Today was our first glimpse at arguably the deepest and most talented college basketball team in the country and perhaps the soul reason UNC fans are not curled up in the fetal position under their respective beds during the football season.
Inside Carolina has extensive coverage with photo galleries here, here, and here. IC also has transcripts of Roy Williams and the upper classmen. Traditionally UNC freshmen do not address the media until after the first game.
Adam Lucas at Tar Heel Blue offers his Media Day Notebook.
The Assoiciated Press takes a look at Tyler Hansbrough.
J.P. Giglio at ACC Now gives us some highlights of Williams comments including adressing the chemistry and Tyler Hansbrough.
As for Coach Williams comments, since there has not been a game played or a practice held the only things you can really talk about is stuff like team chemistry, juggling playing time, and replacing David Noel as a team leader. Obviously Tyler Hansbrough was also a focal point returning as possibly the best player in the ACC. Here are a few quotes:
On Reyshawn Terry as a senior leader:
”It’s hard to compare him to David Noel, who has been a better leader than I’ve ever been around. David Noel has been as good a leader as I’ve ever been around. As a senior leader, he may have been as responsible for a team’s success as anyone who's ever played here. We got guys named Jordan, Perkins, Worthy and Rosenbluth, but David took care of everything on the court as well as off the court, so it’s hard to say ‘Can Reyshawn do what David did,’ because nobody’s ever done that on one of my teams. I think Reyshawn is not naturally a leader. He doesn’t naturally look at things as being a leader. He doesn’t naturally look at things as a team first. That’s not saying anything bad about him. He’s normal. Reyshawn and Wes [Miller] will be leaders for us. We’ll need Reyshawn to be a big time player and leader as well. Some of the best leaders lead by example"
In all honesty this is one of my bigger concerns along with team chemistry and experience. My concern is that we will have a repeat of 1994 when a talented team returned from winning a national title and was then eliminated in the second round of the NCAAs. The missing piece seemed to be the leadership of George Lynch who was a senior in 1993. David Noel's leadership was a huge part of UNC's surprise success last season and with him gone it leaves a void which somehow must be filled by Terry and Wes Mller. If I was reading anything into Williams comments here he is basically saying that Noel's leadership was unprecedented and Terry will, in all liklihood, assume a leadership by example mode. I do not think that is surprising and if Terry shows more maturity than he did last year as well as being a huge contributor on the court then it will not be an issue at all. I also expect guys like Hansbrough and Quitein Thomas will be acting in leadership roles as well. Of course the comparison to Noel may be unecessary since Noel's leadership addressed the needs of the underclassmen to have someone set a tone and in many ways be a stable force in their first season. The need for this should be far less than last season simply because the sophomore class did a lot of maturing last season out of necessity and even with six freshman in tow this season the responsiblity to fit them in falls more on the coaches than it does Terry or any other player.
On team chemistry
"Last year’s group was led by David so much, last year’s freshmen were so silly that they were unique, because you couldn’t talk about them without laughing at them. And yet, they were so competitive, that it was a really nice blend. I said young veterans, and that’s an oxymoron, but 11 of our players are freshmen and sophomores. I do believe we’ll have wonderful chemistry, because the character of our kids are at such a high level. You could take any of our players home and feel comfortable with them and enjoy them. It’s the kind of kids I’ve always tried to recruit, the people I’m going to enjoy working with whether we’re winning or losing. Winning always makes it much more fun, but if this team loses, it’s going to be because somebody beat us. It’s not going to be because we didn’t work.”
Basically this is an impossible question to answer because they have not practiced or played a game. Obviously these team has interacted and the pick up games in Chapel Hill are famous. The only thing Williams has to go on at this point is the character of his players which he believe is high enough to avoid a lot of the pitfalls seen in the past with Rasheed Wallace, Jeff McInnis, and Rashad McCants. The biggest task facing Williams is juggling the playing time and figuring out where all these guys are going to fit in with the severe overload in the backcourt. The manner in which thay is managed will have more bearing on the chemistry issue than anything else. That being said, I cannot think of a better coach when it comes to managing egos, personalities, and tons of talent. The 2005 NCAA Championship banner is a testimony to this fact.
On Tyler Hansbrough
"The biggest thing is watching him go through the weight training and the conditioning, because I’ve seen a lot more of that, than I have been able to see him play. As I said last year, he’s as focused an individual on taking care of his body as I’ve ever been around. He’s driven as a player to do as much as he possibly can. I think he’s more explosive, stronger, faster, has more stamina, looks better – all those things that are going to translate into being a better basketball player. The experience that he had last year will give him confidence to be a big-time player and a force this year and probably expand some of the things that he’s able to do.”
Okay, you remember last season when Hansbrough routinely was hacked under the basket and still managed to fight through two players and get the ball into the hoop? Now Williams is telling us that he is "more explosive, stronger, faster." I just cannot imagine what this means for opposing defenders. Hansbrough was largely unstoppable against most teams last season so let's just add to that the fact he will have more talent around him creating all sorts of havoc for the defense and I think we can safely assume he will see very little in the way of double teams. Hansbrough will be a handful for a lot of opposing defenders who may be on their own guarding him if the double teams are not practical because of the other weapons on the floor. The only issue you might have there lies in whether Hansbrough can make the pass back out if he encounters a double team which is something we did not see much of last season. He tended to go to the basket once he had the ball regardless of the defensive pressure. The stamina issue is huge because the interior may not be thin but it is inexperienced and also UNC is going to run and run and run. That is Williams' philosophy and Hansbrough looked good running the court last season so if he has only improved in that area he will make some serious hay come in on the secondary break.
UNC hits the court for the first practice of the season tomorrow night with "Late Night with Roy." Over the next month I will be tracking any developments coming out of practice as well as comments Williams makes to the press as we move towards the NIT opener in November. After a very tough football season, it is nice to have basketball starting up.
And no, I could care less what kind of uniform they have on. I mean honestly does it matter how they look while they are winninng games?