Scattershooting around the ACC and Charlottesville sports over your morning coffee …
With recruiting being the biggest deal when it comes to building collegiate programs, one must think that Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett got a leg up on some of his competition on Wednesday when he was named an assistant coach for the USA Basketball’s U19 World Championship Team.
Future ACC coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, who assisted Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in directing the USA’s Olympic Team the past eight years, appointed UVa’s Bennett to the U19 team. Boeheim chairs the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Committee.
Florida’s Billy Donovan will be the U19’s head coach and VCU’s Shaka Smart will also serve as an assistant on the squad. The team will compete at this summer’s FIBA U19 World Championship June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.
While the general public may not take a lot of notice to the honor, it’s a big deal in the basketball world, boosting Bennett’s reputation both nationally and internationally. That’s always worth something in the recruiting world.
Virginia’s coach won’t be the only Wahoo getting in on some of the international action this summer. Senior guard Joe Harris has been invited to USA Basketball’s training camp for the 2013 World University Games, while sophomore big man Mike Tobey has been invited to try out for the U19 team. Don’t you know Bennett must be frothing at the mouth in hopes of Tobey making that squad.
Should Harris and Tobey make those respective teams, just think how that could help elevate their games for next season in ACC play.
“These invitations were earned through a lot of hard work and dedication to basketball,” Bennett said in a UVa press release. “They will have an opportunity to showcase their talents against high-level competition this summer.”
Bennett said he has great memories of representing USA Basketball as a player in the U.S. Olympic Festival and Pan American Games in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
ACC in MSG?
Reports out of the ACC meetings at Amelia Island, Fla., say that the conference is investigating playing the league’s men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden sometime down the road. Several ACC schools, including new members Syracuse and Pittsburgh are pushing for the conference to play in MSG.
The Big East has held its tournament there since 1983 and apparently the new Big East, or whatever it is called, plans on conducting its tournament there through 2026. However, there apparently are some holes in the deal that could allow the ACC to push through.
Since 1954, the ACC Tournament has rarely played outside the state of North Carolina, but has been contested in Atlanta, Tampa, Washington, D.C., and Landover, Md.
Other news surfacing from the spring meetings have mostly been about football. Apparently the ACC is considering the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando as the league’s No. 2 bowl behind the Orange Bowl.
The ACC champion has and will continue to play in the Orange Bowl except in years when the Orange is part of the new College Football Playoff. Formerly, the Chick-fil-A Bowl (the old Peach Bowl) was the ACC’s No. 2, but it will also become part of the new playoff.
Some critics seemed surprised that the ACC might go with the Russell Athletic Bowl over the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, but not those fans who have traveled to Jacksonville for the Gator. There hasn’t been a lot of great feedback from fans on that trip and even players, coaches and administrators haven’t exactly been thrilled with the Gator, although you would have a difficult time getting them to say so on the record.
It’s rather simple in my mind. Orlando is a destination. Jacksonville is not.
Goodbye to an old friend
Central Virginians who have lived in our area since the early 1980’s remember longtime NBC-29 sports anchor Bob Wells, who sadly passed away Monday at the age of 81.
Wells served in that position from 1979 to 1990 when he retired. He covered Virginia athletics and local high school sports and hosted the Dick Bestwick Coaches Show for a period of time.
Wells resided in Kingsland, Ga., the past several years.
Making it big
It’s amazing to see how many golfers who played in some of the mini-tour and Canadian Tour events in the Charlottesville/Wintergreen areas the past several years, are now carving out names for themselves on the PGA Tour.
While some of the events have been rather lower profile tournaments, it was kind of cool that I covered the first professional victories for a couple of those guys: Nick Watney and Roberto Castro, in addition to writing stories about Steve Marino, William McGirt, Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, and Eric Compton to name a few. All of them played in events at Keswick Club, Spring Creek or Wintergreen’s Stoney Creek on various tour events.
Watney won the 2003 Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Championship at Stoney Creek and was quickly on the fast track to PGA success. Former UVa golf coach Mike Moraghan brought Watney to the Wintergreen event and predicted greatness for the kid, who has lived up to expectations.
Compton was an interesting story, having had two heart transplants and continued to pursue his dream of playing on the PGA Tour.
Then there’s Castro, the former Georgia Tech All-American, who won Spring Creek’s eGolf Tour event in 2007, his first pro tournament. He repeated the victory in ’09 and recently made a splash on the PGA Tour by leading the Players Championship with a remarkable 9-under-par 63 at TPC Sawgrass in last week’s first round. Castro’s 63 tied the course record set by two Hall of Famers, Fred Couples and Greg Norman.
I’ll never forget that 2007 event at Spring Creek, played in the dog days of July, the heat challenging players to just get through the event. Afterwards, Castro was so bewildered by winning his first pro tournament, that he tried to take the big cardboard check presented by eGolf Tour with him. He thought he was supposed to take it to the bank.
A member of the PGA Tour the past two years, Castro has already won more than $1 million. He’s cashing really big checks now.