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Morning News Report; Sept. 22, 2011

R.E.M. CALLS IT A CAREER

One of the great rock bands of all time, R.E.M., decided to, as they said, “call it a day as a band.”

My take: It’s amazing how close you become to the music you grew up with — and R.E.M. was one of the bands (U2, The Police, Boston and Chicago are others) that shaped my teenage and young adult years. Say what you want, but Michael Stipe and R.E.M. did it their way — and it seemed like that era of their music marked my mood perfectly, at that moment.

(Here’s an excellent retrospective piece on the boys from Athens)

There are so many significant moments of my life that R.E.M. was the soundtrack for that particular portion. My top 5 R.E.M. songs (with album in parentheses):

1. Nightswimming (Automatic For The People)

2. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? (Monster)

3. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (Document)

4. Crush With Eyeliner (Monster)

5. Orange Crush (Green)

Thanks for everything, Michael, Peter, Mike and Bill. You’ll live forever in my iPod!

FACEBOOK CHANGES; THE WORLD LOSES ITS MIND

The world’s No. 1 social networking site, Facebook, significantly changed its appearance yesterday — mostly to negative reviews.

My take: You know what? I hate it, too. I also realize this is a completely free service that can do whatever the hell it wants to. If I was paying for it and it made these dramatic changes, then I’d have something to bitch about — but I’m not.

Just means I’ll be spending a lot more time on Twitter — which, frankly, I enjoy infinitely more than Facebook anyway. While YOU’RE on Twitter, throw me a follow (@BCHanks).

PERRY HATES KING’S BBQ; AMERICA?

One of the leading Republican candidates for president, Rick Perry, is quoted in a book saying he hates Kinston’s own King’s BBQ. The quote (from before Perry was governor of Texas): “I’ve had road kill that tasted better than that.”

My take: WTF? Seriously? Dude …

Maybe that’s the reason he’s way, way behind in the latest round of GOP polls in New Hampshire — because he hates America! Not that he was probably going to get a boatload of votes in Kinston anyway, but now … wow.

I came from Western N.C. and couldn’t believe there was BBQ better than what Shelby and Lexington have to offer, in the tomato/ketchup-based product. But I have totally fallen in love with King’s and ENC BBQ and really am not much of a fan of that “red” BBQ any longer. Yep, I’m a convert.

The iPod shuffle (R.E.M. Edition)

Try Not To Breathe — R.E.M.

Losing My Religion — R.E.M.

Man On The Moon (Live) — R.E.M.

Everybody Hurts — R.E.M.

Find The River — R.E.M.

Morning Sports Report; Sept. 2, 2011

FAREWELL, K-TRIBE

After 25 years of being affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, the Kinston Indians play their final regularly-scheduled game at Grainger Stadium tonight. It is possibly the final professional baseball game that will ever be played in Kinston.

My take: Due to a familial situation, I won’t be able to attend tonight’s game– I said my good-bye at Wednesday’s game.

I’m anticipating a sell-out, but I won’t be surprised if there isn’t. What pisses me off the most about this whole situation is this — WE DID THIS TO OURSELVES. We had an opportunity this season to pack Grainger Stadium to show prospective new teams how much support this community has for professional baseball, but when there’s less than 1,000 fans at a beautiful Wednesday night game — TWO NIGHTS BEFORE THE FINAL GAME — there’s no excuse.

Wednesday was just a microcosm of the 2011 season. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I know the 20 or so games I attended this season, there were fewer and fewer asses in the seats than there have been in past seasons.

I seriously don’t want to hear any whining about Cam McRae — he put up with losing money with this team for a quarter-century to keep baseball here. He’s gone WELL beyond the call to keep the K-Tribe here.

Kinston and ENC — this one’s on us. When we’re watching Coastal Plains League baseball (or nothing but concerts and American Legion baseball) here next summer instead of High Single-A, blame yourselves.

CHRIS JOHNSON FINALLY SIGNS

Former ECU football star Chris Johnson is now the highest-paid running back in NFL history as the Tennessee Titans signed him to an extension that will pay him $30 million of guaranteed money in a $53.5 million contract.

My take: He’s certainly worthy of it — he’s been one of the top running backs in the NFL the past three years or so.

