It’s hard to believe that I’m saying this, but it feels like the first losing season in the Roy Williams Era for the Tar Heels was a lifetime ago. We all know why things feel that way, and even now in June there has been little to no time to reflect on what the heck happened during the 2019-20 season as current events keep getting more and more intense. This is why I am thankful that Roy Williams came to save us.
This past Monday Jon Rothstein released an interview that he had with Coach Williams on his podcast, “College Hoops today with Jon Rothstein”. A variety of topics were discussed, such as COVID-19 and how the racial injustice issues were being discussed with the team, but they also dove into a lot of what happened this past season as well as what Roy Williams anticipates for the 2020-21 season. Here are a few key takeaways from the interview, and we’ll finish things up by revisiting something that Williams said many years ago that may mean more today than it ever did.
Putting injuries into perspective
The 2019-20 season for the Tar Heels cannot be discussed properly without discussing all of the injuries that they had. Roy Williams stated in the interview that when you combine how many games each player missed due to an injury, the team missed about 99 total. As Williams said many times during the season, while he thought that it was a significant reason why things went so poorly he also felt like it was the team/coach’s job to step up and perform at their full potential regardless of the injury issues.
One player that took a lot of heat from fans was freshman point guard Cole Anthony, who missed 11 games after going down with a torn meniscus. Williams said that Anthony was only at full-strength for 10 games during the season, which is a startling number when looking back at the season schedule. If we are to believe that he was completely healthy until he missed the Wofford game back in December, that is already a total of 9 games that were played. It may not be the biggest shock that he was unable to get back to 100% following his surgery, but it certainly gives us a better idea of why Anthony was never able to play to his full potential before the Heels’ loss to Syracuse in the ACC Tournament.
One additional note that Williams made is that he believed that Cole Anthony was going to play in the NBA for a long time. He stated that he expects the scouts to be blown away during workouts, and that Anthony has a high enough level of “want” to be successful. It’s unfortunate that his lone season at Carolina went the way that it did, but it will still be exciting to see him play at the next level.
Anthony Harris should be ready in November
Another freshman that proved to be a big impact player for the Tar Heels was Anthony Harris. The freshman guard missed the majority of the 2019-20 season due to a torn ACL, but when he did get to play he was easily the feel good story of the year. His playmaking ability was incredible for someone who had missed so many games and practices, and it’s probably not a stretch to say that if he never got injured again the Tar Heels would have had a better chance staying above .500.
During the interview with Jon Rothstein Roy Williams stated that he expected Harris to return to action when the season kicks off in November. This is huge news for the Heels, as once again the backcourt isn’t particularly deep. Williams didn’t really go into detail about how Harris will be used, but considering that he mentioned Love, Davis, and in a pinch Leaky as the point guards, it’s likely that we will see him being used at the shooting guard position.
Having Harris being cleared to play in November will go a long way in helping prevent some of the issues from last season. I think he’s going to be a top-tier four-year player for the Heels, and I am eager to see what he’s able to do with a full season of direction under Roy Williams.
One Last Thing
Not long before wrapping up the interview, Jon Rothstein dug up a 15-year old quote from Roy Williams that was said prior to winning his first national championship. Williams stated at the time that he had “more motivation in my little finger right here to win a national championship than all the North Carolina fans that ever lived.”
Rothstein asked Williams if this was still true, and he stated that he somehow has 100 times more motivation to win it all than he did back then. He went on to say that the 2019-20 season left such a bad taste in their mouths and that he is looking forward to both the coaching staff and players doing a better job in getting the team to where they want to be.
Everything that was said in the interview with Roy Williams led to one pretty obvious conclusion: the 2019-20 season deserves the Men in Black treatment so that we never have to think about it ever again. The 2020-21 season is set up for the Heels to bounce back as long as the major injury issues don’t repeat themselves, and it’s likely we’ll see a fired up team that is looking for some redemption 2017-style. As far as this team being built to make a Final Four run, I don’t feel confident enough to make a prediction either way, but seeing the return of REAL Carolina basketball will be good enough for me.