FIRE & ICE: Ex-Pack greats win 3-on-3 charity tilt vs. Duke, UNC
The nine players representing Duke, UNC and N.C. State who participated in the Big Three Legends Game at The Cage on the grounds of the American Tobacco Campus have played in bigger games and in front of audiences of tens of thousands.
However, none of those games were for a cause as important as the one they played for on Saturday.
“I’m sure a lot of these guys know someone or have someone in their family who has been affected by cancer,” said George Lynch, who played in the event and was on UNC’s 1993 national championship team. “I’ve lost a few relatives over the last couple of summers battling cancer. It was not hard for me to come back and try to raise money for this cause.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina hosted the charity basketball event as a part of its Big Three 3-Point Challenge, a fundraising effort in its second year that benefits Duke Children’s Hospital, The V Foundation for Cancer Research and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, respectively.
The historic rivalry between the Research Triangle schools was an ideal conduit to fundraise for cancer treatment and research foundations, said BCBSNC Director of Brand Marketing and Management Reagan Greene Pruitt.
“It brings together friendly competition, fitness and community,” said Pruitt. “We really think that’s a unique combination, and a strong one and one we really want to get behind. It’s a great way for us to get out here and serve our community.”
The teams were composed of players from the Triangle schools ranging from Gene Banks, who played for Duke from 1978-81 (including a loss to Kentucky in the 1978 NCAA championship game), to Julius Hodge, a 2001-05 Wolfpack player.
N.C. State was coached by former NBA coach and Wolfpack player Vinny Del Negro, UNC was coached by five-time NBA All-Star and UNC great Brad Daugherty, and Christian Laettner, a former first-round NBA draft pick who led Duke to back-to-back national championships in 1991 and 1992, served as player-coach for Duke.
“You always want to win and compete,” said Del Negro. “We enjoy the competition, but at the end of the day it’s for charity. We want to have a good event for the fans and for the charities.”
The event started with three skills competitions, the top-two teams of which advanced to a 3-on-3 game.
“You know we have gyms in Chapel Hill,” joked Daugherty of playing the game in Durham. His team included Lynch, Donald Williams, who played on the 1993 championship team, and Melvin Scott, who won the title in 2005. “We thought we’d come into hostile territory and kick everyones behind.”
However, it was N.C. State and Duke that advanced to the 3-on-3 game, which the Wolfpack won 23-5 on the hot-shooting hand of Rodney Monroe, who scored a game-high 14 points.
In the 3-on-3 game, Monroe and his “Fire & Ice” backcourtmateat N.C. State between 1988 to 1991 Chris Corchiani teamed up with Hodges to run Del Negro’s offensive plays, which involved a lot of off-ball screens that opened up easy jump shots and back-door layups.
“That was little Coach V,” said Monroe of what the NC State squad called coach Del Negro in homage to their college coach and the namesake of the V Foundation, Jim Valvano. “There were a couple of things he drew up before the game and it worked perfectly.”
Over the last two years, the Big Three 3-Point Challenge has raised over $60,000, said Pruitt. This was the first year BCBSNC included the Legends Game and plans to make it an annual tradition.
The proceeds from the game and a post-game memorabilia silent auction will also go to support the three respective foundations.
“We wanted to see the interest in the turnout,” said Pruitt. “With the weather (rainy conditions) we’re overwhelmed with having more than 350 people here in its inaugural year.”
Echoing the sentiments of many of his fellow competitors, Chris Carrawell, another former Duke great, said the friendly competition and the chance to play for charity made the decision to play a no brainer.
“Any time you have a chance to help kids, it’s important,” said Carawell, who accepted an assistant coach position at Marquette University on the staff of recently hired long-time Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski. “I tell my kids — my two boys are here — it’s important to give back and help other people. You never pass it up.”