UNC Invited to Play in Prestigious “PK80” College Basketball Tournament

Over the last few decades, not many people have had more influence over college athletics than Nike chairman Phil Knight.

That relationship will be recognized in November of 2017, with the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon–a prestigious preseason college basketball tournament known as “PK80.”

UNC was among the 16 teams selected to play in PK80, which will be among the largest–and toughest–regular season tournament fields in history.

“What a thrill for North Carolina Basketball to be playing in such a special event to honor a truly special man,” head coach Roy Williams said, in a statement released by the university.“PK80 not only brings together some of the top basketball programs in the game, it honors a giant in business and sports.

Phil Knight is celebrating his 80th birthday in a big way. (Christian Peterson/ Getty Images)

Phil Knight is celebrating his 80th birthday in a big way. (Christian Peterson/ Getty Images)

“Mr. Knight has a wonderful ability to touch people’s lives and do great things, both in and out of the sports world,” Williams continued. “I’ll always cherish my friendship with him.”

The entire field consists of schools that wear Nike gear–with 13 of the 16 having made at least one Final Four appearance.

Nine of the last 13 national champions are also in the mix.

Participating schools include: Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

“On behalf of the 16 schools participating in PK80, we are honored to be highlighting Mr. Knight’s contributions to college basketball,” said Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events. “The strength of the field coupled with the two venues in Portland set the stage for what should be an exciting weekend.”

Chris Oxley, senior vice president of venue operations of Rose Quarter said, “PK80 will be an incredible showcase of basketball for fans in our arenas and watching on ESPN.

“Two eight-team events – consisting of three games per team – will run simultaneously in the two buildings with the crowning of two bracket champions,” he added. “All games from Portland will be televised on ESPN networks.”

No bracket information has been announced yet for the event, but games will take place on Thursday, Nov. 23, Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 26.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-invited-to-play-in-prestigious-pk80-college-basketball-tournament

UNC Men’s Basketball Ranked Seventh In Blue Ribbon Preseason Poll

Although Larry Fedora has done a great job capturing the attention of the Tar Heel faithful during the fall, the fact remains that most of Chapel Hill divides the year into two distinct parts: basketball season and waiting for basketball season.

With the release of the annual Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook Preseason Top 25 on Tuesday, it’s safe to proclaim that basketball season is almost here.

Despite losing senior fan favorites Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 7.

Led by a group of juniors that includes Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson–as well as senior big men Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks–UNC should again boast an experienced lineup filled with talent.

The real discussion about talent begins, though, when comparing the Tar Heels to the nation’s No. 1 team in the poll–the Duke Blue Devils.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has the top recruiting class in America in Durham this year, to go along with a lineup that returns junior guard Grayson Allen, sharpshooter Luke Kennard and senior forward Amile Jefferson.

Once again, it appears the road to an ACC title could be determined by the Duke-UNC rivalry.

Louisville (No. 8) and Virginia (No. 10) give the ACC four teams ranked among the top 10.

Both the Cardinals and Cavaliers will likely play a major factor in the chase to be the top team in the conference–serving as the top threats to the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.

Florida State (No. 20) and NC State (No. 23) round out the league’s top 25 selections.

No other conference had as many teams chosen as the ACC’s six.

Blue Ribbon Preseason Top 25
1.  Duke
2.  Oregon
3.  Kansas
4.  Kentucky
5.  Villanova
6.  Wisconsin
7.  North Carolina
8.  Louisville
9.  Purdue
10. Virginia
11. Michigan State
12. Xavier
13. Arizona
14. Gonzaga
15. Connecticut
16. Butler
17. Saint Mary’s
18. Indiana
19. Creighton
20. Florida State
21. West Virginia
22. UCLA
23. NC State
24. Maryland
25. Rhode Island
http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-mens-basketball-ranked-seventh-in-blue-ribbon-preseason-poll

2016-17 Carolina Men’s Basketball Schedule Released

The University of North Carolina men’s basketball schedule for the 2016-17 season was released Monday afternoon.  The Tar Heels’ final ten games of the regular season will feature eight contests against teams who made the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

The Carolina regular season will begin against Tulane on November 11 in New Orleans.

