Tar Heels Finish Top 4 in Men’s and Women’s Capital One Cups

It was truly a special year for UNC athletics, as the Tar Heels wrapped up the 2015-16 season with a pair of top-four finishes in the Capital One Cup.

When results were announced Monday for the competition–which measures cumulative on-field performance across each men’s and women’s sport–UNC’s men placed second while its women tied for fourth.

In the award’s six-year history, the Tar Heels have been among the most successful programs–but this is still just the second time they’ve placed both their men and women in the top 10.

Oklahoma and Stanford are the only other schools that achieved the same honor this season.

Points are earned based on the amount of top-10 finishes in NCAA Division I Championships, as well as final coaches’ polls across 21 women’s and 20 men’s sports.

Championships in both men’s and women’s lacrosse helped the Tar Heel cause the most–while title game appearances by men’s basketball and field hockey also held a significant amount of weight.

This honor also comes just a couple weeks after UNC’s seventh place showing in the Directors’ Cup–which combines men’s and women’s sports into a single award.

In total, the Tar Heel women–who won the Capital One Cup in 2012-13–have finished in the top 10 in five out of six years.

The men, however, achieved their best finish this season while earning a third top-10.


UNC WR Mack Hollins on Biletnikoff Award Watch List

As college football’s preseason awards season heats up, it’s safe to say that the UNC offense will be quite the unit to watch this season.

Senior wide receiver Mack Hollins on Wednesday became the fifth member of the Tar Heel offense to end up on an award’s “watch list” for 2016–as he is one of 53 players currently expected to contend for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top pass-catcher at the end of each year.

The 6-foot-4 speedster is a former walk-on who emerged last season as head coach Larry Fedora’s top deep threat by gaining 745 yards on just 30 catches–leading the NCAA with 24.8 yards per reception.

Mack Hollins (13) celebrates with Kendrick Singleton (81). Nazir Jones (90) gets his hand on the football. Photo by Smith Cameron Photography. UNC footballv s Delaware 2015.

Mack Hollins (13) celebrates with Kendrick Singleton (81) after a touchdown against Delaware in 2015. (Photo by Smith Cameron Photography) Photography.

He has also been a special teams captain in each of the last three seasons.

Hollins graduated last May, but is enrolled in UNC’s sports administration program as he plays out his final year of eligibility.

With his addition to the Biletnikoff’s watch list, Hollins joins the following members of the Tar Heel offense to be honored this preseason: Elijah Hood (Maxwell Award), Lucas Crowley (Rimington Trophy), Jon Heck (Outland Trophy) and Nick Weiler (Groza Award).

Fedora–the guru behind UNC’s offensive attack–is also a part of the distinguished club, having been named to the watch list for the Dodd Trophy as the nation’s coach of the year.

All this really means is that starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky will have plenty of talent surrounding him, as he looks to make a seamless transition into his new role.

Should that happen, the Tar Heels could contend yet again for the ACC Coastal Division Championship–especially as the defense continues to make strides under second-year coordinator Gene Chizik.

Hollins and Trubisky have already forged quite the connection, as the two showed during an early-season game against Delaware last fall.

After replacing struggling starter Marquise Williams in the second quarter, Trubisky found Hollins three times for 100 yards and two scores–including a 64-yard bomb that highlights everything great about Hollins’ impressive skill set.


Jenny Levy Honored as National Coach of the Year

In the world of college athletics, winning championships and awards typically leads to two things.

More championships. More awards.

Longtime UNC women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy received another reminder of that fact on Tuesday, when she was named the Division I National Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

The honor comes just over a month after Levy led the Tar Heels to their second national championship in four years.

Since building the program from scratch 21 years ago, she has risen to fourth on the NCAA’s all-time coaching wins list, while taking the Tar Heels to nine Final Fours.

However, it was just second time Levy has won the Coach of the Year award.

As you might have guessed, she also took it home in 2013–following UNC’s only other national title run.

This past season, though, will be widely regarded as the best in the program’s history.

The Tar Heels went 20-2 in 2016, finished the ACC season 7-0, and closed the season on a 17-game winning streak.

