Monthly Archives: March 2010

Akeem Richmond vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels

Like a lot of people in Sanford this week, I’m torn.

I graduated from the University of North Carolina. I reveled in the Tar Heels’ winning the national title twice in the last five years. And while I shuddered at the thought of caring even a little about the Heels’ chances in the NIT, I have to admit that I’ve been watching the games.

All along, though, as soon as the NCAA Tournament brackets were released without Rhode Island, the NIT did get more than just a tad interesting for us who live in Lee County.

I’ve followed Akeem Richmond and covered his games since he was at West Lee Middle. Tonight, he’s playing in Madison Square Garden against the Tar Heels. I know a lot of people will have tuned in to see how Akeem and his Rams performed, but here are my thoughts about what I saw in Tuesday night’s game.


First things first, I’m not sure I see UNC winning this game.

While Rhode Island doesn’t exactly seem to thrive in halfcourt defense — maybe that’s how the Heels win this game — the Rams can flat-out run and gun. It’s the perfect offense for someone like Richmond to join and contribute quickly, and the exact kind of offense that UNC has had such trouble with this season. Unless Rhode Island wilts late, I think I’m leaning toward the Rams in this one.

I’m also interested in seeing who from UNC will be guarding Richmond when he’s in the game, and who Richmond will be matched up against. I get the feeling he’ll be pretty jacked for either of those assignments.

Should be fun no matter what happens.

First Half

Richmond will likely come in after the first TV timeout, and as we all know, his job is to hoist 3-point jumpers if he gets even a sliver of an opening.

I know, I know. You’re thinking what I’m thinking. Against Carolina’s typical 3-point, ahem, defense, the kid from Sanford just might have a big night.

A freaking big night.


Yes, Tar Heels’ fans, your team can play for third place in the NIT two days after losing… in the NIT. What’s worse? Winning the NIT or finishing third in it?

Seriously, isn’t that a legitimate question?

(Wait, this just in — there doesn’t appear to be an NIT consolation game. Whew.)

You know, as the lowest seed left in the NIT, UNC only had to bring one set of uniforms.

Again, in the NIT.

Hurry up and get there, Harrison.

15:19 Being a running diary (of sorts) involving the Heels, I’m contractually obligated to mention this:

Deon Thompson is soft. Enough with the front-rim fadeaway, Deon.

There, I feel better now. Glad to get that out of the way.

13:49 And Richmond is in the ballgame. Here we go.

12:05 Richmond gets stuck defending Travis Wear for some reason, and after missing the mismatch (that’s our Larry Drew II) twice, Wear makes URI and Richmond pay with a put-back.

TV timeout should help resolve that situation.

11:14 Not long after Leslie McDonald slips Richmond for a deep deuce, Richmond gets a look and tries one from beyond the NBA 3-point line at the top of the key. Long.

10:02 Richmond suffers a turnover — just a little hesitant with an entry pass. But grabs a rebound on the defensive end. Oh, Heels 23-17, by the way.

7:45 Richmond on the break, on the left wing, good look from 3 — just misses.

6:11 He might just be a tad too far out. I know, I know, Akeem’s in range once he gets off the bus. Still, this one with a foot on the NBA line comes off the front rim.

But, and this should be noted, the Heels had Marcus Ginyard on him that possession.

5:11 Richmond has it, bringing it up the floor, weaves toward the right wing and lets it fly — and it’s off the other side of the backboard. Just hurried right now and trying to do too much.

And Rhody coach Jim Baron gets the freshman out of there. Give him time to settle down, though this is about the spot he usually comes out.

3:16 OK, talk me off the ledge here. Is it me, or is Tyler Zeller getting better?

Tie game at 30 at the half. Ugly first half. Richmond needn’t feel bad. The teams are combining to shoot 31.6 percent from the floor.

Second Half

15:28 Frenetic pace to start the second half, and Rhody leads 39-36 at the first break. Richmond should be in soon after the break, and shouldn’t feel bad about his first-half struggles. Only four 3s have been the entire game to this point. He’s standing out a lot less in the crowd.

But as we all know, he’s gonna keep shooting. And he should. It’s what he does, and, more importantly, what he’s asked to do by people who know a lot more about basketball than we do.

