Last night, Greg Barnes of Inside Carolina broke the news that UNC will be taking a trip to the Bahamas to play in two exhibition games August 17-18, which was confirmed by a team spokesman. The Heels will take part in the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s “Summer of Thunder” at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium in the Bahamas’ capital of Nassau. This will be the 10th year the event is held, and is geared towards exposing Bahamian players to international competition.
This trip will be the fourth trip to Nassau that UNC has taken during the Roy Williams era, with the other two trips having taken place prior to the 2005-06 and 2010-11 seasons. NCAA rules allow for teams to take preseason trips internationally once every four years, and the teams participating are allowed to have 10 extra practices to prepare for the event they are taking place in. This will be great for the program, as they will be able to get the highly-anticipated freshmen class on the court with Roy Williams as soon as possible, as Nassir Little, Coby White, and Rechon Black are expected to enroll in June. The NCAA rules permit the freshmen to play as long as they meet NCAA Initial Eligibility Requirements.
Not only will this trip be good for exposing the freshmen a little bit early to UNC basketball under Coach Williams, it will also be good for seeing how current UNC players have progressed over the summer. As many have likely seen already, the players have been working extremely hard this summer on their conditioning, as well as improving their game in hopes to make it deeper into the postseason this coming year after what was a tough loss to Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Last week, senior star Luke Maye announced that he was returning for his final year, which is huge for this team that lost recent graduates Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson.
One of the bigger questions going into the 2018-19 season is who will step up as a leader, and one would have to think Luke is one of a few that may take over that role. The Heels will also be returning graduate player Cameron Johnson, who opted not to go through the NBA Draft process in order to have some offseason surgery done. Last but not least, senior guard Kenny Williams should be a strong candidate to try leading the Heels to a third Final Four appearance in four years. Just as Berry had to learn and assume the role, one of these guys will have to assert themselves early in order to help the team gain some solid footing before ACC play begins.
The Heels taking a trip to the Bahamas this summer has to be exciting news for the players, and I’m sure that Roy Williams is eagerly awaiting to be able to coach this team. It will be a great experience for new and returning players alike, and I’m sure there will be some promising information that comes out of the exhibition games. If anybody was concerned that it is too early to get excited for basketball season, I think it’s safe to get excited now.