The Tar Heels will host Chattanooga on November 13 for the team’s first home game.  That match up will be a part of the Maui Invitational tournament.  After the Chattanooga game, Carolina will host Long Beach State on November 15.  Then, the Tar Heels will head to Hawaii to play in Honolulu at the University of Hawaii.  Chaminade will be Carolina’s opponent in the first round of the Maui Invitational on November 21.  Other schools headed to Maui include Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Georgetown, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  Carolina has won the Maui tournament three times including in both of head coach Roy Williams’ national championship winning seasons (2004-05 and 2008-09).

Carolina will play the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana as a part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on November 30.

On December 17, Carolina will travel to Las Vegas to take on Kentucky.

ACC plays begins for Carolina on New Year’s Eve afternoon.  The Tar Heels travel to Atlanta for a December 31 game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets  The second ACC game will be at Clemson on January 3.  This is the first time since the 1997-98 season that the Tar Heels will start the ACC schedule with two away games.

Carolina will play in four home-and-home series in the ACC.  The Tar Heels will play two games each against Duke, NC State, Pittsburgh, and Virginia.

The first Duke game will be in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday, February 9 at 8 PM.  Carolina and Duke will wrap up their regular seasons on Saturday, March 4 in the Smith Center.

It all starts with Late Night with Roy on October 14.

See the full schedule below.

 

 2016-17 UNC Men’s Basketball
Date Opponent Time Coverage
 Oct 14  Late Night With Roy  7:30 PM  WCHL_Logo
Nov 4   UNC Pembroke (Exhibition)  7:30 PM   WCHL_Logo
Nov 11  @ Tulane  9 PM   WCHL_Logo
Nov 13  Chattanooga  6 PM   WCHL_Logo
Nov 15  Long Beach State  TBA   WCHL_Logo
Nov 16  @ Hawaii  TBA   WCHL_Logo
Nov 21  @Chaminade (Maui Invitational) 11:30 PM   WCHL_Logo
Nov 22  Connecticut or Oklahoma State (Maui Invitational) 3:30 or 10:30 PM   WCHL_Logo
Nov 23  Georgetown, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin  TBA   WCHL_Logo
Nov 30  @ Indiana  9 PM   WCHL_Logo
Dec 4   Radford TBA   WCHL_Logo
Dec 7  Davidson  9 PM   WCHL_Logo
Dec 11  Tennessee  5 PM   WCHL_Logo
Dec 17  Kentucky (in Las Vegas)  5:45 PM   WCHL_Logo
Dec 21  Northern Iowa   8 PM  WCHL_Logo
Dec 28  Monmouth  7 PM   WCHL_Logo
Dec 31  @Georgia Tech  Noon or 2 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 3  @ Clemson 7 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 7   NC State 2 or 8 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 11  @ Wake Forest  8 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 14  Florida State  2 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 16  Syracuse  7 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 21  @ Boston College  Noon   WCHL_Logo
Jan 28  Virginia Tech  8 PM   WCHL_Logo
Jan 31   Pittsburgh 7 PM   WCHL_Logo
Feb 4   Notre Dame TBA   WCHL_Logo
Feb 9  @ Duke  8 PM   WCHL_Logo
Feb 15  @ NC State  8 PM   WCHL_Logo
Feb 18  Virginia  TBA   WCHL_Logo
Feb 22  Louisville  9 PM   WCHL_Logo
Feb 25  @ Pittsburgh  Noon   WCHL_Logo
 Feb 27 @ Virginia  7 PM   WCHL_Logo
March 4  Duke  8 PM   WCHL_Logo
http://chapelboro.com/featured/2016-17-carolina-mens-basketball-schedule-released

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.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/ty-lawson-signs-with-sacramento-kings

Date Set for Late Night with Roy

While the college football season is set to get underway for UNC next weekend, the official start date of the Carolina men’s basketball season has been announced.

UNC will host the annual Late Night with Roy event at the Dean Smith Center on October 14.

Late Night With Roy

ESPN’s Sage Steele: Photo via Smith Cameron Photography

Late Night with Roy is full of sketches all leading up to the first sanctioned practice the men’s basketball team is allowed to have, which is usually in the form of a light-hearted scrimmage more fit for an NBA All-Star Game environment than a Roy Williams-led practice.

