Tobacco Road Rivalry Morphs into Friendly Bond in Los Angeles

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 14th, 2014

Both Ryan Kelly and Kendall Marshall were highly regarded prospects coming out of their respective high schools in the south — Marshall from Bishop O’Connell in Northern Virginia and Kelly from Ravenscroft Academy in the heart of ACC country, North Carolina. Marshall was the pure, pass-first point guard who at 6’4” could see over the top of most defenders, and Kelly was a 6’11” reed thin stretch-four. Both chose to play in the ACC, but at different programs that happened to be a part of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Marshall went to North Carolina, where he bid his time behind Larry Drew until he set an UNC single-season record with 351 assists and won the Bob Cousy Award his sophomore season at Chapel Hill. While Marshall was breaking records in his first two seasons as a Tar Heel, Kelly had a longer and more arduous route to prominence as a Blue Devil in Durham. Kelly really emerged as a junior and senior, where he began to average over 25 minutes per game and double figure points. He clearly became an integral part of Duke’s interior defense as well, not rebounding extremely well for his size but being a great help defender, communicator and rim protector alongside Miles and Mason Plumlee. His defining moment came in his return from injury in a 36-point performance versus a loaded ACC champion Miami (FL) team at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Kendall Marshall & Ryan Kelly cheer on the Lakers bench (

Kendall Marshall & Ryan Kelly cheer on the Lakers bench (

Unfortunately during their collegiate careers, both Kelly and Marshall suffered through rough injuries, Kelly with a recurring foot problem that caused him to miss a good stretch of games and Marshall’s fractured wrist which took him out of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. But even after his wrist injury, Marshall declared for the NBA Draft and was taken in the late lottery at 13 by the Phoenix Suns, one pick before UNC teammate John Henson. A product of a crowded backcourt of Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair and even Jared Dudley, Marshall struggled to find consistent playing time. But, Marshall also lacked the ability to create for himself, score in isolation, or shoot from the perimeter. His size was a huge benefit at the next level but his lack of elite athleticism had people worried if he would ever make it in the NBA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Syracuse Can Wait Its Turn: Duke vs. UNC is Still the ACC’s Elite Rivalry

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 12th, 2014

With Syracuse off to one of the hottest starts in program history and sporting a record Carrier Dome crowd versus Duke, the whispers regarding new rivalries in the ACC grew louder than ever. The Orange were bringing the second winningest coach in college basketball leading a blue-blooded program accustomed to postseason success, and therefore expectations have remained high. Syracuse had hyped the game against Duke for some time, littering the entire town with ‘Beat Duke’ signs and creating orange shirts with the same logo, even getting the Vice President to don one. So much emphasis was placed on this singular match-up and Syracuse’s desire for a new “natural” rival that 75 years of insurmountable ACC history got temporarily swept under the rug.

Next Stop: Prime Time

It’s About That Time Again

Arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports, Carolina versus Duke holds a special place in college basketball lore. While they may not always be on even footing or both in the Top 25, they always get after it and manage to consistently pull together wild finishes for fans in attendance. While Syracuse is a great team and program, and Jim Boeheim and Coach K are great friends, the history just isn’t there between the two East Coast teams. The Tobacco Road rivalry has brewed for over eight decades, since their first encounter in January of 1920, and has accumulated amazing finishes, chippy brawls and tense instances, iconic moments, and tremendous players that are embedded in multiple generations’ memories of college basketball. And while Duke and UNC fans may abhor each other, they still recognize that they are meant for each other, and it is in both of their interests for the two teams to remain relevant and successful.

