Friday, February 29, 2008

Q and A with Jim Utter from The Gold Mine

Jim Utter is a beat writer for Charlotte athletics at The Charlotte Observer and also a 1991 graduate of Charlotte. Jim also writes The Gold Mine, a Charlotte athletics blog.

Be sure to check out my responses at The Gold Mine.

1. Charlotte has had a lot of success at home this year, (11-3) but they are just dreadful on the road (3-7). Is there any explanation for the 49ers road struggles?

Bizarrly, one of Charlotte's biggest wins this season came at nationally ranked Clemson. In general, the team feeds off the home crowd and has trouble finding that same energy on the road. Most games have come down to one-two possessions, and on the road in this league this season the margin of error is nil.

2. The 49ers feature a strong inside presence in 6'7 230lb Pf. Lamont Mack. How has Mack faired against bigger post players this year? Do you think Mack will have a tough time battling with the Dukes' twin towers 6'10 Kieron Achara and 6'10 Shawn James?

Charlotte hasn't really faced what I would say many consistent inside post threats this season. They did well against Appalachian State's Donte Miller and a physical Clemson team. Mack will get plenty of help from 6-7 athletic forward Charlie Coley (incredible leaper) and 6-10 Phil Jones, a sophomore playing his first season of Division I basketball.

3. Bobby Lutz has been a fixture at head coach at Charlotte. Lutz has had a positive impact on the 49ers program including 5 NCAA tournament appearances in his 9 years with the program, and his 07-08 recruiting class has been ranked as high as 13th in the country. Duquesne fans are quite nervous about Ron Everhart leaving our program and it begs the question, how has Charlotte been able to keep such a successful coach from leaving their program?

The key to Lutz's tensure is that he grew up in North Carolina, not far from Charlotte, his family still lives here, he went to Charlotte and did most of his prior coaching at Division II Pfeiffer, about 20 miles from Charlotte campus. This is home for him. He has flirted with other offers but has said many times he would like to remain at Charlotte for his career, and even in some other role once he stops coaching basketball.

4. Charlotte's stats indicate they are a turnover prone team, with 386 turnovers vs. 339 assists for the season. How will the 49ers cope with the Dukes full court pressure defense?

Actually, Charlotte has played at its best when facing man defense. They have struggled their worst when facing zone. One on one and individually, Charlotte players are much more athletic and talented than the team which beat Duquesne last season.

5. The 49ers have lost 4 of their last 5 games is there any explanation for this skid?

Basically, lack of making necessary plays down the stretch and in frustration seeing its defense soften in the second half. In every game except for Temple (where Charlotte had many open looks but couldn't find the bottom of the basket), the 49ers' losses have been one or two possession games. At home and earlier this season, those close games bounced in Charlotte's favor. In addition, leading scorer Leemire Goldwire has struggled of late, he's 2 of 23 from 3-point land over his past four games.

6. Your final score prediction?
Charlotte 92, Duquesne 84. I expect a high paced exciting game.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A long strange trip for Mike James

Former Duquesne standout, (and the only former Duke currently in the NBA), Mike James, has been traded... again, this time to the New Orleans Hornets.

James professional basketball career has been quite a journey.
Mike James went undrafted after finishing a stellar career at Duquesne. Prior to entering the NBA, James played with St. Polten in Austria (1998-99), Chalons in France (1999-2000) and Slu Nancy in France (2000-01) James started the 2001-02 campaign with the Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association before signing with the Miami Heat.

The Miami Heat gave James his first shot in the NBA during the 2001-2002 season. James spent the 01-02 and the 02-03 season with the Heat.

After the 02-03 season the Heat chose not to resign James. James then signed with the Boston Celtics where he started 55 games in a row while averaging 10.7ppg and 4.4 apg.

After playing well for the Celts, James was sent to Detroit along with Rasheed Wallace on Feb. 19, 2004, in a three-team deal that sent Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter, a Detroit 2004 first-round draft pick and cash considerations to Boston and Bob Sura, Zeljko Rebraca, Chris Mills and a Milwaukee 2004 first-round draft pick to Atlanta.

James finished the 03-04 season with the Pistons and helped Detroit win the 03-04 NBA title.

James was not resigned by the Pistons after the 03-04 season. The Milwaukee Bucks quickly snatched James up and gave him his first multimillion dollar contract signing him to a deal that would pay him 3.1 million dollars a year. James came off the bench for the Bucks and put up solid numbers for a sub, averaging 24 minutes pg, 11.4ppg, and 3.9apg. James would not finish the season with the Bucks...

James is actually a really calm and collected kind of guy so this picture caught my eye.

