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UNT notebook: Orr returns home for Salvation Army event

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

Some of the greatest moments of Zach Orr's college football career came at Apogee Stadium.

The former linebacker helped UNT make an eight-play goal-line stand in a win against Rice in 2013. UNT qualified for the postseason that year and went on to beat UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Orr was back at Apogee on Tuesday, this time in a much different capacity.

Orr, who played three seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, was the keynote speaker at The Salvation Army's 27th annual Doing The Most Good Luncheon.

Orr spoke about his journey in football that recently came to an end. A congenital neck condition forced Orr to retire from the NFL.

"It's great to be back in Apogee Stadium in Denton doing community service," Orr said. "I want to show people it's important to give back, especially young people."

Orr developed into one of the greatest players in UNT history during his four seasons with the Mean Green. He finished with 365 career tackles, a total puts him in a tie with Brad Kassell for third in program history.

Orr was a first-team All-Conference USA selection as a senior. He went undrafted but signed with the Ravens. He went on to play three seasons in the NFL and was an second-team all-pro selection  last year, when he finished with 132 tackles in 15 games.

Orr, 24, still is considering what he wants to do professionally following his playing career. He is considering coaching or working in the Ravens' front office.

Orr is in the process of starting a charity that also will be a big part of his life moving forward. His plans are to focus on helping children and serving the community.

"I want to inspire people," Orr said in front of a crowd of several hundred people at the HUB Club inside of Apogee. "When things don't go your way in life, you can bounce back."


UNT seeded fifth in C-USA tourney

UNT will be the fifth seed in the upcoming Conference USA tournament beginning on Thursday at the Waranch Tennis Complex.

The tournament includes 14 teams, and the championship match is 10 a.m. on Sunday.

UNT will face No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee at noon Thursday.

Rice and Florida International are the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, and both will receive first-round byes.

"[Hosting the tournament is] absolutely a big opportunity," UNT coach Sujay Lama said. "We have played a lot of matches here. With a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the team, I thought it was important to get them a lot of reps at home. By the time conference came, we felt good about playing here. It's a huge advantage."

UNT capped its regular season with three straight wins, including victories against rivals UT-Arlington and SMU. The Mean Green beat SMU 6-1 at home before before knocking off UTA 4-2.

Kutubidze named C-USA Player of the Week

Tamuna Kutubidze was named the C-USA Player of the Week on Tuesday for her performance in UNT's wins against a pair of Dallas-Fort Worth area rivals.

Kutubidze won both of her matches at No. 2 singles. She also partnered with Maria Kononova to win a pair of matches at No. 1 singles.

Kutubidze and Kononova enter the C-USA tournament 15-0, marking the first time in program history a doubles team has finished the regular season unbeaten.

The pair can tie the school record for wins by a doubles team in a season with one more in in the C-USA tourney.

Men's basketball

McCasland honored for performance at Arkansas State

New UNT men's basketball coach Grant McCasland was honored by Sports Illustrated's Luke Wynn, who released his "Effy Awards" on Monday.

Wynn based his honors entirely on analytics.

The magazine's projections slated Arkansas State as the 290th-best team in the country heading into the 2016-17 season. The Red Wolves finished 124th in SI's rankings after posing a 20-12 record.

The Red Wolves finished with the biggest jump nationally of any team in SI's rankings. McCasland and Arkansas State were honored for their improvement.

UNT is hoping for a similar turnaround in its first season under McCasland after hiring him to replace Tony Benford. UNT fired Benford after he finished 8-22 last season, the Mean Green's fifth straight season at .500 or worse under its former head coach.

Track and field

UNT to compete at Oklahoma

UNT will compete in the John Jacobs Invitational on Friday.

The Mean Green enter the meet off an appearance in the Texas Invitational last week. UNT's javelin throwers excelled in the meet. 

Javier Lopez-Ibarra finished fifth with a throw 60.04 meters in the men's javelin, while Kristyn Archuleta came in sixth with a throw of 44.57 meters.


UNT to face Abilene Christian on Wednesday

UNT will face Abilene Christian in the second of back-to-back nonconference games Wednesday. 

The Mean Green played Oklahoma late Tuesday night.

Those two games represent key tuneups for the Mean Green heading into a weekend series against Florida Atlantic. UNT will host the Owls in a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday before the series concludes with a noon game Sunday.

UNT enters the weekend at 9-9 in C-USA play and will face two of the league's top teams —

Florida Atlantic and Louisiana Tech — the next two weekends. Florida Atlantic is 9-6 in league play, while Louisiana Tech is 12-3.

UNT entered the week off a series in which it lost two of three games to UAB. The Mean Green salvaged the last game in the series when Jessica Elder threw a seven-inning shutout and Kelli Shkade hit a solo home run that gave UNT a 1-0 win.

"We have two series left and both are crucial," UNT coach Tracey Kee said in a  statement after the game. "We play two top teams — Louisiana Tech on the West and Florida Atlantic on the East — so we need to use these mid-week games to get our game in check before FAU next weekend."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.