Kenny Smith, former Tar Heel and current analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA, served as host last of Late Night in 2015. ESPN’s Sage Steele also made a special appearance at the festivities last season.

The 2015 event also included a tribute to UNC alumnus and famous ESPN personality Stuart Scott. Scott served as the energetic host of Late Night with Roy many times but passed away in 2015 from cancer.

There is no official word on who will host the event this fall.

Late Night With Roy

Stuart Scott’s family: Photo via Smith Cameron Photography

This year’s UNC team will be odd for Tar Heel fans with no Marcus Paige or Brice Johnson. But Carolina will return several key pieces to a team that lost on a buzzer beater in the National Championship game last season.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/date-set-for-late-night-with-roy

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.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/joel-james-signs-to-play-professionally-in-japan

Wayne Ellington Hosts Inaugural Philadelphia Peace Games

For Miami Heat guard, and former UNC standout, Wayne Ellington, life was turned upside down on Nov. 9, 2014.

His father, Wayne Ellington Sr., was shot to death in the driver’s seat of his red Oldsmobile in the Ellingtons’ hometown of Philadelphia.

In response, the younger Ellington has become a devoted advocate for gun safety–even taking home the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his tireless efforts. The honor is given annually to the player who displays outstanding service and commitment to the community.

Next up in Ellington’s continued campaign, though, is the inaugural Philadelphia Peace Games at Girard College on Saturday Aug. 20.

The event’s goal is to bring together at-risk youth and young adults while emphasizing gun violence, prevention and advocacy.

“Gun violence is a global epidemic and it is my hope and intention to develop public education campaigns to help wipe out the threat,” Ellington said in a statement. “My father was taken from us due to senseless gun violence. I will do anything I can to prevent other families from suffering through these tragedies, which are all too common.

“I was really moved at last year’s Peace Games in Chicago and I’m excited to make an impact in my hometown community.”

Four teams made up of at-risk youth will compete in a basketball tournament that will be open to the public. Appearances by local and national celebrities will also be made–in an effort to bring together people from different backgrounds for an open conversation exploring the dangers of gun violence.

The Peace Games are a part of Ellington’s “Power of W.E.” initiative, a campaign focused on the reduction of youth violence in Philadelphia.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wayne-ellington-hosts-inaugural-philadelphia-peace-games

UNC Men’s Basketball Places Three on NABC Honors Court

The UNC men’s basketball team showed its academic chops Wednesday, when it was announced that three seniors from last year’s Final Four squad earned spots on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honor Court.

Marcus Paige, Justin Coleman and Toby Egbuna were each selected as recognition for their achievements in the classroom.

In order to qualify for the honor, players must meet four requirements:

1) They must be either a junior or senior

2) They must have been at their current institution for at least a full year

3) They need to have a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher

4) They must be a member of a Division I, II, or II institution with a coach who is a member of the NABC.

Paige graduated UNC as a fan favorite who earned All-American and All-ACC honors while becoming the most prolific three-point shooter in school history.

Egbuna and Coleman each were part of the “Blue Steel” bench unit that would often close out the late stages of blowouts during the 2015-16 season.

On many occasions they received loud roars from the Dean Dome crowds as they attempted to win Bojangles biscuits for fans by getting the Tar Heels to 100 points.

Coleman was also the star of many pregame dance routines throughout last season.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-mens-basketball-places-three-on-nabc-honors-court

JP Tokoto Signs Training Camp Deal With New York Knicks

Since the NBA Summer Leagues have all come to a close, it means that training camps are right around the corner.

As each team looks to fill out its 20-man camp roster, many players are receiving the chance of a lifetime to prove they belong.

Former UNC small forward JP Tokoto is no different.

The uber-athletic, 6-foot-6 swingman agreed to a partially-guaranteed training camp deal with the New York Knicks on Monday–as he tries to carve out a place at the next level.

After skipping his senior year in Chapel Hill to enter the 2015 NBA Draft, Tokoto was ultimately selected late in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tokoto made a number of highlight plays at the rim during his time at UNC, but he often relied too much on his superior athleticism to get by. (Todd Melet)

Tokoto made a number of highlight plays at the rim during his time at UNC, but he often relied too much on his superior athleticism to get by. (Todd Melet)

He was eventually cut by the team, before going on to play for the Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA Developmental League.

