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Arena: Dale F Halton Arena
School Name: University of North Carolina, Charlotte
For the Charlotte 49ers this season, things shouldn't be nearly as bad as they might look on paper. The 49ers lost three of their five starters from last year's NCAATournament team, including the Conference USA Player of the Year (Eddie Basden), one of the best 3-point shooters in the country (Brendan Plavich) and the most highly touted recruit Bobby Lutz ever lured to Charlotte (Martin Id).
Yet Lutz is high on the promise of this season's team, which joins the 14-team Atlantic 10 in 2005-06.
"We have a chance to be just as good as last year," Lutz says. "We're making a lot of changes a new conference, some new players but we have confidence that we'll have a strong chance to contend for a conference tide and an NCAA bid once again."
If this Charlotte team is going to go anywhere, it will do so on the shoulders of forward Curtis Withers. Withers averaged 18.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season and should be one of the contenders for A-10 Player of the Year.
The rest of the frontcourt will have to sort itself out after Iti transferred to New Mexico State. Muscular senior Chris Nance is a bruiser who showed some good flashes last season and will have a good shot at the center spot. E.J. Drayton is a slender forward with some scoring ability (8.7 ppg last season). He and junior college transfer Courtney Williams will figure heavily into the rotation at forward.
Lutz also hopes that Antwon Coleman can become the 49ers' version of Charles Barkley. But that will only happen if Coleman can keep his weight down.
The closest thing the 49ers will have to Basden this year is likely De'An-gelo Alexander, a transfer from Oklahoma with two years of eligibility remaining. Alexander, a 6'5" shooting guard, averaged 9.6 points per game as a sophomore with the Sooners.
Mitchell Baldwin returns as the starting point guard. Baldwin has dazzling speed from end to end — some folks in North Carolina like to compare his speed to former Tar Heel Raymond Felton.
Charlotte will need Withers and Alexander to carry much of the scoring load early and for one other player to emerge if the 49ers are going to contend for the Atlantic-10 championship in their rookie season.
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