Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tom Hammonds in Drag

Hammonds drops basketball for drag racing

Shooting free throws in front of a hostile crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium is among the most difficult tasks in sports. Timing the clutch, throttle and start lights at a drag strip is another.

Tom Hammonds has done both.

This weekend, the former Georgia Tech all-American returns to North Georgia to compete in maybe the sport that's first in his heart. Hammonds ran a pro stock during Friday's first round of qualifying at the Southern Nationals at the Atlanta Dragway. The second round of qualifying continues today with the elimination rounds on Sunday.

"They're both tough," Hammonds said. "I enjoy them both, that's probably why I'm so hooked on drag racing. It's so competitive. I think a lot of athletes have trouble when they hang up the sneakers because they don't have anything competitive to fall back onto. One of the things I love about this particular class is that it is maybe the most competitive in all of motor sports. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire when I got into this class."

Hammonds has some work to do to make the Southern Nationals finals on Sunday. Hammonds failed to qualify in the top 12 after two rounds on Friday. He ran ties of 6.747 seconds (23rd) and 6.775 (22nd) on Friday. He needs to shave nearly a full second off of that time in two qualifying rounds today to keep racing on Sunday.

"It's kind of good and bad," Hammonds said. "We definitely have some room for improvement. The obstacle that we're facing now is getting the correct tuneup. We have the power to run with the best in this class. But I just think we're missing on our tuneup."

Hammonds has qualified for three elimination rounds in six races this season.

Racing is a sport that does not give much elbow room to people who buy their clothes at the big-and-tall stores. Cockpits are cramped. Steering columns and control pedals are positioned a little too up close and personal for people with limbs long like a Sunday drive. Hammonds stands 6-foot-9 and played in the NBA for 12 seasons. Just like buying a suit, he can't squeeze into anything right off of the rack.

"My Chevrolet Cobalt's made specifically for me," Hammonds said. "It takes my height into consideration. My seat's notched into the frame. My pedals are further forward and the steering column is a little bit raised up. I feel safer in my Cobalt going 205 mph than I do in my own car going 85. Believe me, I can get out of it fast when I need to."

Hammonds is one of the best basketball players Georgia Tech has ever produced. He was a two-time all-ACC performer, a third-team all-American and had his jersey retired after averaging 20.9 points and 8.1 rebounds in 1989. He was the ninth overall pick in the first round of the NBA draft and played 12 seasons for the Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

"I've got a lot of good memories. It feel good to come back," Hammonds said. "It feels good to be able to come back and reminisce about some of the old times because I'm getting old. I feel old too. It's good to see a lot of old faces."

Hammonds comes from a hot rod family so he had racing in his blood before basketball. His father, Tom Hammonds II, was a racer and the younger Hammonds took over for his father.

"I've been doing this most of my life," Hammonds said. "My dad used to do a lot of racing and everybody wants to grow up to be like your dad. I just got bit by the bug. If I go one week or two weeks without smelling rubber, I'm in bad shape. That's just what I like to do. I love to drag race. Other than playing basketball, that's all I've ever done."

Hammonds started racing professionally while he still played in the NBA. He entered his first pro stock competition in 1997. He qualified for his first elimination field also in 1997.

He retired from the NBA in 2001 and three weeks later he made his first final. He finished 14th in points in 2002, his only full racing season.

He dropped out of racing in 2004 to buy a Chevy dealership in Darlington, S.C. But he couldn't stay away from the track and sold the business to return to racing.

"Running that desk wasn't competitive enough for me," Hammonds said. "I missed racing too much so I decided to sell out and come back to what I love."

Dawkins finally gets a job

I was really wondering if this would ever happen.

Stanford hires Johnny Dawkins as basketball coach

Johnny Dawkins has accepted Stanford's offer to become the school's next basketball coach, sources have told the Mercury News.

Dawkins, 44, is a former Duke star who has served on the Blue Devils' coaching staff since 1998. He replaces Trent Johnson, the Pacific-10 Conference coach of the year who left this month for Louisiana State after leading the Cardinal to the Sweet 16.

Incoming freshman Jarrett Mann told the Mercury News this morning that he received a call late Friday night from point guard Mitch Johnson, who informed Mann of the hire. Mitch Johnson was on Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby's search committee.

"Mitch sounded like he was excited," Mann said.

