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NC State Makes A Charge In The College World Series, Charlotte Hornets Guard LaMelo Ball Wins Rookie Of The Year

NC State Baseball Twitter Account
NC State's Jonny Butler on a 5 RBI Day

The North Carolina State Wolfpack baseball team had a big win in the NCAA Division I College World Series this weekend. Charlotte Hornets rookie guard LaMelo Ball was named NBA Rookie of the Year and a big U.S. Supreme Court ruling today on education-related benefits for college athletes. Joining "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk sports is Langston Wertz Jr., a veteran sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.

Langston Wertz Jr, a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.
Langston Wertz Jr.

Glenn: Hi Langston.

Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey Gwen. How are you?

Glenn: I'm great. So, Langston, big breaking news out of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning, and it's dealing with education-related benefits for college athletes. Tell us about it.

Wertz: The Supreme Court basically said that the NCAA limits on compensating college athletes violate U.S. antitrust laws. And that schools will be allowed to offer additional incentives beyond just the room and board as long as they're education-based incentives to athletes.

Glenn: And when they talk about educational benefits, that could include things like computers, internships, study abroad.

Wertz: Yes, absolutely. All of those.

Glenn: One thing I'm sure people are wondering if this addresses at all paying college athletes, allowing them to have salaries.

Wertz: No, this is not what this is about. That may come up next. But the ability for a college athlete to monetize, say, his Instagram, to go to the car dealership and be a spokesperson for the Honda dealership in this town. I think we're going to see that very soon.

Glenn: Let's move on to NC State's baseball team. They did great in the College World Series in Omaha this weekend.

NCAA Announcer: Mensik will come around from second, throw goes to third and Murr takes it in the back. NC State keeps is rolling in the 2nd.

Glenn: NC State beat Stanford 10 to 4 in the first game of the College World Series on Saturday. Langston, some are calling that game an upset. How did they pull it off?

Wertz: Well, Gwen, honestly, the butler did it. Johnny Butler drove in five runs. He had a two-run homer in the first inning, led to a 10-4 win, and then pitchers Reed Johnson and Evan Justice closed the deal. NC State had 12 hits, that's how they won, they hit the ball. And NC State basically played baseball the way Mike Tyson used to box, they knocked them out early.

Glenn: I like that the butler did it. And tonight at 6:00 p.m., the Wolfpack plays No. 4, Vanderbilt. What's your prediction?

Wertz: NC State may be the nation's hottest team. They're on a hot streak. I'm going with the Wolfpack.

Glenn: Well, let's move on to the Charlotte Hornets. Langston, rookie Guard LaMelo Ball was named NBA Rookie of the Year. Let's hear what he had to say about it.

LaMelo Ball: When I was playing basketball and then they was talking about the NBA stuff, that's when I knew. If I'm a rookie, that's probably one of the accomplishments I could get.

Glenn: Now, Ball received 84 of the 100 total first-place votes on the award. Which surprised some people that he won by such a wide margin

Wertz: When you get 84 first-place votes, I mean, it's pretty unanimous. I know Ball missed 21 games. But Gwen he was the youngest player in NBA history to have a triple-double. LaMelo Ball is a real thing. He has a chance to be the best Hornet ever and they better keep him long-term.

Glenn: So looking ahead, what will this mean for recruitment?

Wertz: The Hornets definitely have a good nucleus. They build around it. And now you got that star and you know, the NBA loves a star and they're going to come put you on national television, which the Hornets haven't been on. That attracts other free agents. 'Oh, I want to be part of that. I want to play with LaMelo, have a chance to go to an Eastern Conference finals.' So I think this puts the Hornets in a really good spot.

Glenn: In a related note, last week, the Spectrum Center officials announced that starting in August, they'll be back to 100% capacity. Your thoughts?

Wertz: This shows we're getting back to normal. You know, some people are going to feel queasy about going back because, you know, I don't know if you're vaccinated or not and that's fine. Some people stay home.