And I know there are fantasy football players all over the world breathing a sigh of relief right about now!

Here’s the funniest tweet I saw about Johnson’s signing last night, from Owen Good: “Chris Johnson just raised the average salary for ECU graduates to $5.16 per hour.” I don’t agree with it … but it seriously made me chuckle.

JUNIOR RE-SIGNS FOR FIVE YEARS WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

Dale Earnhardt Jr. signed a five-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports, which will keep him with NASCAR’s top team through the 2017 season.

My take: He does this while there are dozens of other drivers out there with infinitely more talent toiling at the lower levels. Sigh.

Junior is arguably the most overrated “athlete” in sports history, including Danica Patrick, Shawn Bradley, Anna Kournikova and Tony Romo. Throw me some more names out there — this might make a great “lists” blog entry.

The iPod shuffle

Sober — P!nk

Be Good To Yourself — Journey

Funky Donkey — Beastie Boys

Snoop D.O. Double G — Snoop Dogg

Intergalatic — Beastie Boys

P.S.: Guys and gals — please don’t forget to get your picks in for this week’s games. Missing a lot of our regulars in this week’s picks.

Top 20 shooters in Lenoir County — last 10 years (UPDATED)

OK, it feels like 115 degrees outside and it’s the middle of summer, but a Twitter post by former Kinston star and current Mount Olive standout Dory Hines intrigued me. In his tweet, he ranked the top 5 shooters at Kinston High School over the past 10 years.

His list includedMichael Jenkins, Curtis Hines, Reggie Bullock and a “pick two” out of Willie Flowers, Marquez Jones and Mike Small. An excellent list, to be sure — and especially since Dory has played with many of these guys and knows what they’re like from his position as a point guard.

From a reporter’s point of view, I have to agree with some of his picks — and I’m going to expand the list to the top 20 shooters I’ve seen in Lenoir County in the past nine years (I’ve covered hoops in the county since the 2002-03 season, so the upcoming 2011-12 season will be my 10th).

Now bear in mind — these are the top 20 (with several honorable mentions) shooters, not overall players. That’s why you won’t see recognizable names like Dory, Miguel Starkey, Paul Novicki, Brandon Rouse, Samuel Edwards, Maurice Morgan, Akeem Sutton or any of the successful post players from the area.

I know there are going to be some disagreements — and I want to see them. Let me know what you think and let me know who I left off the list! And a special thanks to Justin “The Kid” Hill for his help in putting this together.

UPDATED SATURDAY, JULY 23: I knew there would be at least one — and he was a good one. Inserted John Cobb at No. 16 and shifted everyone down a spot.

1. Reggie Bullock, KHS Class of 2010– Sure, the UNC jersey Reggie wears today speaks volumes about his abilities, but I have to say this: every time he released the ball, you thought it was going to go in. I once saw him hit 13 consecutive 3-pointers at a practice. His motion was fluid and his aim was true. If he’d been able to play more of a guard position at Kinston (his 6-foot, 8-inch frame forced him inside sometimes for the good of the team), he would’ve averaged 35 points a game for the Vikings as a senior. Finished his career as the state’s top player in 2010 and a McDonald’s All-American, among countless other honors (including being one of the nicest guys around).

2. Justin Dunn, North Lenoir Class of 2005– Justin was as pure a shooter as Reggie and was able to accentuate his shooting eye with the considerable talent that surrounded him in Wheat Swamp in the mid 2000s. He signed a full-ride with High Point University, was named to the all-freshman team for the Big South, then abruptly stopped playing basketball before his sophomore season. He transferred to UNC-Greensboro, but didn’t play again.

3. Michael Jenkins, KHS Class of 2004– Michael’s jumpshot was awesome — but obviously not good enough to get him a ride at ECU, where he really wanted to play. Instead, he signed late with Winthrop and proceeded to destroy ECU over the next four years. He’s now one of Europe’s best players, where he’s earned hundreds of thousands of dollars knocking down jumpshot after jumpshot.

4. Curtis Hines, KHSClass of 2007– Nootsie was an excellent shooter before he became a Vikings starter, as he had won an international free throw contest sponsored by the Knights of Columbus as a sophomore. As a varsity player for Kinston, he was the designated sharpshooter with a motion as pure as silk. He signed with Louisburg and played at LCC but is not on a college roster at the moment.