Mann, a 6-foot-5 swingman, said he likes the fact that Dawkins also played in the NBA.

During his playing career at Duke, Dawkins scored 2,556 points - then a school record - and led the Blue Devils to the 1986 NCAA final.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ACC Big 10 Challenge Schedule - Minus State

The schedule of next years ACC - Big 10 Challenge has been released. I'm not sure this is how it works, but it appears that the last place team in the ACC doesn't get to play the next year, so no Wolfpack this year.

Full Story from Baltimore Sun:

2008 ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Monday, Dec. 1

Wisconsin at Virginia Tech

Tuesday, Dec. 2

Ohio State at Miami
Clemson at Illinois
Duke at Purdue
Virginia at Minnesota
Iowa at Boston College

Wednesday, Dec. 3

Michigan at Maryland
Indiana at Wake Forest
North Carolina at Michigan State
Florida State at Northwestern

Monday, April 14, 2008

Barnstorming Seniors

I was wondering if these games still existed. Of course when I was growing up, the basketball scene was very different. There was 1 game on mid-week, and we watched it no matter who it was. Then if you were lucky there might be 2 ACC games on during the weekend. At least that is the way I remember it. In the days before we managed to get Wake Forest tickets, one of the highlights of the year was the YMCA sponsored all-star game at the end of the season, where ACC seniors and some other local college players would play in an all-star game. It was a blast, especially given that for many of us it was the only chance to see our hero's in person.

With the over-exposed nature of college basketball now, not suprisingly, these aren't as big anymore, but still looks like fun:

ACC basketball buzz hits Surry Central

Jeremy Moorhouse

Staff Reporter

Surry Central High School will be buzzing on Monday night when the ACC All-Stars take on the Surry County All-Stars in the 30th annual ACC All-Star Barnstorming Tour.

The ACC All-Star team features Duke's DeMarcus Nelson, North Carolina's Quentin Thomas and N.C. State's Gavin Grant while the Surry County team is composed of former players from Surry Central, North Surry, East Surry, Mount Airy and Elkin High Schools.

Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Former North Surry basketball coach Ron King will coach the ACC team and Surry Community College coach Tony Searcy will coach the Surry team.

“We are hoping the gym is full, the floor is full and that there are people in the lobby,” said Surry Central athletic director Mark Snow. “We have plenty of tickets available.

“We are excited about it. We think it's going to be a good time.” More...

Historical spin on StickerGate

Fantastic article by Al Clark of The Daily Reflector, includes several references to the teams we grew up loving and even a CD Chesley mention.

And there was the best game no one ever saw: It would have been a national final between UNC and UNC-Charlotte in 1977 had Marquette not beaten the 49ers. Charlotte's team that year — with Cornbread Maxwell — was one of the best and most fun to watch of all.

Of course, for any basketball fan on this side of the country, one of the great evenings of the modern era came when that great State team beat John Wooden's UCLA with Bill Walton in the national semifinals — finally. And State, Valvano and 1983's win over Houston — wow. I won an office pool on that one.

I can pretty much mark out big portions of my life by the basketball season successes and failures of Carolina and all of our old ACC teams (I haven't quite reached out to the newer conference teams yet).

I just never thought it a stretch to enjoy great performances by teams with which you shared a connection. My connection was with the ACC's great basketball schools nurtured by growing up in range of WBTV in Charlotte and the old C.D. Chesley Co. network broadcasts of their games, the first of which was that 1957 Carolina national championship.

Forgive me all you folks not familiar with these broadcasts sponsored by Pilot Life Insurance Co., later Jefferson-pilot. But I can hear the "Sail with the Pilot" theme song even now — a friend's dad was a Pilot Life rep and he gave me a coin bank in the shape of the logo nearly 50 years ago. I still have it. More...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Carolina Fans are Ridiculous

(Photo from SportingNews). You can't quite make it out, but that white blog on Roy's shirt at last night's game is a Kansas Jayhawk.

If you haven't heard sports radio today, UNC fans are having a spell over Roy supporting Kansas. This isn't all Carolina fans, but this is just to that segment of you who are idiots. GROW UP. It wasn't that long ago that your program was in a freefall under Mad Matt. Roy saved you all.

