Thursday, February 28, 2008

East's 'skinny' Robinson feasting in the playoffs

Listen, East Mecklenburg boys basketball star Titus Robinson knows he's skinny.

He knows most of the schools recruiting him would love it if hecould somehow diet on NutriSystem in reverse and gain 30 pounds.

But he hates when people question whether or not he can effective at the next level at 6-foot-8, 195 pounds.

"Heard it all my life," he said after an easy 67-40 win over McDowell in the second round of the N.C. 4A playoffs Thursday. "But listen, man, I can play. I'm 195 pounds now, but in my baggy clothes, I'm pushing 200."

A smile cracks his skinny face, which is all cheekbones and eyelashes.
"Man," he says next, "I guess I just have to go out there and try to prove them wrong about my size."

Robinson just turned 17 and is about as young as the average junior in high school.

I think he could redshirt a year at Buffalo, Charleston Southern, UNC-Greensboro or Winston-Salem State -- schools most interested in him right now -- and become one of those guys you see in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and wonder how schools like Charlotte and N.C. State and Wake Forest let slip away.

Robinson is long like a 7-footer and agile. He had 22 points and six rebounds against McDowell and played at the front of East's pressure defense. His length made it difficult for the Titans to get the ball upcourt and get into any kind of offense and contributed to McDowell's 19 turnovers.

He also wasn't bad on offense.

I'd like to see him be more aggressive, but he can sure finish around the hoop. He had several dunks that got the crowd going and led to McDowell coach Lloyd Church forming a few "Ts" (for timeout) with his right and left hands.

"He had a lot of energy," East coach Jason Grube said of Robinson. "He's so long and athletic that if you keep him fresh, he comes with a tremendous amount of energy. The kids all feed off his intensity and when he starts flushing stuff, they get all excited."

Robinson has been one of the centerpieces of East's run towards the top of Mecklenburg County basketball. East was 19-7 his freshman year, 25-3 his sophomore season and 26-4 last year.

The Eagles have five forfeit losses on their 21-8 record this year for unknowingly using an ineligible player. But under Robinson's watch has come four straight conference championships and a chance at a third straight regional at Hopewell Friday night.

"We want more right now," Robinson said in the hallway after the game.
He's polite to a fault, always telling visitors to "have a nice day" when he departs with a firm handshake.

"We know we can get back to the regionals," he continues. "We've been there the past two years and lost to Vance both times. We've still got a chip on our shoulders that we want to get off."

Friday night, the Eagles -- and their skinny leader -- get a chance to do to that.
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133;

Mecklenburg Girl Power Continues At Butler

It's amazing how much better Mecklenburg County girls basketball has gotten - and so fast.

We always had Barbara Nelson and her state championship-winning machine at Providence Day.

But until South Mecklenburg's breakthrough season in 2006, we'd not had a public school state champion in 20 years, when Andrea Stinson led North Mecklenburg to a championship in Chapel Hill.

In between those championship teams, Mecklenburg County girls basketball wasn't considered much of a threat.

That's changed recently.

I'm not sure we'll have a champion this year, with powerhouses like Greensboro Grimsley, a state finalist last year, and nationally ranked Raleigh Wakefield, waiting deeper in the playoffs for Mecklenburg's best.
But, for a change, the county is seriously in the hunt. Five teams - West Charlotte, Charlotte Catholic, Butler, East Meck and North Meck - will play in sectional championships Friday.

And there's lots of teams getting better.

I saw another one Wednesday in the Butler Bulldogs.

They didn't play well in a 52-50 win over Morganton Freedom, but they did - as the cliche goes - survive and advance.

The Bulldogs, like so many other good teams in town, are young. The leading scorer, Celeste Stewart, is a junior. The 6-3 post player Clair Watkins is a sophomore.

Next year, the Bulldogs get 5-6 guard Jessica Freeman and her 20 points per game back. Freeman's junior season ended in December with an injured knee.

With those three, all Division I recruits, Butler will be as good as any team in North Carolina next year.

And right now, even without Freeman, the Bulldogs are not far off.
Credit coach Stephanie Butler for all that. She grew up in South Carolina and played for Seneca High and later at Southern Wesleyan University.
In three years, she's slowly built Butler into an elite program, at least locally.

The Bulldogs were 20-6 her first year, 19-10 last year and are 26-3 this season, heading into Friday's N.C. 4A sectional championship game at West Charlotte. Her teams have won three straight Southwestern 4A conference tournament championships.

