By Bret Strelow
The UNC notebook …
CHARLOTTE ó Tony Bennett’s fondest recollection of playing in Charlotte involves a non-existent franchise and an imploded facility.
Bennett, a member of the Charlotte Hornets for three NBA seasons, coaches the Washington State team that will meet North Carolina in an East Regional semifinal tonight at Bobcats Arena.
The building houses the Charlotte Bobcats, who came into existence following the Hornets’ relocation to New Orleans. The Charlotte Coliseum, where Bennett played from 1992-95, was demolished last year.
“When the brackets came out, I thought we were going to play in ‘The Hive’ ó the Coliseum,” Bennett said. “Someone said, ‘That’s not there anymore. It was taken care of about a year ago.’ ”
The Hornets led the league in attendance during Bennett’s tenure with the team, and Charlotte reached the playoffs for the first time in 1993.
It faced the Boston Celtics in the first round and closed out the best-of-five series in dramatic fashion. Alonzo Mourning beat the buzzer with a 17-foot jumper in Game 4 and lifted the Hornets to a 104-103 victory in front of 23,698 screaming fans.
Bennett, who met his wife in Charlotte, happily recalled playing alongside the likes of Mourning, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues.
“I have great memories, especially Alonzo hitting that shot,” Bennett said.
Bennett, who played collegiately at Wisconsin-Green Bay, joined his father Dick’s staff at Wisconsin in 1999. They arrived together at Washington State in 2003.
The Cougars went 11-17 in 2006, and Bennett took over as head coach before the start of the next season. They reached the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to Vanderbilt in two overtimes.
“I didn’t have the pedigree or background of some of those players in the NBA, and maybe our Washington State team doesn’t have the tradition of some of the schools that are in the NCAA tournament,” Bennett said. “The thing we sell our guys on and the things I believed in as a player is if you do things the right way, play good basketball, it doesn’t matter.
“I think my days in Charlotte taught me that.”
CROC HUNTER: Washington State has a 270-pound version of “Crocodile Dundee” to pair with Psycho T.
The Cougars held Notre Dame power forward Luke Harangody, the Big East Player of the Year, to 10 points on 3-for-17 shooting in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Harangody did pull down 22 rebounds, but Washington State prevailed 61-41 to secure a Sweet 16 date with North Carolina.
The next interior test for 6-foot-10 Aron Baynes, a native of Australia, is rugged forward Tyler Hansbrough.
“He throws his body around a lot down there, kind of like a thrashing croc in the paint down there, so it should be a nice little challenge,” Baynes said. “Just got to get down there and try and make him play over some big bodies that we can throw at him.”
DOWN STAYS FRASOR: Injured North Carolina guard Bobby Frasor took stand-still shots with his teammates during the open practice at Bobcats Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
His attempts to make a 3-pointer from a seated position at the bench attracted the attention of UNC fans and players alike. He misfired on several two-handed, chest-pass deliveries before rising to his feet for some actual 3-point tries from the left corner. He missed three in a row, moved in for a layup and acknowledged the crowd when the ball fell through the net.
Frasor returned to the bench and, still bothered by his inaccuracy, hoisted more shots. He connected about two minutes before UNC’s practice was scheduled to end, stood up and walked toward the tunnel with his arms raised.
GET LOW, GET LOW: Former Kansas coach Roy Williams recruited Washington State shooting guard Derrick Low, who is from Honolulu, before taking the North Carolina job in 2003.
“I really wanted to play for Roy Williams because he’s a great coach, but we just wished him the best because that was the decision he made and felt was best for him,” Low said. “I wasn’t really disappointed. I just moved on because it’s part of life.”
Low and fellow Washington State guard Kyle Weaver were UNC guard Wayne Ellington’s teammates at the 2007 Pan American Games.
Low, a senior, averages a team-leading 14.1 points per game for the Cougars.
“I saw him as a point guard, and he still has those capabilities, but he is a big-time shooter,” Williams said. “He is more on the receiving end of those passes and stepping into his shot more than I ever picked him in high school.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com.
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