14:28 Rhody’s Delroy James just made a play that you had to see to appreciate.

13:12 UNC’s best offensive play might be laying it softly off the glass, missing, and having Jon Henson dunk it home. 42-41, UNC.

12:58 Richmond is in, and after missing another 3-point attempt, comes down the floor offensively, battles 7-footer Zeller for the rebound, and bounces it off the big man. Rhody ball.

Good play. Basketball play. A play you need to make when the shot isn’t falling.

11:38 Heels respecting Richmond’s shot, though. There’s no other way to say it. By placing Ginyard on Richmond — a long defender with good reach and a defensive reputation — it’s clear Roy Williams doesn’t want the No. 2 prep scorer from North Carolina to get any open looks.

11:13 Richmond tries to drive to the hole as three Heels converge. Trying to draw the foul. Didn’t happen.

10:51 A pass just off Richmond’s fingertips on the break.

8:59 Just not his night. Shot clock winding down, a late pass, hand in his face, Richmond air-balls a deep 3 from the wing. Too bad.


7:59 And with that, Raymond Richmond is out.

6:13 Turnovers. Blocked shots. Missed shots. Ugly game, which the Rams lead 52-51.

6:00 Alley-oop, and it’s an 8-0 Rams’ run. 54-51.

4:37 Great line by Bill Raftery: “I can’t recall a more electric game with as few of finishes.”

3:45 Has anybody in college basketball had more shots rim out this season than Will Graves?

You know, with Rhody up by three here, Akeem Richmond could be sitting on another chance to play a big game in the Garden.

We might get a chance at a “Richmond Redemption” type headline in a couple of days.

Good closeup on Richmond during a montage highlight package of Delroy James by ESPN2. As rough a night as he’s had, Richmond is being a good teammate from the bench. No sulking there. That’s expected, but still good to see.

3:39 Why in God’s name is UNC shooting 3s when they have a huge size advantage? The Heels are 1 of 15 from behind the arc. That’s been by far the most frustrating thing about this team all season long. So careless with the ball and so careless mentally.

1:28 Big fader by Drew as the Heels trail 59-56.

Sorry, but I’m really, really torn here.

1:16 Turnover Rhody.

Foul Rhody. Oh boy.

No big deal, Heels can’t make foul shots.

Oh look, Drew made one. Heels are 4-11 from the line. 59-57.

55 seconds You know what? Drew isn’t scared. Give him that. After a missed front end by Rhody, Drew takes it to the hole and the game is tied.

26 seconds Oh, Rhody — four straight missed foul shots. Heels ball and the shot lock is off.

0:00 What the hell was that? Why call timeout? Surely Roy didn’t draw that up. Surely. Drew takes a bad 3 instead of driving to the hole, and we’ve got overtime.


You know what? Rhody, so far, has given this game away. At least Richmond wasn’t on the floor for that last 3-minute debacle.

2:15 Well, would you look at that? Heels going inside in overtime. Zeller has five points and Thompson heads to the line for a three-point lead. Well well well.

41.3 seconds Dammit, Deon! High and soft rebound off the glass, and Thompson tries to tip the putback. Henson dunks that. Of course it’s a miss. SO FRICKIN’ SOFT!

22 seconds Heels up one, 68-67, and keep the ball.

0:00 Oh God, it ends like that?

Heels had the ball, Graves puts up a shot as the shot clock is winding down (Rhody didn’t foul with a 6-second shot clock discrepancy), and there’s a loose rebound.

Rams go after t — 3 seconds left — the chance of a run-out is there, but the Rhody player trips and falls and the ball falls to UNC as the clock winds out.

All year long, that specific play has been a point of emphasis for officials. No matter how innocuous it looks, a foul must be called there if the trip comes from the opponent.

Rhody should’ve had a chance to win it at the line.

And didn’t.

And Akeem Richmond’s sterling freshman season ends in an ugly way.

Final 68-67, Heels.

I have to say, I’m a little numb. I guess I’m glad the Heels won, but I hate the way it happened. Rhody gave the game away in the last 90 seconds of regulation, then the officials didn’t give the Rams their rightful chance at the end.