This year, the Bulldogs won a share of their first regular-season championship, tying with East Mecklenburg, and have set a school-record for victories.

In April, the Observer will hand out its awards for the best players and coaches, and I'm pretty sure I can take the suspense out of one of the awards right now.

To do what Butler's done without one of the city's top three players has been, well, amazing.

"It hurts not having 20 points on the floor," she said. "That's what Jessica gives us. She's an outside threat. She handles the ball very well. It's scary to think of what it would be like with her now."

Well, Butler's pretty scary right now. And they have their coach to thank for that.

Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133;

N.C. Independent All-State teams

2008 NCISAA 1A Girls All-State Basketball Team

Chassidy Williams - Trinity Christian School
Lulu Brase - Gaston Day School
Bridgett Briggs - Wayne Country Day School
Danielle Devlin - Cresset Christian Academy
Kendall Street - Lawrence Academy
Tenika Neely - Gaston Day School
Keianna Evans - Trinity Christian School
Brittany Torain - Trinity Christian School
Jordan Cantrell - Terra Ceia Christian School

2008 NCISAA 1A Boys All-State Basketball Team

Raymond Dunn - Norlina Christian School
Brian Richardson - Greenfield School
Brian McNair - Greenfield School
Mychal Parker - Terra Ceia Christian School
Kenny Gabriel - United Faith – committed to Auburn University
Keith Gabriel - United Faith
Floronta Wynn - Wayne Country Day School
John Wall - Word of God – top junior point guard in the nation
CJ Leslie - Word of God – Verballed to NC State

2008 NCISAA 2A Girls All-State Basketball Team

Natalie Headley - Fayetteville Academy
Candace Woods - Victory Christian – committed to UNC-Chapel Hill
Jenny Kim - Westchester Country Day School
Lauren Villarreal - Covenant Day School
Katelyn Bass - St. David's School
Raffy Jockimezky - Cape Fear Academy
Elizabeth Von Ende - American Hebrew Academy
Hilliary Adams - Covenant Day School
Jodi Williams - Halifax Academy

2008 NCISAA 2A Boys All-State Basketball Team

Carter Cook - Calvary Baptist

Jairus Simms - High Point Christian Academy

David Hudgins - Spartanburg Day School

Evan Andert - Westminister Catawba

Tyree Graham - Village Christian – committed to Texas Tech University

Micah Baines - Rocky Mount Academy

Andre Cornelius - Victory Christian – committed to George Mason University

Branden McLean - Victory Christian

2008 NCISAA 3A Girls All-State Basketball Team
Krista Gross - Cannon School
Whitny Edwards - Providence Day School – committed to University of Virginia
Britny Edwards - Providence Day School – committed to University of Virginia
Margaret Harvey - Forsyth Country Day School – committed to Wake Forest University
Kiva Moore - Wesleyan Academy
Lauren White - Hickory Grove
Erin Bratcher - Ravenscroft School
Maggie Sullivan - Charlotte Christian School
Lindsey Cowher - Ravenscroft School

2008 NCISAA 3A Boys All-State Basketball Team

Mile Plumlee - Christ School – committed to Stanford University
Mason Plumlee - Christ School – one of the top juniors in the country
Lakeem Jackson - Christ School – drawing interest from ACC schools
Will Reigal - Charlotte Latin School
Seth Curry - Charlotte Christian School – committed to Liberty University
Ryan Kelly - Ravenscroft School – drawing interest from ACC schools
Bruce Woodall - Greensboro Day School
Jarell Eddie - Cannon School – one of the top sophomores in the nation

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wrapping up wrestling

Cleaning out my wrestling notebook:

-- Gender history was made at the N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling championships last weekend.

Rosewood High senior Olivia Neal became the first girl to qualify for the tournament. She was hardly a slouch – third in the East 1A/2A regional meet (the top four qualify for the state tournament) and a 42-8 record.
Neal, who wrestled in the 103-pound division, became the first girl to win a match, too, when she pinned Ray Farnsworth (Catawba Bandys) in the opening round Friday. She lost in the quarterfinal and was eliminated in the third round of the consolation bracket.

-- The tournament’s three Most Outstanding Wrestler awards:
4A: Chris Townsend (South Caldwell)
3A: Marcus Blue (High Point Andrews)
2A: Jonathan Burns (Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons)

-- It’s been a long time since Mecklenburg County had five finalists.
Butler’s Travis Puckett was the lone champion, at 160 pounds in 4A. He capped a 35-0 season.

