Triangle basketball fans can get their first close look tonight at the latest crop of players suiting up for Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State this winter, as the Greater NC Pro Am summer league tips off at N.C. Central's McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium.
Launched by former Tar Heel and NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse and two childhood friends, the third-year league mixes NBA players and other pros with elite college players and the next wave of top recruits in the state.
For incoming college freshmen such as N.C. State's Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie (who played in the league last summer), UNC's Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock, and Duke's Kyrie Irving, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton, it's their introduction to a local audience eager for an early glimpse of these highly touted recruits. Depending on what night they show up, fans also may catch a young NBA star such as the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, or even a cameo from Raleigh's John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in last week's NBA draft.
"When we started, people didn't know who we were. But now, everyone knows exactly what you're talking about when you say the Durham Pro-Am," said Chuck Jones, who helped Stackhouse start the league along with Donyell Bryant. "We hope the athletes learn something, especially the younger guys.
"And at the same time, we give the community something, because they rarely get the chance to see the Carolina, Duke and N.C. State guys play up close and personal, and that's something we offer. We give them the chance to shake their hands, get autographs and see them play."
Tonight's first game (6 p.m.) pits Team McGladrey, featuring N.C. State's Tracy Smith and the Pack's three incoming freshmen, against Hendrick of Durham, which lists Duke's Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving on its roster.
The second game (7 p.m.) pits Team Stackhouse/TRSC, which includes UNC's rising sophomores John Henson and Dexter Strickland, as well as Tar Heels incoming freshmen Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes against a D1 Sports team that lists Wall on its roster. However, it was not confirmed as of Wednesday if Wall, drafted first overall by the Washington Wizards, would be there for the league's opening night.
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