I feel bad for Akeem (0-6 FGs, 0-6 3FGs 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist 1 steal ), who clearly struggled, and I think I know now what I wanted to happen when the game was in the balance.

I think I wanted Rhody to win to give Akeem another chance at the Garden. I wanted to see him play again on TV and to continue to follow the reaction and love affair Sanford has had with him during this run.

But the Heels won.

And now we get to see another game where Deon Thompson shrinks in the paint, where Marcus Ginyard dribbles off his foot as he remains a shell of what he once was, and Larry Drew throws passes away in what is a meaningless tournament for a program like North Carolina.

Yeah, I think I would’ve rather seen Akeem get another crack at it.

In fact, I’m sure of it.

Leave a comment

Filed under ACC, Akeem Richmond, Alex Podlogar, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Prep sports, Rhode Island, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels

The PODcast — More Southern Lee Saga and Akeem Richmond’s NIT run

Sanford's Akeem Richmond is playing well at Rhode Island.″

Part 1

Sanford’s sports talk radio show, with Alex Podlogar and Ryan Sarda of The Sanford Herald, break down the problems with the posting of Southern Lee’s head football coaching job before going into Akeem Richmond’s run with Rhode Island in the NIT.

Part II″

The guys break down the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, take a look at the Bobcats’ improving playoff chances and finally, Ryan settles on his new favorite MLB team.

Leave a comment

Filed under Akeem Richmond, Alex Podlogar, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Eric Puryear, Final Four, Major League Baseball, North Carolina Tar Heels, Prep sports, Rhode Island, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM

What now at Southern Lee? No one will say

For one, say, three- or four-month stretch, it would be nice for there not to be any drama surrounding the Southern Lee football program.

And yet there it was on Monday morning, a job posting on the state’s school jobs Web site for a vacant head football coach at Southern Lee High School.

As everyone knows by now, there’s only one problem, albeit a rather big one — the Cavaliers still have a head football coach.

His name, you may remember, is Eric Puryear, whose only comment regarding the latest episode in ongoing saga that has become Southern Lee football was a rather basic and straight-to-the-point one: “I am still the head coach and I am not quitting or resigning.”

Southern Lee Principal Bonnie Almond had only a few more words to say on the subject: “The advertisement put on the Web site is cautionary and due to the terms of (Puryear’s) contract and the requirements he’s got to meet by June 14.”

What is truly going on at Southern Lee is anybody’s guess. And, of course, that is nothing new.

The administrators may change, the coaches may change and the players may change — although, it should be pointed out, not as often as either the administrators or coaches seem to change at Southern Lee — but the story remains the same.

That’s not to say anybody is accusing Puryear of abusing players like parents said the previous one-year coach was doing. Not at all. Or anything like that.

But that’s the problem. Because administrators can hide behind personnel clauses and lincensures, they don’t have to tell anybody anything.

And while that may be a good rule in principle, it is probably one that should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Because when the issue is as high profile as one that affects as many different people as the status of the football coach, a little transparency would be nice.

Why? Because when little is said, a lot more is rumored. And anybody who has talked to somebody else about this story in the last couple of days has probably advanced one of those rumors. And those things spread like wildfire.

Almond has said the posting of Puryear’s job is only “cautionary.” That’s fine, I guess. But when no one is willing to explain why it is cautionary — and there was a direct “no comment” to that question —  then there are still a lot of gaping holes.

Holes that are left for teenage kids and their parents to ponder while the rumor mills are hard at work trying to fill them in.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Eric Puryear, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

Barack-etology 2010

In case you missed any of the 786,214 viewings of this on ESPN, here you go.

I post this only because I have nearly the same Final Four as the president. I went with Kentucky, Duke, Kansas — and Kansas State. Just don’t see Syracuse getting there, and I guess I’m going with the Big 12 to be as stout as everyone says.

My only real upsets? Utah State and Siena to meet in the second round to further grease Duke’s path to the Final Four.

I have Kansas beating Kentucky 74-71 in the final.

And now, back to my countdown until MLB’s Opening Day…

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Barack Obama, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Major League Baseball, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

Daniel Martin finds a way to stay on the mound

The end is always coming.

