Charlotte Hornets Bulk Up Roster; Local Athletes Shine At Olympics
The Charlotte Hornets got high-profile shooting guards in last week’s NBA Draft. Olympians with North Carolina and South Carolina connections medaled at the Olympics, and the Carolina Panthers started training camp. Langston Wertz with The Charlotte Observer joins us to talk about those stories and more for Time Out for Sports.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi, Langston.
Langston Wertz Jr.: How are you doing?
Glenn: All is well. So, Langston, during Thursday's NBA draft, the Charlotte Hornets selected shooting guard James Bouknight from the University of Connecticut. Tell us about him. And what do you think he brings to the team?
Wertz: Well, the guy can score. He can put the ball in the hole. That's something the Hornets desperately need. You know, you can pair him with LaMelo (Ball) and have a big backcourt eventually, down the road. He's a 6-5 shooting guard. Averaged 19 points a game at UConn last season as a sophomore. He was All-Big East. He actually grew up playing baseball and started playing basketball late, but I think he's going to be going to be a good one.
Glenn: Well, here's what Bouknight had to say when he was introduced at a press conference.
James Bouknight (recording): For me, it's still surreal. You put in so much hard work and you had his dream that you're going to play the league one day, but you never really know what's going to happen until it really does. And it happened. So for me, it's still surreal. I'm just trying to enjoy the moment.
Glenn: Langston, the Hornets also got in a trade Kai Jones from the University of Texas.
Kai Jones (recording): This team is on the rise. You got a really good young players, like LaMelo, who can pass the ball and they like to run. So I love running. I know James loves to run, too, so it's going to be showtime. I'm excited.
Glenn: Jones, a 20-year-old native of the Bahamas, is 6-11 and 281 pounds. What can you tell us about his game? And how do you think he'll help the Hornets?
Wertz: Well, first of all, he's a great pickup by Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak. They traded a future No. 1 to the New York Knicks, but it's protected, so the pick can't be any higher than 15. And if the Hornets fall into the lottery they still keep that pick. Jones was a guy a lot of people thought the Hornets might take at 11. He averaged 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds. He shot 60% from the field. He shot 40% from 3. He shot 70% from the free throw last year. bringing in a guy, a modern day kind of big guy, who can shoot the basketball, can really run, and best of all, he can catch all those lobs that LaMelo is going to throw up in the air for you.
Glenn: Yeah, sounds great. So Langston, who else did they pick? And did they listen to you last week about getting someone who can protect the rim?
Wertz: Well, yeah. Before the draft started, the Hornets announced a trade to to pick up Miles Plumlee, a 6-11 big man from Duke. He averaged a double-double in the NBA last year, so he will be able to protect the basket a little bit, brings a little athleticism in the second round. They picked up a 6-10 forward, J.T. Thor out of Auburn. Long-arm guy, another run and jump athlete type. And then later on in the draft they picked up Florida's Scottie Lewis, averaged 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 25 minutes a game. He's a former McDonald's All-American. If you're going to take a chance on the guy that low, you take a chance on a guy who's been a proven commodity at the lower levels.
Glenn: OK, so let's move to the NFL and the Carolina Panthers. Their training camp kicked off last Wednesday at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Your observations?
Wertz: The Panthers have four players over 30, Gwen. Like a quarter of the roster is 23 years or younger. Matt Rhule's doing a lot of teaching. He was not happy at times this past week. But we did have some standouts. Brian Burns and Derrick Brown with the defensive line looked really good. Robby Anderson is one of the fastest receivers in the league. Got a phenomenal catch from a Will Grier pass that was over his head. Kicker Joey Slye, who was much maligned last year, was 6-and-7 on field goals, only missed from 48 yards on Saturday. I think one of the guys that has been the most impressive early on is rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall out of LSU. Former Panthers superstar Steve Smith really praised the guy. He said this guy is going to steal some people's jobs.
Glenn: And what's up with Taylor Moton being shifted to the left side? And any other battles for spots that you're watching?
Wertz: Well, you sign a guy to four years, $71.25 million, maybe you do want to play left tackle to protect your quarterback. The Panthers don't put the pads on until (Tuesday), so we really won't know what the true competition is there at left tackle.
Glenn: And Langston, also off the field: What happened with some fans' personal information being exposed to other fans?
Wertz: Yeah. Friday, the Panthers sent out a letter to their fans basically saying that some of their information could have been exposed by a third-party vendor. Didn't name the vendor, but apparently that vendor emailed fans to ask them about updating email preferences. And when I went in to type in my preferences, I could see the person's before me — could see what they put in, which included their name, gender, birthdate and ZIP code. The Panthers said less than 2,000 accounts were affected, and they didn't expect that anybody's information had been abused. But it was something that obviously became a story.
Glenn: At the Olympics, some local athletes have won medals. Let's start with the hurdlers, where Gabbi Cunningham of Charlotte, Keni Harrison of Clayton and Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Charleston, South Carolina, all competed.
Recording: [Sounds from Olympic Games in Tokyo.]
Wertz: Camacho-Quinn, Gwen, is a big, tall runner, big, long strides, just very impressive. She was born in South Carolina. She ran for Puerto Rico, but that's her mother's homeland. She's the sister of former UNC football star Robert Quinn. Some people may remember. She won the race in 12.37 seconds, which is flying. Keni Harrison out of Clayton, right outside of Raleigh, she ran a 12.52 to win the silver. And then finishing seventh was Gabbi Cunningham from Mallard Creek High School right here in Charlotte. Gabbi was added to the team as an alternate, ran away all the way to the finals in the seventh. She has a lot to be happy about and it was a very impressive run for the Tokyo Olympics.
Glenn: Oh, yeah. And also Anna Cockrell, who we talked about last week, who graduated from Providence Day, raced over the weekend. Tell us how she did.
Wertz: Well, Gwen, you may have heard the people screaming this morning, I was one of them watching her in the race. She was trying to qualify for the finals. She was down coming down the back stretch and needed to finish third to qualify. She found her way in running hard down the stretch and got her way into the finals tomorrow. It was a downpour out there. I mean, you could see puddles on the track. One of the girls fell in the water right beside her and she kept going. So congratulations to Anna. She'll be in the finals (Tuesday).
Glenn: Yeah, that's great. And tell us about former University of South Carolina Lady Gamecock Alisha Gray's medal in basketball.
Wertz: Yeah, she's a guard for the WNBA's Dallas Wings. She won gold in a 3-on-3 — the first time we've ever had it. She played alongside WNBA players Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young. They beat the team from Russia 18-15, and Gray had a huge bucket, Gwen, with two minutes and 12 seconds to go. She had a big layup that kind of gave the United States the cushion to go ahead and win.
Glenn: And on the college front, Langston, in an earlier message, you mentioned that it's a big deal that Livingstone College in Salisbury is upgrading its football stadium. Why so?
Wertz: You know, you got a 6,000-seat stadium. They're going to redo the track. They're going to redo the field. They're going to get a brand new scoreboard. They're going to take the grass turf and convert it to artificial turf. Having that type of facility upgrade allows you a lot of sponsorship opportunities. It allows you better facilities to impress recruits with. And at the Division II level, that's a very big deal.
Glenn: As always, thanks, Langston, for being with us for Time Out for Sports.
Wertz: Absolutely. Thanks.
Glenn: Langston Wertz Jr. is a longtime sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.