Ty Lawson Signs With Sacramento Kings

In an effort to get his once-promising career back on track, former UNC point guard Ty Lawson agreed to a one-year contract Sunday night with the Sacramento Kings.

Over the course of his seven seasons in the NBA, Lawson–a key cog during the Tar Heels’ 2009 national title run–has averaged a solid 13 points and six assists per game.

He has also established himself as one of the league’s quickest players with the ball in his hands–mostly during his first six seasons with the Denver Nuggets.

After being charged with his fourth DUI in July of 2015, however, the Nuggets worked out a trade that sent Lawson to the Houston Rockets.

Playing alongside superstars James Harden and Dwight Howard, he was lost in the shuffle on the court in Houston–all while simultaneously trying to clean up his life off the court.

His averages fell to just 5.8 points and 3.4 assists in his 53 games with the Rockets. By midseason, the marriage clearly wasn’t beneficial to either side. Lawson was waived by the team soon after.

The Indiana Pacers made a move to acquire him, but that experiment didn’t quite pan out either–with Lawson seeing just 18 minutes of playing time per night during his 13-game stint with the team.

By joining the Kings, he’ll be competing with Darren Collison for time at the point guard position. Collison was the team’s backup last season behind Rajon Rondo–who recently left to become a member of the Chicago Bulls.

Although the Sacramento organization has been somewhat of a punchline within the league over the last few years, it could serve as a launching pad for Lawson to get himself back to the player he was before.


Beckman Out at UNC Amid Controversy

Tim Beckman’s short tenure as a volunteer assistant with the UNC football team is over just as quickly as it began.

The former Illinois head coach with a history of player mistreatment issues created a media firestorm Wednesday when it was realized he was part of head coach Larry Fedora’s staff throughout training camp.

“Tim will no longer serve as a volunteer with our program,” Fedora said in a statement released by the university. “I brought Tim here to help a friend gain experience from our staff, but after meeting with him today, we agreed his presence had become too much of a distraction.”

Fedora, who coached with Beckman at Oklahoma State in 2007, told reporters their personal relationship was what ultimately led to the volunteer assistant position being created for him.

“When I first learned yesterday that Coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed,” UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said. “The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur.”

“I continue to put a great deal of trust in Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and Coach Fedora to educate and develop our student-athletes,” she continued. “And to ensure we meet the high standards we all expect at Carolina.”

During his short time with the Tar Heels, Beckman did not have a hands-on role with the players. His duties–under NCAA rules for volunteer assistants–limited him to scouting and evaluating film.

“We made the decision today to part ways with Tim Beckman and thank him for his contributions in the short time he volunteered with our football program,” Cunningham said. “Coach Fedora’s interest was in helping a coaching colleague get back on his feet.

“We will learn from this and continue preparing for the season.”

Beckman also released a statement.

“I appreciate the opportunity Coach Fedora gave me to stay connected to the sport and be around one of the best staffs in the country,” he said. “His willingness to help a friend was a benefit both personally and professionally.

“I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or University and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC. I wish Larry and the program nothing but success going forward.”


UNC Football Hiring Tim Beckman as Volunteer Assistant Creates Controversy

In the opening weeks of last season, the UNC football team defeated Illinois by a landslide—just days after the Illini fired head coach Tim Beckman due to player mistreatment.

It was announced Wednesday that Beckman has now found a new home in Chapel Hill, working as a volunteer assistant under head coach Larry Fedora.

An outside law firm which investigated Beckman’s situation at Illinois found that the coach made efforts to discourage injury reporting–and forced injured players to play before they were physically ready.

Another issue that was raised in the investigation centered on seniors having their scholarships revoked for their final spring semester–once they were done playing for the team.

Still though, the 51-year-old is back in coaching thanks to his relationship with Fedora. Beckman was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007 while Fedora directed the offense.

“I’ve known Tim for a long time,” Fedora said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s a good football coach.

Beckman (left) met Fedora when he was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007. (Photo via Matt Strasen/ The Oklahoman)

Beckman (left) met Fedora when he was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007. (Photo via Matt Strasen/ The Oklahoman)

“But let me make something clear, so everybody understands,” he continued. “I’m the one that sets the expectations on our culture—and how our student-athletes are treated. I’m at the top, and I set it for everybody.

“Tim’s here doing what the NCAA allows him to do as a volunteer assistant.”

As one of three volunteer assistants, Beckman’s duties are limited to scouting and evaluating film. Under NCAA rules he will not be allowed to provide hands-on coaching to any of the Tar Heel players.

