Charlotte 49ers Year 2

Jul 29, 2014 -- 10:00pm

Year two of Charlotte 49ers football gets underway Wednesday morning.   Here are some things to keep an eye on this season.

Redshirt Players

The 49ers are playing one more year as an NCAA FCS Independent and Head Coach Brad Lambert is setting his team up for the start of Conference USA play in 2015.  With that in mind, players who had an impact in 2013 could sit this year to give them more years of eligibility for Conference USA.   WR Trent Bostick & RB Kalif Phillips are two players to keep an eye on as practice gets underway.  Phillips leads the 49ers with 716 yards rushing last season and was a prime candidate to be redshirted this year.  However, the dismissal of fellow RB Alan Barnwell in the offseason most likely means Phillips will be playing in 2014.  Bostick is a more interesting case: the freshman had 42 catches with an average of 14.1 yards in 2013.  Despite the dismal of Jamel Ross, Bostick could still be redshirted because of a new crop of freshmen and a transfer.  Other players who may sit out in the 2014 season include LB Justin Bridges Thompson & DB Devin Pearson.

Depth

Last year, the 49ers, under NCAA rule, could only offer 63 scholarships.  This year, it’s up to 74, and that will help the depth for Charlotte.  Nowhere was the depth tested more for the 49ers in 2013 than on the defensive line.  DE Devon Johnson suffered an Achilles injury midway through 2013, and DT Larry Ogunjobi played despite being banged up throughout the year.  Charlotte will also see help this year on defense thanks to transfers, including LB Nick Cook from Butler Community College in Kansas.  Lambert spoke highly of Cook when I talked with him last week and said he’s had a huge impact on the defense during the spring.  Lambert is a defensive guy, and I know he expects to see improvement from a unit that struggled at times in 2013, especially on 3rd down.  The 49ers were ranked 120th out of 122 teams on 3rd down defense.  With the fast pace the 49ers play on offense, the defense has to get off the field any time they can make it happen.

Experience

The 2nd year should be more comforting to everyone involved for the 49ers.  Brad Lambert was at Conference USA Media Days in Dallas last week, and he said that it’s a lot easier this year because everyone knows what is going to happen.  The 49ers have not only players with one year under their belt, but also a coaching staff that is largely intact.  The core of the Charlotte coaching staff returns led by Lambert, along with Offensive Coordinator Jeff Mullen and Defensive Coordinator Bruce Tall.  One coach that will be interesting to watch is former Wake Forest star and a 1st round pick in the NFL Draft, Aaron Curry.  Curry, who retired from the NFL just before the start of last season, was around the team in 2013 and is now a Graduate Assistant.  Lambert said the number one thing Curry brings is an everyday intensity.

Year two gets underway tomorrow morning.  It should be a fun transition year for the 49ers with Conference USA just one year away.

Starting Five

Jul 23, 2014 -- 11:35am

A new weekly feature with five topics dealing with Charlotte Sports.  Today's discussion is about the Charlotte Hornets with Bobby Rosinski, Chris Allison & Justin Thomas.

Question 1: Did you like what you saw from Noah Vonleh & P.J. Hairston in Vegas?

Bobby:   Noah Vonleh, while not putting up the greatest numbers, showed he has potential-that’s why Rich Cho grabbed him at the 9th pick.  Vonleh is just 18 and still has a long way to go to develop his game, but I like the early signs.  The good news for P.J. is he didn’t get in trouble while in Vegas.  We know P.J. can shoot, and that’s what he did in Vegas.  I didn’t say he shot well but he did shoot.  P.J.’s role on this team is up in the air with Lance Stephenson & Gerald Henderson, but as we saw last year, if you can make threes you can get minutes.

Chris:  I thought Hairston performed as advertised.  He can score.  Hairston poured in 27 points in the finale vs. Houston, his sixth game in double figures.  If PJ Hairston continues to focus on basketball, and indeed shrinks his "circle" of acquaintances, I believe he could be a true threat in the NBA.  

