Team preview: Charlotte

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

When you're an Atlantic 10 Conference school recruiting in Atlantic Coast Conference territory, you need a back-up plan. Nobody knows this cold, hard fact better than Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, who is a native of North Carolina and was an assistant at Clemson in the early 1980s.

Last fall the 49ers were hot on the trail of high school point guard Ishmael Smith, from nearby Concord, N.C. They thought they had a legitimate shot at landing him, too, but Lutz had been around long enough to know not to bet an important piece of his program on the whim of a high school senior. So he kept up the lines of communication with 6-1 Carlos Williams, from Wabash Valley Junior College in Louisville.

Charlotte had stumbled upon Williams while recruiting current 49ers Antwon Coleman and Jerrell Jamison. After watching Williams dominate a junior college all-star game, Charlotte's coaching staff had no doubt he could play in A-10. What the 49ers didn't know was whether they'd have a spot for him. When Smith signed with Wake Forest, where he's expected to compete for the starting point guard position, they did.

Williams is one of two junior college transfers who are expected to make an immediate impact on a Charlotte team that lost three starters, including three-time first-team all-conference player Curtis Withers. The other one is 6-9 junior shooting guard Sean Phaler, from Fullerton Junior College.

Lutz admits that in a perfect world, he'd recruit nobody but high school players. But if the best high school players are choosing North Carolina, NC State, Duke and Wake Forest, he has to recruit players who can compete at that level.
"We're not going to take a player that's not the caliber we want if we can get a junior college player that's better," Lutz said.

Sometimes it works out, as in the case of Williams, who addresses one of two major needs for Charlotte -- consistent point guard play. The 49ers lost a good one in Mitchell Baldwin, and while Lutz believes 6-1 junior guard Leemire Goldwire (13.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg) can run the point, along with 6-0 sophomore Jerrell Lewis (17 games played), Williams, who averaged 11.0 points and 5.3 assists at Wabash Valley, is a more natural lead guard.

"Williams is a play-maker like we haven't had in a long time," said Lutz, who compares him favorably with former Charlotte point guard Sean Colson, who plays professionally. "If he can learn and adapt [quickly], he's a tremendous passer and can create so much."

Goldwire, who was the 49ers' second-best three-point shooter last year, will be much more effective on the wing. That is, if he can come back from April foot surgery. He was finally cleared to practice in August, and although he's behind his teammates in terms of conditioning, Lutz has no doubt he'll be ready to go by November.

What Lutz appreciates more than Goldwire's work ethic and toughness, though, is his maturity. Goldwire is already married and carries a 3.0 grade point average. He commands so much respect that many players on the team wanted him to make him a captain last season.

"He's just that type of kid," Lutz said. "He's dealt with a lot of things and handled them all very well."