The plan is for him to spend the entire season at UNC working with Fedora as he tries to eventually get back on his feet within the coaching world—regardless of the outside opinions that decision brings along with it.

“I don’t believe everything I read,” Fedora told reporters. “I know Tim. I know his side of the story also—so I was comfortable [with the hire].

“If I wouldn’t have been [comfortable], honestly I wouldn’t have brought him–and I wouldn’t have allowed him to be in our program,” he continued. “But I don’t have any issues with it at all.”

Fedora admitted he wouldn’t have made the hire without personally knowing Beckman, but made sure to reinforce that similar issues–those surrounding injuries–will not pop up at UNC.

He credits the skill of head athletic trainer Kenny Boyd and his staff for being able to keep coaches from having influence over who does and doesn’t play.

“It’s seperate here,” Fedora said, when talking about how injuries are handled at the school. “[Team doctors] are the ones that make the decisions on our guys—whenever they’re hurt, injured or whatever they are—they’re the ones that make the decision on when these guys step out on the field.

“It’s easy for me because Kenny just tells me when they can go.”

At the end of the day, Beckman’s hire represents a way for UNC to receive high-level coaching input as the Tar Heels look to build off last year’s incredible campaign.

Fedora took similar heat when he hired Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator one year ago, but 11 wins did plenty to cool down that chatter.

Beckman’s past is far from perfect, but ultimately he’s earned a second chance. It’s what he does with that chance which will provide the ultimate judgment on Fedora’s decision.

“I promise you,” Fedora said. “I didn’t see anywhere where the NCAA said he should be banished from the game of football.”


UNC Field Hockey Ranked No. 1 in Preseason Poll

After coming up just one win short of a national title in 2015, the UNC women’s field hockey team is facing enormous expectations entering 2016.

Tuesday morning marked the release of the season’s first National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) top 25 poll–with the Tar Heels being selected No. 1 in the nation.

Although it only received 16 first place votes while No. 2 Syracuse picked up 25, UNC tallied more overall points–915 to the Orange’s 898–in order to earn the distinction of top team in America.

In fact, it was Syracuse that beat the Tar Heels in last season’s NCAA Championship Game–meaning the rivalry is sure to heat up even more this season.

Connecticut, Duke and Virginia rounded out the top five in the rankings, with another ACC rival–Wake Forest–coming in at No. 7.

Tar Heel seniors Emma Bozek and Julia Young were also each named to the Preseason All-ACC team.

They’ll play a large role in helping UNC fulfill its goals in 2015–starting this Saturday with the season opener against No. 10 Michigan in Winston Salem as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Tar Heels will then play again on Sunday against Iowa.


UNC Women’s Soccer Opens Season Friday vs. UCF

Looking to end its longest national title drought since the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament began in 1982, the No. 9 UNC women’s soccer team begins its regular season Friday night at Fetzer Field with a game against the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights.

It’s the first of two games for the Tar Heels this weekend, as they host the Carolina Nike Classic. They’ll also play host to the Charlotte 49ers on Sunday.

For UNC–which have gone three straight years without accomplishing their only goal each season–it will be an important weekend to figure out which new players are primed to step up.

Head coach Anson Dorrance enters his 38th season having lost six of last year’s 11 starters. Three more potential starters for this season may redshirt due to injury or National Team duties.

Cameron Castleberry tore her ACL last November, and may not yet be at full strength for this season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Cameron Castleberry tore her ACL last November, and may not yet be at full strength for this season. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

This comes after last year’s Tar Heels fell from their No. 1 ranking–and ended up losing in the NCAA Second Round–due to a rash of injuries.

“This season I just don’t know to be quite honest,” Dorrance said in a statement during the offseason. “It’s how well the injured players come back.  It’s how well the freshmen are able to adjust to the collegiate level.

“The freshmen are good,” he continued. “Some of them are incredibly athletic.  Some are incredibly technical and tactical.  So of all the years I’ve coach here coming into the season this is the greatest mystery to me.”

UCF, meanwhile, is coached by former UNC legend Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. In another interesting bit of history, the Tar Heels defeated the Knights in the sport’s first-ever NCAA Championship Game back in 1982.

Coming off a solid 12-6-2 record in 2015, UCF will surely be looking to build some momentum for its program with an upset over the heavily-favored Tar Heels.

In the end, it’ll likely come down to whether or not UNC can find some early offense. The Tar Heels scored just one first-half goal during their last eight games of 2015, as they watched their season come to a disappointing end.

