2023-24 North Carolina Sports Network
NC Basketball Spotlight, 10-Year Snapshot:

By Ben McCormick
North Carolina Sports Network

School: Charlotte

Location: Charlotte, N.C.

NCAA Division I Member Since: 1970-71

Conference: American Athletic Conference (AAC)

AAC Member Since: 2023-24

AAC Ranking Among 32 Leagues (KenPom): 8th (2023), 8th (2022), 7th (2021), 7th (2020)

NCAA Tournament Bids: 11 (1977, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005)

Conference Titles: 5 (1977, 1988 in Sun Belt; 1992 in Metro; 1999, 2001 in Conference USA)

Conference 1st-Place Finishes: 5 (1977, 1978, 1988 in Sun Belt; 1995 in Metro; 2004 in CUSA)

Head Coach: Aaron Fearne (49, 1st season at Charlotte)

As A Player:  Western Wisconsin (1993-94), Mid-State (1994-95), Mayville State (1995-97), then professionally in Australia

Record as Head Coach (Through Dec. 8): 5-3 in 1st season

Previous Head Coaching Experience: in Australia; NBL1 North for Cairns Marlins (2006-09), NBL for Cairns Taipans (2009-18)

College AC Experience: Charlotte (2018-23)

Assistant Under: Ron Sanchez

2022-23 Record: 22-14, 9-11 (5th in 11-team CUSA)

2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches): 13th in 14-team AAC

2023-24 Record (Through Dec. 8): 5-3, 0-0 AAC

2023-24 Midseason Ranking (KenPom): #109 nationally (7th in AAC)

Upcoming Schedule Highlights: at No. 22 Duke (12/9), at Richmond (12/16), No. 11 Florida Atlantic (1/6)

AAC Opener: at SMU (1/2)

This fall, Charlotte entered its first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference, led by an interim head coach.

After capturing the school’s first-ever nonconference postseason title at the College Basketball Invitational last season, 49ers head coach Ron Sanchez left to become the associate head coach under coach Tony Bennett at Virginia, where Sanchez had worked as an assistant for Bennett from 2009-18.

The timing of Sanchez’s departure — early June — was extremely unusual and well outside the usual March/April coaching carousel timeframe, when college coaches tend to be much more receptive to job-change inquiries.

So, after five years as Sanchez’s assistant with the 49ers, Aaron Fearne was promoted to Charlotte’s interim head coach.

Despite losing their top two scorers (Brice Williams-Nebraska and Aly Khalifa-BYU) to the transfer portal, the 49ers retained three players who played 20-plus minutes per game.

Redshirt junior Lu’Cye Patterson is back to help orchestrate the offense for Charlotte. The 6-foot-2 guard began his career at Missouri State before landing in the Queen City last season. To start the 2023-24 campaign, Patterson is averaging a team-best 15 points per game.

Meanwhile, although the 49ers lost Sanchez to Virginia, they have a former Cavaliers player on their own roster. Croatian junior Igor Milicic Jr. is part of the Australian-born Fearne’s intentional effort to stretch the 49ers’ roster beyond international borders.

“We’ll definitely recruit internationally,” Fearne said, “and add that style of game to our program, which I think is a beautiful game of basketball, and try and get us to play that way.”

Milicic posted four double-doubles in his first eight games this season, including an 18-point, 10-rebound game in a hard-fought overtime loss to UCF.

After a slow start to the season offensively, the 49ers have picked it up, scoring 80 or more points in their last two games — a feat they didn’t accomplish during the first six games.

Although its offense is steadily improving, Charlotte has shown the most promise defensively.

In four of their five wins, the 49ers allowed fewer than 60 points. The only exception came in their latest game, against Stetson, in which the Hatters notched 62 points. The 49ers had their worst defensive showing in their loss to Davidson. Still, KenPom rates the 49ers as the 85th-best adjusted defense in the country.

Charlotte certainly will be put to the test throughout the season, as it navigates its first campaign in the AAC, which is traditionally a much tougher league than Conference USA. While there will be challenges throughout the season, few will be as tough as the 49ers’ trip to No. 22 Duke on Dec. 9.