The Bucks traded James and Zendon Hamilton to Houston on Feb. 24, 2005, for Reece Gaines and two future second-round draft picks. James finished the 04-05 season with the Rockets averaging 12.2ppg and 2.9 apg while coming off the bench in Houston. James would not be back in a Rockets uniform for the 05-06 season...
During the 2005 off season the Rockets traded James to the Toronto Raptors for Rafer Alston on Oct. 4, 2005. James joined a struggling Raptors squad for the 05-06 season and out of nowhere went crazy and had a career year. I had Mike James on my fantasy team back in 05-06 and boy was I glad I did:

James' 05-06 stats:

  • James started 79 games for the Raptors
  • Averaged 20.3ppg, 5.8apg, 3.3rpg, and only 2.6 turnovers per game for a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.
  • Finished the season ranked 4th in the NBA in 3-Pt Field Goal Pct with a 44.2%

Despite a career year the Raptors decided not to resign James, but James' monster year did not go unnoticed...The Minnesota Timberwolves signed James to a sizable four year contract on July 13, 2006. James' contract pays him around 5.5 million dollars a year through the 08-09 season with a 6.4 million dollar player option for the 09-10 season. It was also rumored that there was a stipulation in this contract that James would receive a bonus if he was ever traded by Minnesota. The Timberwolves got a lot of mileage out of James in the 06-07 season. James played in all 82 games and started 65 for the Twolves averaging 10.1ppg and 3.6apg. James wouldn't wear a Timberwolves uniform during the 07-08 season however...

The Twolves traded James back to Houston along with Justin Reed on June 14, 2007, in exchange for Juwan Howard. Of course the Rockets had a logjam of point guards this year and decided to deal James, (the odd man out) to the New Orleans Hornets in a three player deal:

New Orleans Hornets get:
Bonzi Wells
Mike James

Houston Rockets get:
Bobby Jackson
Adam Haluska
2008 2nd-round pick (from NO)
Sergei Lishouk (rights)

Memphis Grizzlies get:
Marcus Vinicius
Malick Badiane (draft rights)

The Hornets are actually one of the best teams in the NBA this year with a 37-18 record. James will be a backup to one of the most talented young players in the NBA, point guard Chris Paul. A source close to James has reported that he is happy with the move to New Orleans even though he will be leaving his family at his home in the Houston area.

Good luck in the playoffs this year with the Hornets Mr. James, make Duquesne fans proud.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pittsburgh Sports Media Icon Myron Cope dies

The PG's Gene Collier has the details

Everyone has their Myron story, here is mine:

My neighbor was a close friend of former Steeler Justin Strzelczyk. It has always been rumored that Myron drank during Steelers broadcasts and Strzelczyk confirmed this when he joined Bill Hillgrove, Tunch, and Myron in the booth. Myron indeed had beer in the broadcast booth, which Justin quickly consumed, prompting Myron to blurt out on the air, "Strzelczyk drank all my beer!" I met Strzelczyk a few times during his playing days and he is definetly the kind of guy who would drink all of Myron's beer and not give it a second thought.

You will be missed Myron.

Deandre Kane Update

Ever since Deandre Kane failed to sign his national letter of intent to play at Duquesne during the early signing period he has elevated his game. Kane was always a great player, but he really blossomed into a top level high school recruit in his senior year. He recently helped Schenley win the City League Championship by scoring 35 points in the championship game. Kane also led all WPIAL and City League players in scoring during the regular season at 30 points a game, despite attempting only 19 shots a game.

Kane is NOT coming to Duquesne, that much we can say officially. Where is Kane going to play his college basketball, that is up in the air but he certainly has some big name suitors in Pitt, Wisconsin, and St. John's.

The rumor was that Kane could not qualify academically at Duquesne, and I know for a fact that he has not received satisfactory SAT scores to play in the NCAA next year. When I heard that Kane hadn't retaken the SATs yet in an effort to improve his score the first words out of my mouth were "Dude, its late February, you better take that test again if you want to play next year!"

My prediction is that Kane won't qualify and will end up playing a year of prep school basketball.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pens pull blockbuster trade

Welcome to Pittsburgh Mr. Hossa

Ray Shero has some balls after all. Shero dealt Eric Christensen, my favorite player Colby Armstrong, highly touted prospect Angelo Esposito, and a first round pick to the Atlanta Thrashers for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.

I will assume that Hossa will be paired with Crosby when El Sid returns from the ankle of doom

I don't know much about this guy but he seems like the grinder type.

My friends over at The Pens Blog will give us plenty of analysis.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dukes get verbal from 6'5 guard/forward B.J. Monteiro

  • In three years as a starter B.J. Monteiro has averaged 23.7 points per game.