The other four finalists, despite being disappointed about losing, had splendid seasons.

Butler freshman Tom Puckett (45-3) lost 11-0 to unbeaten Dominic Parisi (Concord Robinson) in 4A’s 112. No shame there.

Olympic’s Jared Seate got pinned by Christian McLean (Southwest Guilford) in the second round of the 3A title match at 215 pounds. Seate finished 46-5.

East Meckenburg’s Denison Paiva (38-4) lost 5-1 to three-time champion Anthony Clinton (Mount Tabot), who finished 34-0 in 4A’s 189-pound division. It was a tough match decided in the third period.

Hopewell’s Nathan Stanford (47-3), hoping to become the first champion in school history, lost 3-2 to James Dela Riva (Alexander Central) in 4A’s 215-pound division.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Western Regionals moving could lead to problems

About two weeks ago, the N.C. High School Athletic Association announced it was moving the N.C. Western Regional basketball tournament, one of its biggest events of the year, from Lawrence Joel Coliseum and Annex to high school sites.

All boys semifinals next week will be at North Forsyth High School. The girls will be played at Atkins High.

Winston-Salem was awarded the regionals in 2004, primarily because Joel Coliseum and the Joel Annex provided ample seating and parking and was a big improvement over playing at Lenoir-Rhyne College and area high schools in Hickory, which had hosted the event for years.

I'm not a big fan of the Annex, which seems like a big cold barn, but you can see boys and girls teams from the same school on the same night. The Annex and Joel Coliseum sit right beside each other. Both arenas are spacious and parking and access is great.

That could be a problem at the high school sites.

NCHSAA spokesperson Que Tucker told me the move was made for financial reasons and the regionals finals, held on Saturday March 8, would be played at the Coliseum and Annex.

Tucker said the NCHSAA explored different options in Winston-Salem, including playing at Winston-Salem State, but the school didn't have the dates available.

"We feel good about the schools, North Forsyth and Atkins, stepping up to host," Tucker said. "Someone asked, 'Is this a step backwards?' I prefer to not think about it like that. It's a step to the side for this year because we were left in a situation where we had to make an adjustment."

Tucker said the future location of the regionals is in question.

"It's up to Winston-Salem as to whether they'll retain the regionals," Tucker said. "If not, we'll look to make a move."

Tucker said the association hasn't spoken to anyone about hosting and said hosting the event costs between $30,000 and $40,000. To me, the logical site is Charlotte, though the dates for the CIAA Tournament and the western regionals might sometime conflict.

This year the regionals are the week after the CIAAs. In any event, the regionals could be at UNC-Charlotte/Mine Shaft (upfitted with temporary bleachers) or UNC-Charlotte/Cricket Arena or Davidson/Cricket Arena or lots of other potential sites. I'd even look into private Charlotte Latin, which has a perfect sized facility.

Langston Wertz Jr.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wrestling championships delayed

The NCHSAA wrestling championships Friday morning at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem will be delayed an hour because of the threat of inclement weather.

That pushes weigh-ins to 8 a.m. Wrestling will begin at 10 a.m.

Should further delays or adjustments be necessary, they will be posted as a headline on the NCHSAA Web site,

-- Observer News Services

New class for AD Hall of Fame

Tom Brown of Maiden, and Vicki Hamilton and Joe White of Charlotte will become the newest members of the N.C. Athletics Directors Association Hall of Fame.

The trio will be recognized at the annual NCADA conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville at a banquet March 18.

The NCADA Hall of Fame was established to recognize achievement and excellence for athletic administration.

--- Brown is one of the state's most successful high school football coaches, with a career record of 352-117-7, primarily at Maiden High. In addition to coaching, he has served as an athletics director for 40 years.

His Maiden teams have won 21 conference championships and a pair of state titles.

-- Hamilton has been the athletics director for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for 15 years, and she was North Carolina’s first female athletics director for a school system.

She began her career as a teacher and coach at Erwin Junior High in Salisbury and taught and coached at Appalachian State and South Carolina. She joined CMS as a secondary curriculum coordinator, and then served as a principal at four schools before becoming the system athletics director.
Hamilton has been involved with many innovations in Charlotte, including an Emmy-nominated monthly public television show, a high school football internship program with the NFL and the Carolina Panthers, and a seminar for the mothers of high school football players.

