Matt Chapman

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Matt is the sports editor for the Niner Times. He is pursuing a degree in communication studies with a minor in journalism.

49ers fail to finish Georgetown in Uptown

Andrien White soars for a monster jam in the first half. Photo by Chris Crews
Andrien White soars for a monster jam in the first half. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers took their show to Uptown on Tuesday evening and nearly knocked off the Georgetown Hoyas in front of a crowd of 6,448 at Time Warner Cable Arena. The two teams fought tooth-and-nail down to the wire, but the Hoyas delivered when it mattered most and escaped with a 62-59 victory.

“It was a hard fought game. From an intensity and effort level I thought we were great,” said 49ers head coach Mark Price after the game.

“I told these guys at the beginning of the season that it’s not easy to win a college basketball game. You’ve got to learn how to win and learn how to close out games … It was the little things that cost us the game tonight. We missed too many free throws and a had a few breakdowns defensively. It doesn’t take much more than three or four breakdowns against a good team to cost you the game.”

Braxton  Ogbueze finished with a game-high 18 points. Photo by Chris Crews
Braxton Ogbueze finished with a game-high 18 points. Photo by Chris Crews

The Niners (2-9) limped out of the gates, playing without Bernard Sullivan who was sidelined with a concussion according to the public address announcer. Charlotte owned an 8-6 lead at the first media timeout behind two early triples from Braxton Ogbueze, but the Hoyas answered with a 24-8 run as Ogbueze sat on the bench in foul trouble.

Georgetown (7-5) appeared to be in full command and ready to bury the 49ers up by 14 points with five minutes remaining before halftime. However, Ogbueze checked back in and immediately buried back-to-back three balls to ignite the crowd and inject some life into his teammates. Joseph Uchebo followed suit, battling the bigger Hoyas in the paint as the two veterans helped Charlotte cut the deficit to 32-29 at the intermission.

“Two weeks ago that might have ended up being a 20-point deficit by halftime,” said Price.

“No question the team rallied around Braxton at the end of the first half. Him knocking down a couple shots kind of relaxed everybody and we started playing really good basketball the rest of the way.”

The 49ers had all the momentum coming out of the locker room to begin the second half and played with a confidence that has been hard to find at times this season. Three consecutive baskets gave the Niners their first lead since the opening minutes and forced the Hoyas to call a quick timeout to regain their composure.

Georgetown responded to coach John Thompson III with a 6-0 run out of the break to regain a 40-35 advantage, but Charlotte’s Jon Davis answered by going coast-to-coast and finishing with authority at the rim. Ogbueze drilled his fifth three-pointer of the night on the following possession to put the 49ers back on top and set up a thrilling back-and-forth finish down the stretch.

Charlotte led 54-53 with 2:23 left on the clock when the Hoyas called a timeout following a missed lay-up by Benas Griciunas. L.J. Peak, who was 0-8 from the floor at the time, hit the biggest shot of the night when he buried a wide open three that found nothing but net and gave Georgetown a two-point advantage. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera delivered the dagger with 1:31 remaining, finishing through contact at the rim and completing the old-fashioned three-point play at the free throw line.

“I’m not into moral victories by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m pleased with how we played,” added Price.

“If we play as hard and as together as we did tonight the rest of the way I think we’ll be able to have a strong finish to the season.”

Ogbueze led all scorers with 18 points on Tuesday night and has seemingly found his jump-shot after eclipsing 20 points in each of Charlotte’s previous two games. Uchebo stepped up without Sullivan, recording 12 points and 10 boards for his second double-double this season.

The 49ers will take a week off for Christmas before returning to the court on December 29 against The Citadel with tip off scheduled for 7 p.m. inside Halton Arena.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlotte 49ers sign former Miami QB Kevin Olsen

Kevin Olsen announced his decision to commit to Charlotte via Twitter on Wednesday night.
Kevin Olsen announced his decision to commit to Charlotte via Twitter on Wednesday night.

Charlotte 49ers head coach Brad Lambert made the biggest offseason splash of his tenure, landing junior college quarterback Kevin Olsen on Wednesday evening. Olsen will enroll at UNC Charlotte in January for the spring semester and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“Just like every position on the team, we want to create some competition at our quarterback position,” said Lambert.

“We want to get guys in here and let them compete. We’re going to see who the best guy is coming out of spring ball and heading into the summer.”

Olsen, a 6-foot-3 pro-style quarterback, played his high school ball at Wayne Hills in New Jersey. He compiled nearly 3,500 passing yards while tossing 40 touchdown passes and garnering serious attention from some of the most prestigious programs around the country.

Offers rolled in from the likes of Iowa, Florida State and North Carolina before Olsen ultimately committed to the Miami Hurricanes in May of 2012. He was listed as the fourth-best quarterback prospect in the nation by Scout.com and entered college as a four-star recruit according to ESPN.

“He’s got a very talented arm and can throw the ball extremely well,” said Lambert when asked about Olsen. “He’s a big strong guy who can throw it and that’s ultimately why we took him.”

Olsen’s athletic abilities are unquestioned, but his maturity has been heavily scrutinized over the years. While enrolled at Miami he was suspended three times for violating team rules. Olsen transferred from the program after failing a drug test and being charged with a DUI while in the possession of a fake driver’s license. After leaving South Beach Olsen joined the football team at Towson, but was dismissed yet again before ever taking a snap.

“We’re going to give him another opportunity and I just really believe he has a good support system in town,” said Lambert.

“I’ve met with his parents and we just feel like he’s ready to make that next move and take advantage of another opportunity. I feel good about where he is or obviously we wouldn’t have signed him. He has an opportunity to show people that he’s changed, evolve into a good quarterback and do some great things on and off the field.”

Olsen, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers’ tight end and Walter Peyton Man of the Year nominee Greg Olsen, spent the 2015 season at Riverside City College in California. He played in nine games and made five starts, helping lead the Tigers to an 8-3 overall record despite posting pedestrian numbers. Olsen completed 56 percent of his passes while barely eclipsing 1,000 yards. He threw 13 touchdown passes compared to 10 interceptions in his lone season at junior college.

The 49ers closed their first season of FBS football on a 10-game losing skid due in large part to the ineptitude displayed at the quarterback position. If Olsen can maintain his focus and regain the form that made him one of the most sought after gunslingers in the nation, Charlotte has the tools to compete with the top Conference USA programs in 2016.

49ers drilled by cross-town rival Davidson

NBA's Steph Curry congratulates Davidson after the win.
NBA’s Steph Curry congratulates Davidson after the win.

