Tuesday, February 5, 2008

IT AIN'T A RIVALRY 'TIL THE MANAGERS GET IT ON

By Robbi Pickeral and Luciana Chavez, Staff Writers Raleigh News&Observer

While UNC center Tyler Hansbrough practiced jump hooks Monday, six other Tar Heels were running plays and plotting strategy for another basketball showdown with Duke this week: the manager game.

"We've got to step it up," said UNC graduate Eric Hoots, 26, whose team is 0-2 in the soon-to-be-annual, night-before-the-real-game tipoff between the rival water-grabbers, laundry-doers and practice-rebounders.

The managers for the No. 3 Tar Heels and No. 2 Blue Devils -- whose actual teams face off Wednesday night at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill -- started their own rivalry last season, complete with uniforms, shot clocks and hooting fans (including, sometimes, the varsity players).


The tradition continues at 11:30 tonight at the Smith Center. For security reasons, it's invitation only.


The Duke managers enter tonight's game with a spotless 3-0 record; they beat UNC twice last year and walloped the N.C. State managers by 16 points last week before that ACC showdown.

Last year's Duke team boasted five players who were captains on their high school squads.

Duke’s Chris Lauten said the Duke managers reached out to the UNC guys to start the game after a suggestion by Mike Schrage, the director of basketball operations. Schrage was student manager under Bobby Knight at Indiana; the Hoosier managers used to battle their rivals at Purdue every year.

The teams play 20-minute halves and call their own fouls, and the prize is bragging rights -- after Duke shellacked Carolina by more than 20 points at Cameron last season, for instance, some Cameron Crazies showed up toting signs boasting "Our managers beat your managers."

The result: The Tar Heel managers lost by only 19 points in the rematch at the Smith Center.

Granted, Duke has a built-in advantage. Manager Griffin Tormey was a walk-on on the Duke team last season. (In other words, they cheated.)

Duke also brings about a dozen men, compared with UNC's six, which is one reason UNC small forward Marcus Ginyard said he would make Duke a 19-point favorite -- if he were a betting man.

Still, UNC head manager Preston Puckett, the team's designated center, lives with Hansbrough, so he hopes some of the 6-foot-9 All America's moves will rub off on his less-than-6-foot-9 frame.

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