-- White’s 37-year career in coaching and education has been spent mostly in Charlotte.

He first coached at North Mecklenburg and then in 1966 became the inaugural football coach and athletics director at Olympic.

After his retirement from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, White was elected to two terms on the Charlotte City Council and is in his fifth year as chairperson of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

White has received numerous awards for his service and is the treasurer of the North Carolina School Boards Association, from whom he has received a lifetime achievement award.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Six win NCISAA wrestling titles

Six Charlotte wrestlers won championships at the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association meet at Providence Day.

Charlotte Latin and Charlotte Christian had three champions apiece.

Latin’s Frank Walker won the title at 119 pounds, and finished 39-7. Teammate Marshall Sykes (36-4) was champion at 130 pounds, and Rick Sassano capped a 35-5 season with the title at 152 pounds.

Christian dominated the upper weight classes. David Borrelli (47-1) won the championship at 171, which was his second straight state title.

Christian’s Lee Rose (38-6) won the 215-pound division, and Josh Thompson (15-3) was champion at 285.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NCHSAA Wrestling Championships this weekend

The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum will be the site this weekend for one of the biggest single high school sporting events in the Southeast.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association's annual state wrestling
championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, bringing together over
600 of the state's best prep grapplers for two full days of competition.
Over 1,100 individual matches will be contested over the course of the event
en route to crowning 42 different individual champions. That means there is
one winner in each of the NCHSAA's 14 weight divisions and three different
classifications, including 1-A and 2-A together for wrestling, 3-A, and 4-A.

Wrestling will start at 9 a.m. on Friday and will run until Saturday evening
with the consolation and championship finals starting at 6 p.m. This is the
22nd year that the wrestling championships have been "classified"; prior to
1987, all wrestlers, regardless of the size of the school, competed for a
single title. This is the sixth year that Lawrence Joel Coliseum has hosted
the event.

The NCHSAA, with a strong tradition in wrestling, has been offering a
championship in the sport since the 1930's.

Cary has won the team tournament championship at the 4-A level four times in
the last five years, while Winston-Salem Parkland is the defending 3-A team
champ. Mount Pleasant won the 2-A team title a year ago, snapping a string
during which Catawba Bandys had won or shared the 1-A/2-A crown three
consecutive times.

Earlier this month, Cary (4-A), Winston-Salem Parkland (3-A), Orange (2-A)
and Alleghany (1-A) won their respective classifications in the NCHSAAAdual
team championships and will obviously be very competitive in the tournament.

Wendy's and the Carolina Ford Dealers are the presenting sponsors for the
NCHSAA sports program, and the event is sponsored by Visit Winston-Salem.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

VIDEO: "Female" Shaq dunking everything in site

ESPN's SportsCenter featured a piece this week on Brittney Griner, a junior at Nimitz High School in Houston, TX. She's 6-foot-8 and leads the area in scoring, blocked shots and dunks.

Griner dunks all the time -- and with authority.

Griner has verbally committed to attend Baylor to play basketball.

Gauging impact of All-Observer players

The All-Observer high school football teams are chosen on players’ high school performance, not college potential.

But, it is interesting to see where this season’s All-Observer squad signed last week to play in college.

Which seniors do you think will have the greatest impact in college?
Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

2007 All-Observer High School Football Team
QB: Darius Thomas, West Charlotte (Gardner-Webb)
RB: Rod Chisholm, Independence (Appalachian State)
RB: Eric Breitenstein, Watauga (Wofford)
WR: Brenton Bersin, Char. Latin (Wofford)
WR: Jarrett Boykin, Butler (Virginia Tech)
WR: Ray-Ray Davis, Sun Valley (he is a junior)
OL: Ryan Thompson, Independence (he is a sophomore)
OL: R.J. Mattes, Concord Robinson (N.C. State)
OL: Daniel Spisak, Vance (Furman)
OL: Alex Johnson, Sun Valley (N.C. Central)
OL: Andrew Wallace, Olympic (N.C. State)
P: Michael McClendon, Char. Catholic (he is a junior)
K: Wil Kamin, Char. Christian (he is a junior)
DL: Jarvis Pierce, Independence (Highland, Kan. Comm. College)
DL: Lawrence Williams, Independence (undecided)
DL: Prince Shembo, Ardrey Kell (he is a sophomore)
DL: Lanston Tanyi, Shelby (Appalachian State)
LB: Austin Johnson, Hickory (Tennessee)
LB: Devin Johnson, East Mecklenburg (Garnder-Webb)
LB: Corey Brooks, Shelby (undecided)
DB: Ross Cockrell, Char. Latin (he is a junior)
DB: DeVonte Holloman, Independence (he is a junior)
DB: Robert Blanton, Butler (Notre Dame)
DB: Brandon Robinson, Char. Christian (Liberty)
KR: Jameze Massey, Monroe (undecided)