The Davidson Wildcats invaded Halton Arena on Tuesday evening and served the Charlotte 49ers a 35-point beat down in the Battle for the Hornets’ Nest. Jack Gibbs stole the show, dropping a career best 41 points as the Wildcats claimed their third consecutive victory over their cross-town rivals.

“We’ve got to play better defense,” said Charlotte head coach Mark Price after the loss.

“We didn’t execute. We didn’t show up. Our guys need to show up with some heart and some fire. Believe it or not, we had two really good practices the last two days so go figure on that. You let guys like (Gibbs) hit a couple of shots and he’s going to be hard to stop … We’ve got to grow up some time and we’ve got to do a better job.”

Davidson leaves Halton Arena with the Hornets' Nest trophy. Photo by Ben Robson.
Davidson leaves Halton Arena with the Hornets’ Nest trophy. Photo by Ben Robson.

Gibbs and teammate Brian Sullivan were firing on all cylinders from the opening tip. Gibbs found the bottom of the net on his first 14 shots Tuesday night, including his first six from behind the three-point line. Sullivan knocked down six shots in the game, all from beyond the arc, finishing with 23 points.

Davidson (5-0) buried 21-of-31 (68 percent) first half buckets all while connecting on nine of their first 11 three-point attempts. Charlotte had no answers on either end of the court as not one player finished with a positive plus/minus at the end of the game.

The 49ers (1-6) were within shouting distance at halftime despite trailing by 26 points late in the first half. The Niners put together an 11-0 scoring run to cut the deficit down to 15 and a pair of three-balls from Ridell Camidge sent Charlotte to the locker room with a little momentum for the time being.

Jack Gibbs shoots over Braxton Ogbueze for three of his 41 points. Photo by Ben Robson.
Jack Gibbs shoots over Braxton Ogbueze for three of his 41 points. Photo by Ben Robson.

However, Gibbs asserted himself yet again to open the second half as Davidson took the life out of the crowd with a 22-4 clinic in the first five minutes after halftime. The Wildcats had already run up 81 points with 15 minutes still left on the clock and ultimately became the second team in five days to hang 100 points on the 49ers.

Davidson head coach Bob McKillop has been through what Price is going through at the moment and offered some words of encouragement for Charlotte’s new coach after the game.

“It was a nightmare,” said McKillop of Davidson’s 4-24 record in his first season at the helm. “I think Charlotte has a great person to get this thing rolling in Mark Price.”

Bernard Sullivan led the way on an all-around dismal night for the 49ers. Sullivan scored a team-high 20 points, although it took the senior 21 shots to hit that mark. He also pulled down a team-best seven rebounds. Braxton Ogbueze played possibly his worst game in a Charlotte uniform, failing to score a single point as he missed on all four shot attempts. Ogbueze played just 15 minutes as Price emptied his bench early in the second half.

Braxton Ogbueze attempts to pull a Greg Palus on Davidson's Brian Sullivan.
Braxton Ogbueze attempts to pull a Greg Palus on Davidson’s Brian Sullivan.

“If this doesn’t spark something in our team, if this doesn’t get our minds right, I don’t know what will,” said a dejected Sullivan after the game.

“It’s going to take work, a lot of work, and more work. I’m used to that,” added Price.

Charlotte goes back to work on Saturday and things won’t get any easier as the 49ers travel to Miami to do battle with the Hurricanes of the ACC. Tip-off for that contest is scheduled for 4 p.m.


Photos by Benjamin Robson, Ben Coon, and Maira Saenz .

Charlotte 49ers fall at Rice in season finale

The Charlotte 49ers’ inaugural season of FBS football culminated in disappointing fashion with a 27-7 loss on the road against the Rice Owls. The two Conference USA foes battled through a sloppy, scoreless first half before the Owls exploded for three touchdowns as Charlotte’s offense continued to flounder.

“In the second half we just couldn’t make a first down,” said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert.

“Then we had (defensive) penalties on third down. We just didn’t play very good in the third quarter.”

The 49ers (2-10, 0-8 C-USA) had opportunities, but Blake Brewer squandered a series of impressive drives with three missed field goals in the second quarter. Special teams errors have hampered the Niners regularly on their season-ending 10 game losing skid.

Terrence Winchester picked off a pass in the end zone as Charlotte’s defense stifled Rice in the first half. Brooks Barden got the start at quarterback before departing in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.

Matt Johnson stepped in on the ensuing drive and ran the ball effectively alongside Andrew Buie. The 49ers couldn’t convert on two red zone attempts, however, leaving points on the scoreboard before halfrime.

Rice (5-7, 3-5 C-USA) made the necessary adjustments in the locker room during the intermission. The Owls scored on their first five possessions of the second half, including three drives of at least 10 plays and 65 yards in the third quarter. Two critical third-down penalties called against the Niners extended scoring drives, while Brandon Banks and Jalen Holt were each ejected from the game.

Lee McNeill saw the bulk of the action under center in the second half. McNeill’s dink-and-dunk passing attack was efficient — 9-of-11, 53 yards — but ineffective as Charlotte’s first four drives produced 14 plays and 35 yards. The Niners finally cracked the code on their final drive as Johnson hit Trent Bostick over the middle for a 56-yard touchdown. 

Charlotte’s defense was gashed on the ground for the second consecutive game. The Owls racked up over 300 yards rushing and two touchdowns as four different backs gained at least 50.

Inside linebackers Nick Cook and Caleb Clayton-Molby combined for 23 tackles in their final game donning the Charlotte green and white. Larry Ogunjobi chipped in with seven stops and now has 152 career tackls — most in program history.

Bostick delivered his best performance this season, fueling an otherwise anemic 49ers offense. The junior wideout hauled in five catches for a season-high 111 yards and his third touchdown reception of the year.

“That’s a good team that went to three straight bowl games,” Lambert added after.

“I think our guys went toe-to-toe with them for a while. We had five or six games this year we had a chance to play with these guys. That was the unknown factor coming in. I think our guys held their own and went toe-to-toe with some good teams.”

Charlotte showed plenty of promise at times throughout the season, but there is plenty of room for improvement in 2016. The 49ers are slated to open next season on the road against the Louisville Cardinals in ACC territory.

Charlotte 49ers fade late in loss to Washington

The Charlotte 49ers and Washington Huskies tangled in the Bahamas on Friday night looking to avoid a last place finish in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Niners took their first halftime lead of the season to the locker room, but faded late down the stretch en route to a 71-66 defeat.

“This was probably the best game we’ve played with sustained effort this season,” said Charlotte head coach Mark Price after the game.