In 48 games for the Blue–where he played about 27 minutes a night–he averaged 11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and two assists per outing.

He also made an appearance in the D-League Dunk Contest at the league’s All-Star Weekend.

As a result, the former Tar Heel was given a chance on the Knicks’ Summer League roster this past July.

Although his statistics were similar to those he put up in the D-League–10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists–Tokoto showed that he has the same glaring hole in his game that’s always been there.

His inability to consistently make shots this summer (40 percent on all field goals, 28 percent from three-point range) has brought into question whether he’ll be able to ultimately make the final cut after camp ends.

While his highlight slams have brought many fans to their feet–and to Youtube–they’ve never counted as anything more than two points on the court.

In order to truly prove his worth to teams at the NBA level, Tokoto will have to continue developing his all-around game.

Should he be able to pair that with his tantalizing athleticism, there could be a bright future ahead–whether it be in New York or elsewhere.

It’s that high-potential ceiling, more than anything else, that explains the Knicks’ decision to give him a chance.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/jp-tokoto-signs-training-camp-deal-with-new-york-knicks

UNC Hopes Maui Invitational Brings Good Luck Yet Again

It may not make him much different from anyone else, but here’s a true story about UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams.

He loves Hawaii.

When the bracket for November’s Maui Invitational was released on Wednesday he was plenty excited to talk about his upcoming trip–one that has brought the Tar Heels good fortune in the past.

The perfect temperatures, sandy beaches and deep blue oceans make Hawaii the ideal vacation spot.

But to use one of the greatest sports clichés of all time, the Tar Heels are supposed to be on a business trip—attempting to win three games in three days against a field full of tough major conference opponents

The bracket for the 2016 Maui Invitational--which takes place from Nov. 21-23. (Photo via @MauiInv)

The bracket for the 2016 Maui Invitational–which takes place from Nov. 21-23. (Photo via @MauiInv)

Making his tournament-record sixth appearance as a head coach, Williams knows more than anybody how tough it is to stay focused out there.

“First time I went [in 1996 while at Kansas], I thought it was the greatest preseason tournament I’ve ever been involved in,” he said during the tournament’s media teleconference. “I almost would not leave the islands–until they promised me I could come back four years later.”

If history tells us anything it’s that another trip to the Final Four could be in the cards for UNC depending on how the team performs in Maui.

In each of the three seasons–1999, 2004 and 2008–the Tar Heels took home the prize, they ended up reaching the Final Four later on that year.

Listening to Williams, it appears this year’s group led by veterans Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks should have the right makeup to accomplish the feat again.

“It is a long trip, and you’ve gotta remain focused on why you’re going,” the coach said. “So you need experienced players that have been through it before.

“We’ve been successful sometimes, and sometimes we haven’t been as successful.”

UNC will get a break in the first round this season, as it was matched up with the host school—Division II’s Chaminade University. Although the Silverswords have pulled major upsets before, it’s highly unlikely in this instance.

UNC will need Joel Berry to step into a larger role this season, especially if the Tar Heels are going to win the Maui Invitational. (Todd Melet)

UNC will need Joel Berry to step into a larger role this season, especially if the Tar Heels are going to win the Maui Invitational. (Todd Melet)

Should the Tar Heels move on, they’ll play the winner of Oklahoma State and UCONN. Awaiting them in the finals could be one of four strong teams—including Oregon, a No. 1 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

In preparation for the early season gauntlet, UNC has already used each of its four summer practices as Williams gets his young players acclimated to the college game.

“My goal has always been—number one–let the freshmen understand what practice is gonna be like,” Williams said. “Number two is to talk to them and get them to understand the secondary break.

“And then three is the pace of the game that we want to play with,” he added. “To emphasize to them that they may think they’re in shape, but they’re nowhere near in shape to play.”

By November, every player should be in full game shape as the Tar Heels look to embark on yet another successful season.

And sure, it might not be the end of the world if UNC comes up short in Maui like it did back in 2012. But previous evidence says this vacation usually ends up a lot like Groundhog Day.

Win and good things happen. Lose and they don’t.

Only time will tell if that remains true.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-hopes-maui-invitational-brings-good-luck-yet-again