Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Talking with O-Dog and Thig

The internet has become an invaluable tool to every form of media. The goal of our website is to not only provide the information you see on the newscast, but to enhance it as well. Late last week, I was able to talk with free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson of Darlington and former CCU All-American Tyler Thigpen with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the world of TV news, we can usually grab a few seconds of an interview and put it on the show. Thanks to carolinalive.com, we can give people our entire interviews and a chance to get more than the typical thirty second soundbite.

We were able to go a little bit longer with both O-Dog and Thig during our newscast, yet we weren't able to share all of the content we gathered. Click on the links below to hear O-Dog talk about staying in Darlington during baseball's off-season and his work with autism through his CATCH Foundation. Thig gives his thoughts on the uncertainty in KC and what he thinks the Chiefs should do with the #3 pick.

One other side note - on our newscast we are able to show file video of both Thig and Orlando, but in the world of internet video - we are not allowed to show any NFL, MLB or any other major sport video.

Tyler Thigpen interview on carolinalive.com

Orlando Hudson interview on carolinalive.com

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mister Hoop Zone trade rumors

I'm by no means a Kenny Smith or a Peter Vescey. When it comes to the NBA, I simply follow two guys, Raymond Felton and Ramon Sessions, who have four WPDE Mr. Hoop Zone trophies between them. Both players have been mentioned in trade rumors in recent weeks as both players are approaching restricted free agent status.
When it comes to Ramon, I'm thrilled that he has proven himself as an NBA point guard. When Sessions left school early and became a second round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, he was immediately shipped down to the NBDL for seasoning. There are a lot of great players who get stuck in NBA purgatory and I feared that Ramon might be in that predicament, but the former Myrtle Beach Seahawk has taken advantage of the chance he got late last season and now he's going to get a chance to play in the league for a number of years.
The Raymond Felton story is a different saga and his name has been getting headlines in the NBA trade waters. This is Raymond's fourth season in the NBA and the #5 overall pick in the 2005 draft seems to be criticized much more often that he's praised. There's a couple of reasons for this. First, he's a top 5 pick in the NBA draft and that comes with lofty expectations. Second, he was drafted right after Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. That's a fact. Deron Williams has averaged 15 points and 8 assists and game in his career - Raymond is 13 points and 6.5 assists a night. I think no one would argue that the Jazz are a better overall team than the Bobcats.
The knock on Raymond is that he's a poor shooter (struggling to get to 40 percent) and that he shoots too much. He's now got the label as a combo guard, mainly because the Bobcats put him in that role. Now, Charlotte has a dilemma. Raymond is a restricted free agent and could lose him with no compensation.
I hope the Bobcats trade Raymond. If you read the anonymous internet folks, they paint Raymond out to be a bust who is solely responsible for all of the Bobcats misforuntes over the past three plus seasons. Here's the Raymond that I know: on Saturday night against the Wizards, Felton was carried off the court in the second quarter when he rolled his ankle over a courtside photographer. Not only did Raymond return to the game, but he sparked the Bobcats to victory. When the Bobcats drafted a point guard (DJ Augustin) in the draft instead of a big man, Felton has been nothing but a mentor to the rookie. Augustin is quick to praise Raymond for showing him the ropes on numerous occasions. Other players would be threatened by a rookie taking their minutes. He's a great teammate and he's been durable playing through pain.
It is no coincedence that Felton's game has picked up since the trade rumors have started. 23 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and only 1 turnover against the Detroit Pistons that included the game winning jumper with .7 seconds left may be Raymond's finest effort as a pro. Whenever Raymond hears doubters, his determination raises to an elite level. I saw it in high school and in college and now it's the pros.
If I'm looking for a comparison, the best I can come up with is Chauncey Billups who was a top 5 pick by the Boston Celtics and was eventually moved and became a great guard.
No matter what happens, Raymond has a big payday coming his way. Perhaps the Mavericks fans or some other NBA team will appreciate Raymond's work ethic, leadership and the intangibles he will bring to a team.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Now that 2009 is here, I wanted to show you the list of the top 15 local sports stories of 2008. Hags and I put this list together and one of the great things about lists is that it sparks great debate. We had a few emails with suggestions on what we may have missed (Wilson/Lake City brawl, Darlington softball winning it all), but I think overall, this list proves that there is a lot of great sports to talk about year round.