“I was proud that we got back up after a tough loss last night. Overall, I was pleased with our guys’ efforts. I thought we grew up a little bit today.”

The 49ers (1-5) appeared determined from the get-go after suffering the worst loss in program history against Michigan on Thanksgiving. Coach Price and his guys flipped the script, rebounding from a string of slow starts in all five games this season. The Niners shot 50 percent from the field in the first half for the first time this year while also drilling 3-of-5 attempts from behind the three-point line.

Senior forward Bernard Sullivan stepped up, providing 10 points to lead Charlotte to a 38-35 advantage at the intermission. The former Clemson Tiger added key veteran leadership on an inexperienced team, rebounding nicely from what he referred to as an “embarrassing” loss to Michigan the night before.

The Niners hung tough through a back-and-forth affair, but the Huskies made adjustments and began to flex their muscle in the second half. Washington stopped settling as they shot an abysmal 29 percent from deep and made a point to attack the rim and take advantage of Charlotte’s lack of size inside.

The Huskies (4-2) captured their first lead of the second half on a three-ball by Andrew Andrews with 12 minutes left in the game. The 49ers continued to battle, but another triple from Andrews a couple minutes later put Washington out in front for good. Charlotte was ultimately unable to recover as the Huskies used a 24-10 scoring run to put the game away down the stretch.

Andrews, the only upperclassmen in a starting lineup that features four freshmen, dominated the game for Washington. The senior dropped a game-high 30 points to go along with 13 rebounds and five assists, carrying the Huskies through a tough shooting night.

Sullivan and Joseph Uchebo provided a formidable presence inside for the Niners. Sullivan finished the night with 14 points while Uchebo nearly recorded his second double-double of the tournament with nine points and 18 boards. True freshman point guard Jon Davis delivered his best game of the young season, contributing a career-best 14 points to go along with six assists.

“We could have come apart and folded, or we could come together and fix the problem,” said Davis reminiscing on Thursday’s blowout loss. “Even though we lost … This was a step in the right direction.”

Charlotte finished the Battle 4 Atlantis without a win, playing their three toughest games to date this season. The 49ers return to Halton Arena Tuesday night to host the Davidson Wildcats with the Hornets Nest Trophy up for grabs. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Charlotte 49ers suffer worst loss in program history

The Charlotte 49ers faced the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday evening in a Thanksgiving showdown that will go down in Niner history for all the wrong reasons. Charlotte received a 102-47 drubbing for the worst loss in program history since joining the Division I ranks in 1970.

“There’s not much to say about that,” said head coach Mark Price after the loss.

“It was a disaster. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom unfortunately. Hopefully tonight was it. Hopefully it will sting for our guys. It certainly will for me and hopefully it will put a burning desire in us to get better.”

The 49ers (1-4) were utterly dominated in every facet of the game by a Wolverines team that shot the lights out in the final game of the night from the Bahamas. Michigan’s second half numbers were absolutely mind-boggling. The Wolverines knocked down 23-of-32 (72 percent) shot attempts from the floor, including 10-of-15 from beyond the arc to add insult to injury.

On the other end of the court Charlotte appeared to have a lid on the basket. The Niners were downright dreadful from the field, connecting on 7-of-30 (23 percent) second-half shots. Price’s squad attempted nine three-pointers after halftime and only found the bottom of the net once. On the night the Wolverines made 12-of-23 jumpers from behind the three-point line, whereas the 49ers only made 15 shots total on 58 attempts.

A Jon Davis lay-up gave the Niners a 9-7 advantage in the early minutes of the contest, but Michigan answered with a 15-0 scoring run over the next four minutes and the rout was on. The Wolverines doubled Charlotte’s offensive output at the intermission, taking a commanding 44-22 lead to the locker room.

The 49ers have become accustomed to starting slow and then rallying late in the game after making halftime adjustments. However, this was not the case on Thursday as Michigan never took their foot off the gas pedal, pouring in 58 second-half points. The Wolverines would eventually eclipse the century mark while handing the Niners their worst loss since a 44-point beating by Florida State in 2013.

Four Michigan players scored in double figures, led by big-man Moritz Wagner who dropped a game-high 19 points off of the bench on 8-of-9 shooting. Not one Niner reached double-digits in the scoring column after four did so against Syracuse on Wednesday. True freshman Andrien White led the way with nine points, while Joseph Uchebo pulled down a team-best nine rebounds in his first start of the season.

“It was very embarrassing,” said senior Bernard Sullivan. “It’s one that’s going to sting for a little while. But we’ll put it behind us as best we can and let it build a fire in us.”

Charlotte will face the Washington Huskies on Friday night in a battle to avoid last place in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Tip off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

Charlotte 49ers stymied by slow start against Syracuse

Joseph Uchebo led the way for Charlotte with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Photo by Maria Saenz.
Joseph Uchebo led the way for Charlotte with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Photo by Maria Saenz.

The Charlotte 49ers opened the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas on Wednesday afternoon with a 83-70 loss against an undefeated Syracuse Orange team. The Niners’ early-season shooting woes continued as the team struggled to solve Jim Boeheim’s signature zone defense in the opening 20 minutes.

“I was pleased with the way we bounced back in the second half,” said Charlotte head coach Mark Price after the game.

“We got off to another slow start which concerns me. We have to do a better job starting the game, particularly against good teams. We can’t dig ourselves such a big hole.”

The 49ers (1-3) are becoming notorious slow-starters, trailing at halftime in all four games this season. Charlotte has shot the ball at a 33 percent clip in the first half, including a dreadful 10-of-36 performance against the Orange.

Syracuse (4-0) shot the lights out en route to a commanding 50-27 advantage at the intermission. Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 31 points at halftime, hitting seven three-balls as the Orange shot 9-of-16 from beyond the arc as a team.

Joseph Uchebo single-handedly kept the Niners afloat, nearly recording a double-double before halftime. The big-man from Nigeria came off the bench and provided nine points and nine rebounds for a Charlotte squad that was unable to knock down shots from long range against the two-three zone.

As he has done all year, Price pushed the right buttons in the locker room and the 49ers looked like a different squad in the second half. Charlotte out-scored Syracuse 43-33 after halftime, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a lackluster opening 20 minutes.

The Niners opened the second half with a 10-0 scoring run to cut the deficit down to 13 points with 17:23 left to play. However, the deep-ball continued to be the biggest weapon for the Orange as a trifecta of triples ballooned the lead back above 20 midway through the half.