In the NCAA Championship Game, Levy’s squad proved its greatness with a demolition of No. 1 Maryland–which was undefeated and on a 26-game streak that extended back to 2015.

She’ll formally pick up her award Nov. 17 at Disney’s Coronado Resorts in Florida–during the IWLCA Annual Meetings.

Also being honored that day are Florida Southern College’s Kara Reber (Division II national champion) and Middlebury College’s Kate Livesay (Division III national champion).


Roy Williams Gives Update on Condition of His Knee

Just about five and a half weeks ago–May 27 to be precise–UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams underwent a total replacement of his right knee.

This past Tuesday, Williams ventured to Orlando to see the Tar Heels’ most recent NBA first-round draft choice, Brice Johnson, suit up in the Summer League for the Los Angeles Clippers.

While there, the coach stepped into the broadcast booth–where he answered questions from analyst Rick Kamla and another former UNC great, Vince Carter.

Williams hobbled through much of last season as his knee was giving him obvious discomfort. After offseason surgery, the issue should be behind him soon enough. (Todd Melet)

Williams hobbled through much of last season as his knee was giving him obvious discomfort. After offseason surgery, the issue should be behind him soon enough. (Todd Melet)

When Kamla asked Williams for an update on his health, the response was accompanied by the 65-year-old’s signature grin.

“The surgeon assured me I’d be able to play golf in August,” Williams said. “I said, ‘I’m gonna hold you to that.’”

Throughout the entirety of last season, it was even painful from the outside watching the Hall-of-Fame coach hobble his way onto the court and into press conferences–let alone what he must have felt on the inside being kept away from his beloved golf course.

“Last year I hurt every day,” he said. “At practice, I’d never sat down on a basketball court in 43 years until this past season.

“I asked Marcus Paige, ‘Marcus, does that bother you?” [Paige] said, ‘Coach, you sit down for 15 seconds then you get back up and keep going.’”

It’s that tireless work ethic that’s helped Williams achieve the type of success he has thus far in his storied career, and it’s the same mindset that should have him feeling much better entering this next season.

“I’m missing being able to get around,” he said. “I’ve got a cane but I can walk OK.

“The cane, the doctor said if you have that–people realize there’s something wrong with you and give you a little space,” Williams continued, with another hearty laugh.

He later stated in an assured manner that, “[The knee’s] gonna be better [this season].”


UNC RB Elijah Hood Named to Maxwell Award Watch List

The Maxwell Football Club released a 90-player watch list on Tuesday, giving college football fans an idea of who to look out for when the season begins in September.

UNC junior tailback Elijah Hood was among the names on the list–which is for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best player in America since 1937.

Although the award is similar in nature to the Heisman Trophy, only four players–Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow–have earned both honors in the same year.

Hood appears poised for greatness in 2016, following a breakout season for head coach Larry Fedora in 2015 that ranks among the best in Tar Heel history.

The former Eagle Scout and ESPN Top 100 recruit from Charlotte ran for 1,463 yards on just 219 carries last season–using a bruising style that mauls through would-be tacklers.

It was the second-most prolific rushing season UNC has ever had, topped only by Don McCauley’s 1,720-yard campaign in 1970.

His 17 touchdowns and 6.7 yards per carry each ranked second in the ACC, with his yards per carry average also ranking second in the school record book (Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice averaged 7.2 in 1946.)

In all, 15 players from the ACC–including seven running backs–were also named to the Maxwell watch list.

Joining Hood as runners are: Dalvin Cook (Florida State), James Conner (Pittsburgh), Wayne Gallman (Clemson), Travon McMillian (Virginia Tech), Joseph Yearby (Miami) and Matt Dayes (NC State).

The Tar Heels open their season in Atlanta on Sept. 3 against Georgia as part of the Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff Game.


UNC Ranks Seventh in Final Directors’ Cup Standings

Thursday morning brought the announcement that–for the 19th time in the award’s 23-year history–the Tar Heels again finished in the top 10 of the Learfield Director’s Cup standings.