Seriously, Duke loses in the 2nd round and has transfers, State loses period, and UNC makes the Final Four and their fans are upset with something stupid like this? I like Carolina, but man do some of these fans make it hard.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hatching something from that Egg

I get no joy out of saying that Carolina laid an egg in their Final Four game against Kansas. I know the one-and-done nature of the tournament is one of the things that makes it great, but man, with this final four, am I the only one that wishes every matchup was actually a best of 3?

I'm sure most people in North Carolina remember NC State's game at the Dean Dome this year, scoring something like 12 points in the first 10 hours of the first half. That is what it felt like for Carolina fans last night. 40-12 is going to stick in my mind for a long time. I know you don't come back on a team like Kansas from 28 down, but damn if they didn't almost do it. But as happens so many times, they just couldn't ever pull even, and Kansas didn't completely fold, although they came close.

Final Four's are great for most schools, or at every school for some years, but for this particular team you can only feel disappointment at the moment. I didn't watch with a clear enough head to understand why things unfolded as they did. Maybe the non-stop media attention took a toll on Hansbrough. Ty Lawson was nowhere near Ty of old. Danny Green isn't quite superman.

Now, like at many schools, the Draft Watch starts. If all these guys do come back, maybe Roy can find a way to hatch and even better team out of the egg they laid last night.

Roy's press conference is Here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lest We Forget...

Happy Anniversary Jimmy V

Wow! Has it really been 25 years? Damn... we're getting old.

Here is our post from last year...
The Cinderella Team Has Done It...

SlamOnline... N.C. State 25 years later Q&A

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Curry Effect

Before I jump into serious topics, if you didn't watch PTI yesterday, this is worth a watch. If I hadn't already been Punk'd by the kids a few times I might have actually bitten:

As you've likely already heard, Duke's 3 point machine, Taylor King is transferring from Duke. The thing of course that jumps to most people's mind is that he can't play good enough defense to get the playing time he wants, and feels like maybe he won't. Everyone has and will be talking about what is wrong at Duke given the high volume of transfers and early departures of late. At a minimum you have to believe the Duke staff needs to do a better job evaluating who will fit happily into their system. People are predicting the end of the era of Duke greatness. That is ridiculous, but it is equally dumb to think all is well.

But, this got me thinking a bit about Stephen Curry. If I'm Taylor King, sitting in my dorm room at Duke watching the NCAA tournament, and see this skinny little kid at Davidson becoming the nation's favorite basketball player, I can't help but think:

"Damn, I can shoot like that, and it sure doesn't look like Curry is having to work nearly as hard on defense as I have to every day. If I had gone to a school like Davidson, I'd probably be leading the nation in 3 point shots this year".

Maybe he was gone from Duke already, but you can't help but imagine this type of thing could have an effect.

Yesterday they announce the finalists for the John R. Wooden Award given to the nations best player. The expected names are there:

  • Augustin
  • Beasley
  • Hansbrough
  • Love
The surprise, the inclusion of a skinny kid playing in the Southern Conference, Stephen Curry.

Only time will tell if I'm right on this, but over the next few years, I predict that major conference coaches are going to be fighting "The Curry Effect". Major schools regularly over-recruit. Some schools bring in far too many top 200 kids to actually play. We've seen some schools have McDonald's All-Americans who end up riding the bench. With this shining example of Stephen Curry, I think many more very capable kids are going to think about an alternative path to their careers.

Sure, the one-and-done type kids who know they have NBA talent and are planning on declaring at the first legal moment are still going where the exposure is. But, there are many, many more players with NBA dreams who know it will take them 3 or 4 years and a lot of development before they are going to get a chance to be an NBA player. Stephen Curry is going to play in the NBA. BUT, if he had somehow ended up sitting the bench at Duke for a couple of years instead of getting major playing time, would he have developed the same way? I think you can make a compelling argument that someone like Curry ended up in the perfect situation to satisfy every possible goal a young ball player could want:
  • Win
  • Get exposure
  • Be the Big Man on campus
  • Develop into an NBA Player
So, for some percentage of kids who typically end up at major conference schools, who have decent careers, maybe end up playing a few years overseas before giving up hoops for a realistic career, a different college choice, to a small school with a very good coach could be the difference between NBA or not.

Whether that argument is accurate or not, you can damn well expect every small and mid-major coach on the recruiting trail to make the argument, and I think it will be persuasive in many more cases than in the past. If you think we have parity in College Basketball now, just wait until "The Curry Effect" takes hold.