Glenn: And they did mention that they will have an upgrade of the filtration system. They're going to have more sanitation stations and masks are recommended but not required.

Wertz: And no cash, everything's touchless.

Glenn: Everything is touchless.

So let's go to women's tennis. Naomi Osaka, part-owner of the North Carolina Courage Professional Soccer Team, has withdrawn from Wimbledon. She pulled out of the French Open last month. Give folks a brief refresher on what's going on with Osaka and her plans to return to the court

Wertz: During the French Open, she came out very courageously as she was struggling with mental health issues and one of her triggers was actually dealing with the media post-match. And she missed a media availability, they fined her and she decided to withdraw from the French Open. And now she's withdrawn from Wimbledon and she'll return for the Olympics and Tokyo. Should be interesting to see if she does speak to reporters. I know it to be a totally different type of situation than it would be at a tennis major. Like I said before, she's one of the best athletes in the world. You want to see her do what she does and hopefully, we can all figure this out.

Glenn: And staying on the Olympics, the Olympic trials happened over the weekend. And in Omaha and a local swimmer was highlighted

NCAA Announcer: “As they come to the final ten meters Whitesell in 3, Brown in 8 and it is...Whitesell winning, with Brown second, Smoliga in third.

Glenn: Former Hough High School and two-time state champion swimmer Erika Brown was within a stroke of winning her trial. However, she still qualifies for the U.S. swim team. Tell us about it, Langston.

Wertz: Yeah, she was in lane eight and swam 53.59 seconds. I mean she was flying out there. She lost to a U.S. record holder actually. In high school, she was a two-time state champion at 200 and 400 freestyle. And I remember how dominant she was in high school and she went to Tennessee. She was 2020 SEC female swimmer the year, she won 23 SEC gold medals.

Glenn: And Brown isn't the only swimmer headed to Tokyo with North Carolina ties. Sixteen-year-old Claire Curzon from Raleigh is going as well, right?

Wertz: Yeah, yeah. She said it doesn't feel real. I mean, she's a rising senior in Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons High School. She finished second in 100-meter butterfly in 56.43 seconds. She's a six-time North Carolina state champion she already owns national high school records. But to go to Tokyo as a 16-year-old, that's insane.

Glenn: And Providence High. They made it to the 4A state semifinals on tap for Thursday. Who did they beat to get there and how do you think they'll do?

Wertz: Well, Providence has been really hot lately. They beat Northwest Guilford 13 - 3 on Saturday in front of a monster crowd and now they'll host, Winston Salem's Reagan High School, on Tuesday in the state semi-finals. Some motivation for Providence, Gwen, Reagan beat the Panthers 15 - 2 in the season opener. So I'm sure Providence will remember that Providence hasn't won a state championship since 2015. Gwen, I'm going to go ahead and give it to them. They're going to win Tuesday and they're gonna win the series on Friday and Saturday.

Glenn: OK, also seven Charlotte and Triangle area female wrestlers won in the third North Carolina High School Athletic Association Girls Invitational Championship matches this weekend. Update us on that.

Wertz: This is the third time they've had the championships. Over 130 girls, I think participated. In previous years, girls would have to wrestle with the boys sometimes. They very rarely make it to the state championships. So it was nice to see them be rewarded for their hard work. As you said, there are seven girls in the Charlotte and Raleigh areas that won. And I think that event's only going to grow and grow and grow probably to the point where it becomes more like the boys.

NASCAR Announcer: This has got to be the most dominant performance we've seen out of Kyle Larson

Glenn: Langston, Kyle Larson did it again, this time in Nashville.

Wertz: Yeah, this guy's like the Michael Jordan of the sport right now. He's got four wins this season. He led 264 of 300 laps. I mean, that's pretty dominant. The race was sold out with 40,000 fans and they saw a dynamite performer.

Glenn: Wow. As always, thanks, Langston.

Wertz: Absolutely.

Glenn: Langston Wertz Jr. is a long-time sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.

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