Thursday , Jul , 07 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Future is bright in Charlotte

(Sports Network) – Charlotte made intelligent basketball and business
decisions on draft night. The Bobcats, who will be playing in a new arena in
their second season in the NBA, used their two first-round picks to select a
pair of players that their fans should be very familiar with.

With the fifth overall pick in the draft, Charlotte selected North Carolina
point guard Raymond Felton. Just eight picks later, the Bobcats, who had
acquired the pick from Cleveland, grabbed another former Tar Heel Sean May.

The Bobcats, who played their games at Charlotte Coliseum during their
inaugural season, are scheduled to begin play at the new Charlotte Arena in
the 2005-06 season. By selecting two hometown heroes, the Bobcats have raised
the excitement level of the fans. One other key point is that Felton and May
are both pretty good basketball players.

Emeka Okafor, who averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds in 73 games during
his rookie campaign, was the 2005 Rookie of the Year. The Connecticut product,
who was selected by Charlotte with the second overall pick in the 2004 NBA
Draft, proved that he has a solid career ahead of him. With Okafor already on
board, the second-year franchise already had one piece of the puzzle in place.

By drafting Felton, the Bobcats are hopeful that they have found their
starting lead guard for the next 10-plus years. The 6-1 Felton is a pure point
guard who thinks pass first and shot second. He is very quick and is excellent
at finding his teammates when they are open.

Felton was instrumental in helping North Carolina capture the 2005 National
Championship. He showed a lot of poise and proved that he has strong
leadership skills. What can he bring to the next level?

“The same attitude,” said Felton at the press conference to introduce him and
May. “I’m the same guy. I’m the same player, so I’m going to bring the same
attitude. I love to help my teammates out. I’d rather pass the ball before I
shoot. I think my teammates will love to play with me, because I don’t think
about myself. I think about what is good for the team, whether that’s me
scoring a lot or passing the ball. I’ll do what’s best for the team.”

May should fit in well next to Okafor. The 6-8 forward had an unbelievable
showing in the NCAA Tournament, helping raise his stock tremendously for the
draft. Okafor will have to play in the middle when he is on the court with
May, which could take away some of his effectiveness. However, both players
excel on the inside and should be able to hold their down low against the
tough big men in the NBA.

The Bobcats two draft picks have experienced winning on the college level.
They were major factors in North Carolina’s championship run. Both players
come from a great basketball tradition and will add a winning attitude to the
Charlotte franchise.

Did playing for North Carolina prepare them for the rigors of life in the NBA?

“I think so because what we did at North Carolina was run,” said May. “Then,
in the tournament, everybody stops you, and that’s when you really see the
true side of a team. We didn’t run a whole lot once we got to the tournament
because people found a way to defend us. So being able to play both styles of
basketball — walking it up and running — will help us both benefit because
we both know how to do it. In the NBA, there’s times when it’s real high-paced
and times when the scoring is low and you walk it up possession-by-possession.
I think that’s where we benefit by going to North Carolina, because we did
both.”

Charlotte’s fans are excited with what the Bobcats did on draft night. Felton
and May are two players that the fans are going to want to go and see. The
fans have already made the two newest Bobcats feel welcome.

“It’s been incredible,” said May about the response he and Felton have gotten
from the fans. “We knew we would get a lot, but I didn’t think it would be
like this. When all of these people come up here and show up at a press
conference, it’s exciting. We went over to the new arena today, and this year
we expect it to be a great atmosphere in Charlotte. Hopefully there will be a
lot more business here because two Carolina guys are coming in, and that will
help the economics of the city of Charlotte. I’m extremely thankful, and we
are truly blessed just to have people that want to come out, support us and
see us work.”

Yes, it’s true that the decision to select a pair of North Carolina products
was a very wise decision for a franchise that is going to start playing in a
new arena. But the fact remains that Charlotte added two players that can help
its franchise win games for many years to come.

The additions of Felton and May have helped make the future of basketball in
Charlotte that much brighter.

CHL