-- Cliff Mehrtens

State media basketball polls (2/12)


1. Mount Airy 22-1 (7) - 180
2. Albemarle 19-2 (5) - 163
3. North Edgecombe 21-1 (4) - 149
4. Cherryville 20-2 - 146
5. Thomasville 15-2 - 116
6. Winston-Salem Prep 21-6 (4) - 108
7. Southeast Halifax 18-3 - 73
8. Hendersonville 19-3 - 70
9. Pender 19-3 - 42
10. Perquimans 16-3 - 15

HONORABLE MENTION: Weldon (13-5) - 10; Hayesville (19-4) - 8; Jordan-Matthews (16-7) - 7; Princeton (17-5) - 6; Jones Senior (15-3) - 6; Trask (15-6) - 1;


1. Graham 21-0 (20) - 200
2. Smoky Mountain 19-1 - 171
3. Shelby 19-3 - 149
4. West Bladen 20-2 - 142
5. Clinton 20-2 - 126
6. West Caldwell 18-3 - 90
7. East Lincoln 17-5 - 65
8. Pisgah 17-3 - 47
9. Cummings 17-5 - 40
10. Northwood 18-3 - 31

HONORABLE MENTION: Starmount (13-7) - 17; Northwest Halifax (16-5) - 15; Ashe County (18-3) - 11; Central Davidson (17-5) - 5;


1. Dudley 19-2 (13) - 191
2. Trinity 20-1 (2) - 175
3. Kinston 18-4 (3) - 152
4. Northern Vance 17-1 (2) - 137
5. Hickory 20-2 - 114
6. Concord 18-3 - 109
7. Ragsdale 20-3 - 77
8. Southern Lee 19-3 - 55
9. East Rowan 18-4 - 22
10. Northwest Cabarrus 19-4 - 21
10. Hertford County 18-2 - 21

HONORABLE MENTION: Rocky Mount (15-4) - 13; J.F. Webb (16-4) - 4; North Buncombe (19-4) - 3; Jacksonville (17-5) - 3; D.H. Conley (17-3) - 2; West Rowan (18-5) - 1;

1. New Hanover 20-2 (18) - 198
2. Mount Tabor 20-2 (1) - 178
3. Middle Creek 20-1 (1) - 160
4. Clayton 20-2 - 132
5. Terry Sanford 22-2 - 96
6. Vance 18-4 - 85
7. McDowell 19-3 - 79
8. Hopewell 18-3 - 56
9. North Mecklenburg 18-4 - 47
10. Jack Britt 18-4 - 23

HONORABLE MENTION: East Burke (18-4) - 19; Grimsley (18-3) - 15; Myers Park (17-3) - 12; Panther Creek (17-5) - 1;


1. Williamston 20-0 (15) - 193
2. Pender 20-1 - 155
3. Bishop McGuinness 17-5 (5) - 144
4. East Bladen 19-2 - 113
5. East Surry 20-3 - 96
6. Hiwassee Dam 23-3 - 93
7. Thomasville 17-3 - 85
8. Chatham Central 20-1 - 79
9. Louisburg 20-2 - 61
10. Union 20-2 - 41

HONORABLE MENTION: Weldon (16-3) - 26; Mount Airy (18-5) - 14;

1. Graham 22-0 (20) - 200
2. Salisbury 21-1 - 177
3. East Rutherford 21-2 - 131
4. North Stanly 18-1 - 125
5. First Flight 20-1 - 102
6. East Davidson 18-3 - 98
7. Shelby 20-2 - 82
8. Smoky Mountain 18-2 - 62
9. Northwest Halifax 19-1 - 60
10. Forest Hills 19-2 - 30

HONORABLE MENTION: Croatan (19-1) - 20; North Surry (17-2) - 6; Red Springs (18-3) - 3; Newton-Conover (16-5) - 3; Mitchell (19-3) - 2; Bandys (15-6) - 2;


