Stephens Has The Tools
Darian Durant isn't North Carolina's No. 1 quarterback right now, mainly because he missed nearly half of spring camp, deciding to return to UNC halfway through camp after announcing in February he was transferring. Durant, however, may have finished spring practice second on the depth chart had he been there the entire time.
C.J. Stephens, a transfer from Florida, is currently the team's No. 1 QB and deservedly so, at least for now. Stephens appeared comfortable in the spring game. He looked like a quarterback should after spending a couple of years learning under Steve Spurrier. He appeared sharp in the huddle and came out of the huddle like a QB in control. He also appeared to have command of his team and the respect of his teammates, of which many of them confirmed after the spring game.
He also threw a nice, sharp, tight ball and ran well on the few occasions he decided to take off, usually escaping a rush of defenders. The one area of concern, which his mates also alluded to, was that he appears to stay with the primary receiver too long instead of checking him off and looking for alternative options.
Durant will be a productive signal caller if he earns the job, but there appears to be a bit more of an upside with Stephens, at least for now. This is certainly no slight to Durant, and the odds are that John Bunting will platoon both players for the first month, similar to how he used Ronald Curry and Durant last year.
Either way, UNC appears in solid shape at quarterback.
Is Charlotte A Sports Town?
Sitting here flipping back and forth between the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Hurricanes (who sold out today's playoff game in Raleigh), I am once again reminded of a common question regarding the Queen City. Is Charlotte a lousy sports town?
Okay, I know the Hornets are definitely moving after this season and there remains tremendous bitterness from the fans toward the organization, which is one reason why attendance has dropped so much in the last few seasons. The fans have good reason to be upset at the team's ownership, but so have fans from many other organizations, but most of those teams didn't move.
I also understand the main reason why the Hornets are moving and I have mostly supported those not in favor of publicly financing a new arena, but the dwindling fan support began years ago, before this ugly slugfest between the owners and the city began.
Had the team been selling out as they did in their first few seasons, the Hornets wouldn't be going anywhere, luxury boxes or not. Once the novelty wore off (actually a few years after it wore off) people of Charlotte became increasingly uninterested in the franchise. The Panthers came to town and Charlotte was finally a pro sports town, even though it didn't have baseball - the real signature of whether a team is a "big league" town. After a surprising run to the NFC title game in their second season, the Panthers have fallen out of favor, culminating in last season's 1-15 debacle.
The team may list attendance as 60,000 or 55,000 but in reality 25-30,000 folks are bothering to show in most cases, even early in the season.
The Tournament of Champions is now a thing of the past. Last season, when Georgia State beat The College of Charleston for the title (UNC finished third), was the 15th and final tournament. Declining attendance made the tourney expendable. Once a difficult ticket, last year's tournament drew a total of 20,000 in two nights.
The Tar Heels' brutal start and the nameless opponents certainly contributed to the decline in fan support, but Carolina is Carolina, and its presence alone should mean a crowd of 20,000, no matter what their record is. If Kentucky can fill up Freedom Hall in Louisville, UNC should fill up the Coliseum.
UNC and N.C. State played a pair of football games in Charlotte a few years back with the first game drawing a sellout and the second, a Thursday night game, filling about half the stadium.
That second game, which featured a 1-8 UNC club that had lost home games to Houston, Furman and Wake Forest, was a disaster for the state's college football image. It shouldn't matter what either team's record is, when they play each other the game on hand should mean everything. To this day I still hear snide remarks about the half-empty stadium that night, especially when trying to argue the virtues of ACC football.
Charlotte has many qualities, but the debate about whether it is a quality sports town will continue. I'd like to know your thoughts on this issue. I'll post some comments and the overall results of readers' feedback in next week's Musings.
Dunleavy's Decision, Duke's Future
Duke forward Mike Dunleavy may not be hiring an agent, but he isn't coming back to Duke.
He doesn't need an agent, at least not now. His father, Mike Sr., has been an NBA head coach after a lengthy playing career and has more avenues to gauge how NBA general managers view his son's game and potential.
Dunleavy may lack upper body strength, but his overall game is ready for the next level. He has a great feel for the game and understands its nuances as well as a collegian can. He moves extremely well without the ball, is an underrated on-ball defender, passes well, handles the ball very well for a player standing 6-feet-10 (believe me, he's that tall), is an excellent long rebounder, has great hands, a nose for the ball, is an excellent shooter and has NBA three-point range. He'll be an asset to any NBA team.
How does this affect next year's Duke club? The Blue Devils have been here before and all Mike Krzyzewski did was insert freshmen Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer and Dunleavy into the lineup and the Devils waltzed through the ACC and won the conference tournament. But that might be a little more difficult this time around.
Duke will start a capable backcourt of junior Chris Duhon and sophomore Daniel Ewing. By February this pair - along with the bench support from freshmen J.J. Redick and Sean Dockery - should develop into one of the league's, and perhaps nation's, top backcourts.
Up front the Blue Devils will have seldom-used senior Casey Sanders, junior Nick Horvath and freshmen Michael Thompson and Sheldon Williams. Add wing players in 6-6 senior Dahntay Jones and 6-10 freshman Shavlik Randolph (he says he prefers the perimeter) and the Devils could be anywhere from mediocre inside to very solid.
Whether Carolina closes in on its rival will depend as much on each team's interior defense as anything else.
Andrew Jones is entering his seventh year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and will host a drive-time radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington beginning on May 20. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.