5. Bo Ingram, KHS Class of 2008– If we were ranking on best overall players, I’m not so sure Bo wouldn’t challenge Reggie (and Jeremy Ingram further down this list)for that title — all were multi-dimensional talents. But while Reggie’s game was predicated on the jumper, Bo’s inside-out game (he was once forced to guard future NBA draft pick Samari Samuels one-on-one despite giving up about 70 pounds and 4 inches) helped him earn a scholarship to one of the top junior colleges in America, South Plains College in Texas. He’s a rising senior at Texas-Arlington and is expected to be a borderline NBA Draft pick in 2012. He was the state’s top player in 2008.

6. Tyler Potter, Bethel Christian Academy/NL Class of 2009–This will be the pick that gets me some grief, I’m sure, but anyone who watched TP’s shot during his freshman and sophomore campaigns at BCA and his junior season at North Lenoir came away impressed. He won the 3-point contest at the United Way Day of Basketball in 2006 as a freshman at BCA (beating Nootsie)and was runner-up to Reggie in 2008 after he’d transferred to North Lenoir. He struggled a bit with his timing when he got to North Lenoir, but if you left him open, he’d dot your eye in a heartbeat. He gave up basketball his senior season to concentrate on his baseball career, where he signed a scholarship to play at UNC Pembroke.

7. Steven Walker, BCA/Arendell Parrott Academy Class of 2004– Arguably the best overall player at Bethel in my tenure in Kinston and certainly one of the best at Parrott after he transferred across town. He alsohad a deadly shot that went down if you weren’t guarding him. Won the inaugural UWDOB 3-point shootout in 2004.

8. Michael Small, KHS Class of 2004 – Michael was one of the most-respected shooters in the game in his tenure at Kinston — and he remains one of them today.Thetwo-sport star hasa jumpshot that should be taught to kids who want to play the game.

9. Josh Benoit, KHSClass of 2010– Very understated and always tried to avoid the spotlight, but his shot was one of beauty. Without his efforts, Kinston doesn’t win the 2010 title. Reggie won three of four UWDOB 3-point titles in his freshman, sophomore and senior campaigns; the only one he didn’t win his junior season (because he was sitting out with an injury), Josh won.

10. Josh Kennedy,NL/South Lenoir Class of 2005– Transferred midseason through his junior campaign from North Lenoir to South Lenoir with the blessing of then-NL coach Charlie Stevens — and became a shooting star in Deep Run. I’m not sure what his overall shooting percentage was, but it was about 80 percent on big shots. Along with Paul Novicki and Brandon Rouse, helped lead South Lenoir to its first league title in 25 years.

11. Ashley Mills, BCA Class of 2005– The Jones County native was one heck of a basketball player — and he had the beautiful shot that helped. Another understated player that didn’t blow his own horn; he let his shooting speak for him. And a bit of blog trivia for you: I wrote about Ashley in my very first blog entry on April 11, 2005. Of course, you can’t see that now because the powers-that-be took it down in August 2006, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

12. Marquez Jones, KHS Class of 2009– Gorgeous jump shot for a player I felt was sometimes under-utilized in his Vikings career. Then again, there was so much talent at Kinston from 2007-2010 it was hard for everyone to get “theirs.” As can be said for a lot of players in that timeframe from KHS, he would’ve been the star at any of the surrounding schools if he’d gone there.

13. Claude Shields, APA/New Bern Class of 2006– He had a rare blend of height, ball-handling — and a spectacular shot to boot, all in a 6-foot, 4-inch package. He transferred to New Bern for his senior season when former Greene Central coach Tod Morgan took over the Bears program. After playing for the UNC junior varsity team, he is now an assistant basketball coach at Guilford College.

14. Omar Jones, NL Class of 2006– OK, some are going to remember Omar as a strong 6-foot, 5-inch forward … which he was. But he also had a jumper that was ridiculously beautiful. After graduating from North Lenoir, he signed with UNC Greensboro, where he was redshirted and never ended up playing. He ended up at Elizabeth City State University and finished his career by averaging 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He also shot 40 percent from the 3-point line (14-of-35) his senior season.