1. Beddingfield 22-0 (18) - 197
2. Forestview 22-0 (1) - 172
3. Hickory 20-0 (1) - 164
4. South Central 20-0 - 146
5. T.C. Roberson 21-1 - 119
6. Rocky Mount 18-1 - 82
7. Piedmont 19-1 - 65
8. Statesville 22-2 - 53
9. Concord 19-2 - 48
10. Southeast Guilford 19-4 - 29

HONORABLE MENTION: Ragsdale (19-3) - 10; Rockingham County (19-3) - 7; Western Harnett (19-3) - 4; Hunter Huss (17-3) - 4;


1. Wakefield 23-0 (13) - 191
2. Grimsley 22-0 (7) - 185
3. Hillside 20-0 - 163
4. South View 22-1 - 139
5. West Charlotte 18-2 - 115
6. East Mecklenburg 19-2 - 82
7. McDowell 18-3 - 72
8. Garner 18-2 - 67
9. Millbrook 19-3 - 35
10. Westover 19-2 - 31

HONORABLE MENTION: East Gaston (19-3) - 15; Butler (19-3) - 4; Hoke County (15-4) - 1;

Monday, February 11, 2008

2008 Shrine Bowl coaches selected

Here are the coaches for the 2008 Shrine Bowl football game.

N.C. Head Coach: Gary Fowler, Clayton
N.C. Assistants: Bruce Ollis, Polk County; Steve Gardner, Gastonia Huss; Bryan Lingerfelt, East Davidson; Bob Blick, Jacksonville White Oak; Greg Watford, North Hampton East; Steve Shaughnessy, Butler

S.C. Head Coach: Ted Luckadoo, Westside
S.C. Assistants: Bob Hayes, Wando; Jay Frye, Richland Northeast; Keith Crolley,
Crestwood; Mickie Crocker, Greenville Mann; Steve Hart, Andrews; Joel Rice, Christ Church;

Friday, February 8, 2008

Scholars deserve signing day notice, too

National signing day was all about lists Wednesday.

Which college had the best recruits? Where were N.C.’s top 50 players headed? How about S.C.?

You could go cross-eyed reading them all.

But, as the Observer compiled where area high school athletes were heading, two names jumped out at me.

West Charlotte seniors Joshua Bridges and Christopher Brevard turned down football offers for academic scholarships. Their names didn’t make any of the lists you see in newspapers and on recruiting websites.

Bridges turned down an offer to play at N.C. Central for an academic scholarship to North Carolina.

Brevard chose an academic ride at North Carolina over a football offer at Dartmouth.
Textbooks instead of touchdowns.

“Both those guys were leaning toward academics, and that’s not knocking the other football players,” West Charlotte assistant Anthony Sterling said. “They both have 4.0 grade-point averages, and based on what they want to do, this was the best decision for them.”

This isn’t to say football players’ decisions aren’t important. No two students or athletes are alike. The athletes who were talented and fortunate enough to land scholarships should be commended for the work and perseverance they put in, from a young age.

So should the scholars, like Bridges and Brevard.

Good luck to all of you, whether you strap on shoulder pads or book bags next fall.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Suits with sneakers, all for a good cause

Basketball coaches across Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be wearing tennis shoes with their suits Friday night to support the American Cancer Society.

This is the third year CMS high schools are joining the fight against cancer with special Coaches vs. Cancer events at basketball games.

Providence High School men’s basketball coach Myron Lowery started the program at CMS three years ago. He lost his brother, Mark, to cancer in 1996 and was looking for a way to honor his memory.

"I wanted my players to do something," said Lowery. "It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but I wanted them to work on an activity and really make a difference. I heard about the Coaches vs. Cancer program, did some research and we brought it to Providence High."

Providence students raised more than $9,000 that first year. Students collected money in the stands, took pledges for the number of free throws they could shoot and held an auction.

"It was amazing," said Lowery. "That first year, the fans really got involved. Many of them dressed up for the game and wore tennis shoes to show their support."

Coaches vs. Cancer is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. It started in the early 1990’s and today, more than 500 college coaches and more than 100 high school coaches are involved.

Coaches vs. Cancer has raised nearly $40 million to support the American Cancer Society.

Last year, more CMS schools joined the program and raised more than $12,000 for Coaches vs. Cancer. This year, all CMS high schools are participating. Students are selling paper basketballs in honor of friends and relatives affected by cancer, schools are encouraging staff and parents to donate and basketball players are making as many free throws as possible to collect on pledges.

