8-6-21 roundup: Pro football, basketball and baseball, college football and athletics


By Richard Walker

After a year off, Carolina Panthers Fan Fest returned on Friday night at 7 p.m. as the team got to show off its new players and the new field turf at Bank of America Stadium.

The new field turf at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

More than 20,000 fans attended to make it the largest crowd at the stadium since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Panthers fans cheered on veteran standouts like running back Christian McCaffrey, linebackers Shaq Thompson and Brian Burns, wide receiver D.J. Moore, defensive tackle Derrick Brown, defensive back Jeremy Chinn and offensive tackle Taylor Moton and newcomers like quarterback Sam Darnold, cornerback Jaycee Horn and wide receiver Terrace Marshall, Jr.

Of the team’s top players, only wide receiver Robby Anderson was absent as he was excused for a family matter.



Pro basketball

The Charlotte Hornets continue their roster makeover.

The team has reportedly signed Golden State Warriors free agent Kelly Oubre to a two-year, $26 million contract and many reports indicate the team is considering signing an offer sheet to Chicago Bulls restricted free agent forward Lauri Markkanen.

Oubre, a 6-foot-7 forward, was the No. 15 overall pick of the 2015 draft out of Kansas by the Atlanta Hawks. Oubre’s draft rights were traded to the Washington Wizards and he also played for the Phoenix Suns and Warriors. In six seasons in the NBA, Oubre has averaged 11.5 points and 4.4 rebounds while making 32.6 percent of his 3-pointers in 403 games (149 starts).

His best statistical season came in 2019-20 for the Suns when he averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds and made 45.2 percent of his 3-pointers.

Markkanen, a 7-footer from Finland, was the No. 7 overall pick of the 2017 draft out of Arizona by the Bulls. In four seasons with the Bulls, Markkanen has averaged 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds while making 36.6 percent of his 3-pointers in 221 games (195 starts).

Adding Oubre to the roster would create a deep roster at all five positions.

At point guard could be 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, recent free agent signee Ish Smith and 2020 Hornets’ second round draft pick Grant Riller.

At shooting guard could be veteran Terry Rozier and recent No. 11 Hornets draft pick James Bouknight.

At small forward could be 2020 free agent acquisition Gordon Hayward and Oubre.

At power forward could be returning starters Miles Bridges and PJ Washington and 2021 second-round draft pick J.T. Thor.

And at center could be draft night trade acquisition Mason Plumlee, 2021 first-round draft pick Kai Jones and 2020 draft picks Vernon Carey, Jr., and Nick Richards.

The trade that brought Plumlee and Thor from the Detroit Pistons was made official on Friday.

Next week, the Hornets begin their Las Vegas Summer League schedule. It is as follows:

Aug. 8 Portland, 6 p.m. (NBA TV)

Aug. 9 Sacramento, 6 p.m. (NBA TV)

Aug. 12 San Antonio, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)

Aug. 14 Toronto, 7 p.m. (NBA TV)

Aug. 16 or 17 TBD



College football

The Charlotte 49ers and Gardner-Webb Bulldogs began 2021 football practice in the last two days.

Charlotte 49ers linebacker Luke Martin (17) goes through practice drills on Thursday.

At Charlotte, 49ers coach Will Healy welcomed his team to its first practice session on Thursday.

“So much fun to be out here,” Healy said in a school news release. “The last time that this football team got on a practice field with something meaningful going on, we got an opportunity ripped away from us – and ended our season when we expected to go play Marshall. I don’t take these days for granted. I really don’t.”

Charlotte is preparing for its Sept. 3 home opener with Duke, which marks the first ACC team to visit Richardson Stadium in 49ers’ program history.

Charlotte returns 13 starters, including one of Conference USA’s top QB-WR combos in seniors Chris Reynolds and Victor Tucker, who rank second all-time for the 49ers in passing and receiving yards, respectively. 2020 leading tackler Tyler Murray is back to anchor the defense at linebacker while defensive end Markees Watts, who put up 13.5 TFL in 2019, is back to full strength after battling injury in 2020.

At Gardner-Webb, head coach Tre Lamb welcomed 105 players for Friday’s practice on the field turf at Spangler Stadium.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs welcome back 20 starters across the board, with much of its depth on the offensive and defensive lines. And Gardner-Webb added 28 scholarship newcomers – 21 freshman and seven transfers from FBS or FCS programs.

Graduate transfer Carlton Aiken, who started all four games at quaeterback in the spring, is no longer in the program.

So the team will have a new starter under center when it opens on September 4 at Georgia Southern – Graduate Tayvon Bowers, sophomore Jy Tolen, Tennessee Tech transfer Bailey Fisher and freshman Kendall McKoy.



Pro baseball

The Gastonia Honey Hunters opened their three-game series at Lexington on Friday with a 5-3 victory.

The teams meet again on Saturday for the second game of the three-game series at Lexington.







College athletics

Gaston College will return to athletic competition this fall for the first time since 1975.

The school is holding a Block Party from 3-8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19 to unveil the school’s new nickname, logo and colors.

Gaston College was nicknamed the Rebels from 1965 to 1969 and the Warriors from 1969 to 1972 before the school ceased its athletic programs after the 1974-75 school year.

With its restart this fall, it will again compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Region 10 and field teams in baseball, beach volleyball, esports, men’s basketball, softball and women’s cross country.