'It's Going To Be Really Hard For The Hornets To Bounce Back Without LaMelo'
Local college teams saw an early exit in the NCAA tournament. Charlotte Hornets rookie sensation LaMelo Ball may be out for the season and local high school football sees its first big matchup of the spring season. Langston Wertz Jr. of the Charlotte Observer joins WFAE's Gwendolyn Glenn to talk about it all on the latest Time Out For Sports.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi, Langston
Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey, Gwen. How are you doing?
Glenn: All is well, but not so good news for LaMelo Ball, who has a broken bone in his wrist, I understand, after that loss to the L.A. Clippers.
Wertz: Well, he was going to the basket against the L.A. Clippers. He took a fall and he definitely appeared in pain and tried to come back and play through it. But, you know, he was throwing passes with his left hand. You could tell something was wrong. They took an X-ray in Los Angeles. It was negative. But once they got to San Antonio, they took an MRI. Thet showed a fracture near the base of his thumb on his right shooting hand. And right now, we're hearing that he's out indefinitely.
It's really bad. You know, No. 3 overall pick, he was averaging 16 points, six assists, six rebounds. He looked like a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year. He was the youngest NBA player ever to have a triple-double at 19 years old and he led the Hornets. So, it's going to be really hard for the Hornets to bounce back without LaMelo.
Glenn: Yeah, OK. And the NCAA tournament: That's also dominating sports news, but sadly, the North and South Carolina teams did not fare well in the first rounds.
(Audio plays from UNC's loss to Wisconsin and Winthrop's loss to Villanova.)
Glenn: Langston, first, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels: It wasn't a close game in the end — 62-85. How did they fall so short?
Wertz: North Carolina has six freshmen in their rotation. Wisconsin has six seniors in their rotation. I think that was a big part of it. You say experience. North Carolina is a team built around its big people and they were outrebounded. And they only had 12 offensive rebounds and only 12 second-chance points. They allowed 13 (3-pointers) from Wisconsin and allowed Wisconsin to shoot nearly 50% from three. That's not a recipe to win.
Glenn: And also Winthrop University, the Eagles. This was their 11th NCAA tournament appearance, and I believe they haven't had an NCAA tournament win since 2007. They were looking to upset Villanova. How did that game play out? And do you think they ever had a chance of winning?
Wertz: Yeah, they definitely had a chance of winning. Villanova was playing without co-Big East Player of the Year Colin Gillespie. He hurt his knee, and Winthrop was actually a popular upset pick going into that game. And Gwen, it was a 51-47 game in favor of Villanova late. About, you know, three, four minutes to play, Villanova went on a 9-0 run to kind of salt it away. But Winthrop definitely proved they belonged. A phenomenal year for Winthrop. And they had a seven-game win streak heading into the tournament, so great year for them.
Glenn: And give us a quick roundup of the other North and South Carolina men's teams that are out as well.
Wertz: UNC Greensboro lost by 10 to Florida State. They gave them a heck of a game. App State lost to Norfolk State by 1 in an absolute thriller in the First Four game, and Clemson lost in the first round at Rutgers. It was just not a good weekend for Carolina teams.
Glenn: Now on the women's side of the NCAA tournament that's being played in San Antonio, there's a lot of controversy over equipment, meals, testing and souvenirs when the women's bubble is compared to the men's bubble. Tell us about the viral social media post that brought attention to all of this.
Wertz: I saw a post, I think it was Sunday morning, from an Oregon women's basketball player. And she was kinda like, "Look at this." And she showed the men's weight room and equipment, and it looked like something you see in an NBA workout. And then she showed the women: There was one stack of weights and some yoga mats. And the NCAA acted quickly. They should have acted in the first place, but they acted quickly to try to fix this. But it wasn't just the weight rooms. It was the gift bags didn't match up. The food didn't match up. Just the whole environment didn't match up.
Glenn: Right, and the testing was also different as well. The men had the more accurate test, and the women had one that was less accurate and was giving them false positives. And University of South Carolina's Lady Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley had this to say about the controversy.
Dawn Staley (recording): If all that stuff wasn't laid out on that bed for one of the men's players. And then if somebody didn't post what was in the player's swag bags, we would know nothing about that. If they didn't promote the weight room that's in Indianapolis, we would have known nothing about that. It's the double standard.
Wertz: Yeah, I was glad to see her speak out. I was glad to see some NBA players like Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving speak out. I couldn't help but wonder if Kobe Bryant was still here, what he would have had to say, given his daughters are basketball players. I think he would have had a lot of impact.
Glenn: In other women's tournament news, N.C. State beat North Carolina A&T. High Point went down hard, Wake Forest won. And the Lady Gamecocks. Give us some quick highlights from some of those games.
Wertz: Well, they were kind of mismatches. I mean, No. 1 seed N.C. State beat AT&T by 20. South Carolina beat Mercer by 25. Dawn Staley won her 500th game in that game, by the way.
Glenn: And finally, Langston, there's a big high school football game coming up Saturday between Kings Mountain and Shelby. Why is this an important game?
Wertz: Cleveland County, about an hour west of Charlotte, is just the most high-school-football-crazed place in America, it seems like. And all the teams are really good. Kings Mountain and Shelby are the two best. Kings Mountain is a bonafide 3A state championship contender. Shelby's a 2A defending state champion. If we weren't in COVID-19, this would be a "get there at 2 o'clock" game where you couldn't find a place to park. It's an incredible, incredible rivalry.
Glenn: And also, what about the safety factor of some local high school football teams playing three games in a week?
Wertz: We've had at least three that I know of to play three football games in eight days. There's one that's going to play four football games in 14 days. You know, Ardrey Kell just finished doing three games in eight days. Harding did three games in eight days and it's a grind. You know, players get nicked up. You don't have any time to recover. It's dangerous.
Glenn: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks, as always, Langston.
Langston Wertz Jr. Is a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.