Kobe Bryant was leaning toward North Carolina, not Duke

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Kobe Bryant never played college ball. He was able to go straight from Lower Merion High School (Pa.) to the NBA, and after 15 All-Star Game appearances, a league’s Most Valuable Player award, five NBA championships and hundreds of millions he’s made over his time in the pros, the decision to skip over his collegiate career seems to have paid off.

But what if Kobe had gone to college?

It’s long been thought that he would have been a Blue Devil at Duke University, though, this past Thursday night at “Kobe Up Close Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel” — an event put on by the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Foundation — the future Hall of Famer told the Nokia Theatre audience that he was more likely heading to the University of North Carolina, had he gone to college.

From Eric Pinus of the Los Angeles Times (and ProBasketballTalk)

Why North Carolina? Vince Carter, a Tar Heel, was one of the top guards in the country at the time. “I want to play against him, every single day,” Bryant said.

So there you have it. Kobe Bryant was leaning towards being a Tar Heel, like Michael Jordan, in order to go up against Vince Carter — who averaged 13.0 points per game in what would have been Bryant’s freshman season — and not Duke. If it’s any consolation to the Cameron Crazies, Bryant did said he loved Mike Krzyzewski, and in the end did play for Coach K during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Either way, this will be just the latest in a long line of things Duke and UNC fans can debate about.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.