2023-24 Charlotte 49ers
(5-3, 0-0 AAC; through Dec. 8)


G Lu’Cye Patterson*, r-Jr. — 32 mpg, 15 ppg, 3 rpg, 47% FG, 70% FT, 29% threes, 21/9 ATO, 3 blocks, 13 steals
(6-2/205); 2022 Missouri State transfer (starter); 2023 HM All-CUSA; from Minneapolis, Minn.

G Nik Graves, So. — 28 mpg, 10 ppg, 4 rpg, 56% FG, 81% FT, 33% threes, 24/6 ATO, 1 block, 6 steals
(6-3/185); mother, Nikki, a former 49ers star; from Greensboro Day School and Durham, N.C.

G Jackson Threadgill*, Sr. — 33 mpg, 6 ppg, 2 rpg, 35% FG, 80% FT, 25% threes, 11/7 ATO, 2 blocks, 6 steals
(6-6/200); 3-year starter for 49ers; from Davidson Day School and Concord, N.C.

F Igor Milicic*, Jr. — 32 mpg, 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 58% FG, 89% FT, 47% threes, 19/14 ATO, 7 blocks, 7 steals
(6-10/225); 8 ppg, 4 rpg last season; 2022 Virginia transfer (reserve); from Rovinj, Croatia

C Dishon Jackson, r-So. — 24 mpg, 11 ppg, 5 rpg, 49% FG, 67% FT, 20% threes, 7/14 ATO, 6 blocks, 4 steals
(6-11/260); Washington State transfer (2022-23 medical redshirt); from Oakland, Calif.

Key Reserves

G Isaiah Folkes, Jr. — 13 mpg, 3 ppg, 2 rpg, 37% FG, 13/10 ATO, 1 block, 5 steals
(6-4/200); late-season 2022-23 starter; from Middleburg Academy and Gainesville, Va.

G Daylen Berry, r-So. — 11 mpg, 2 ppg, 1 rpg, 29% FG, 100% FT (few), 22% threes, 5/3 ATO, 0 blocks, 3 steals
(6-4/175); minutes increased late in 2022-23; from Panther Creek HS and Cary, N.C.

F Dean Reiber, r-Jr. — 17 mpg, 5 ppg, 2 rpg, 54% FG, 67% FT, 35% threes, 6/3 ATO, 2 blocks, 5 steals
(6-10/225); 2023 Rutgers transfer (reserve); from Northwest Guilford HS and Greensboro, N.C.

*—returning starter (started at least 50% of current team’s games last season)

Charlotte 49ers
10-Year Snapshot

Season — Overall, League (Place), Postseason

2022-23 — 22-14, 9-11 CUSA (5th), CBI champion (Ron Sanchez)
2021-22 — 17-14, 10-8 CUSA (8th), no postseason (Ron Sanchez)
2020-21 — 9-16, 5-11 CUSA (11th), no postseason (Ron Sanchez)
2019-20 — 16-13, 10-8 CUSA (4th), no postseason (Ron Sanchez)
2018-19 — 8-21, 5-13 CUSA (13th), no postseason (Ron Sanchez)
2017-18 — 6-23, 2-16 CUSA (14th), no postseason (Mark Price)
2016-17 — 13-17, 7-11 CUSA (10th), no postseason (Mark Price)
2015-16 — 14-19, 9-9 CUSA (7th), no postseason (Mark Price)
2014-15 — 14-18, 7-11 CUSA (11th), no postseason (Alan Major)
2013-14 — 17-14, 7-9 CUSA (8th), no postseason (Alan Major)

*—conference champion

NOTE: Please visit the North Carolina Sports Network’s 2023-24 profiles and 10-year snapshots for all 19 Division One men’s basketball programs in North Carolina.

Appalachian State Mountaineers, Sun Belt Conference

Davidson Wildcats, Atlantic-10 Conference

East Carolina Pirates, American Athletic Conference

High Point Panthers, Big South Conference

UNC Wilmington Seahawks, Coastal Athletic Association

Western Carolina Catamounts, Southern Conference