Tar Heel Pros News & Notes

This week's update on former Tar Heel hoopsters ... Pictured -- Ed Cota

McCANTS BREAKS THROUGH

* It looked like it could have been a frustrating experience. The rookie was on a zero-for-13 run from the field through three NBA games. That was followed by swatting basketballs into the seats after misses at practice and pulling his shirt over his head.

But Rashad McCants insisted he wasn't frustrated about his shooting slump, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press game report last week, after making 6-of-10 field goal attempts to tie his season-high of 14 points in an 88-69 victory over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

The slump-breaking basket came on a dunk off an inbounds pass from Marko Jaric with 8:37 remaining in the first quarter, the Pioneer Press reported. That play got McCants into the flow and put Minnesota up by 14. The rookie strutted as he made his way back downcourt. With 2:18 left until halftime, McCants had another dunk in traffic.

"I just came in, and it looked like I was doing pretty well in the second quarter, and he left me in there," McCants said after playing 24 minutes, making reference to Wolves coach Dwane Casey. "I was playing pretty well. When you're out there, you don't really have too much room for error."

T'wolves star Kevin Garnett has taken McCants under his wing, according to the article. "Rashad doesn't need much encouragement. He's self-sufficient. Like I told y'all, that kid's going to be special," KG told the Pioneer Press after the game.

Last night, Phoenix won at Minnesota 103-89. McCants played just eight minutes with two points on 1-for-4 from the field and three rebounds. Following the loss, Kevin Garnett urged Dwane Casey to go with up-and-down rookie Rashad McCants more to see if he can be the consistent scorer Minnesota (13-12) has been missing. "It's got to come from somewhere," Garnett said, according to The Associated Press.

Here's a look at the stats of the Tar Heel NBA rookies as the 2006 part of the schedule approaches:

Raymond Felton (Charlotte, 8-19) ... 27 games (4 starts) | 20.3 mpg | 7.0 ppg | 2.4 rpg | 4.1 apg | FG: 66-204 (.324) | 3FG: 21-68 (.309) | FT: 37-57 (.649)

Sean May (Charlotte, 8-19) ... 23 games (1 start) | 17.3 mpg | 8.2 ppg | 4.7 rpg | 1.0 apg | FG: 70-171 (.409) | 3FG: 0-5 (.000) | FT: 49-64 (.766)

Rashad McCants (Minnesota, 13-12) ... 24 games (0 starts) | 11.1 mpg | 1.1 rpg | 0.4 apg | FG: 46-117 (.393) | 3FG: 5-27 (.185) | FT: 15-20 (.750)

Marvin Williams (Atlanta, 7-18) ... 25 games (3 starts) | 22.8 mpg | 6.1 ppg | 4.5 rpg | 0.8 apg | FG: 56-140 (.400) | 3FG: 6-16 (.375) | FT: 35-47 (.745)

COTA STILL WINNING

* The Lithuanian basketball website Basketnews.lt interviewed former Tar Heel Ed Cota last week. Here's a look at some of that conversation courtesy of a translated version of the Q&A that was posted in Lithuanian --

Cota, 29, is back in Lithuania again with Zalgiris Kaunas after spending last season in the Russian Superleague with Dynamo St. Petersburg.

"The American does not show the game which fans were familiar with from 2002 to 2004 when Cota first played for Basketball Club Zalgiris Kaunas," noted Basketnews.

Cota: "Two years ago I used to score more points and dish more assists, but this year there are players on the team who can do it themselves. Sincerely speaking, I don't get enough opportunities to score. This is the biggest change in my game. But I am still the same player, I can do the same things I did two years ago."

Basketnews -- Did the year in Russia influence your current play?

Cota: "It has influenced it a little. In Russia we played a very fast game. Here with Zalgiris, this team does not have as many players who can make good passes, so this changes my game. If I would like to score more points, I have to create opportunities for myself.

Basketnews -- If you could make that decision again what would you choose -- Dynamo St. Petersburg (Russia) or Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania)?

Cota: "The only reason I left to play in Russia is the money. And, of course, an American coach (David Blatt). The biggest difference between the clubs was the money, but I like playing here. I like the people who live here, I know how the team plays."

Basketnews -- Last summer you were considered for the national team of Panama, but you did not play in the Tournament of the Americas Championship. Will we be able to see you playing for Panama next summer [in Japan]?

Cota: "I hope so. I will play if I am healthy. But if it will limit my career going into next season I won't take that risk. I couldn't help Panama this past summer because I had a leg injury. I have been hampered with injuries for the last three summers. This is also the reason for my slow start in the Euroleague."

Basketnews -- Is basketball like a job for you or can you still call it a hobby?

Cota: "I guess both. More like a hobby. I just like to play, but it is natural that you have to make money to pay the bills, take care of the family. But if I didn't have to worry about the money it would be perfect for me to just play for my own pleasure."

Basketnews -- Are you annoyed or displeased by the hard practices?

Cota: "Not really. Of course, when I get older, maybe. It depends on the reaction of the body, but I like practices. I like to work hard, because, as I mentioned, I like competition. Me against another player - I'm just loving it."

Through eight games in the Euroleague, Zalgiris has a first-place record of 6-2 in Group A. Zalgiris also plays a Lithuanian League (LKL) schedule (currently they are 7-0) that carries over into the Baltic Basketball League (BBL) where they compete with teams from Latvia and Estonia. Zalgiris is undefeated after 16 Baltic League games. Cota has played in 14 of those games and averages 25.1 minutes, 4.4 points and 3.4 assists.

SCOTT CUT; PHELPS KNOCKED OUT

* After playing three games in the German League, former Tar Heel guard Melvin Scott was released last week by BS ENERGY Braunschweig (3-9). Scott played 27 minutes and scored 10 points (4-11 FG, 2-8 3-pt. FG) in his final game for Braunschweig. He averaged 4 points, 1.3 rebounds, .7 assists and 14.1 minutes per game played.

Braunschweig will look for a more experienced player to replace Scott, who was described by Coach Henrik Dettmann as "young and talented with the correct attitude for basketball" in a statement released by the club. Kueth Duany (Syracuse) was also let go.

* GHP Bamberg (Germany) point guard Derrick Phelps suffered a concussion and was forced to leave a Euroleague game against Benetton Treviso last Thursday.

Phelps, 33, collided with a teammate during the third quarter, remained on the court for about four minutes before being helped into the locker room and did not return. Bamberg won the game 92-85.

OKULAJA AWARDS POSTERS

* Congratulations are in order to Lee from North Carolina and Florian from Germany. They were selected by Ademola Okulaja as the prize winners from entries made by those registered for Okulaja's newsletter in a contest held via the Internet last week at okulaja.com, his official website. Both winners will be sent a life-sized poster of Okulaja as a Christmas gift.

Okulaja notes at his website that he will be offering fans more chances to win things like shoes, jerseys, autographed cards, and basketballs during 2006.

THIS WEEK'S BIRTHDAYS

  • December 30: Kevin Salvadori (35)

  • January 1: Horace "Bones" McKinney (1919 - 1997)

  • January 1: Max Owens (28)


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