* With NBA teams now signing players to 10-day contracts, and the NBDL season nearly at the halfway mark, Atlanta Hawks scout Harold Ellis was asked by NBDL.com to name the D-League's top NBA prospects. Ellis included former Tar Heel and Fayetteville Patriot rookie forward Jason Capel among the five players he likes.
Harold Ellis on Jason Capel: "My surprise pick. Capel has done well in limited minutes (he plays under his father's balanced system in Fayetteville). The bottom line is that beyond him being a versatile forward and an excellent shooter [currently leads the NBDL in free throw shooting at 91.7%], he is the quintessential coach's son, meaning he does everything asked of him. He picks stuff up very quickly, and is fundamentally very sound. He's a Shane Battier-type, who takes charges and comes off picks well. With his name, he could have gone to Europe for more money, but he chose to stay close to the NBA."
COTA GETS BEST OF OKULAJA, AGAIN
* Ed Cota, with a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists, notched another Euroleague victory over former UNC teammate Ademola Okulaja last Wednesday as Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania - 3-7, Euroleague Group B) downed Unicaja Malaga (Spain - 5-5, Euroleague Group B), 87-67.
Okulaja came off the bench for 20 minutes to grab nine rebounds and score five points as Unicaja never got untracked in their visit to frigid Lithuania.
Dainius Salenga, Zalgiris small forward, scored 17 and mentioned the excellent passing ability of Ed Cota in his postgame comments. "I want to thank Ed for his assistance in producing those two game-closing slam dunks. I can promise we will have a few more in games to come," Salenga said, according to Euroleague.net's game report.
Cota had a game-winning, last-second basket that gave Zalgiris a one-point over Unicaja earlier this season.
DANTE VS. HENRIK
* Another Euroleague Week-10 meeting of former Tar Heels took place in Italy between Dante Calabria (Benetton Treviso-Italy) and Henrik Rodl (ALBA Berlin-Germany).
Prior to the game an optimistic Rodl told Euroleague.net, "We will not go there for sightseeing. We will try everything to win. On a good day we are able to beat any team in Europe."
However, the game went to Benetton, one of the top teams in Europe, 101-87, as Calabria contributed 8 points and Tyus Edney and Trajan Langdon led the way with 18 each. Rodl finished with 10 points (5-8 FG) and 5 rebounds.
NEWBY PLAYING PRO IN SOUTH DAKOTA
* Former Tar Heel Terrence Newby is staying active in basketball. Newby is in Huron, South Dakota with the Dakota Lightning of the X-treme Basketball Association - Midwest Division.
The XBA-Midwest season just got underway and is scheduled to run through March.
ANOTHER 'PLAYER OF THE WEEK' HONOR FOR JORDAN
* Michael Jordan is on the verge of turning 40 (February 17), but his 41-point performance in a double-overtime win against Indiana last week showed he still has enough left to claim the NBA Player of the Week award.
TAR HEEL PROS TRIVIA: How many times has Michael Jordan been named NBA Player of the Week? Answer below.
RODL OFFICIAL TEAM JERSEY UP FOR BID
* Henrik Rodl has provided an ALBA Berlin official jersey for auction to benefit 'Presents of Hope', a Berlin, Germany non-profit organization that offers aid to the poor world-wide.
The authentic jersey is autographed by Rodl and his teammates, and is being auctioned online at http://www.netcross.de/index.php?type=auction&m=104&cid=105&id=809 and can be bid on until February 2.
WILLIAMS + PHELPS = 44!
* Donald Williams and Derrick Phelps created a stir in French basketball circles at the start of the season when the Tar Heel backcourt combined for 54 points (Donald 33, Derrick 21). They've had their ups and downs since then, but on Saturday Williams and Phelps once again combined to light up the scoreboard accounting for 44 of Limoges CSP's 86 points in an 18-point French League victory.
Limoges CSP (France - ProA) improved to 4-8 as Williams netted 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field (2-3 3-point FG) and Phelps handed out 8 assists, with only 1 turnover, and produced 19 points hitting on 6-of-11 shots (2-3 3-point FG).
'COACH SMITH' HAS A NICE RING TO IT
* USA TODAY TV-guy Rudy Martzke reported on Friday that the Atlanta Hawks would likely select a TNT analyst as their next coach. Martzke included TNT studio analyst Kenny Smith among the leading contenders for the Hawks coaching job, along with game analysts Mike Fratello and Jeff Van Gundy.
Terry Stotts is currently coaching Atlanta on an interim basis following the firing of Lon Krueger.
That should give Kenny and Charles Barkley plenty to discuss this week on TNT's Inside the NBA.
PEPPERS BACK UNDER THE BOARDS?
* Former North Carolina gridiron and hoops star Julius Peppers, recently named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year by The Associated Press, has been observed in attendance at some Fayetteville Patriots games. That's all it takes to get people wondering if Peppers would like to resume his two-sport status and join the Patriots during his offseason from sacking quarterbacks for the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
The Fayetteville Observer reported that Peppers says he attends the Patriots games in Fayetteville to show support for Patriots rookie Jason Capel, a friend and former Tar Heel teammate.
Fayetteville coach Jeff Capel, Jason's father, said with a laugh, "Well, let's keep them guessing," when asked about fans being curious if Peppers might be added to the Patriots frontcourt, according to the Observer.
Just for the record, Peppers is not eligible to play for Fayetteville, or any other NBDL team, at this time since he has not signed a contract with the NBDL.
TAR HEEL PROS TRIVIA
Answer: Jordan has been named 24 times as the NBA Player of the Week, more times than any other player.