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Charlotte Hires Watkins

North Carolina-Charlotte made a popular decision within its basketball program, choosing alumnus and longtime assistant coach Melvin Watkins to be the team’s coach.

Watkins, who has spent 22 of the past 23 years in the 49ers’ program, succeeds Jeff Mullins, who retired after 11 seasons.

USC freshman forward Maurice Strong, saying he wants to be closer to his family, will transfer and has been granted his release by the Pacific-10 Conference school.

Strong is the second USC basketball player in the past week to announce his intention to transfer, leaving USC with six scholarships available when the spring national signing period opens Wednesday.

Strong, an all-state player at Memphis’ East High in 1995, was one of USC’s top reserves.

Three Arizona State players, including two who were arrested in February but not prosecuted in connection with an alleged sexual assault, have contacted other schools about transferring.

Rico Harris and Tommie Prince, whom two women claimed played roles in forcing them to have sex in an ASU dormitory room, and Duane Davis, who was not charged criminally but in whose room the incident was alleged to have occurred, are considering leaving.

It is ASU’s policy, however, not to release athletes.

Prince did not sign a letter of intent, so he may transfer without a release.

Marcus Camby, who led Massachusetts to a 35-2 record and its first Final Four appearance, was named as the 1996 winner of the John R. Wooden Award as player of the year.

Jerry Slocum, who coached Geneva College to the NAIA tournament quarterfinals this season, was hired as Gannon (Pa.) University’s coach.

Jim Reid, coach at Georgetown (Ky.) College for the past 23 seasons and this year’s NAIA Division I coach of the year, died at his home after a two-year battle with lung cancer. He was 48.