It’s out there, and every second that ticks past brings it closer.

For some, the end is too far away to think too much about it. And for very few, the end will come softened with riches, fame, and sometimes, glory.

But it’s still an end, and that is something that is shared by every person who decides to lace ’em up sometime, somewhere.

Daniel Martin could sense his end approaching. Always. And interestingly, he was fine with it. A crafty left-handed pitcher from Lee County, Martin knew his potential better than most anybody.

Because his potential was essentially what he already had.

After leaving the Yellow Jackets, Martin caught on at Pitt Community College in Greenville. He pitched well, so well in fact that he started to draw the attention of nearby East Carolina.

But the university had garnered Martin’s attention at the same time, and he liked the idea of finishing his time in college on a major campus. But when the Pirates baseball coach moved on a few weeks after he told the pitcher he would have a shot to walk on, it appeared that the kid’s baseball career had come to a screeching halt.

Some might’ve wondered whether they had made a tragic mistake, taking a chance with the big boys rather than safely finding a home on a Division-II or smaller diamond.

Not Martin.

“I knew I had a chance to go to some D-2, or D-3 programs, but I liked Greenville,” Martin says. “I was the kind of guy who never really had a Division-1 opportunity, but I knew I still wanted to play ball.”

Knowing his shot at walking on with the Pirates was gone with the new coaching staff aboard, Martin found the next best thing. And he found it in Greenville. On campus.

Club Baseball.

More than 75 players tried out for East Carolina’s Club Baseball team in the fall, and Martin, known well by the ECU Club coaches after his success at Pitt, made the team as a starting pitcher. He’s worked 12 innings so far this season, has a minuscule 1.50 ERA and is 3-0, tied for the second-most wins in — wait for it — the nation.

“It’s the best of both worlds, really,” says Martin, who was recently honored as the conference’s pitcher of the week. “It’s a little more laid back, but it’s still really good competition. You still get to enjoy the college experience and play ball at a high level.”

Intramurals this is not. ECU is a part of the South Division in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, along with Club teams from North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Charlotte and Elon. And the conference is a part of the National Club Baseball Association, where Club teams from Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, Texas, Michigan — and the list goes on and on — compete.

“We have a world series and everything,” says Martin, a member of the nationally sixth-ranked Pirates. “We’re all still playing for a grand prize.”

But most of all, they’re all still playing, period. Club Baseball has given the junior-eligible Martin a chance to hold onto his spikes and his glove for another couple of years. And to him, and potentially others like him, that’s all that matters.

“There are a lot of guys out there like me,” he says. “It’s just a great way to keep playing ball while going to a big school. You don’t have to settle.”

There will come a time when Daniel Martin won’t be able to play baseball anymore. He knows that better than anybody.

But for now, and next season, he knows he can still toe the rubber, glance over his shoulder at the runner as he goes into the stretch, and feel the rush of competition with runners on base and the game on the line.

“That’s the great thing,” he says. “This isn’t church softball.”

They’ll be plenty of time for that.

Just not now.

Not yet.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, East Carolina Pirates, Lee County High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast, March 12″″

Part 1 — Sanford’s best sports talk radio show breaks down the opening rounds of the ACC Tournament.

Part II — Sanford’s best sports talk show chats about Tiger Woods’ possible return to The Masters, some Bobcats basketball scheduling while continuing Ryan’s quest to find a new MLB team.

Leave a comment

Filed under ACC Tournament, Alex Podlogar, Charlotte Bobcats, Clemson Tigers, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Golf, Major League Baseball, Miami Hurricanes, N.C. State Wolfpack, North Carolina Tar Heels, PGA Tour, Sports, Sports columns, The Masters, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, Tiger Woods, UNC Tar Heels, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest, WDCC 90.5 FM

Playing the percentages with the ACC Tournament

There are some who look at the 2010 ACC Tournament and see a flat-out free-for-all.

And there are others who see two teams at the top and a bunch of also-rans.

A year ago, I tried to break down the ACC Tournament by assigning percentages for the likelihood of each team winning the whole shebang. Maybe it didn’t take real foresight to pick Duke to win in 2009, but I also had Florida State with a real chance of winning (the Seminoles were runners-up) and made it clear that I didn’t think eventual national champion North Carolina would get past the second day.