  • Monteiro is shooting 55 percent (179-for-319) this season.

  • Monteiro is expected to be voted first-team all-state in Connecticut this week for a second consecutive year.

  • This is what B.J's high school coach had to say about him: "He's going to be a 1,700-point scorer. He's a prolific scorer. After watching them play, he's a perfect fit for Duquesne and he does well in the classroom."

  • Monteiro's coach had this to say about how B.J. plays the game: "He can play outside and he's effective there, but when he gets the ball close to the basket, he can go with the best of them. He's a great all-around player, who will adapt to the situation."

  • B.J. was also being recruited by Penn State, Saint Joseph's and Fordham.

B.J.'s highlight video:

Turn the volume off or way down for the video

Aaron Jackson is "Ajax"

Dukes Court reader's have spoken and it's official, Aaron Jackson's nickname will be "Ajax"!

Here are the results of our poll:
62% of readers voted for "Ajax"
22% for "Action Jackson"
14% for something else

Ajax is the perfect nickname for Aaron Jackson. First things first, Ajax sounds like a shorter quicker way of saying Aaron Jackson, plus Aaron cleans the boards like Ajax. Aaron also is a hard worker on defense, much like Ajax is a hard worker against grime and dish grease.

Ajax is also the name of a mythological Greek hero Ajax The Great. Ajax is described as of great stature and colossal frame, the tallest and strongest of all the Achaeans, second only to his cousin Achilles in skill-at-arms. Aaron Jackson will never be described as having "great stature" but he plays big and is certainly tough.

Hollywood big man Tyler Mane played Ajax in Troy.

I liked the nickname "Action Jackson" for Aaron, but the people have spoken

Aaron, you have a nickname, now it is your charge to get this team turned around and get us a win Sunday at Charlotte!

The Day After

Here are our new rankings after the loss to La Salle:

RPI: #100
Kenpom/Pomeroy: #90
Sagarin: #73

Duquesne has lost 3 in a row, including home loses to two teams the Dukes were favored to beat, Richmond and La Salle. Are the Dukes falling apart like they did last year? Losing to La Salle at home sure indicates the beginning of a bad stretch of games in my mind. The Dukes have three games remaining on their regular season schedule, at Charlotte, at Temple, and home against Saint Louis. None of these games will be easy, and the game at Charlotte really scares me because Charlotte has defeated several teams who have a lot better credentials than Duquesne this year. The Dukes have all week to stew on their 3 game losing streak, let's hope Ron Everhart can right the ship.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

If you thought losing to Richmond at home was bad...

try watching the Dukes lose a game to La Salle. The worst part about this game was that Duquesne simply got outplayed by La Salle. The Dukes were down by as many as 14 points in the 2nd half, they fought back on a number of occasions when they were down by double digits but they could never hold onto the lead.

Darnell Harris, who couldn't hit a shot to save his life in the first half, came alive in the second half and helped lead the Explorers to victory. At one point late in the game Harris scored 8 consecutive points for La Salle.

I was impressed by the play of two young Explorers, 6'5 So. Ruben Guillandeaux, and 6'8 Fr. Jerrell Williams. Guillandeaux, who scored 17 points today, played with a lot of moxy for a sophomore, and made a few big shots for La Salle in clutch situations. Williams has the makings of a solid A10 post player if he continues to develop.

The Dukes have now lost in their second game against Fordham, St. Bonaventure, and La Salle this year. The word is out, the Dukes' offense struggles against the zone and Duquesne can't shoot the three ball. As bad as Duquesne played today they had a shot to tie it at the buzzer, an open 3 pointer from Bill Clark was off badly when the whistle sounded.

Kudos to Gary Tucker who helped keep the Dukes in the game with a career high 23 points. Tuck hit big threes in the first half and generally played with a lot of enthusiasm.

The Dukes have now lost 3 in a row, 2 of which were at home. Is this year's Duquesne team going to fall apart down the stretch like last year's team?


The famous Nellie King was honored at the Duquesne game today. King got a standing ovation from the Duquesne faithful.

La Salle 2

Duquesne has four tough games left, their game against La Salle this afternoon represents the easiest test they will have before going into the A10 tournament; in short, this is a must win game for the Dukes. Duquesne handled La Salle on the road earlier this season, and from that game they now know what they need to do to defeat this team. The one thing that does scare me about this game is that the Dukes took care of St. Bonaventure and Fordham in their first meetings but then faltered when they played each of them a 2nd time.

Kieron Achara had a big game the last time these two teams played, (21 points and 5 blocks), and I'll look for him to be more aggressive this afternoon.