Charlotte stopped settling for three-point shots, instead electing to attack the basket with their athletic guards and undersized post players. Price’s guys shot nearly 49 percent from the floor in the second half and cut the Syracuse lead to single digits in the final minutes of the contest.

Braxton Ogbueze and Bernard Sullivan finally got it going after struggling out of the gate. The two holdovers from last year’s team combined for 21 points in the closing stretch, but it proved to be too little, too late for the 49ers.

“I was proud of the way we played in the second half,” said Price. “We actually won the second half by 10 points. Our guys did a much better job defending and rebounding against their size.”

Uchebo led the way for Charlotte with his first double-double of the season. The Pittsburgh grad-transfer finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds and has been the most effective big-man on the roster in the season’s early stages.

The Niners had no answers for Gbinije who led all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including six makes from behind the three-point line.

Charlotte will continue play in the Battle 4 Atlantis on the losers side of the bracket with a match-up against the Michigan Wolverines on Thanksgiving. Tip-off for that contest is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

Charlotte 49ers steamrolled at Kentucky

49ers head coach Brad Lambert was not pleased with his defense in the second half. Photo by Ben Robson
49ers head coach Brad Lambert was not pleased with his defense in the second half. Photo by Ben Robson

The Charlotte 49ers made the trip to cold, snowy SEC country on Saturday night and got beat down by the Kentucky Wildcats in all three phases of the game. The Niners allowed 415 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, falling 58-10 for their ninth consecutive loss after starting the season 2-0.

The Wildcats created gaping holes in the Charlotte defense, especially in the second half with four rushing touchdowns of at least 20 yards. Kentucky’s offensive line dominated in the trenches and freshman quarterback Drew Barker managed the game effectively enough to get the win.

“I was just real disappointed defensively in the second half,” said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert after the game.

“We got out of our gaps and we didn’t take care of our responsibilities. We did some good things in the first half, but in the second half we didn’t put forth a very good effort.”

The 49ers’ offense struggled from the get-go without their workhorse running back Kalif Phillips. Lambert seemed certain that Phillips would be available in the backfield, but the junior continued to nurse a bruised knee on the sideline.

Kalif Phillips watched from the sideline Saturday night battling a knee injury. Photo by Chris Crews
Kalif Phillips watched from the sideline Saturday night battling a knee injury. Photo by Chris Crews

Redshirt freshman quarterback Brooks Barden couldn’t find a rhythm under center, completing 44 percent of his 25 pass attempts. Barden totaled 87 yards through the air, tossing two interceptions and a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass — his fourth of the season.

The Niners found minimal success running the football, barely averaging three yards per carry. West Virginia transfer Andrew Buie saw the bulk of the action with Phillips unable to go. Buie carried the ball 23 times for 76 yards against a stacked box as Charlotte’s receivers couldn’t get any separation on the outside.

“We had a hard time blocking that defensive front,” said Lambert

“That’s the biggest difference when making that jump to the SEC … blocking those guys up front.”

Kentucky scored on four of their six first-half possessions to open up a 20-3 lead at halftime. Running back Jojo Kemp found the end zone twice and the Wildcats dominated time of possession, running almost twice as many plays.

Four of Charlotte’s six first-half drives ended in punts and the 49ers were forced to settle for a Blake Brewer field goal on their only trip inside the red zone.

The Niners’ all-too-familiar special teams woes continued when punter Arthur Hart fumbled the snap deep inside Charlotte territory on the first possession after the intermission. The Wildcats took a commanding 24-point lead on the next play from scrimmage — a 20-yard rushing touchdown by Stanley Williams.

Kentucky tacked on four more touchdowns and a field goal on five consecutive drives, including a pick-six by Mike Edwards on a pass that ricocheted off of Kyle Hoffman early in the fourth quarter.

Charlotte’s offense finally found some traction in garbage time. The Niners marched 62 yards on 12 plays only to allow a fourth down sack inside the Kentucky 10 yard-line. However, the Wildcats botched a hand-off on the very next play that was recovered by DaQuan Lucas to set up Charlotte’s lone touchdown of the night.

Barden tossed his fourth touchdown of the season with five minutes left in the game, finding Zach Bumgarner in the back of the end zone from three yards out.

The 49ers will attempt to close the season on a high-note and earn their first Conference USA victory against the Rice Owls on the road next weekend. Kickoff for the season finale is set for 3:30 p.m.

Mark Price earns first victory in Charlotte 49ers win over Furman

Curran Scott drives to the basket for two of his 21 points. Photo by Leysha Caraballo
Curran Scott drives to the basket for two of his 21 points. Photo by Leysha Caraballo

Head coach Mark Price picked up his first victory on Thursday evening as the Charlotte 49ers vaulted past the Furman Paladins 77-68 inside Halton Arena. The Niners rallied from a five-point halftime deficit, led by true freshman Curran Scott who dropped 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.

“I’m obviously real happy about the win … It’s nice. I’ve played this game for a long time. I’m more happy for our guys and I want our players to enjoy this one. They did a great job and they earned it tonight,” said Price after the game.

“Our emphasis the last two days has been defense. We really buckled down in the second half … To win games you have to go to the line and make free throws and we did that tonight as well. Those two things were huge for us.”

Charlotte (1-2) attacked the rim relentlessly in second half earning 24 trips to the free-throw line. Scott led the charge, knocking down all 11 of his opportunities at the charity stripe as the 49ers shot 25-of-30 (83.3 percent) from the line as a team. The Niners struggled to knock down shots in the first half and clearly put more of an emphasis on driving to the basket after halftime.

“I feel like we have the ability to drive the ball and I thought we let the ball stick a little bit too much in the first half,” said Price.

Head coach Mark Price. Photo by Benjamin Robson.
Head coach Mark Price. Photo by Benjamin Robson.

“We made some adjustments and when we had mismatches I wanted the guys to take advantage of them. That’s kind of how we opened it up a little bit in the second half.”

Charlotte looked like a different team coming out of the locker room, trailing 34-29 after the opening 20 minutes. The 49ers were knocking down shots at a 48 percent clip and taking care of the ball better after committing 12 first-half turnovers. On the defensive end of the court the Niners pressed the issue and forced the Paladins into some costly mistakes. Furman turned the ball over 21 times on the night, leading to 31 points for Charlotte on the other end.

With junior forward Anthony VanHook sidelined by a concussion, Price turned to a four-guard lineup down the stretch to give Furman a different look. The 49ers struggled closing out on shooters early in the game, but held the Paladins to 3-of-11 shooting beyond the arc in the second half. Bernard Sullivan and Joseph Uchebo took turns guarding the paint as the two combined for 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks on the inside.