So with a little bit of credibility still kicking around, let’s assess the prospects for each team in the Granddaddy of all conference tournaments.

The Single-Digit Club

Yes, it’s true that there is only one team in the entire conference with a losing record. One might even think that means any of these 12 teams is capable of ripping off four straight for a miraculous ACC run.

Careful there, Rameses. Step back from the ledge.

Has anyone seen Sylven in art class lately?

No. 9 seed Virginia Cavaliers

They have the worst record overall, but in this weird ACC season, they’re rank as a 9 seed.

That said, with Sylven Landesberg figuring college has little to do with class, the losers of 10 straight are clearly the most unlikely of teams to reverse their losing ways. 0 percent chance of winning

Miami basketball? Why bother?

No. 12 seed Miami Hurricanes

They have 18 wins, including over the likes of Nova, South Carolina and Minnesota. OK, so the Nova win looks impressive, until you realize the Nova is for Nova Southeastern, not Villanova. The Canes get Wake Forest in the opening round today, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to win the game. But they’re more likely to play well for 35 minutes and then fall apart at the end. 2 percent

Not the year Marcus Ginyard was looking for.

No. 10 seed North Carolina

Yes, Tar Heels, N.C. State has a better chance at winning this tournament than you do. Georgia Tech blasted UNC in their second meeting, the Heels are hurt and soft and Maryland would loom in the quarterfinals. Buh-bye. 5 percent

What happens if the Pack gets blown away in the opening round?

No. 11 seed N.C. State

OK, not much of a better chance there, Pack. Still, the draw isn’t that bad for State. The Pack opens with up-and-down Clemson, then would face Florida State in the quarters. Not likely, but not terrible either. 6 percent

Can Joe Trapani muscle BC on a run?

No. 8 Boston College

The Eagles should thump Virginia, and then would get a third crack at Duke. At home, BC played Duke tough, and with four guys who average in double figures, a bad shooting day and some foul trouble could get BC into the upset picture. 9 percent

Second-Class Citizens

Shouldn't Derrick Favors and Georgia Tech be a lot better than they are?

No. 7 seed Georgia Tech

Had UNC had a decent year, this would have been the conference’s clear choice for Underachiever of the Year. But man, they have talent. And lost only by two at Maryland, the quarterfinal opponent. 12 percent

Which Wake team will show up?

No. 5 seed Wake Forest

The Deacs should just be a lot better than they’ve played. That four-game skid before the win at home over Clemson in the finale leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But Ishmael Smith can be unguardable at times, and the frontcourt is solid — or at least should be. 14 percent

Solomon Alabi is supposed to be a big-time NBA prospect. OK then.

No. 3 seed Florida State

I don’t like the Clemson matchup at all in a potential quarterfinal meeting, and aside from beating Marquette in November and maybe Virginia Tech, who has FSU beaten? 15 percent

Can Malcolm Delaney go on a Randolph Childress-like run?

No. 4 seed Virginia Tech

One big concern for the Hokies? They don’t blow anybody out (unless you count N.C. State). Not UNC-G (59-46), not Campbell (71-60), and not even Delaware (74-66, OT) or Iowa (70-64). Their ACC wins have only come by an average of 8.4 points. By comparison, Duke has won by 16.1 points in its ACC wins. Remember, this isn’t a great conference this season. 16 percent

The Cream

Demontez Stitt and the Tigers could be primed for a run.

No. 6 seed Clemson

Don’t sleep on N.C. State, but after beating FSU twice this season, the Tigers should get to the semifinals without much trouble. They split with Maryland, even scoring 79 points on the Terps in College Park in a loss. Maybe the Tigers aren’t a great team. But this is a good draw to make a run. 19 percent

Greivis Vasquez may be the best player on the floor this weekend.

No. 2 seed Maryland

Perhaps the hottest team entering the tournament, the Terps have the confidence of having beaten Duke in a well-played game (though it was at home). Clemson looms as a tough test in the semifinals, though Georgia Tech could pose a problem as early as Friday. But the Terps are balanced and tend to have the best player on the floor in Greivis Vasquez. 25 percent

The Winner

Stay away from foul trouble, shoot at least 44 percent from the field, and another title is yours, Mr. Singler.



