UNC women's basketball scandal dominates top sports stories in 2019
Posted December 25, 2019 6:00 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — College basketball has always grabbed the spotlight in the Triangle. That was no different in 2019.
Here are the sports stories that collected the most eyeballs in 2019.
Suspension and review leads to resignation
On April 1, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill women's basketball coaching staff, including head coach Sylvia Hatchell, was placed on paid leave as an external review of the women's basketball program was ordered after "issues raised by student-athletes and others."
The review eventually led to the resignation of Hatchell, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with more than 1,000 victories, and her staff. In all, four players transferred out of the program.
Michael Savarino joined the Duke basketball program as a preferred walk-on this year. Big deal? Well, when your grandfather is Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski, that would be a yes. We found out in June the Durham Academy graduate would be a part of the team.
"I won't coach him like a grandson, and he doesn't want me to coach him like my grandson," Krzyzewski said. "He wants me to coach him as a basketball player."
Making a strong claim
Not long after Duke was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti alleged that he had evidence of Nike of bribing Zion Williamson's mother to get him to attend Duke.
Officials at Duke said the university was investigating Avenatti's bribe claim. In August said it found no evidence to support the allegations.
Serious charges later dropped
After being arrested and charged with assault, Eric Lockett was suspended from North Carolina State University's basketball team. Back in February, when the allegations and arrest were made, Lockett was accused of striking his ex-girlfriend in the face.
The charges against Eric Lockett were dismissed in late February, and he was reinstated to the team with no disciplinary action taken.
Former UNC, Milbrook pitcher in trouble
A former UNC baseball pitcher was arrested on drug trafficking charges. Barrett Dail, 31, of Raleigh, was charged with trafficking opium or heroin and maintaining a place for sale of a controlled substance.
Officials from Duke and Nike met face-to-face in Durham on Feb. 22, a day after the Nike shoe worn by freshman phenom Zion Williamson ripped apart during a game with UNC. A Duke official told WRAL that it was a "private meeting between two long-time partners."
At the time, Nike said in a statement: "We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue."
UNC had a record-setting 113-96 win over NC State in early February. It was the team's sixth straight ACC win and continued momentum for the Heels after an embarrassing home loss to Louisville a month earlier.
WRAL's Lauren Brownlow wrote the 113 points were the most scored by either team in their long history of playing each other. It also brought to light a disappointing performance by the Pack, who nearly beat eventual national champ Virginia one game earlier, and proved what kind of up-and-down season NCSU was having.
Filling a void
Realty developer John Kane and tech entrepreneur Steve Malik believe they are bringing something much needed to the Raleigh area. The duo unveiled plans for a proposed $1.9 billion mixed-used retail, residential and entertainment project in the southern portion of downtown.
Included would be a 20,000-seat stadium which would be the home of Malik’s North Carolina Football Club and North Carolina Courage professional soccer teams. It would also serve as a tool to hopefully get an MLS team to the city.
Start of something great
At just 18, Abbey Forbes fulfilled a major dream by not only participating in Wimbledon but winning the Junior Girls Doubles Championship with Savannah Broadus, a phenom herself at just 16.
"Playing at Wimbledon was a dream of mine. But I never thought it would actually happen," said Forbes, who grew up playing tennis all over the Triangle, including the Raleigh Racquet Club. "I feel great. I feel pretty relieved actually. The match was super tough and the opponents we played were really good."
Forbes is currently a freshman playing tennis at UCLA.
'I'm still sick to my stomach about it'
Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said what everyone was feeling.
"I'm still sick to my stomach about it," Brind'Amour said when Andrei Svechnikov got knocked out in a fight with Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin midway through the first period of Game 3 of their first-round Stanly Cup playoff series. Svechnikov fell to the ice and couldn't pull himself up. He had to be helped to the locker room.
Carolina got the last laugh, beating the then-defending Stanley Cup champs in Game 7 of their playoff series. The Hurricanes made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to the Boston Bruins, who then lost to St. Louis in the Stanley Cup finals.