"It’s incredible," said Lowery. "I tell my players they have to get outside their bubble and help people in need. Now I know they understand why this is important."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

(Non) college recruit nearly fooled everyone with fake letter of intent

A Nevada High football player, 6-foot-5, 290-pound Kevin Hart, nearly fooled everyone in his hometown of Fernley, NV -- population 19,700 -- on National Signing Day Wednesday.

Like many top recruits across the country, Hart had a media conference to announce his college choice. He sat at a table with a California baseball cap and one from Oregon. He put on the Cal hat, seemingly announcing he had chosen to accept a scholarship there, and he even signed a bogus letter-of-intent in front of friends, family and media, hoping to see the first major college signee ever from Fernley.

As the day wore on, Hart's rouse was uncovered. Turns out Cal and Oregon had never heard of him.

For all the details, including about Hart being paid by an agent, click here

Langston Wertz Jr.

Area college signees

Observer staff is following today's national signing period, including frequent updates to which colleges area kids are committing to.

Be sure to check out the live blog, Observations from the 50-Yard Line.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Swimmers' pride on display this week

There isn’t a lot of glory in high school swimming.

Fans don’t pack the stands until the season reaches the conference, regional and state meets. Practices are normally pre-dawn.

Football, basketball and baseball players usually get more media attention.
But the swimmers plow on. If they are fortunate enough to set a record, they’re mighty proud.

I got a proud-papa e-mail last week after writing a preview story on the N.C. regional meets. It was from Fred Johnston. His son, Ian, who swam at South Mecklenburg High, holds the state record of 57.1 seconds in the boys’ 100-yard breaststroke.

Ian set the record in 1992. It’s among the longest-standing records in state swimming.

According to dad, Ian Johnston went on to swim for the Naval Academy, where he was a two-time All-American, a 1996 Olympic Trials finalist and member of the Naval Academy athletic hall of fame.

"Today, Ian is a Navy pilot who lives in Naples, Italy with his Italian wife and two sons ... and still swims 5,000 meters every morning," he said.

He then made a joke about swim parents being obnoxious.

But, they’re not, as a group. The Johnstons should be proud, and dad sounds it.

The state meets are this weekend.

Swimmers and parents, this is your week. Enjoy, and good luck.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

N.C. State basketball polls

2008 Media Basketball Polls (Feb. 5th)

1. Thomasville 14-1 (15) - 193
2. Albemarle 18-2 - 150
3. Mount Airy 21-1 (3) - 149
4. Cherryville 18-2 - 133
4. North Edgecombe 19-1 (1) - 133
6. Winston-Salem Prep 19-6 (1) - 114
7. Hendersonville 17-3 - 74
8. Southeast Halifax 16-3 - 52
9. Trask 14-4 - 44
10. Pender 15-3 - 32

HONORABLE MENTION: Perquimans (15-3) - 8; Weldon (12-4) - 7; South Robeson (15-3) - 4; Jones Senior (14-2) - 3; Hayesville (17-4) - 3; Jordan-Matthews (14-7) - 1;


1. Graham 19-0 (20) - 200
2. West Caldwell 18-1 - 178
3. Smoky Mountain 17-1 - 153
4. Shelby 17-3 - 132
5. West Bladen 18-2 - 113
6. Northwood 16-1 - 99
7. Clinton 18-2 - 91
8. Cummings 15-4 - 60
9, East Lincoln 15-5 - 27
10. Ashe County 16-2 - 22

HONORABLE MENTION: Pisgah (15-3) - 13; Northside-Jacksonville (15-4) - 11; Northwest Halifax (14-5) - 1;


1. Dudley 16-2 (12) - 188
2. Concord 18-1 (6) - 180
3. Trinity 20-1 (1) - 164
4. Kinston 16-4 - 134
5. Northern Vance 14-1 (1) - 125
6. Hickory 17-2 - 99
7. East Rowan 17-3 - 50
8. Ragsdale 17-3 - 41
9. Southern Lee 17-3 - 39
10. D.H. Conley 16-2 - 28

HONORABLE MENTION: High Point Andrews (15-4) - 15; T.C. Roberson (16-4) - 11; Hertford County (16-2) - 10; Jacksonville (16-4) - 6; Rocky Mount (13-4) - 4; Northwest Cabarrus (17-4) - 3; West Rowan (16-5) - 2; A.L. Brown (15-4) - 1; J.F. Webb (15-4) - 1;