15. Adrian Brewer, NL Class of 2006– A teammate of Omar’s, Adrian was a pure shooter — and one of the streakiest I remember covering. He wasn’t afraid to fire it up, as evidenced by the night he set the school scoring record with 42 points – that included 10 3-pointers. Of course, three nights later, teammate Justin Dunn scored 43 points to break the record he had previously held until Adrian broke it!

16. John Cobb, NL Class of 2004 – On Charlie Stevens’ first Hawks team in the 2003-04 season, Cobb was a multiple threat from outside and in the lane. On a team chock full of stars, Cobb carved his own niche by taking the pressure off Dunn by effortlessly knocking down jumpers for the Hawks.

17. Josh Dunham, SL Class of 2003– One of the best shooters I witnessed in my first basketball season at TFP. He didn’t exactly play on any of Jimmy Smith’s best teams, but he was a well-disciplined shooter that would knock it down if you left him alone.

18. Jeremy Ingram, KHS Class of 2003– Jeremy’s forte wasn’t his jumpshot — although he certainly used it when it was needed. He wasn’t afraid to attack the rim and his moves in the paint are those of legend, including his incredible slam that won the dunk contest at the inaugural UWDOB in 2003. Injuries shortened what likely would’ve been an NBA career. In my nearly 20 years as a reporter, he’s one of my top 3 favorite people to interview.

19. Antwaine Wiggins, NL/Greeneville, Tenn. Class of 2007– A kid whose name I spelled about 10 different ways when he was in Wheat Swamp. He was a lot like Omar Jones — tall (6-foot, 7-inches), lanky and could shoot the lights out. Transferred to Tennessee before his senior season to be closer to his father and then played at College of Charleston under Bobby Cremins, where he just finished his senior season averaging 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Attempted 116 3-pointers last season, hitting 41 of them (35.3 percent).

20. Mark Tyndall, SL Class of 2004 — Another sharpshooter for Jimmy Smith who absolutely had to be covered or a 3-pointer was going to be made. Didn’t average a ton of points in Deep Run, but knew how to effectively create his own shot.

Honorable mentions: Zach Cutlip, APA; Tyler Fields, BCA; Chris Hall, KHS; Darryl Jones, KHS; Courtney Killinger, APA; Chris McPhail, NL; Nathan Perry, APA; Emanuel Rosber, NL; J’Mell Walters, KHS

My top 10 presidents list

I was inspired by C-Span’s ranking of the presidents that I mentioned in today’s MNR to come up with my own list of the top chief executives in U.S. history. Our good friend, Charlie Kraebel, did this two years ago on his old Kinston blog, but I’m not afraid to rehash a good thing.

And ignore my post on there; I threw it together quickly but I’ve given a lot more thought to it this time.

Herewith, my new list:

  1.  Abraham Lincoln — Love him or hate him, he did more for this country than any other president, in my honest opinion.
  2. George Washington — Helped create this great nation and set many of the traditions that are still observed today.
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt — The longest serving president that helped guide us through some of the toughest times in our history (Great Depression, World War II)
  4. Thomas Jefferson — Authored the Declaration of Independence and created the University of Virginia. ‘Nuff said.
  5. Dwight D. Eisenhower — Kept the Soviet Union at bay during the early years of the Cold War and started the interstate highway system.
  6. James Monroe — Another Founding Father, whose doctrine kept European aggression at bay during our early years as a nation.
  7. Theodore Roosevelt — A bit of a dropoff for me from 6 to 7, but he remains one of the top personalities (and the youngest president) of all the presidents.
  8. Harry S. Truman – Ended WW2 by making arguably the toughest decision any president (or man) has had to make: dropping atomic bombs on Japan.
  9. Ronald Reagan — Helped end the Cold War (Peace Through Superior Firepower — heck yeah!) and rebuilt public approval of the executive branch after Watergate and the ineffectiveness of Jimmy Carter.
  10. Richard Nixon — Earned a bum rap with the clumsy way he handled Watergate (he should’ve just told the truth!), but he did a lot of good things, including ending the Vietnam War and restoring relations with China.

Post yours below or by e-mailing me at bhanks@freedomenc.com. We’ll compile our own list if I get enough entries (about 10, maybe?) and see who we think is the best.