While Syracuse and Duke shared one instant classic in upstate New York, the magic that has transpired in Durham and Chapel Hill has a certain sizzle to it, not so easily replicated. While North Carolina has had somewhat of a down year this season — at least in terms of their standards — marred with off-the-court issues and the loss of a star player, they have come on as of late, winning five in a row. Duke has maintained a Top 25 ranking this entire season but snapped one impressive streak of top 10 placement in the polls, after dropping games to Notre Dame and Clemson. There are a lot of intriguing matchups in the first game between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, starting at point guard with Marcus Paige and what is increasingly becoming Rasheed Sulaimon, both large and lanky guards. The forwards are where most of the real stars come out, Duke with Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, and Amile Jefferson while UNC counters with James McAdoo, Brice Johnson, and J.P. Tokoto. A lot of elite athletes and future professionals will be butting heads under the spotlight tonight in Chapel Hill and college basketball as a whole will be better for it.

Share this story

ACC M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on November 14th, 2012

  1. In the much-hyped Champions Classic -between Duke and Kentucky, their first game against each other since December 2001 for the blue-blood rivals, Duke pulled out the victory, 75-68. Duke’s three seniors, Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly all excelled in the game against the Wildcats. Curry had perhaps his best game in a Duke uniform, with 23 points and acting clearly as Duke’s go-to player in the second half. Plumlee had 18 points despite second half foul trouble, only missing one shot (including making 4-4 free throws), keeping Duke in the game early when their shots were not going down, and Kelly played excellent defense on Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon also had a solid game despite a woeful shooting performance in the first half, burying three clutch second half treys while also leading Duke in rebounds (six) and assists (five). This was a huge confidence builder for a Duke team that had perhaps been a little overlooked this season, and although Kentucky in November is likely nowhere near the ceiling it will eventually reach this season, Duke will be happy to have this feather in their cap come Selection Sunday.
  2. If not for Duke’s victory tonight, the ACC’s anemic performance in Tuesday’s other games would have gotten a lot more attention, as it was not such a banner night for the rest of the conference. Miami, who struggled to beat Stetson in its opener and lost to St. Leo in the exhibition season, lost to Florida Gulf Coast, 63-51, and shot only 29% from the field. Virginia, meanwhile, dropped its second game out of three, failing to advance in the NIT Season Tip-Off by losing at home to Delaware in yet another punchless offensive effort (Virginia has yet to reach 60 points this season). For two teams expected to contend for NCAA Tournament berths this season, these are extremely clear signs that something will have to change for each of these programs to reach their potential.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat:  Leonard Hamilton definitely has a much different Florida State team this year. It is a team with the potential to be much more explosive offensively, but it also seems to lack the defensive chops of years past. After allowing South Alabama to shoot over 60% from three in FSU’s opening game defeat, their next opponent, Buffalo, shot 50% from the field. The difference was that Florida State was much better offensively against Buffalo, as the team hit nearly 60% from the field on its end of the court. Hamilton is definitely excited about the potential for offensive fireworks, but cautions that there will be some growing pains as this young team continues to meld and that they need to bring the energy that they showed against Buffalo.
  4. Scout:  NC State had a convincing win against Miami (Ohio) in their opener, but the ACC preseason favorites still can get a lot better, according to coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried insinuated that his team still needs to learn their individual roles, particularly on defense. At the same time, he lauded the play of forwards CJ Leslie and Richard Howell, especially in how the two communicate with each other on the court. Gottfried believes that his team has great defensive potential, especially from freshman Rodney Purvis, but he realizes that it will definitely take some time for everyone to get on the same page. At the very least, Gottfried sees the upcoming Puerto Rico Tipoff as a great opportunity for his team, and it is refreshing to see the coach having an upbeat attitude with the pressure of heightened expectations this season.
  5. In exciting news for fans in ACC country, the NCAA announced that the PNC Arena in Raleigh would host second and third round NCAA Tournament games in 2014 and that Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte would do the same in 2015. The NCAA Tournament was most recently played in Raleigh in 2008, where North Carolina started its Final Four run that year and Stephen Curry keyed Davidson’s Elite Eight Cinderella story. Charlotte hosted second and third round games in 2011, where both Duke and North Carolina advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and also the regionals in 2008, when North Carolina advanced to the Final Four. With the continuing popularity of college basketball on Tobacco Road, it is not surprising that the NCAA continues to select sites in the Tar Heel State for tournament play.
Share this story