If this new group of girls can gel together well in the opening minutes, they have the potential to put the pressure on UCF, while also finding some much-needed confidence.

The game is scheduled to begin Friday at 7:30 p.m.


Joel James Signs to Play Professionally in Japan

It appears now that the eastern hemisphere will now get a piece of one of Chapel Hill’s favorite local treasures.

Joel James, the lovable former UNC men’s basketball big man, announced Thursday via Twitter that he has reached an agreement to sign with the Kumamato Volters in Japan.

A 6-foot-10 teddy bear from West Palm Beach, Florida, James averaged 2.2 points per game in his Tar Heel career.

His most notable statistic, though, is the amount of hearts he touched per game with his bench celebrations and antics. That number–while yet to be calculated–is likely somewhere between 20,000 and 20 million.

After graduating from the school this past May, James received an NBA Summer League tryout with the Indiana Pacers.

James saw the floor in two games with the Pacers, averaging 2.5 points in just over 8.5 minutes per game. He didn’t record a single rebound, assist, block or steal.

This next stop allows him to keep his dream of a pro basketball career alive, however, as he should have ample opportunity to prove his abilities out on the floor with his new team.

The Volters are part of the Japanese National Basketball League’s Western Conference, and have been in existence for only three seasons.


Elijah Hood: The Most Interesting Man in Chapel Hill

For thousands of years scientists have held that each day consists of 24 hours. This discovery has gone unchallenged for much of human history.

That is, until UNC’s star tailback Elijah Hood made it his life mission to stretch the limits of time.

For most mere mortals, the grind of a high-level Division I football schedule brings with it an overwhelming workload.

That’s not even including all the schoolwork and extracurricular activities that come with it.

But for Hood–a former Eagle Scout who maintains a GPA above 3.8—comparisons to mortals don’t really do him justice.

He consistently seeks out new and exciting off-the-field opportunities in an effort to expand his worldview—a trait head coach Larry Fedora says sets him apart

Carolina Football- Larry Fedora

Hood’s contributions both on and off the field have endeared him to head coach Larry Fedora. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“He really wanted an internship this summer and he turned one down up in Washington [D.C.] because he didn’t want to leave his teammates,” Fedora explained to reporters after Thursday’s practice.

“He ended up taking one over here in Raleigh. Every day he would work out, then put on a tie and go to work,” the coach continued. “He’s just a special guy.”

The job Hood took this past summer was with the North Carolina General Assembly.

There, the man who tallied the second-highest single-season rushing total in UNC history was tasked with duties much different than running over defenses.

Working under a legislative services officer, Hood helped senators and house representatives with fiscal analysis and research as they worked to make decisions for the state.

And while he was definitely interested in what he was doing, don’t pencil him in for a career in politics just yet.

“I don’t know about Senator Elijah Hood,” the running back said, with a laugh.

“But understanding some things about law, fiscal analysis and things like that—looking at the way they do budgeting,” he continued. “It’s really opened my eyes to how complex things get when you talk about running a state.”

Hood (second from right) was one of nearly 100 Tar Heel athletes who helped out Orange County's Habitat for Humanity in July. (Photo via Turner Walston/ UNC Athletics)

Hood (second from right) was one of nearly 100 Tar Heel athletes who helped out Orange County’s Habitat for Humanity in July. (Photo via Turner Walston/ UNC Athletics)

What makes Hood’s journey into the legislature the most impressive is that it really was something he did out of his own natural interest.

A perfect world might see Hood– playing for his hometown Carolina Panthers–knock someone’s teeth out on Sunday, before fixing their computer on Monday. After all, the information science major has gone on the record before saying his dream job is to be an IT security analyst.

However, his busy schedule requires him to put in an extreme level of commitment toward different goals. But it’s something his teammates—like quarterback Mitch Trubisky—have certainly taken notice of.

“Elijah’s just an all-around great person,” Trubisky said. “I mean, that’s what [we all] want to be.

“It’s not just on the football field,” he continued. “It’s off the field, how you carry yourself in the community and especially in the classroom.

“He’s a top-notch guy, and it really shows with his work ethic and how he carries himself all the time

Even when you do talk to him about football and his role for this upcoming season, Hood likes to focus on the mental aspect.

His ability to read defenses and find open running or receiving lanes has been Hood's number one focus--at least when it comes to football--this offseason. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

His ability to read defenses and find open running or receiving lanes has been Hood’s number one focus–at least when it comes to football–this offseason. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

As someone who’s visibly confident in his running ability, he said his biggest focus this offseason has been on studying the playbook the same way a quarterback would—learning each person’s role on every play.