This is the Blue Devils’ annual, personal playground. And none of their potential matchups before the finals — BC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest or Miami — pose any real threat. Unless one of the Big Three is in early foul trouble and they have a bad shooting day, the Blue Devils will win this tournament.

It’s just what they do. 50 percent.

Leave a comment

Filed under ACC, ACC Tournament, Alex Podlogar, Boston College, Clemson Tigers, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, N.C. State Wolfpack, North Carolina Tar Heels, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest

An angry Cubs retort

Maybe Phil Rogers thinks Paul Assemacher would be better.

Sorry for the invective down below, and maybe I’m just blind Cubs fan, but I can’ resist letting this go.

I think Phil Rogers is on the ball and pretty good, but this is crap, and while I don’t think the pen is very good and may hold the team back as well, this is crap.

When Lou Piniella’s first Cubs team went to the playoffs, it featured a bullpen that included $15.3 million in relief talent — a figure that easily could have been $20 million if Kerry Wood hadn’t been a post-surgery bargain that season. The steady drain of experience since then has been telling, hurting the Cubs a year ago and this season making it hard to take them seriously in their attempt to catch the Cardinals.

Since the end of 2007, the Cubs have shifted Ryan Dempster from the bullpen to the rotation, lost Wood, Bob Howry and Kevin Gregg to free agency ad traded away Scott Eyre, Michael Wuertz and Aaron Heilman. The only experienced reliever they’ve added in that time who is still around is lefty John Grabow.

Somehow, none of these pitching trades nor the Mark DeRosa deal has brought any pitching help (although lefty John Gaub has the arm to develop into a long-term big-leaguer). The Cubs came to camp thin and have had that situation exposed by Angel Guzman’s shoulder injury.

General manager Jim Hendry has been known to pull rabbits out of hats, but March isn’t the best time to stock your shelves. The choices available include signing an out-of-work veteran like John Smoltz or trading for one of the few available arms on the market. You’d have to pay heavily in terms of talent for the likes of Jason Frasor, Heath Bell, Brad Ziegler or Wood or take a financial risk for somebody like the White Sox’s Scott Linebrink.

My take: When the Cubs had Howry, Gregg, Eyre, Heilman and even Wuertz, they were crap. Crap. How do you get good pitching in return for crap? Even Wuertz sucked when he was in Chicago. And Wood sucked last year for the Indians. Yes, they are thin in the pen, but it’s not because they let too many good arms go. None of those arms were good. None.

And the Cubs shelled out huge money for Eyre and Howry and prospects for Gregg. If you follow sabermetrics at all, all the analysts say to go with young and cheap arms in the setup roles to save money for your club. Statisically, paying huge bucks for relievers is a waste of resources. Yes, they need to get a little lucky with some guys. But all teams do. What, should they have given the three-year deal to Brandon Lyon like the Astros? Anybody who knows baseball knows that was the worst deal of the offseason. I’m not saying they’ll be good or the pen will be anything other than a disaster. But it’s not because the Cubs let Heilman, Gregg go and moved Demps (and starting pitching is, um, kinda important).

This is stupid.



Filed under Alex Podlogar, Chicago Cubs, Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast Returns″″

With the show broken into two parts, the guys break down the Panthers’ recent moves, chat about the top seeds for the NCAA Tournament, run through the ACC standings, hit the Bobcats and begin the search for Ryan’s new baseball team.

Leave a comment

Filed under ACC, ACC Tournament, Alex Podlogar, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Final Four, Golf, Major League Baseball, N.C. State Wolfpack, NBA, NCAA Tournament, NFL, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest, WDCC 90.5 FM

Course Study — Kaam Stenberg makes golf more than just a game

You know some of them are just sitting there.

On the couch maybe. Or they’re on the phone, texting back and forth to someone they saw only an hour ago. Or maybe on the computer.

Or maybe all of the above.

The due date, though, is approaching. Coming quickly for some. Closer by the day, the project getting more difficult by the minute. Maybe they’ll start it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the night before it’s due, like so many other things.