“It was just a matchup thing. I basically just decided at halftime that I was going to go small and make them decide which way they wanted to play,” said Price. “It worked out for us. Those things don’t always work, but they did tonight.”

True freshmen Andrien White pulls up for a jumper. Photo by Maria Saenz.
True freshmen Andrien White pulls up for a jumper. Photo by Maria Saenz.

A pair of true freshmen stole the show in front of Niner Nation Thursday night as Scott and Andrien White provided a glimpse at the terrific guard play awaiting over the next four years. Scott was perfect at the free throw line and from distance as his sweet stroke carried the 49ers down the stretch. White chipped in with his first career double-double, adding a team-high 11 rebounds to go along with his 12 points after dropping a career-best 21 on the road against East Carolina on Monday night.

“I think it was big for me and the team to get this first win under our belt,” said Scott after the game. “My team, they found me open tonight and I was fortunate to make the shots. I just give the credit to them.”

Charlotte will travel to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament which will be held from November 25-27. The 49ers open play in the first round against the Syracuse Orange on Wednesday, Nov 25 at 2:30 p.m. Charlotte will face either Connecticut or Michigan on Thursday.

 

Charlotte 49ers fade late at East Carolina

Andrien White led Charlotte with 21 points on Monday. Photo by Chris Crews.
Andrien White led Charlotte with 21 points on Monday. Photo by Chris Crews.

The Charlotte 49ers hit the road on Monday evening for the first time this season and battled the East Carolina Pirates tooth-and-nail for 30 minutes before fading late and falling 88-74. The Pirates scored at will, overpowering a small 49ers squad in the paint while shooting lights out from all over the court. Four Niners recorded double figures in the scoring column, led by true freshman Andrien White who knocked down 8-of-13 shot attempts for a career-high 21 points.

“I’m disappointed obviously with the loss. East Carolina is a veteran team with length on the wings and we knew their size was going to give us a problem,” said 49ers’ head coach Mark Price after the game. “I thought our kids battled hard and I thought we made some progress, but we have to continue to grow as a team and get better.”

Charlotte (0-2) matched East Carolina’s offensive firepower for most of the night as the score remained deadlocked at 51-51 midway through the second half until the Pirates finally pulled away behind a 14-2 scoring run over the next four minutes. East Carolina was relentless in their attack of the basket, earning 28 trips to the free throw line while pounding the 49ers on the glass 39-26. The Niners inability to protect the rim resulted in open shooters on the outside and East Carolina cashed in, knocking down 64 percent of their 11 attempts from beyond the arc.

Charlotte’s veterans fueled the attack in the first half as Coach Price’s guys appeared determined to avoid another slow start after Friday’s disaster at home against Elon. The 49ers headed to the locker room down just six, 41-35, after trailing by 27 at the half against the Phoenix. Braxton Ogbueze and Bernard Sullivan accounted for 16 of the first 20 points after combining to shoot 7-of-27 in the season opener. Joseph Uchebo, a graduate transfer from Pittsburgh, provided the Niners with some production inside off the bench, contributing eight first-half points.

A pair of newcomers took over in the second half as White and JUCO transfer Anthony VanHook found success slashing to the basket and finishing through contact. The 49ers kept the game within reach by forcing the issue and winning the turnover battle which rarely happened under the previous coaching regime. However, the Pirates were locked in on the bottom of the net all night led by Michel Nzege and Caleb White. Nzege and White each went over 20 points in the contest and combined for only three misses on 15 shot attempts.

White led all Niners with 21 points while Ogbueze pitched in 17, including five triples on the night. VanHook stuffed the stat sheet as Pierria Henry used to do so often, finishing with 10 points, seven boards and eight assists. VanHook’s ability to pass the ball as a big man allowed Charlotte to dissect East Carolina’s zone defense and finish with easy lay-ups at the rim.

“I was glad to see Braxton to shoot the ball better tonight,” said Price. “We were looking for him to break out a little bit and Andrien shot the bell well for us tonight as well.”

Charlotte returns to Halton Arena on Thursday night for a showdown with the Furman Paladins. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. as the Niners search for their first victory under Coach Price.

Charlotte 49ers suffer devastating loss on Senior Day


The 2015 senior class poses prior to the game. Photo by Ben Robson.
The 2015 senior class poses prior to the game. Photo by Ben Robson.

The Charlotte 49ers came up three points shy of their first Conference USA victory in program history during a heartbreaking overtime loss against the UTSA Roadrunners on Senior Day at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Charlotte has now lost eight consecutive contests since opening the season with back-to-back victories as the 49ers appear to find new ways to lose winnable games with each passing week. Nine penalties, two missed field goals, a couple questionable coaching decisions and a backbreaking end zone interception in overtime dropped the Niners to 2-8 overall this season and 0-7 in C-USA action with just one conference game remaining in 2015.

“Ultimately I think the game came down to nine penalties for 110 yards,” said Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert after the loss.

“You get off the field two or three times and you have penalties to stay out there defensively and that’s just a discipline issue. I have to get that corrected and I just can’t allow that to happen. We made enough plays to win the game.”

The 49ers put on a defensive clinic with three first half interceptions and had a chance to go into the locker room at halftime up two scores before Lambert dialed up a costly unsuccessful fake field goal in the final minute of the second quarter. Backup quarterback Lee McNeill raced to the sideline and looked to extend the ball past the first down marker, but was forced out of bounds inches shy of the sticks as Charlotte settled for a 7-0 lead at the intermission.

Zach Duncan chases down UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm. Photo by Chris Crews.
Zach Duncan chases down UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm. Photo by Chris Crews.

“I was just trying to get more points man,” said Lambert when asked about the call.

“It was just a gut feeling and I rolled the dice right there and went for it … I really wanted to try and jab them. There’s always a moment in the game where you think now’s the time to try and drive a stake in them. That was the moment and we tried to do it right there.”

UTSA looked like a different team coming out of the locker room after mustering only 83 total yards in addition to the three turnovers in the first 30 minutes. The Roadrunners scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the second half and took their first lead of the afternoon, 20-14, midway through the third quarter on a seven-yard touchdown toss by quarterback Dalton Sturm.

Charlotte answered immediately on the ensuing possession as the two teams battled through a thrilling back-and-forth second half. Matt Johnson dropped a 42-yard dime down the right sideline into the hands of Trent Bostick as the Niners found themselves on top 21-20 heading into the fourth quarter, 15 minutes away from their first conference victory.

Blake Brewer tacked on a 41-yard field goal early in the final quarter to extend the lead to 24-20 and had a chance to put the 49ers on top by a touchdown, but his 43-yard attempt missed wide-right with 10 minutes left in regulation.

The mistakes continued to pile up on the ensuing possession as linebacker Karrington King was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty on third down when the Niners would have gotten off the field. Charlotte’s defense continued to battle and Terrence Winchester appeared to come up with his second interception of the game, but the officials ruled that he didn’t get a foot down to complete the play. UTSA took full advantage of the gift from the referees as Sturm rifled a 26-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Grubb to regain the lead 27-24 midway through the fourth quarter.

The 49ers wouldn’t go down without a fight, marching the ball 48 yards on 16 plays while chewing up nearly seven minutes off the game clock in the process. Johnson converted two critical fourth down attempts inside Roadrunners’ territory before the drive stalled at the UTSA 20 yard-line. Brewer calmly trotted onto the field and nailed the game-tying 37-yard field goal with 1:11 remaining on the clock despite his two earlier misses.

The Roadrunners had a chance to win the game in regulation, but freshman kicker Victor Falcon couldn’t split the goal-posts with his 52-yard field goal attempt.

Charlotte’s offense took the field first in overtime and pushed the ball all the way to the goal-line before Johnson tried to force a pass to his receiver in the corner of the end zone. UTSA’s Nate Gaines made an incredible diving interception on the play that effectively iced the game as the Roadrunners converted a 22-yard field goal, spoiling senior day for Niner Nation.

“Let me just say that this senior class, we really appreciate them coming to help build this program,” said Lambert.

Trent Bostick hauls in a 42-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Photo by Chris Crews
Trent Bostick hauls in a 42-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Photo by Chris Crews

“Guys like (Branden) Dozier, (Richard) Murphy and Caleb Clayton-Molby … They’re all the kind of people that you want to be around. We just really appreciate all those guys in that class. I’ll be forever grateful to them for coming in and taking a chance on us.”

Murphy, Dozier and Clayton-Molby all went out with a bang in their final game in front of Niner Nation. Murphy led the team with four receptions, two of which went for touchdowns. Dozier recorded eight tackles and now has 129 in his career donning the Niner green and white. Clayton-Molby finished with seven tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. Larry Ogunjobi, a redshirt junior, wreaked havoc in the backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and a new school-record  with 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Charlotte will travel to SEC country next weekend for a showdown against the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, Ky. The 49ers will need to regroup quickly following the devastating loss as they face their first opponent from a power-five conference in program history. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Charlotte 49ers disappoint in Mark Price’s coaching debut

Ridell Camidge paced the 49ers with 18 points on six-of-seven shooting. Photo by Ben Robson.
Ridell Camidge paced the 49ers with 18 points on six-of-seven shooting. Photo by Ben Robson.

The Charlotte 49ers tipped off the Mark Price era inside Halton Arena on Friday night with a disappointing 85-74 defeat at the hands of the Elon Phoenix. Niner Nation witnessed a tale of two halves in their first look at the 2015-16 49ers squad. Charlotte trailed by 27 points at halftime and couldn’t overcome the deficit despite a furious 48-point rally in the final 20 minutes.

“To be honest, I’ve never seen anything quite like that,” said Price about his team’s first half performance.

“We couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean … We dug ourselves a big hole. Hopefully we learned a tough lesson tonight and we can learn from it and move on.”

Charlotte (0-1) limped out of the gates, missing their first seven shot attempts as the Phoenix jumped out to an early 10-1 lead. The Niners clanked 15 of their first 17 attempts at the basket in the first 10 minutes of action with the only two makes coming from sophomore Ridell Camidge.

Elon (1-0) poured in 53 first half points while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor and 58 percent from beyond the arc. Each team put up 33 shots in the first half, but the Phoenix connected on 19 compared to just nine makes for the 49ers. Charlotte finished the half shooting 27 percent from the field combined with an abysmal 6-of-13 performance at the free throw line reminiscent of last year’s struggles.

“We just missed a lot of shots we normally make and it kind of just snowballed on us,” said Price.

“You start pressing a little bit and I felt like we got a little discombobulated with our offense because guys were trying to play hero ball … You can’t give up 53 points in the first half and hope to win the game.”

The Phoenix opened the second half with a 12-2 scoring run and it looked like the Niners were going to get steamrolled in their home opener. Charlotte faced a 37-point deficit with 17 minutes left on the clock when a Curran Scott lay-up  sparked a 17-0 rally over the next four minutes.

Andrien White throws down a two-handed, reverse dunk in the second half. Photo by Ben Robson.
Andrien White throws down a two-handed, reverse dunk in the second half. Photo by Ben Robson.

The 49ers turned up the pressure on defense, picking up full-court at times while forcing Elon into 10 turnovers in the second half. Charlotte went into attack-mode on the other end of the court, translating Elon’s miscues into 13 fast break points and 21 free throw attempts after the intermission.

The Niners shot a respectable 47 percent from the floor after halftime while the Phoenix cooled off considerably. Elon only managed to knock down one triple in the second half after drilling seven during the opening 20 minutes. Charlotte outscored the Phoenix 46-20 during the final 17 minutes Friday night, but it wasn’t enough as the 49ers never led in the game.

“I love the young men we have on our team and I loved their character trailing by 37 points,” said Price when asked about the fight shown by his team.

“It’s easy to believe in each other when things are going well, but when you hit a rough patch that’s when you have to pull together as a team and keep fighting for each other. Our guys did that and I was really proud of their effort to keep scrapping and get back into the game.”

Camidge stood out as the lone bright spot for the 49ers during Friday’s season opener. The JUCO transfer paced Charlotte’s attack with 18 points on six-of-seven shooting in his first action donning the Niner green and white.

The 49ers will need better performances from Braxton Ogbueze and Bernard Sullivan to be consistently competitive this season. The two holdovers from last year’s team combined for a horrid 26 percent from the floor on 27 shot attempts.

Charlotte faces a quick turnaround as the team looks to rebound from their season-opening loss. The 49ers hit the road for an in-state battle against the East Carolina Pirates on Monday evening with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

Charlotte 49ers beat themselves in Miami against FIU

The Charlotte 49ers took their talents to South Beach on Saturday afternoon in search of their first Conference USA victory in a showdown with the FIU Panthers. The Niners shot themselves in the foot on several occasions and fell 48-31 on the road for their seventh consecutive defeat. A pair of special teams blunders derailed Charlotte early as a 24-point halftime deficit proved too much to overcome.