Justin:  When watching the summer league you can’t get too high on or too low on a player. Noah Vonleh and PJ Hairston both displayed some very encouraging signs for Hornet fans going forward. Vonleh showed why his game drew comparisons to Chris Bosh-with his ability to play with his back to the basket and the range to step out and knockdown the 15-foot jumper.

 

Question 2: Outside the draft picks for the Hornets, did anyone else stand out in Vegas?

Chris: Josh Davis certainly made a case for himself to earn a shot at making an NBA roster.  After an All-Conference season to wrap up his career at San Diego State, the forward earned workouts with four NBA teams.  The Hornets inked Davis, and he performed admirably in Las Vegas.  Davis scored 18 points and gobbled up 14 rebounds in the final game, recording his second double-double in Sin City.  

Justin:  Forward Josh Davis out of San Diego State played some good basketball. Davis did a very good job on the boards, having four games of 12 or more rebounds. He was also efficient on the offensive end averaging 8.9 points on 51 percent shooting. Though the chances of Davis making this Hornets roster are slim to none, I’m sure there will be some GM’s interested in his services based on his performance in Vegas.

Bobby:  For me it was Josh Davis-the undrafted player from Raleigh has the one thing you can’t teach: hustle.  Josh was all over the place so I have to imagine he is a player coaches love.  Will Josh make it with the Hornets?  Probably not because of the players in front of him, but I hope he gets a shot somewhere.  He was easily the best player for Charlotte outside of Cody, P.J. & Noah.

 

Question 3:  Do you like the Lance Stephenson deal?

Justin:  When the news broke that Lance Stephenson would be signing a three-year $27 million dollar deal with the third year being a team option, I couldn’t believe it. Charlotte should actually be happy that the Utah Jazz matched their offer sheet for Gordon Hayward of four years $63 million dollars. In Stephenson you get a better overall basketball player that brings it on both ends of the floor, for a much cheaper price. We all know that Stephenson comes with some baggage, but if he starts adding turmoil you can cut ties after two seasons. The signing was a good one for both Charlotte and Stephenson.

Bobby:  I was firmly against bringing Lance to Charlotte when Free Agency started, but that was based on the contract Indiana offered him for five-years and $44 million dollars.  Lance no doubt has great potential, but the distraction he brings is too much for a long term deal.  The fact that Rich Cho got the deal done for two years with a team option for a 3rd year was a complete steal.  Add in the fact that you take a player away from a top Eastern Conference team, and then it’s grand larceny.

Chris:  It's risky.  But not risky enough to pass up this potential star.  Stephenson brings energy, passion, and talent to the floor.  His attitude will feed his teammates, and what unsuccessful franchise doesn't need a little more of an edge?  Stephenson shot 49% last season, and if he is able to duplicate that performance with this roster, the Hornets will win a lot of games.  Will he get along with Big Al?  Will he be selfish with the ball and upset other teammates?  Stay tuned.  My hope is that Lance has learned from his past immature actions.  

 

Question 4:  Have the Hornets improved from the end of last season?

Bobby:  Before Lance Stephenson came aboard, the answer was an easy no-now it’s an easy yes.  The loss of Josh McRoberts was a sting for the Hornets.  With Gordon Hayward’s deal matched by Utah, Charlotte was looking at an off-season where most of the Eastern Conference was improving while we were declining.  Now add Lance Stephenson along with Marvin Williams to a starting lineup with Kemba Walker & Al Jefferson and it gets you pretty excited for the upcoming season.  If MKG can add any offense to his game, this team is a Top 4 Eastern Conference team.

Chris:  The Hornets are certainly better now than they were at the end of 2013-14.  They have lost Josh McRoberts, and that hurts.  But adding Marvin Williams and his outside threat, along with Lance Stephenson, and I think the Hornets are set to win playoff games this season.  A healthy Big Al, a more experienced Kemba Walker, and a better jump shot from MKG won't hurt either.  And let’s not forget that Steve Clifford has his first year under his belt as an NBA Head Coach as well. 