“The way I read defenses is quicker now—way faster,” Hood said. “That’s helped slow the game down.

“It’s kind of weird sometimes,” he added. “The way I feel I can predict blitzes that are coming just by looking at safety rotations and the fronts—whether it’s three down linemen or four down linemen.”

It goes without saying that a bright future awaits Hood, no matter what he chooses to do.

Before turning 21 years old, he’s already turned himself into quite possibly the most interesting man in Chapel Hill.

How has he done it, though?

Well, when asked Thursday how he stays motivated, he simply shrugged and said: “It’s not work if you’re having fun, right?”


ACC Men’s Soccer Coaches Select UNC as Preseason Favorite

With the college men’s soccer season set to begin late next week, the ACC released its annual preseason coaches poll on Wednesday–with UNC chosen to win the league this year.

The Tar Heels earned first place votes from five of the conference’s 12 head coaches, which was two more than runner-up Clemson.

Notre Dame picked up two votes for first place, while Wake Forest and Virginia each had one.

By virtue of being chosen to win the whole league, UNC was also the favorite to take home the Coastal Division crown.

Clemson, last season’s NCAA runner-up, was picked to win the Atlantic Division.

The ACC is looked at by many as the best conference in college soccer–as it led the NCAA with seven tournament teams in 2015, while also being the highest-rated league in the RPI rankings.

For 15 straight seasons, the ACC has also had at least one team qualify for the national semifinals.

UNC put together a solid 15-2-3 season last year, but had its season ended with a loss to the Creighton Blue Jays in the NCAA Round of 16.

The Tar Heels will again count on the production of 6-foot-5 forward Tucker Hume. A redshirt senior out of San Angelo, Texas, Hume led the team with 11 goals and five assists in 2015–which was more than any of his teammates had in either category.

Cal Poly will help get the season officially underway when they travel to Chapel Hill for the opening game on Friday, Aug. 26.

2016 ACC Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll
(First place votes)

Overall Champion
North Carolina (5)
Clemson (3)
Notre Dame (2)
Virginia (1)
Wake Forest (1)

Atlantic Division
1. Clemson (6) – 64
2. Wake Forest (6) – 62
3. Syracuse – 50
4. Boston College – 34
5. Louisville – 28
6. NC State – 14

Coastal Division
1. North Carolina (8) – 66
2. Notre Dame (4) – 62
3. Virginia – 50
4. Duke – 33
5. Pitt – 21
6. Virginia Tech – 20


The “Rude Boyz” Lead a Much-Improved UNC Defense Into 2016

The NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos—two of the last three Super Bowl Champions—won titles largely because of their fearsome pass defenses, known as the Legion of Boom and the No Fly Zone.

Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, UNC hopes its talented secondary—the “Rude Boyz”—can help elevate the Tar Heels to the top of the ACC in 2016.

In the first year under coordinator Gene Chizik, UNC’s defense rose from the ashes to become the most improved unit in the country. That was largely made possible because the Tar Heels allowed more points than all but eight of the 128 Division I schools in 2014—leaving plenty of room for improvement.

The secondary played a large role in the collapse, as they were continually beat for big plays downfield. Fast forward a year, and all of a sudden that same group lead the ACC in interceptions and passes defended–while finishing among the top 10 nationally in those categories.

Physicality is a trait UNC's defensive backs work on regularly during practice. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Physicality is a trait UNC’s defensive backs work on regularly during practice. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Senior cornerback Des Lawrence said after Monday’s practice that 2015 was just the beginning of a Rude Boy resurgence.

“It started way back before Dre Bly and them [in the mid-1990’s],” Lawrence said of the ‘Rude Boyz’ nickname. “It’s just something that’s been trickled down.

“I think we had a drop-off [for a little while],” he continued. “Not that we didn’t have the mentality, we just didn’t have the play. Last year it really showed and resonated with us–and we were able to come out on the field and just be relentless.”

Lawrence will lead a veteran group into 2016 that also returns junior MJ Stewart—a shutdown corner in his own right—and senior Donnie Miles, who led the team in tackles last season as a safety.

Each of these players has meshed perfectly with the message of physicality that Chizik began implementing from the first day he arrived on campus. And as they’ve grown into their roles as elder statesmen on the team, the Rude Boy mentality continues being passed down to the younger members of the unit.

“You can’t only be aggressive in coverage and then let ‘em run the ball on the sideline,” Lawrence said. “That’s one of the things I was telling some of the young guys [in practice]—you have to refuse to be blocked. Because you have to–at some point—set the edge for our defense and come up to make a play.