The quarterback situation in Charlotte has been impossible to figure out all season and nothing changed on Saturday. The trio that has struggled mightily throughout the entire 2015 season combined to complete 25-of-38 pass attempts for 264 yards. Each of the three quarterbacks threw a touchdown pass, snapping a drought that lasted nearly two months without a scoring toss. Head coach Brad Lambert wouldn’t commit to a starting quarterback moving forward when asked after the game.

“You just have to trust the system and the game plan,” said wide receiver Austin Duke after Charlotte’s best passing performance in months.

“That’s what this season has been all about. We’ve hit some hiccups, but if we keep doing what we’re doing things will click.”

Duke put together the type of performance Niner fans have become accustomed to over the past two seasons. The redshirt junior hauled in all three touchdowns while eclipsing 100 yards for the ninth time in his career, but just the second time in 2015 after battling a nagging back injury.

The 49ers wasted a golden opportunity as two botched special teams plays resulted in FIU touchdowns, not to mention a pick-six in the second half that put the game out of reach. The Niners lost by 17, but gifted 21 points to the Panthers and couldn’t overcome the mistakes.

“We gave up the pick-six in the second half, but up until that we were rocking along pretty solid,” said Lambert.

“But we can’t survive with a blocked punt and a kickoff return that we don’t field. Those are plays that we can’t afford to make.”

The Panthers (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) blitzed the 49ers from the get-go, blocking an Arthur Hart punt on the first drive of the day. Kenyatta Anderson recovered in the end zone as FIU jumped out to an early 7-0 lead over the visiting Niners.

Charlotte (2-7, 0-6 C-USA) answered immediately with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with the first touchdown pass of the season from quarterback Lee McNeill. McNeill completed four passes, including a 29-yard strike to Duke to knot the score at 7-7 with 10 minutes left in the first quarter. The 49ers had not thrown a touchdown pass since September 12 against Presbyterian.

FIU wasted no time responding to the score as the Panthers pieced together a 73-yard drive on 12 plays. Sophomore quarterback Alex McGough capped the possession with a 15-yard scoring toss to wide-out Clinton Taylor, putting FIU back up by a touchdown late in the opening quarter.

The Panthers broke the game wide open in the second quarter, starting on the second play when Alex Gardener busted up the middle for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the goal-line. McNeill marched the Niners back down the field on the ensuing possession, but Charlotte missed on a crucial scoring opportunity as Blake Brewer couldn’t convert a 45-yard field goal attempt.

The 49ers fought tooth-and-nail throughout the majority of the first half before FIU scored a pair of touchdowns in the span of seven seconds with less than one minute remaining before halftime. The Panthers converted another fourth-and-short before McGough found Taylor again with a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Niners made a costly error on the ensuing kickoff as FIU recovered at the Charlotte nine yard-line and immediately tacked on seven more with Gardener’s second rushing touchdown of the game.

“It just shot a hole in us,” said Lambert when asked about the end of the first half.

“We thought ‘hey it’s a tight game, a one or two score game, we’re in this,’ and then bang-bang.”

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a couple key completions by McNeill set up a school-record 56-yard field goal by Brewer as the clock expired on the first half. Brewer’s bomb was the longest in C-USA this season and it cut the Charlotte deficit to 34-10 as the two teams headed to the locker room.

The Niners were dominated up front by the Panthers’ defensive line throughout the entire first half. Charlotte found themselves in the red with negative two rushing yards as FIU wreaked havoc with four sacks and nine tackles for loss at halftime.

McNeill played his best half of football this season, completing 13-of-22 passes for 135 yards and the early touchdown pass. However, redshirt freshman Brooks Barden trotted onto the field at quarterback to start the second half and McNeill didn’t play a single snap after the intermission.

The 49ers cut the lead to 17 points early in the third quarter when Charlotte’s third quarterback Matt Johnson found Duke in the flat for a 36-yard touchdown. The Niners had a chance to get within two scores after a defensive stop, but Barden floated a back-breaking pick-six that the panthers returned 58 yards for a 41-17 advantage late in the third.

Charlotte’s redshirt freshman signal caller rebounded nicely from his mistake by accounting for two fourth quarter touchdowns, but it was too little, too late for the 49ers. Duke topped his season total as he reeled in his third touchdown grab of the afternoon on a 15-yard throw from Barden with 13:09 left in the game. Barden capped his up-and-down second half by leading a 16-play, 87-yard drive before scrambling into the end zone from five yards out after a botched handoff attempt.

The 49ers return home next weekend to host the UTSA Roadrunners on Senior Day at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

 

 

The Price is right

The 2015-16 Charlotte 49ers men's basketball team poses for a picture during basketball madness. Photo by Chris Crews.
The 2015-16 Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team poses for a picture during basketball madness. Photo by Chris Crews.

The fall from grace for the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball program has been well documented in recent years. The 49ers have stumbled to the brink of obscurity since their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005, culminating with last season’s mind-boggling finish near the bottom of a mediocre Conference USA. Average attendance inside Halton Arena fell to an all-time low during the 2014-15 campaign and one look at the spattering of empty seats revealed a fanbase that had lost all hope in their once proud program.

Despite the tough times, Niner Nation remained adamant in their demand for a return to prominence, prompting Director of Athletics Judy Rose to bite the bullet and clean house. Rose started at the top by parting ways with head coach Alan Major after rewarding him with a heavily scrutinized three-year contract extension following a 2012 NIT Tournament appearance. Major’s departure resulted in a slew of transfers, including the loss of freshman phenoms Torin Dorn and Keyshawn Woods who bolted for N.C. State and Wake Forest respectively.

The search for a new head coach began immediately following Charlotte’s first round exit from the C-USA tournament and prospective names started to circulate throughout the message boards and news outlets. In-state candidates including Wofford’s Mike Young, Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey and North Carolina Central’s LeVelle Moton gained momentum, but Rose shocked everyone when she reached out to the National Basketball Association for the new face of the 49ers’ program.

Charlotte Hornets’ assistant coach and former NBA all-star point guard Mark Price was introduced to Niner Nation on Thursday, March 26 during a press conference held by the athletics department.

Head Coach Mark Price during the first 49ers practice of the season. Photo by Chris Crews.
Head Coach Mark Price during the first 49ers practice of the season. Photo by Chris Crews.

“He’s experienced basketball at every level. He’s taught basketball at every level. And he’s shown a pattern of success at every level,” said Rose upon introducing Price to begin the press conference.

“He’s eager to bring that same work ethic to our program. He’s eager to develop our players. And he’s eager to be our head coach.”

