roger Powell (Illinois).


* MSG Networks recently announced that former Tar Heel star and current TNT basketball analyst Kenny Smith will work about 20 Knicks games for MSG Network.

Smith, a high school basketball legend at Archbishop Molloy before starring at North Carolina, will also be involved in the growth of high school basketball at Madison Square Garden and provide analysis on MSG's tri-state high school basketball telecasts.

Smith will provide commentary for play-by-play man Mike Breen on Knicks games. He will make his MSG Network debut November 23 when the Knicks play the Bobcats in Charlotte.

Smith will maintain his regular TNT analyst role on "Inside The NBA" as he fills in for Walt Frazier on MSG during the season.


* Former Tar Heel Rick Fox will conclude his three-episode acting role as Holly Robinson Peete's romantic interest on the UPN sitcom "Love, Inc." on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

Fox plays David Marley on the show and dates Clea Lavoy, played by Holly Robinson Peete, wife of former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete. The couple have some problems, but they also have some intimate moments.

The Los Angeles Times asked Fox, "How does Rodney Peete feel about that?"

"I haven't checked with Rodney," Fox told the Times, "but having been married to an actress [Vanessa Williams], you just chalk it up as something that comes with the job."

Just another day at the office.

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