“Coach Chizik always talks about us as DB’s being linebackers as hitters,” he added.

So far during training camp, the coaching staff has singled out veteran safety Dominique Green and a pair of freshmen cornerbacks—Patrice René and K.J. Sails—as looking very impressive early on.

Head coach Larry Fedora has noticed in those players a direct reflection of the influence that Lawrence, Stewart and Miles bring to the table.

“They’re trying to leave a legacy with those [young] guys, so they want to make sure they teach them the culture that’s been created.” Fedora said of his veteran trio. “They’re doing a great job of that. I would say their confidence in being able to lead has been the biggest change for them.”

Gene Chizik has completely revamped the culture around the Tar Heel defense in just one full season. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

Gene Chizik has completely revamped the culture around the Tar Heel defense in just one full season. (Photo via Avery Trendel)

As much as Chizik stresses physicality to his defense from the top down, he also has another key focal point for his secondary.

Go after the ball.

He said Monday he doesn’t want his guys to be like robots locked in on people all the time. That certainly got across in 2015, as the Tar Heels caused all kinds of havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

This season, though, it appears Lawrence has taken those words to a whole new level—as he’s learned that you can’t be a robot when it comes to leadership either.

“They’re looking to me,” Lawrence said of his young teammates. “Even when I don’t think they are, they still are. And I have to still be able to give them some juice.

“Even when I’m not feeling it—there’s days I come out here and I don’t have all the juice—I gotta get them going because if I do something wrong, then they’re gonna feel like it’s OK for them to do something [wrong].”

The extra effort they’ve put in when fans aren’t watching, and TV cameras are nowhere to be found, is what truly has the “Rude Boyz” ready to make their biggest splash this season.

Listening to Chizik—the former school teacher—explain it, success isn’t accidental at all when it comes to these guys.

“They all the love the game, and they all really want to be good,” Chizik said of his secondary. “The guys that make plays on game day are the same ones who make them in practice—and it’s important to them to make [plays] in practice.”


UNC Football Hosts Chapel Hill Police for the Day

Practicing inside Kenan Stadium on Monday for the first time during this year’s training camp, the UNC football team welcomed a group of close to 70 Chapel Hill police officers and their families to watch the proceedings.

Afterwards, the team sat down with their guests for lunch in the Blue Zone–in an effort to create discussion around one of today’s most pressing social issues.

Although there were a small handful of Tar Heels who ran into minor legal issues last fall—and many other falls before that—this gathering was centered on the much more serious issues that have plagued the entire country over the past couple years.

The rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement–and the increase in the amount of videos showing officers shooting and killing unarmed citizens–has nearly driven the tension between civilians and police to a breaking point.

Because of that, UNC head coach Larry Fedora wishes this wasn’t the first time he came up with the idea to help open a dialogue with his players.

“I really kicked myself in the butt for not being more proactive and doing something like this years ago,” Fedora said. “I mean, it just makes sense.”

When talking with his team about the issue, Fedora has mainly focused on the fact that police officers are human beings capable of making mistakes just like anyone else.

It’s a message that should especially resonate with these high-level athletes. After all, they often run into a similar issue where media and fans forget that they’re just regular people because of what their job is.

“I think it’s just something very, very small that we can do to build that relationship—and to continue to make sure our guys understand what they’re all about,” Fedora said. “And I want them to understand who we are.”

Senior cornerback Des Lawrence–a team leader who was once suspended for a game in 2014 for participating in a hazing incident–said he sees the opportunity to meet and speak with the officers as a chance to make sure both viewpoints can be heard.

“They get to show people that they’re not the bad guys,” Lawrence said. “Not all officers are bad. And that’s one thing I’ve understood.

“While there’s a crisis going on, you can’t blame every officer,” he continued. “Just like you can’t blame every person who doesn’t listen to the officer’s orders or who doesn’t want to because they feel wrongfully accused.

“So [this lunch] is a good medium where both sides can come together.”

Lawrence also spoke at length about how Fedora tells his team to treat police officers with respect should an incident occur off the field—whether something happens this year or 20 years down the road.

While the coach is obviously doing a great deed by giving cops the recognition they deserve, it was yet another example of how he’s attempting to build constructive relationships with his players that last far beyond the time that they’re in college.

“We’re about building these young men into full-grown men so they can be successful in whatever they do in life—after football,” Fedora said. “It’s after football that I’m most concerned with.

“These guys that are playing for us in the NFL right now—all I’m worried about is what happens to them after football’s over with.”