And so they sit there.

Meanwhile, Kaam Stenberg is practically done.

OK, so maybe Stenberg’s entire Senior Project isn’t complete just yet. Some “I’s” left to dot and some “T’s” still to cross. But he’s well on his way.

But Stenberg’s project wasn’t just about getting an assignment done. The Northwood senior decided to take what he knew well and apply it as a community service. With a little help from Chargers golf coach Henry Buckner, Stenberg was put in contact with Stevens Center Executive Director Roger Bailey.

And an idea was born.

“It was an opportunity to coach golf to kids with and without disabilities,” Stenberg says. “The senior project is about giving back to the community, and this is what I wanted to do.”

It’s the fourth and final week of the golf instruction class. Clad in an argyle sweater and khakis to go with saddle shoes, Stenberg, 18, certainly looks the part. He hopes to be a golf professional one day, and will be headed to Florida to begin that path in the fall.

The students — four boys and a young woman — are lined up along the baseline of the Stevens Center gymnasium. They each have a pile of foam practice golf balls in front of them and address the ball on a green artificial practice pad. A 6 iron in their hands and a large garbage can set up about 60 feet away, Stenberg instructs the students to take their shots at striking the garbage can.

He calmly walks up and down the line, checking grips and postures, making necessary tweaks to his students’ setups. The balls get airborne — a sure sign that the students have absorbed much of the instruction Stenberg has given them. Not a small feat considering one student has Down’s Syndrome while others have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorders.

“I don’t know the problems,” Stenberg says. “I don’t need to. It’s not proper.”

But there are problems for some. Ask one of the kids a question, and he doesn’t respond. Not because he’s frightened, or that he doesn’t understand the question, but because he can’t focus. When he does hear the question, he gives an answer that has nothing to do with the subject.

But he knows where his hands are supposed to be on the club. He can aim at the target. He can putt the ball toward the cup, and hit it softer as he gets closer.

He’s getting it.

“I was nervous at the first class,” Stenberg admits. “It was tough getting up in front to talk to the students, especially with their parents watching. But as we got to the second and third classes, I started to feel a lot more comfortable. Now, with the fourth class, it feels routine.”

Some of the kids are 10 and 11 years old, and they have steel-shafted irons in their hands. While there’s plenty of adult supervision around, it does enter the mind that should something go wrong, it could get ugly in a hurry.

Perhaps his soft voice helps. Surely the calm demeanor keeps potential meltdowns from escalating.

Or maybe it’s the fun the kids are having. Smiles are everywhere, much like the practice balls that bound all over the gym. But when they run out, the students follow their instructor and calmly pick the balls up. And why not? There’s a chance to hit again.

“I like it when we get to aim at a target,” one of the 11-year-old boys says. “It gives you a goal. I like goals.”

“It’s been a really fun experience,” gushes a 14-year-old boy. “I’ve learned all kinds of different stuff.”

“Kaam’s really nice,” says a 10-year-old, a toothy smile spreading across his face.

Roger Bailey, who met Stenberg at the gym as dusk descended to open the doors for him, stands in a hallway, the satisfaction evident in his gaze.

“What Kaam’s done has gone beyond his graduation project,” Bailey says. “The program has allowed him to take on significant responsibility, but it’s also given him a stage to shine from.”

So much so that Stenberg’s class may not end with him. Bailey says he would like to continue the golf class in the future, perhaps as another senior project down the line.

“I hope it continues,” Stenberg says. “I think you can reach a lot of people through the game of golf.”

He stops along the line of his young golfers and watches a boy take a couple of swings.

“I don’t think I swing it right,” the boy says.

“You’re doing fine,” Stenberg replies.

“But it doesn’t look right, does it?”

It is the swing of a beginner in the beginning stages of learning the game. The left arm bends, the knees sway and the head has a tendency to pop up.

Stenberg goes through the fundamentals again, quietly, beginning with the grip before moving to an abbreviated backswing and follow-through.

“Everybody has a different way of swinging the club,” Stenberg tells the boy. “And you’re doing just fine.”

He gives the boy another ball.

“Let’s see you hit another one.”


Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Golf, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald