Friends, family, and fans may now rejoice as the sounds of bouncing basketballs inside the Dean Dome returned on Friday night. The Heels opened up their season, albeit in an exhibition, against Barton College. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a Tar Heel victory is always a good outcome.
The biggest question coming into the game was who would step up in Joel Berry’s absence? The senior point guard broke his hand when he punched a door after presumably losing a hard fought video game competition with Theo Pinson and an unnamed manager. There has been no confirmation if it was Pinson or the manager who defeated Berry. (I have to imagine it was the manager to elicit that strong of a reaction). I also feel sorry for the door.
All jokes aside, depsite a somewhat sloppy game as Roy Williams trotted out numerous lineup combinations, one player repeatedly stood out. Luke Maye poured in a double-double in what is just a preview of what fans should expect this season.
In just 20 minutes of action, Maye produced 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. His 11 rebounds led all players. His three assists tied Theo Pinson and Cam Johnson for second-most on the team. Not bad for a post player. Perhaps most impressive was not that he scored 18 points, but how he scored them. Maye shot 7 for 8 shooting the floor, and 4 for 6 from the foul line. Interestingly, he did not attempt any three pointers.
Instead he got his points on an array of second chance opportunities, post feeds from the perimeter and, perhaps most encouraging, running to the rim on the fast break. Maye displayed a more aggressive and assertive demeanor than we were accustomed to last season. Instead of floating around the perimeter to stretch the defense, he consistently attacked the Bulldog defense, even throwing down a couple of dunks. Dude is more athletic than you think.
Even acknowledging the level of competition and the fact that we do not want to over analyze an exhibition, it’s hard not to get excited about Maye’s potential. He is clearly a bonafide break-out candidate on the college basketball scene. As we wrote last month, when Maye gets playing time, he finds a way to produce.
Friday night was just the most recent example.