15 Kristy McPherson nets over $400,000 on LPGA Tour

We begin at #15 where Conway's Kristy McPherson had a breakthrough year on the LPGA Tour. Playing in her second full season on tour, the former South Carolina Gamecock won over $400,000 in prize money to finish 47th on the money list. McPherson had the lead on the back 9 in the final round of the Northwest Arkansas Championship - she finished in a tie for 4th - her best career result on tour. In all, McPherson had 6 top 10's in 2008.

I did a story with Kristy about four years ago at Burning Ridge when she was first going out on the Futures Tour and trying to make it on the LPGA. I think I played about three holes with her and watching that horror show is probably why it took her a couple of years to get on tour. I happened to be working on the weekend she contended in Arkansas. Hopefully, Kristy can make the list again next year with her first LPGA tour win.

14 Myrtle Beach boys win 3A basketball title

At #14, the Myrtle Beach Seahawks stormed Columbia and captured the 3A boys basketball state championship. Thanks to 25 points from Jamere Valentine, Myrtle Beach routed Greenville 80-55 to capture the 3A crown. On the same day, the Myrtle Beach girls and the Hemingway boys fell short in their bid for state crowns, but the Christian Academy in Myrtle Beach, playing their first ever season of varsity basketball captured the 1A SCISA crown in Sumter.

What was more impressive than the state title game was the Seahawks upsetting Crestwood in Charleston the weekend before. This group embraced the team concept and it is what made them so dangerous. They had five or six guys who were capable of filling it up and there seemed to be no egos on the team whatsoever.

13 Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton pitch for Pelicans

Coming in at #13, two major league legends spend some time in a Myrtle Beach Pelicans uniform. On July 5th, 2 time All-Star and former 20 game winner Mike Hampton pitched five shutout innings for the Birds in a rehab start against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Then in August, a record crowd of 6,599 came to BB&T Coastal Field to see two time Cy Young award winner and 10 time all star Tom Glavine toe pitch in Myrtle Beach. Glavine threw three innings as local fans got to see a future hall of famer pitch for the Pelicans.

Other than Marcus Giles and Steve Avery a couple of years ago, Myrtle Beach has not been the place for Braves regulars to go on a rehab assignment, but that changed when Glavine and Hampton came in to town. Both players were nothing but 100 percent class - they bought dinner for the entire team during their stay and no doubt gave the Pelican youngsters a glimpse of what's to come in their careers.

12 CCU opens 2008 season at Penn State, Chants go 6-6

The Chanticleers made history by opening the campaign at Penn State - Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions gave CCU a reported $450,000 guarantee to come to Happy Valley. Zach MacDowall's TD pass to Trent Usher gave the Chanticleers a moment of excitement trailing 14-7 in the 2nd quarter, but Penn State pulled away for a convincing 66-10 win. The Chanticleers had off the field distractions with player dismissals and arrests and an up and down 2008 season - finishing 6-6.

The CCU season taught Chanticleer fans the fine line between winning and losing. CCU led Colgate 19-3 early in the fourth quarter before a lightning delay changed the momentum completely. Three fumbles on special teams against Stony Brook changed a game that saw CCU dominate its opponent. Take those two wins and all of the sudden 8-4 doesn't look too bad.

11 Gamecocks win 7 games, reach Outback Bowl

The Gamecocks return to New Year's Day is top local sports story #11. South Carolina shuffled through three different quarterbacks in 2008, but a stingy defense gave the Gamecocks wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee on the way to seven wins. South Carolina was blown out by Florida and lost to archrival Clemson in Death Valley to end the regular season, but seven wins and a loyal fan base earned them a trip to Tampa and the Outback Bowl to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Gamecocks scored back to back Outback Bowl wins on New Year's Day in 2001 and 2002.