The hire was greeted with overwhelming positivity, aside from a select few with valid concerns about Price’s lack of head coaching experience. However, even the most pessimistic of fans can’t deny the value of adding a leader that provides the program with a sense of national recognition that has been nonexistent over the last decade. Sports pundits across the nation applauded Charlotte, and Jim Rome even went as far as calling it a “genius hire” on CBS Sports Radio. Price acknowledged his potential impact when I sat down with him at the C-USA basketball media day last week.

“I just think that I bring some name recognition obviously for what I was able to accomplish as a player and as a coach at the professional level,” said Price.

“It brings some buzz to the program, but ultimately it’s going to be about being successful and putting a product on the court that people are excited to come and watch. That’s the goal and I think that the excitement can be built back in pretty quickly here.”

Price, 51, is facing a daunting task in his first head coaching job at the collegiate level. The 49ers lost four-of-five starters and 78 percent of their scoring from last season’s squad. The Niners will have to assemble an entirely new front-court following the transfers of Willie Clayton and Mike Thorne Jr., while also developing a new floor general after losing seniors Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams to graduation.

Given his lack of experience, Price has done a tremendous job assembling an almost entirely brand new roster in a limited amount of time. He had never pounded the pavement on the recruiting trail as a coach and was quick to give credit to his staff of assistants for aiding him in the process throughout the spring and summer.

“It was extremely important that I hire a very veteran collegiate staff,” said Price. “To put it together in such a short amount of time, I couldn’t imagine having a better staff.”

Former Appalachian State head coach Houston Fancher headlines the staff and is someone that Price can learn from during the grueling day-to-day grind of the college basketball season. Chris Ferguson brings 28 years of coaching experience at the college level and Andre Gray was brought in for his knowledge and expertise of recruiting in North Carolina.

Price and his assistants added eight new faces to the roster during the off-season, including four freshmen and four transfers from around the country. Many of the nation’s top prospects might shy away from a program in obvious rebuilding mode, but Price flipped the rhetoric and pitched the opportunity to make an immediate impact on a roster building toward something special in the future.

“Opportunity, opportunity to come in and play and be an impact person right away. The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that’s going to be special,” said Price.

“I had the opportunity to do that as a player at Georgia Tech. I came in when Tech was at the bottom. I knew I was going to play a lot early and I got to be a part of the process. When we were competing for conference championships by my junior year it was a special feeling to know that this wasn’t happening before we got here. That’s a lot of what I sell every single day to these young players. You can go a lot of place, but Charlotte is a place where you can make an impact right now and help us get to where we want to be.”

Price left his mark on the NBA as one of the top floor generals in the game before retiring in 1998, so it only makes sense that the top signee from his first recruiting class happens to be a point guard from Hargrave Military Academy with natural leadership ability. Jon Davis is a three-star recruit coming out of high school that led his team to 38 victories last year as a senior. Davis originally committed to play at Depaul, but re-opened his recruitment following an off-season coaching change and jumped all over the opportunity to learn from one of the all-time greats at the point guard position.

“I felt fortunate that we were even able to have a shot at a guy like Jon. He was really the best available point guard that was out there when I took over the job,” said Price.

Freshman point guard Jon Davis shows off his range during the green-white scrimmage. Photo by Chris Crews.
Freshman point guard Jon Davis shows off his range during the green-white scrimmage. Photo by Chris Crews.

“I went and watched him and I really liked his size. He’s a big, strong point guard making the transition from being a combo-guard in high school. It’s a big learning curve for him now, particularly the way that we like to play. He’s had his good days and bad days, but the thing I love about him is his attitude. He really wants to be good and I’m really excited about his future here at Charlotte.”

Along with Price, Davis will be able to learn from playing alongside Braxton Ogbueze who is the top returning scorer from last year’s squad. Ogbueze has experience playing in big games from his days at Florida and is slowly becoming the leader on a roster filled with a lot of young, inexperienced players.

“With this group and a bunch of new guys coming in I think my role has changed in terms of experience,” said Ogbueze.

“I’m going to have to step up to that leadership role and give guys advice whenever they need it and really set that example for the program.”

Ogbueze showcased flashes of brilliance last season, particularly early in the season when he exploded for more than 25 points against George Washington and Penn State. The redshirt junior led the team, connecting on 49 three-point field goals a year ago. Ogbueze is dangerous from beyond the arc, but he struggled inside at times last season, shooting only 35 percent from the floor in conference games.

“Braxton has been terrific. Last year he had an up-and-down season, but I really look for him to have a breakout year this year,” said Price.

“He’s really bought in to what we’re trying to do here. He’s naturally kind of a quiet guy, but I’ve really encouraged him to step out of that and be a leader and talk to these guys. He’s done a really good job of that. He’s got to be a factor for us every night if we’re going to be successful.”

Davis and Ogbueze will likely be the starting backcourt tandem once the season arrives, but the rest of the starting lineup is still unsettled early in November. Anthony Vanhook and Andrien White shined during the green-white scrimmage and Benas Griciunas and Joseph Uchebo both provide a lot of size on the inside for the 49ers.

“It’s still wide open in my eyes,” said Price when asked about his starting lineup.

“I’ve been rotating guys around and keeping them guessing so to speak. I’m trying to see what unfolds and which guys play well together. We’re still in that process.”

Price has expressed that he plans on running an up-tempo offense that spreads the floor with a lot of knock-down shooters on the perimeter. On the other end of the court he plans on playing a lot of man-to-man defense. Price believes he has the personnel on the roster to really guard the ball well, which Charlotte has struggled with in recent years.

The Charlotte 49ers might be the biggest mystery in the country after the roster overhaul during the off-season. The Niners have been picked to finish 11th out of 14 teams in the 2015-16 C-USA preseason poll, exactly where they finished at the end of last season.

“It’s simple. I’m not putting numbers on anything. Our goal is to be better tomorrow than we are today and to keep growing as a team,” said Price.

“I think my expectations are going to be higher than most everybody else’s right now. I think a lot of that is just due to the unknown of the situation. It’s kind of hard at this point to give any kind of prediction.”

Niner Nation must be patient with Price and the 49ers during this rebuilding process. Enjoy watching the hometown team grow and more importantly come out to Halton Arena and support UNC Charlotte basketball as Price builds something special in the Queen City.

“My goal ultimately is to lay a foundation this year, change the culture here, develop an excitement around this program and keep adding pieces to it,” said Price.

“I fell in love with the city of Charlotte and I think the opportunity is terrific to build something special.”