After finishing the 2015-16 school year with a final tally of 1089.5 points, the Tar Heels ended up seventh overall–but were the highest ranked school to come from the ACC.

The Directors’ Cup measures postseason success and hands out points to a maximum of 10 men’s and 10 women’s programs per school.

Leading the way for the Tar Heels were their men’s and women’s lacrosse programs–which each earned 100 points toward UNC’s total by winning their sport’s national championships.

Runner-up finishes by men’s basketball and field hockey also played a large role in the Tar Heels’ final standing. In total, the school had 12 programs finish the season ranked in the top 20 of their respective sports.

There were no surprises at the top of the leaderboard, as Stanford took home the trophy for an astonishing 22nd consecutive year. The Cardinal racked up 1526.5 points to finish ahead of Ohio State, Michigan, Southern California and Florida.

UNC, which won the 1993-94 title, is the only other athletic program to ever win the prize. The Tar Heels’ 19 top 10 finishes rank fourth all-time behind only Stanford, Florida and UCLA.

All of the ACC’s other members have combined for just 18 top 10 finishes–or one less than UNC has by itself.

Eighth-place Virginia was the only other school from the conference to finish in the top 10 this year.


UNC Men’s Lacrosse Assistant Chris Feifs Takes Head Job at Vermont

Looking to build upon a nine-win season a year ago–its best in the last decade–the University of Vermont men’s lacrosse team had an important decision looming after former head coach Ryan Curtis stepped down.

In response, the school simply turned its eyes to the most recent national champions.

UNC defensive coordinator Chris Feifs–an assistant for seven years under Joe Breschi–accepted the Catamounts’ offer on Wednesday to become the seventh head coach in the program’s history.

Vermont’s Director of Athletics, Jeff Schulman, made the announcement.

The Tar Heels won at least a share of the ACC regular season title in three of Feifs' seven years in Chapel Hill. (Laxmagazine.com)

The Tar Heels won at least a share of the ACC regular season title in three of Feifs’ seven years in Chapel Hill. (Laxmagazine.com)

“During the search process, Chris impressed us with his passion for teaching and strong commitment to the academic, personal and athletic wellbeing of his student-athletes,” Schulman said.

“His experience recruiting and coaching a national championship team at North Carolina certainly speaks to his ability to identify, attract and develop elite student-athletes who are capable of succeeding at the highest levels on and off the lacrosse field.”

The Tar Heels qualified for the NCAA Tournament each year Feifs–who was also in charge of teaching faceoff specialists–was on the staff.

Under Feifs’ tutelage, former faceoff man R.G. Keenan became the first UNC midfielder to be named a First Team All-American since 1996.

A native of Durham, the coach left the state of North Carolina to play his college lacrosse at Maryland from 2004-2007 before spending a year with the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse.

He then spent two years as an assistant at Virginia Military Insitute before joining Breschi’s staff in Chapel Hill.

At Vermont, Feifs will inherit a team that returns four of its top five scorers from last season–as they appear primed to make a splash in the America East Conference in 2017.

“I am honored for the opportunity to join the University of Vermont as the head men’s lacrosse coach,” Feifs said. “UVM is truly a special place with its unique combination of academic excellence, athletic achievement and picturesque surroundings.

“I look forward to joining Burlington’s supportive and vibrant community to build a winning tradition on and off the field.”


Joel James Added to Indiana Pacers’ Summer League Roster

After capturing the hearts of fans in Chapel Hill, former UNC big man Joel James will now try to charm the minds of pro scouts.

The 6-foot-10 James–a native of West Palm Beach, FL–was named Tuesday night to the Indiana Pacers summer league squad.

Despite averaging just over two points and two rebounds per game in four years as a Tar Heel, the Pacers are likely hoping James’ size can be a useful skill at the NBA level.

He’ll join 14 other young up-and-coming players trying to carve out a role for themselves on the main roster.

The first opportunity James will have to show what he’s got will be this Saturday–when Indiana opens play in the Orlando summer league against the Magic.

