Duke, UNC players won't participate in 2013 N.C. Pro-Am
The S.J.G. Greater NC Pro-Am gave Triangle basketball fans their first and perhaps only live look at future NBA star Kyrie Irving before he suited up for Duke.
Duke fans hoping to get a similar summer view of incoming Blue Devil freshman Jabari Parker likely won’t be as fortunate.
It appears the current sixth edition of the pro-am, a summer basketball league featuring high school, college and professional players, won’t include Duke or UNC players.
“Due to some scheduling conflicts and general timing, our players are not expected to participate in the pro-am at this time,” Duke associate sports information director Matt Plizga said.
Regarding Tar Heel players, UNC sports information director Steve Kirschner said, “None of them chose to play in the league this year.”
That appeared to conflict with what UNC guard Leslie McDonald said during a visit to Durham School of the Arts for opening night of the pro-am on June 27. At the time, he referred to the return of high school players to the event after a lengthy absence because of NCAA regulations.
College sports’ governing body had ruled that hosting the pro-am on N.C. Central’s campus — previous home of the pro-am — gave the Eagles an unfair recruiting advantage regarding high school prospects. The move to DSA this year eliminated the problem.
McDonald didn’t play that June night, but had some good-natured fun talking trash about what he had in store for those high school players when he would eventually take the court in later pro-am play. He said he wouldn’t take it easy on the youngsters — not even if they were middle schoolers.
“It’ll just give them an opportunity to see what the next level is all about,” McDonald said.
While Duke and UNC players won’t play this summer, N.C. State players have and N.C. Central players may.
Already, N.C. State has been well represented, with Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey putting in work, as well as incoming freshmen big men Kyle Washington and BeeJay Anya.
Washington, a lean forward who works down low, has looked good in pro-am play. That said, he hasn’t been going against Duke and UNC players.
“The people that take the biggest hit are the fans and some of the other players that want to play with or against these guys,” pro-am co-founder Chuck Jones said regarding the absence of Duke and UNC players. “They’re the ones that are suffering more than anybody else. Some of these people never will be able to buy a ticket to go into Cameron (Indoor Stadium), or they can’t buy a ticket to get in a Carolina game or a State game. Being able to come out here and be this close to those guys and getting autographs, that’s big for these young kids, man.”
Pro-am sponsors could be impacted by smaller turnouts resulting in fewer eyeballs on their signage in the DSA gym, which is scheduled to receive new basketball goals and help replacing its basketball court from pro-am organizers, Jones said.
Jones expressed disappointment at not having the UNC and Duke players at the pro-am, particularly since Durham is a college town. Professional basketball players from the NBA and overseas leagues still are expected to show up in force before the season ends on Aug. 8, Jones said.
Former UNC forward and NBA veteran Rasheed Wallace, recently hired as an assistant coach by the Detroit Pistons, is expected to return to the pro-am, Jones said.
Wallace was a spectator at the summer league on opening night. Pro-am co-founder Jerry Stackhouse, who played at UNC before moving on to a long NBA career, has been at DSA checking out the summer league, as has former UNC point guard and retired NBA star Phil Ford.
Wallace, Stackhouse and Ford all played for UNC coaching icon Dean Smith and offer a considerable amount of basketball acumen they can share with the young players at the pro-am, Jones said.
The trio from UNC represent the above-board type of people who hang around the summer league, not the shadowy hangers-on that might frequent other events, Jones said. He also referred to the current legal and possible NCAA issues surrounding UNC star P.J. Hairston.
“I don’t know anything about runners or agents,” Jones said. “Like the guy that’s in the middle of all of this stuff with P.J., I don’t know if he’s ever been to the pro-am.”
Jones was referring to Haydn “Fats” Thomas, the man linked to rental cars Hairston was driving during two police stops earlier this year.
“If this stuff is going to happen, it’s going to happen, but the pro-am doesn’t have anything to do with it. That’s the nature of the beast,” Jones said.
Hairston, from Greensboro, played in the pro-am last year, as did Durham’s Miykael Faulcon, one of the men in a rented 2013 GMC Yukon with Hairston when police charged each of them with misdemeanor marijuana possession at a license checkpoint. Hairston, who was driving, didn’t have his license. A gun was found outside of the vehicle. Carlos Sanford of Durham, also was charged during that June 5 police stop. All three men are due in Durham County District Court on Aug. 6 to deal with their marijuana charges.
Hairston is scheduled to appear in Durham’s Traffic Court on Aug. 2 regarding a speeding ticket that he received while driving a rented 2012 Chevrolet Camaro that also has been linked to Thomas, a convicted felon.
Hairston hasn’t played in the pro-am this summer, but Faulcon has, and he’s looked good on the floor, knocking down effortless 3-pointers. Sanford also has been playing in the summer league.
A year ago, Reggie Bullock, was at the pro-am lighting it up from long distance. He was a UNC swingman preparing for his junior season with the Tar Heels. In June, the Los Angeles Clippers made him a first-round draft pick.
The Brooklyn Nets took Mason Plumlee in the first round, and the Los Angeles Lakers went with Ryan Kelly in the second round. Those two recently wrapped up four-year careers at Duke, and both of them played in the pro-am.
Bullock, Kelly and Plumlee represent just a few of the names that could be dropped among those who might want to boast about the Tar Heels and Blue Devils they’ve seen at the summer league.
That’s not happening this time around.
Jones recalled both his son and one of his friend’s sons having “met Kyrie Irving before he was Kyrie Irving. They met him as a high school player.”
A bad big toe bumped Irving to the bench for about three months during his first and only season at Duke. He’d gotten off to a scintillating start. Those who witnessed his wizardry at the pro-am at least can brag that they saw the Cleveland Cavaliers set-up man way back in the day.
“He probably played more games at the pro-am than he did at Duke,” Jones quipped.