Now we know that USC didn't belong on the New Year's Day stage. Gamecocks fans have to be bitter after three convincing losses to close out the season. Simply put, USC needs an SEC caliber quarterback and maybe more importantly, an SEC caliber running back to have any chance of taking that next step. Stephen Garcia has three more years to prove if he can be that guy, but USC must find a stud in the backfield during this recruiting period.

10 Kyle Busch wins at Darlington

Kyle Busch dominating the Lady in Black is our 10th top local sports story. Kyle Busch had 20 wins in 2008, 8 in Cup, 9 in Nationwide and 3 in the Crafstman Truck Series. He led 167 laps under the lights at Darlington Raceway and one week after wrecking Dale Earnhardt, Junior in Richmond, embraced the bad guy role in NASCAR taking a bow after winning at the Track Too tough to tame

I remember being in Victory Lane and some folks from Toyota asking us to shoot some custom messages from Victory Lane from both Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch. The result was getting a one on one interview with Busch and Gibbs. The only other time I was able to do that in ten years was when Ricky Craven won at Darlington. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

9 Jordan Lyles 1st round "sandwich pick" by Astros

Hartsville's Jordan Lyles is top sports story #9. The three sports star was a WPDE Zoneman Finalist in 2007 and a WPDE All-Hoop Zone performer as well, but it was his prowess on the diamond that stood out. After choosing baseball as his top sport, Lyles committed to play for Ray Tanner and the Gamecocks, but was then selected #38 overall in the MLB amateur draft by the Houston Astros. Lyles had a signing bonus just under $1,000,000 and is in the Astros minor league system trying to work his way to the big leagues.

I remember Jordan was a little stressed out about not getting a slew of major college football offers, but it wound up being a blessing in disguise. Apparently, Lyles went to Minute Maid Park in Houston right before the draft and was lights out in his workout and that sealed the deal for him. Great kid, great family - can't wait to see him in the bigs

8 Pelicans win 89 games, host all star game, Rocket manager of the year, DC passes

The Birds won 89 games, the most in franchise history. The Pelicans fell short in the Mills Cup Championship Series, but had plenty of great memories including hosting the 2008 Carolian League/California League All-Star game. Rocket Wheeler was named minor league manger of the Year by Baseball America. The club suffered a great loss when longtime pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton left the team in the middle season. He passed away after a bout with cancer in October.

Much deserved props for Rocket, but it is sad to say goodbye to DC. I know that both Hags and myself have gotten a wealth of knowledge from one of baseball's best pitching coaches. You couldn't find a more humble and respected guy in the clubhouse. He will be missed.

7 Haynesworth named to second straight Pro Bowl

Another Hartsville product makes the top 10. Albert Haynseworth's tremendous season comes in at #7. Haynesworth is regarded across the NFL as one of the best defensive players in the game. The Tennessee Titan has 8.5 sacks and 22 quarterback pressures this year, making him a Pro Bowler for the second straight season. Haynesworth suffered a knee injury in early December, but is expected to be ready for the Titans post-season run.

I wasn't around for Haynesworth's time at Hartsville, but there's no question he's the best defensive tackle on the planet. He's about to cash in a huge payday.

6 Amber Campbell competes in the Olympics

A Coastal Carolina Olympian is our 6th biggest local sports story. Amber Campbell was a five time All-American at CCU in the hammer throw. In 2004, she was literally inches away from making the US Olympic team, but after four years of hard work, Campbell represented the USA in Beijing. She finished 21st in the hammer throw qualifying, 1.5 meters short of reaching the Olympic Finals. Campbell plans to continue to train and try and make the 2012 London Olympics

I remember when Amber just missed out on Athens and couldn't be happier that she reached one of her major goals. A great person who will represent CCU and the US for years to come.

5 CCU Baseball reaches Super Regionals

At #5, The CCU baseball team's trip to the Super Regionals. Gary Gilmore and the Chanticleers have been NCAA Tournament fixtures, but they have never made it out of the first round until 2008. The Chants earned a #1 seed and hosted East Carolina, Alabama and Columbia at Watson Stadium thanks to a makeover that included extra seating. CCU beat ECU 24-11 to reach the Super Regionals for the first time in the program's history. North Carolina defeated the Chanticleers in Cary, NC to reach the College World Series. Gary Gilmore turned down a job offer at Auburn to remain at Coastal Carolina.

