Blue Ribbon preview - Charlotte

(Information in this team report is as of September 29.)


It’s hard to find fault with the way Charlotte played last year. The 49ers won four of their last five regular-season games, advanced to the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals, earned their second NIT bid in three years, and finished with 20 wins. A couple of players were selected to All-A-10 teams, and head coach Bobby Lutz was given a five-year contract extension. All seemed well.

But some Charlotte fans did find fault with it, complaining that the 49ers have grown accustomed to associating NIT bids with success, and expectations must be raised or the program will inevitably sink into mediocrity.

Although Lutz disagrees with that statement on the whole, especially considering how many new faces played pivotal roles last year, he does agree with part of it: expectations must be raised.

Last year was a fun year; we had a great group of guys," Lutz said. “This year, with the talent level we have, I think we have a chance to play for a championship.”

Charlotte has plenty of talent, but what will help it compete for its first Atlantic 10 title is its continuity. Ten of the 49ers’ top 11 scorers return from last year, including four-of-five starters. They have only two new players – an incoming freshman and a junior college transfer – which is a departure from last year, when they had eight newcomers. And they had a jump on the season, playing three games in Canada over Labor Day weekend.

“We’re thrilled about our depth,” Lutz said. “Now we just have to figure out where to play everybody.”

Even Lutz’ problems are ones other coaches wouldn’t mind having.

Charlotte 49ers
Last Season 20-14 (.588)
Conference Record 9-7 (t-4th)
Starters Lost/Returning 1/4
Coach Bobby Lutz (Charlotte '80)
Record At School 188-126 (10 years)
Career Record 369-217 (19 years)
RPI Last 5 years 32-31-104-146-68

For the last three years, Lutz has been searching for a point guard who can run his fast-paced offense. Last year he found two, and now he must decide which one is going to start.

Lutz’s plan was for 6-0 junior Michael Gerrity (#1, 4.7 ppg, 3.5 apg), who transferred from Pepperdine, to run the point once he became eligible in December. Gerrity averaged 14.1 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Wave, earning WCC Freshman-of-the-Year honors from some publications. But Lutz’ plan went awry when 5-9 junior DiJuan Harris (#3, 3.5 ppg, 3.2 apg), a former walk-on, led Charlotte to a 6-2 record in its first eight games, then outplayed Gerrity when he got on the floor. Harris led the A-10 with a 2.77 assist-to-turnover ratio, while Gerrity finished third (2.39).

“Last year, I thought Mike would have been the guy who played 30 minutes, and DiJuan 10,” Lutz said. “But DiJuan played extremely well.” Although Harris proved he can be a successful Division I point guard, Lutz still believes Gerrity is better suited for the 49ers’ offense – if he can regain his shot.

“It was a struggle for Mike, especially early,” Lutz said. “But I don’t think that will be a problem this season, now that he has that under his belt. I think he understands our style of play better now. We run more set plays [than Pepperdine], and that wasn’t easy for him.”

If the point guard situation can work itself out, Lutz has options at shooting guard, where whoever starts will be replacing Leemire Goldwire, last year’s leading scorer, three-point shooter and unquestioned leader.


Ian Anderson (#11, 5.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg), a 6-4 junior, is the logical choice, after playing in 31 games last year and knocking down 37 percent of his threes, which was good for second on the team. But he’ll be pushed by 6-5 junior Rashad Coleman (#22). Coleman played at the Heat Academy in Martinsville, Va., last year, after playing previously at NAIA Brewton-Parker in Georgia. He has grown five inches since high school, and chose Charlotte over Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State. Coleman introduced himself to 49er fans with an impressive performance in Charlotte’s summer league.

“I’ve had a lot of great shooters and athletes, but Coleman combines those better than any guy I’ve ever had,” Lutz said. “He had the summer league people going crazy, dunking on people and shooting NBA threes.”

Also contributing in the backcourt will be 6-4 sophomore Charles Dewhurst (#31, 4.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg), who shot only 35 percent last year, and 6-3 freshman Shamarr Bowden (#20), who hails from Greensboro, N.C., but prepped at Charlottesville’s Miller School last year.

While the backcourt could feature several permutations of players, the frontcourt’s starting rotation appears to be set with 6-7 senior forward Lamont Mack (#15, 12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), 6-7 senior forward Charlie Coley (#2, 8.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and 6-6 sophomore forward An’Juan Wilderness (#21, 8.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

Wilderness earned A-10 All-Rookie honors but was inconsistent offensively, following up double-digit scoring performances with two- and three-point showings.

“He can be our constant double-digit scorer,” Lutz said. “He’s already a tenacious defender, and gives our team toughness.”

Mack and Coley both proved that junior college transfers can be productive immediately; Mack finished second on the team in scoring and Coley finished second in rebounding.

“I’ve had a lot of junior college players here who had an impact,” Lutz said. "But never have any two had the impact that they did.

Mack underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after the year to repair a torn left meniscus, but he should be healthy for the start of the season. Lutz expects them both to improve.

“Usually, it’s a junior college players’ second year when they really figure it out,” Lutz said. “So as good as they were, our hope is they’re able to improve.”

One player who could push for a starting spot is 6-10 junior Phil Jones (#30, 3.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg). Lutz said last year that although he would prefer to run all game, he would slow it down for Jones and run offense through him if that made Charlotte successful. It didn’t, as Jones only shot 33 percent from the floor.

“He wasn’t quite ready, to be honest,” Lutz said. "If you want to be the guy who the offense runs through, you have to be more productive; you have to shoot better than 40 percent.

“[This season] his conditioning is better. If he can put the ball in the basket we’ll wait on him. It’s really up to him; he’s got to come and be able to produce.”

Javarris Barnett (#00), a 6-6, 230-pound red-shirt freshman forward, has a chance to contribute at several positions, after growing an inch and gaining 20 pounds.

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do with him,” Lutz said. “He can play on the perimeter, because that’s where he’s played his whole life. But he’s grown into a typical four guy who can really shoot the ball.”

Gaby Ngoundjo (#5, 1.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg), a 6-7 sophomore forward, will also add depth on the defensive end. He blocked a Halton Arena-record six shots against Farleigh-Dickinson last year.

Although Lutz will lose Mack and Coley after this season, he already has one of their replacements for next year in Boston College transfer Shamari Spears. Spears, who is hard to move off the block at 6-6 and 238 pounds, averaged 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds last year for the Eagles, but transferred to be closer to his family.


Charlotte once again played well under Lutz last year, winning 20 games and qualifying for the NIT. But the 49ers aspire to greater accomplishments, and should be able to achieve them this season.

Charlotte has excited the fan base the last couple of years with flashy recruiting classes. But what should have fans excited this year is the 49ers’ depth and experience. Ten of their 11 top scorers return, along with four-of-five starters.

The point-guard position might not be settled yet, but that’s only because Lutz hasn’t decided whether he wants to play Harris, Gerrity, or both. Options abound at shooting guard, including Coleman, who brought fans to their feet in Charlotte’s summer league. Mack, Coley and Wilderness all return for their second year in the starting lineup, and will be bolstered by Jones and Ngoundjo.

The 49ers might not be the logical pick to win the A-10, but their talent, plus the fact that they’re protected from injury because of their depth, means they should be in the race come early March.

Bob G must be reading NNN. We certainly have had a gang of fans happy with finishing in the middle of the A10.

Time for that to stop, awesome analysis.