It's Time Out for Sports on WFAE. The Super Bowl is over, but there are still tons of sports events happening for those who are in the dumps because the NFL season has ended. Perk up. The XFL is in full swing. And there's a lot going on in college and high school sports.
Veteran Charlotte Observer sportswriter Langston Wertz Jr. joins WFAE "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to help bring everybody up to speed on the sports world.
Gwendolyn Glenn: So, there was a big game on Saturday between Duke and UNC Chapel Hill that went into overtime.
Langston Wertz Jr.: Oh, wow. That was an incredible game. A lot of people were saying, you know, Duke and Carolina is gonna rise up and be a great game, even though North Carolina's not having the best of seasons. And it did turn out that way. It was a sort of crazy game. And then it comes down to a perfect missed free throw by Tre Jones off the front of the rim. Wendell Moore, who is from Cox Mill High School, grew up in Charlotte, tips the ball out.
They get it back. Tre Jones misses a jump shot and Wendell Moore makes a shot that’s going to, you know, put him indelibly in Duke history. To be a freshman and have that kind of thing happen... he just came back from a broken hand. He's gonna be on ESPN 20 years from now when they talk about the history of this great rivalry. And for North Carolina, their season is not going well, anyway. And just to look at the reaction. Those guys, it's like, you know, we played the best we could play and we still lost.
Glenn: What did you think about that foul toward the end? A lot of people were saying, oh, they've taken a game. And I was with one friend who is a ref. And he also thought that play was questionable. What did you think?
Wertz: Yeah, you talked about a play when Andrew Platek was fouled by Wendell Moore right in front of the Duke bench. Yes, it was a foul. And yes, it did give Duke possession and ultimately it gave them the game. But the flipside is Carolina had 17 chances to put the game away. They missed 17 free throws.
Glenn: Well, in more basketball news, there is a lot going on with the high school basketball conference. Tournaments begin next week. What teams are you watching?
Wertz: The private schools start on Tuesday in Charlotte, and the state championships are in Charlotte in a couple of weeks. So I think the teams to look out for are going to be Cannon School on the boy’s side. I think they have a really strong chance to win in 4A. And I think Concord First Assembly, maybe one of the best teams in the state, public or private. They look really good in 3A.
Then in 2A, Davidson Day is as big a favorite as there is. On the girl’s side, I think Providence's girls have a shot. But I think you're going to have three local boys’ teams win state championships at Charlotte Latin on Feb.22, which should be pretty exciting. On the public school side, they're going into the last week of the regular season. They start conference tournaments the following week.
Glenn: OK. Well, let's go to football and the XFL season kicked off this weekend. A lot of people really excited about it. It debuted in 1999. And it’s back.
Wertz: It’s a lot different now, too. It looks more like traditional football. You know, when it was on before it was kind of like college football. This was a definite pro football look. I thought it was really interesting. Some of the rules, you know, the double passes. And they kept saying, you know, "This is not bad football. This is good football."
And I think those guys take a lot of pride because these guys didn't quite make the NFL or went to Canada and it didn't work out. Or didn’t want to play in Canada and/or former college stars that just didn't make it for whatever reason. And I think they enjoyed this chance to prove themselves on the big stage, and they're really playing in front of the same audience the NFL does.
Glenn: Right. And the coaches are watching. So it's a chance for them to maybe get into the NFL because they are not restricted from signing with the NFL. And I watched the D.C. Legends on Saturday.
Wertz: I bet you did.
Glenn: Yes, I did. Against the Seattle Dragons. It was a great game. And just as you said, it looked just like the NFL games. And they have a lot of top players and coaches. The coach for D.C., Pep Hamilton, is from Charlotte.
Wertz: Yep. A Charlotte guy. He went to West Charlotte High School. And he was a quarterback coach for the Bears, for the Jets, for the 49ers. He was also Andrew Luck’s quarterback coach at Stanford, offensive coordinator too. He's got a lot of experience. There’s a lot of Charlotte kids I saw during the week — I saw Austin Duke from Independence, and I saw Marquis Williams from Mallard Creek. Austin Proehl who went to Providence and North Carolina.
Glenn: This time around, do you think it's going to last?
Wertz: I don't know. People are kind of fickle and we’re kind of set in our ways about when we watch sports. I mean, football is not a spring thing. And, you know, there was another league that came out a couple of years ago that it failed.
Glenn: Alliance of America?
Wertz: Yes. And Andrew Luck is actually running this league, which is a great hire by Vince McMahon. You know, he's a football guy, Andrew Luck’s dad. He’s kind of football royalty. And the TV contracts they have are phenomenal. So, I mean, they can't fail from lack of exposure.
Glenn: Right. Right. Moving to the NBA, there's been a lot of trades going on and the Hornets just released a couple of players, I heard this morning. What do you think about all that?
Wertz: Well, it's part of the movement they're doing to get younger. They released a couple of the older veteran guys. And, you know, I think it's a good thing because I think the Hornets didn't need to make a trade during the trade deadline. I think they need to kind of stay the course.
You know, some of the Hornet fans might not want to hear that, but they need to be bad this year that they get into the lottery. They're going to need a Ja Morant, Zion Williamson-type of player to get them over the hump. I do like the young talent they have. And I think if you can combine that with that star guy, they can make a jump. And I think the best way to do that is to get into the lottery and get high into the lottery.