Before the team heads to Florida for game action, however, assistant coach Popeye Jones will hold five practices at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

As of now, the Pacers are slated to play at least four games in Orlando, but that number could grow depending on how the team performs.

If there’s one thing that is for certain about his opportunity–it’s that James is hungry to succeed.


U.S. Lacrosse Selects 12 Tar Heels For Women’s National Team Tryouts

What more can the UNC women’s lacrosse program do to assert its dominance?

The Tar Heels–fresh off an NCAA Championship win over Maryland–have won two of the last four national titles, while appearing in three finals over that stretch.

Now their head coach, Jenny Levy, can say she coached 12 of the 105 players–11.4 percent of them to be exact–selected to try out for the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Carly Reed (Class of 2017) was the lone UNC attacker to make the cut–coming off a season where she scored 29 goals and dished out eight assists.

Goalie Caylee Waters (’17)–the 2016 Division I Co-Goalie of the Year along with teammate Megan Ward–was also the only Tar Heel at her position to be chosen.

The midfielders selected include: Maggie Bill (’18), Kara Cannizzaro (’13), Ela Hazar (’18), Marie McCool  (’18) and Laura Zimmerman (’12).

Five Tar Heel defenders will also get the chance to make their mark, a list consisting of: Maggie Auslander (’17), Kristen Carr (’10), Jen Russell (’10), Sloane Serpe (’14) and Courtney Waite (’15).

Each of the current and former UNC standouts will participate in tryouts from Aug 5-7 at the national team training center at U.S. Lacrosse Headquarters in Sparks, MD.

Just 36 of the 105 women will earn an opportunity to train with Team USA in its build-up for the 2017 World Cup in Guildford, England.

That group will then be cut in half to just 18 players who will make the final roster for the event.

The U.S. will be going for its third straight world title, and eighth overall.



NBA Draft: Marcus Paige Goes to Utah Jazz in Second Round

Marcus Paige had to sit and wait through 54 picks during Thursday’s NBA Draft–anxiously awaiting a moment he’d been imagining his entire life.

With only six picks before the end of the draft, time was running out.

Then, nearly two hours after watching his best friend and roommate–Brice Johnson–get selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, the former UNC point guard was chosen in the second round (55th overall) by the Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn then traded Paige’s rights to the Utah Jazz.

Although as a second round pick he won’t be guaranteed a contract, Paige will have a chance very soon to make an impression on the Utah front office.

Marcus Paige

Paige has shown during his four years at UNC that he is much more than just a spot-up shooter. (Todd Melet)

The Jazz are set to begin play in the Salt Lake City Summer League–an event consisting of three games in four days–on July 4 against the San Antonio Spurs–with Paige likely getting a significant number of minutes.

Utah will then take part in the Las Vegas Summer League from July 9 to July 18.

Those games typically allow teams to showcase their young talent while giving draft picks and undrafted free agents a chance to prove themselves against similar competition.

Paige could be playing alongside 6-foot-6 guard Dante Exum–a top five pick in the 2014 draft who will likely be making his return from a torn ACL that robbed him of his sophomore season.

A young squad built around forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, as well as the “Stifle Tower” (young French center Rudy Gobert), Utah is in need of backcourt help alongside Trey Burke–the 2013 National Player of the Year while at Michigan.

That’s where Paige fits in.

While some scouts have worried about how Paige’s small 6-foot, 175-pound frame will translate at the pro level, his production and leadership in college shows he’s more than capable of making a splash.

First off, he’s the all-time leader in three-point shooting at UNC, having made 299 shots from beyond the arc during his time in Chapel Hill. He’s also one of just two players in ACC history to score 1,800 points, dish 500 assists, make 275 three-pointers, and have 200 steals in a career.

Oh yeah, Paige has also been named to All-ACC teams as a sophomore and a junior and three Academic All-American squads-while being the only three-time captain the Tar Heels have ever had.

He and Johnson represent the 20th and 21st players drafted since head coach Roy Williams took over the program in 2003.

Now they’ll each be heading off to the West Coast trying to make their mark in the NBA.