1. New Hanover 19-2 (20) - 200
2. Mount Tabor 18-2 - 180
3. McDowell 18-2 - 153
4. Middle Creek 18-1 - 135
5. Clayton 18-2 - 100
6. North Mecklenburg 17-3 - 96
7. Terry Sanford 19-2 - 77
8. Vance 17-4 - 43
9. Myers Park 17-2 - 41
10. Hopewell 18-3 - 31

HONORABLE MENTION: Pinecrest (17-4) - 20; Panther Creek (16-4) - 7; Enloe (15-3) - 6; Jack Britt (16-4) - 6; East Burke (17-4) - 3; West Mecklenburg (16-4) - 3; Grimsley (16-3) - 1;


1. Williamston 18-0 (15) - 193
2. East Bladen 18-1 - 167
3. Bishop McGuinness 15-5 (5) - 139
4. East Surry 19-2 - 136
5. Pender 16-1 - 98
6. Hiwassee Dam 21-2 - 88
7. Thomasville 15-3 - 78
8. Chatham Central 19-1 - 75
9. Louisburg 18-2 - 54
10. Union 18-2 - 40

HONORABLE MENTION: Weldon (14-3) - 26; Mount Airy (17-5) - 8;


1. Graham 19-0 (20) - 200
2. Salisbury 19-1 - 173
3. First Flight 19-0 - 152
4. North Stanly 17-1 - 113
5. East Rutherford 19-2 - 110
6. East Davidson 17-3 - 104
7. Shelby 18-2 - 87
8. Smoky Mountain 16-2 - 70
9. Northwest Halifax 17-1 - 38
10. Forest Hills 17-2 - 28

HONORABLE MENTION: Croatan (17-1) - 16; North Surry (15-2) - 4; Mitchell (17-3) - 2; Ashe County (15-3) - 2; Eastern Guilford (15-4) - 1;


1. Beddingfield 20-0 (18) - 197
2. Forestview 20-0 - 172
3. Hickory 19-0 (2) - 163
4. South Central 18-0 - 145
5. T.C. Roberson 20-1 - 119
6. Statesville 19-1 - 99
7. Concord 18-1 - 78
8. Rocky Mount 16-1 - 54
9. Piedmont 18-1 - 38
10. Southeast Guilford 17-4 - 11

HONORABLE MENTION: Franklin (17-3) - 6; Ragsdale (16-3) - 6; Western Harnett (17-3) - 5; J.F. Webb (17-2) - 4; Harnett Central (15-3) - 2; Rockingham County (17-3) - 1;


1. Wakefield 21-0 (14) - 192
2. Grimsley 20-0 (6) - 186
3. Hillside 19-0 - 161
4. South View 20-1 - 136
5. West Charlotte 17-2 - 112
6. Garner 17-1 - 103
7. Westover 18-1 - 86
8. McDowell 16-3 - 47
9. East Mecklenburg 17-2 - 44
10. Butler 17-2 - 20

HONORABLE MENTION: Millbrook (17-3) - 5; Northwest Guilford (17-3) - 5; East Gaston (17-3) - 3;

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-a

Friday, February 1, 2008

Kings Mountain center wins $500 scholarship

Boost Mobile honored Daniel Asgari, Senior starting center for the Kings Mountain High School Mountaineers basketball team, with a $500 scholarship to be used toward his college education.

Boost presented the award during halftime of Friday's game with Shelby.

In addition, Kings Mountain High School also received a $500 donation to be used toward athletic equipment and/or uniforms.

To encourage awareness of scholarships and to get fans involved, Boost Mobile held a half-time free-throw competition; winners received Boost Mobile phones with one month of Unlimited by Boost service, an unlimited flat-rate wireless plan.

Kings Mountain student to win scholarship tonight

Boost Mobile, a lifestyle-based telecommunications provider has a long history of supporting g youth causes and sports. To continue this tradition, Boost Mobile will be honoring a local student-athlete from Kings Mountain High School with a $500 dollar scholarship, which will be given out during the February 1st home game versus Shelby's Golden Lions. Plus, Kings Mountain High School's athletic department will receive a $500 donation.

Boost Mobile and 96.1, The Beat FM, will host a half-time program where audience members will have the opportunity to participate in a free throw contest to win Boost Mobile, Unlimited by Boost phones and swag.