Unlike last season when a tumultuous summer threw the entire season into uncertainty, UNC's media day was focused solely on basketball and the season ahead. According to stats released by UNC, the Tar Heels return three starters, 70.7% of last season's scoring, 78.8% of rebounds and 80.1% of assists. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto accounted for 37.1 points per game or almost half of UNC's 76.6 points per contest last season.
Against this backdrop, Roy Williams discussed the upcoming season. Here are a few of the key points.
-The way the team sets up now there is more balance but "they need to play like it." Williams said while the pieces were there to create that balance, they still need a "proven inside scorer"and additional three point shooting besides Marcus Paige.
-On Paige, Williams called him a "complete basketball player" and a player who makes others better. He said he reminds the team almost every practice that Paige is the team's best player and the players need to remember that.
-The team only practiced four times out of the ten available for the Bahamas trip.
"The first game, because we spent too much time on all the water slides and everything during the course of the day and forgot we had a game that night. We won't be on the water slides as much when we get there in November."
Called Isaiah Hicks playe a "positive" and now Hicks needs to play at that level against better defenses. The experience was good for the freshman to start getting acclimated.
-Williams said he doesn't know yet how the backcourt will work. He notes that in 2002 at Kansas he started three point guards because those were the three best perimeter players. Williams said he is comfortable using a three point guard look if necessary. However when a game is down to the brass tacks, you can guess who will be running the show.
"When decisions have to be made that determine the outcome of the game, Marcus [Paige] is going to be heavily involved. Whether that's with the ball in his hand to make the play, make the pass or take the shot. He's going to be involved in doing that."
Through the actual season practice and the summer workouts, Williams hasn't put all three point guards on the floor yet but says it will happen.
-On Kennedy Meeks, Williams said the sophomore center needs to be more aggressive and also explosive on the second and third jump not just the first one.
-On Justin Jackson, "He has the knack." Williams called him a very efficient player who needs to work on his defense and strength for rebounding purposes.
-Stilman White has bounced back as a player, except during the prior day's practice which he spent "over the trash can."
-Practices are "pretty vicious" among the interior players. Williams said the post players have put in the work to improve their bodies, now they need step up their play on the court.
-Williams says he doesn't adjust the starting lineup for the opponent. He plays the five players he thinks deserves it. Only constant on the White Team so far in practice has been Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto. All other positions are in some form of flux.
-On Theo Pinson, Williams said he makes instinctive plays around the basket. Williams compared Pinson to Jackie Manuel calling him a more athletic versions who has the chance to be a good defender.
-Williams is still waiting for someone among the post players to step up. Neither Kennedy Meeks or Brice Johnson have been on the White Team every day through three practices.
-On Isaiah Hicks, he has the more ability than "he is comfortable showing." Hicks is strictly a post player this season.
-There were no references to golf during the press conference which might be a first for Roy Williams.
On the player side, Brice Johnson had the quote of the day:
"We can't just let Marcus [Paige] be out there by himself and scoring all the points, we have to be able to help him out. Marcus can't beat a team by himself. He did against State but that was one game."
Marcus Paige said he had not watched the NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa State and had no plans to watch it. Instead, Paige said he watched the 2007 NCAA Tournament regional final loss to Georgetown with video coordinator Eric Hoots to "get him through it." Both those losses followed a similar pattern including an ill-advised three pointer early in the shot clock could have been a dagger but wasn't.
Among the players, going to the Final Four in Indianapolis is a stated goal.
Per UNC tradition the freshman were unavailable for comment and won't be until after the opening game.
Full audio for Roy Williams and the players can be found here.