Justin:  Yes, the Hornets have improved from the end of last season. Going into the offseason Charlotte wanted to add more depth to the frontcourt, improve the shooting guard, and sign a backup point guard. The Hornets addressed all of their needs, despite losing Josh McRoberts. Losing McRoberts hurt, but adding Marvin Williams, a versatile stretch-four, will sooth the pain. The depth on this roster is a stout six to seven deep with wings and bigs. With what Charlotte did last season despite a lack of scoring was impressive.  Now with the offseason additions the Hornets can legitimately compete for one of the top-four seeds in the Eastern Conference.

 

Question 5:  Should Hornets look to trade Gerald Henderson?

Chris:  I'm a little nervous about a shooting guard position being occupied by P.J. Hairston and Lance Stephenson alone.  This will be the first season with both on the roster.  Chances are one will play this season with more maturity than we anticipate, and one won't.  I'm keeping Gerald until I learn more about how these two players fit into the rotation. 

Justin:  Last offseason provided some insight on how the rest of the NBA felt about Gerald Henderson when he went out to test the open market as a restricted free-agent. Nobody wanted his services forcing him to return because he didn’t have any other options. Henderson is not a bad basketball player, he just isn’t a starting caliber shooting guard. On a good team he would be the seventh or eighth option off the bench-he started in Charlotte because they didn’t have a better option, but now they do. Lance Stephenson is going to start, and the Hornets are going to have extreme depth off the bench when it comes to wings. If Henderson wants to see the floor, he better bring a jump shot with him when the team reports to training camp in October.

Bobby:  Gerald was a major disappointment for me last season.  It’s never good when you have a shooting guard who doesn’t like to shoot, however, you do have to give Gerald the benefit of the doubt for having a wrist issue during the season.  Gerald still only costs $6 million dollars for Charlotte, so unless Cho can pull off a great deal, I think you have to keep Henderson around-not only for what he brings on the floor but also off the floor.  The Hornets are a very young team and they need any veteran leadership they can get-Gerald has been with this organization longer than any other player.

 

Leave your comments by emailing sports@espn730.com

Hornets Summer League Opener

Jul 13, 2014 -- 4:04pm

The Charlotte Hornets dropped their 2014 Summer League opener vs Golden State on Friday, but in Summer League it's not about wins & losses-it's about development of the young players.  For Charlotte it was mixed results following the 70-58 loss to the Warriors who featured former Tar Heel James Michael McAdoo & former Ohio State Guard Aaron Craft.

The Good:  F Josh Davis

The undrafted rookie out of San Diego State was the best player on the floor for Charlotte in Game 1 as he scored 14 points while bringing down 16 rebounds.  The Raleigh native also did everything an undrafted rookie needs to do-hustle.  Davis drew a couple charges and out of his 16 rebounds six came on the offensive side for the Hornets.  It will be interesting to see how the rest of Summer League goes, but Davis is a player to watch who might make a name for himself.

The Ok:  F Noah Vonleh

Despite going 0 for 13 from the floor, Vonleh showed flashes of the potential he may have.  I've read about Vonleh being compared to Chris Bosh and you can see why after just one game.  Vonleh was active on the offensive end, and not just in the paint-Vonleh can stretch a defense with his game.  Noah also made some great moves, but just didn't get anything to fall.  So despite the 0 for 13 shooting, I wouldn't make much of it.

The Bad:  P.J. Hairston

After the week P.J. had this wasn't the worst night for him, but it was a struggle for the 26th pick in the draft as he went 2 of 16 from the floor, including 1 of 10 from three.  While Noah had good looks, it was mostly the opposite for P.J. who took contested jump shots sometimes early in the shot clock.  The one positive thing you can say is that he's not afaird to shoot the ball, which is a problem for current Hornets SG Gerald Henderson.  

Other Notes:  McAdoo played like a guy who was not happy he wasn't selected in the June NBA Draft...Steve Kerr's cargo shorts were not a good look, and Rich Cho's interview with NBATV in the 3rd quarter was a struggle-good thing he's not paid for talking.

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