In what can only be described as a roller coaster type year, the 2012-2013 season came to an end for the Charlotte 49ers – for now, anyway; the Niners will still await a call to either the NIT or CBI – following a 72-55 loss to the Saint Louis Billikens Friday afternoon in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
While Charlotte fans are sad to see a once promising season end far short of an invite to the round of 64, one fact remains for sure. Two days of balling at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn give great reason for optimism going forward.
Head Coach Alan Major and company will bid farewell to talented senior Chris Braswell and the 12/7 that he’s given the Niners over his four-year career but, in doing so, Charlotte also bids farewell to the A10 in favor of Conference USA.
The change in conference will bring about slightly less competition for the Niners, which Major and his staff are set to challenge on the shoulders of a young inside-out combo that impressed in two days in New York.
An All-Defensive Team member, Pierria Henry will more than likely be the focal point of Charlotte’s offense going forward as well. (Credit: Sam Roberts)
Sophomore guard Pierria Henry, whose 11/6/4 averages this year made for a nice encore to a promising freshman year a season ago, will now have a new running mate on the low block in the form of freshman Willie Clayton.
Clayton made it two years in a row for a Charlotte frosh to be named to the A10 All-Rookie Team, following in the footsteps of Henry, who to his credit was named to the the A10 All-Defense Team a week ago as well. Following reception of their respective conference accolades, the Niners duo did not disappoint in just 24 hours on Atlantic Ave.
“To have two guys like that, you’ve got two guys who have the potential to be future leaders or captains,” Major said, “just because of the type of people they are. Obviously they’re terrific players. Both of them are All-Conference guys.”
In his first taste of conference tournament play, Clayton banged with Richmond’s Derrick Williams to the tune of 18 points and six boards, 13 and four of which came in the second half of a game that went down to the wire.
Henry stole the show, though, carrying the Niners to a first round W, pouring in 28 points, 12 boards and four dimes. Perhaps even more impressive, Henry validated his presence on the All-Defense team by checking Richmond’s leading scorer Darien Brothers for 38 minutes and holding the senior guard to 10 points on only 2-9 from the field.
“If you’re around Pierria [Henry] and Willie [Clayton] every single day, you’d love them all the more,” Major said.
Noticeably fatigued 21 hours after an emotional win, Henry and Clayton weren’t quite as effective against a far superior Saint Louis team, but still contributed 15 points and 14 rebounds between the two of them in what could be Charlotte’s final game as a member of the A10 Friday afternoon.
It’s never easy to see a season come to an end, unless of course you’re cutting down the nets in the first week of April, but Charlotte fans ought to take comfort in the fact that the next two seasons might have a bit happier ending as Henry and Clayton continue to grow.
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