David Thompson Basketball Ambassador

By Tim Nash

David Thompson is sitting behind a desk the Greensboro Swarm offices, just down the street from the Coliseum, the site of two of the greatest college basketball games ever played.

And the reason those games are ranked among the all-time greats, is because David Thompson played in them.

He scored 29 points in what is considered the greatest ACC basketball game ever played — NC State’s 103-100 double-overtime win over Maryland in the 1974 conference championship in the Greensboro Coliseum. Two weeks later in the Coliseum, he scored 28 points in the NCAA semifinals to help the Wolfpack end UCLA’s seven-year hold on the NCAA title. He scored 21 points when the Pack defeated Marquette in the ’74 NCAA championship game.

“It’s always great to come back to Greensboro,” said Thompson, who is in town in his role as an NBA Ambassador to promote the Charlotte Hornets’ G-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm. Continue reading

At 39, Damien Wilkins Targets Return to NBA

By Tim Nash

He’s 39 years old playing against guys 12-15 years younger in a league designed for player development.

Why? That’s a question Damien Wilkins hears a lot, and he really doesn’t understand it.

“People always ask, ‘Why is he still playing?’ ‘Why is he in the G-League at his age?’” says Wilkins who is back in the G-League for his second stint with the Greensboro Swarm. “I say, ‘Why Not?’

“What’s better that finding a passion and chasing it and doing everything you can to reach your dream. You have to respect anyone who does that. If I see a street-sweeper who is dancing around and really loving being a street-sweeper, why would I question what he’s doing?”

Wilkins was re-signed by the Swarm on Feb. 1 after being waived by the Indiana Pacers. He was on the Pacers NBA roster for 39 games. He played in 19 games and started once. Continue reading

Level of Hatred Toward Referees is Disturbing

 

By Tim Nash

I just spent five days watching experienced referees coach and mentor young officials at the US Youth Soccer Region III Championships.

I watched, listened and asked questions as some of the best and most experienced referees in the country spent time helping the next generation of officials improve in all aspects of officiating.

And guess what? None of the instruction included telling the referees to choose a team to screw. Not once were the young refs told to try to anger the crowd, or irritate the home fans.

But it happens, doesn’t it? We live in an era when every call is debated and scrutinized through multiple instant replays and fans get countless chances to see a controversial play that the ref gets to see once for a split second. Continue reading

Our Problems Aren’t New, Solutions Need to Be

By Tim Nash

Ok. Here are two quotes to consider. A little later on, you will find out who said them. They both deal with a couple of the hot player-development topics.

This first one relates to the heavily organized way young soccer players are trained in the U.S., the coach-centered structure that many believes gets in the way of players learning to be instinctive, creative and dynamic.

“Kids today think there has to be a coach present in order to play. They don’t just go out and play. We, as coaches, need to replicate free play in training.”

Continue reading

Gianluca Busio Makes Early Move Toward Future Success

By Tim Nash

Darren Powell has made a career out of recognizing soccer talent, and he knew there was something special about Gianluca Busio when he first saw him.

Even if Busio was just five years old at the time.

“Gianluca and my son Caleb are the same age and played on the same team when they were little,” says Powell, the former coach at Elon University, former Academy Director at Orlando FC, and now the head coach of the USL’s San Antonio FC.

“Even as a five-year-old, he stood out on the field with exceptional technical ability,” says Powell. “He had the ability to run with a soccer ball with coordination and balance. It’s just looked very natural.”

So, Powell was among the people completely unsurprised on Aug. 24 when Gianluca Busio (jahn-LOOKA BOO-see-o), a quick, creative and versatile forward, became the second-youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract at 15 years and 89 days. His signing came on the heels of a five-goals-in-five-game performance with the U.S. U15 National team at the CONCACAF Championships earlier this month.

Continue reading

At 30, McCall Zerboni Having Best Year Yet

By Tim Nash

“McCall Zerboni was brilliant again tonight.”

That’s what North Carolina Courage coach said after his veteran midfielder set up the first goal and scored the second in a 2-0 win over the Seattle Reign on July 8 in Cary, N.C.

But it’s not the first time Riley has uttered that sentence. He has coached Zerboni for three straight seasons now and has come to expect brilliance from the 30-year-old, nine-year.

“She just gets in great areas, her distribution is great, and she leads the league in winning duels and tackles,” said Riley. “But it’s her reading of the game that probably the most important thing for us. She picks off so many passes that are going into pockets. She starts the attack and she is very much on the end of the attack as well.”

The skills Riley describes – winning tackles, reading the game, covering group –come from years of experience and dedication to fitness. Zerboni’s professional career dates back to 2009 when she was drafted out of UCLA with the 48th pick of the old WPS draft. Since then, she’s played for six professional teams in three U.S.-based leagues.

“For me, it doesn’t get easier,” she says. “It’s gets harder so it requires more focus, more dedication and more sacrifice.”

The dedication and sacrifice have paid off. She says she is the fittest she’s ever been. But that doesn’t stop Riley from closely monitoring her. Continue reading

Abby Dahlkemper Takes Big Steps in 2017

By Tim Nash

On Aug 19, for the 10th time in 18 games this season, the North Carolina Courage looked at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see a zero under their opponent’s name.

Ten shutouts have helped the Courage, who have allowed a league-low 14 goals through 18 games, secure a place atop the NWSL standings for most of the 2017 season.

The stingy defense can be credited to a number of different factors – a high-pressing defense starting athletic forwards, like Ashley Hatch, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams, an organized and aggressive midfield led by Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni, and backline that features a veteran from New Zealand, Abby Erceg, and three players who have caught the eye of U.S. National team coach Jill Ellis – Jaelene Hinkle, Taylor Smith and Abby Dahlkemper. In goal, both Katelyn Rowland and Sabrina D’Angelo have shared the duties. Continue reading