Gilly has been waiting years to take that next step. The weekend at Watson Stadium was magical and gave Coastal Carolina athletics another big boost. Kudos to Dr. David DeCenzo for getting Gilmore to turn down an SEC program and stay in Conway.

#4 Four former Chants on NFL rosters

Four former Chants in the NFL is top story #4. In April, NFL Scouts came to Conway to see Jerome Simpson put on his pro day workout. The former Coastal Carolina wideout dazzled in combines and earned himself a 2nd round pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mike Tolbert went undrafted, but became the story of San Diego Chargers training camp. Not only did the former CCU fullback make the roster, but he's starting in the Chargers backfield with LaDanian Tomlinson - Tolbert's first career NFL TD came on Monday night football

Quinton Teal continues to be a key part of the Carolina Panthers special teams unit in his second season and Tyler Thigpen went from third string quarterback to NFL starter with the Kansas City Chiefs. Thigpen had his first career NFL win as a starter against the Oakland Raiders.

I often wonder if people around the beach realize how amazing it is for a program that is only six years old to have four guys on NFL rosters. Thig got invaluable on the job training and has gone from a guy who would have been a third stringer for the next 2-3 years to having a legitimate shot at being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Jerome will get his chance in 2009. Tolbert is a cinderella story and Teal has made a living thanks to playing specials teams.

#3 Ex-CCU golfer Dustin Johnson wins PGA event

Dustin Johnson's million dollar day is top local sports story #3. The former CCU All-American's rookie season on the PGA Tour got off to a great start with three top 15 finishes early in the year, but Dustin headed to the fall in danger of losing his full time Tour card. That all changed in Verona, New York.

Johnson's 3 under 69 got him to 9 under for the tournament and a 1 shot win over Robert Allanby. Johnson won just under 1.8 million dollars in his rookie season.

Dustin proved that he has the talent to be at the top of the sport. It will be interesting to see if he can take it to the next level which will be competing in all four majors. Once that happens, you never know.

#2 Tommy Bowden resigns, Dabo Swinney takes over as Clemson head coach

The end of the Tommy Bowden era is our 2nd biggest story of 2008. Clemson began the 2008 season with lofty expectations - a preseason top 10 ranking that quickly went away when Alabama dominated the Tigers in the opener at the Georgia Dome. Following a Thursday night loss to Wake Forest, Bowden resigned and Clemson gave young assistant Dabo Swinney the interim head coaching job with sites on luring in a big name. But Swinney brought excitement and enthusiasm to the program and guided Clemson to quality wins over Boston College and Virginia. Clemson's 31-14 win over South Carolina in Death Valley was Dabo's last chance to impress and it worked - The Tigers named Swinney as the permanent head coach.

Tommy was a nice guy and always great to deal with in the media, but it became obvious that it was time to part ways. Dabo's enthusiasm and excitement is translating in the recruiting circles and we'll see if the young coach can give Clemson a much coveted BCS berth.

#1 Dillon and MB win state football titles

And the #1 local sports story - Dillon and Myrtle Beach win state championships on the gridiron.

Clemson's Memorial Stadium was the site of two amazing performances.

Dillon leaned on its nasty Cats Defense and this 94 yard TD reception by Antwan Blue to shock Central of Pageland 7-6.

Dillon won its first state championship since 1947 - Jackie Hayes was overcome with emotion when the clock struck zero.

Hours later, it was Myrtle Beach's turn to make history. The Seahawks won their first state title since 1984 with a 31-21 triumph over Chester. Everett Golson threw three TD passes including two to Demazio Skelton - the Seahawks finished the dream season with a 14-1 campaign.

It was a long day, but a great day at Clemson. Every single coach in our area pours blood, sweat and tears into their programs so it's always exciting to see towns revel in a title and it was extra special to see Jackie Hayes and Scott Earley win their first state championships.