This past spring, it was announced the men’s basketball team would head to the Bahamas for some preseason action. That trip will take place this upcoming weekend, when the Heels take the court at Sir Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium in Nassau. According to the Bahamas Basketbal Federation’s “Summer of Thunder” schedule, the Heels are scheduled to play this Friday and Saturday.
During the regular season the Tar Heel Blog staff provides you with “Three Things to Watch”. In order to prepare for the upcoming
vacation road trip to the Caribbean we’ll kick that feature off a little early this summer. When we do this, our staff tries to avoid pointing out the obvious questions or concerns. We don’t always succeed, but in an effort to meet that intent, you wont see many words wasted on the point guard situation or Coby White and Nassir Little’s roles.
Obviously, UNC fans are interested in both of those developments. Truthfully, there won’t be much to glean from two August exhibition games. Cameron Johnson is unlikely to play, and the Heels have only had a handful of practices. Any long term questions aren’t going to be answered. So, with that said, here are three things to watch this weekend.
Progress in the Post
It is no secret that Roy Williams prefers a traditional lineup with two big men. This is largely predicated on his belief that rebounding is an important habit that leads to winning basketball games. In order to do that, Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, and Brandon Huffman have to see extended time on the court during the season.
With Cameron Johnson likely sidelined while recovering from hip surgery in May, there will be fewer perimeter-oriented lineups available. That should provide opportunity for the sophomore trio in the paint. Regardless of their different strengths and weaknesses, improved post play is mandatory for the Heels to make it out of the first weekend next March.
It’s only August, so the product may be sloppy at times. The season only ended four months ago. Expectation management is important and nobody should expect monster performances. Just signs of improvement that will continue to be on display when the season approaches.
Kenny Williams’ Time
With the departure of Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, there is a leadership gap that needs to be filled. Our own Douglas Valentine mentioned yesterday that Kenny Williams could be the surprise of the season. I certainly don’t disagree, but there are some key questions that he has to answer.
Can he transition to be a more vocal leader on the court? How will he fill the scoring void left by Berry and Pinson? Is he going to remain a streaky three-point and transition specialist or can he improve his own shot-creating ability? As one of two true shooting guards, will he be limited or pigeonholed with so many versatile guards on the roster? Is there a chance that he could be asked to pull emergency point guard duty if Seventh Woods or Coby White falter?
Kenny has improved different aspects of his game with each passing season. This year, he is primed to have his biggest role since arriving at UNC. We’ll get the first glimpses of that this weekend.
Logjam on the Perimeter
Andrew Platek. Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams, Cameron Johnson. Seventh Woods.
All five returning guards contributed last season. All five will see playing time this season. Just how much playing time they’ll receive is up for debate. With the additions of Coby White, Nassir Little, and Rechon Black the backcourt the perimeter now occupies eight of UNC’s 13 scholarships. Nine if you count Shea Rush.
Many of those players can play multiple positions. Coby White can play both guard spots. Little should see playing time on the wing and at power forward. Brandon Robinson can play either the 2 or 3. Good luck projecting Rechon Black’s college position(s) since he played point guard in high school, despite shooting up to 6’8”. I don’t know the last time UNC had this kind of versatility on the perimeter.
Will anyone step up and emerge in Cameron Johnson’s absence? Or will none of it matter because the coaching staff is going to play so many lineups that these results will be rendered pointless by September?
To reiterate, there won’t be any season-defining decisions made from this upcoming weekend. At most, a few glimpses and glimmers may emerge. But it’s August and it’s North Carolina Basketball, so I’m sure the overreactions from two games will be fun.