Yesterday, Hubert Davis took questions from the press over Zoom for his summer press conference. He touched on a variety of topics, ranging from the state of college basketball to his personal transition in the UNC program. Here are some highlights.
Coach Davis said that when his staff looked at the roster after all of the roster churn (Day’Ron Sharpe going to the NBA, Walker Kessler transferring to Auburn, and Garrison Brooks grad-transferring to Mississippi State), he knew that the team needed more bigs. But he was also looking for a different type of big than what Roy Williams used in his last two years in Chapel Hill.
Last year, UNC had an embarrassment of riches in the post. But in the blink of an eye, Hubert Davis found himself staring down the barrel of a roster without a single post player who started or played double-digit minutes in a game. He used his introductory press conference to signal his willingness to bring Walker Kessler back into the fold after he entered the transfer portal. When that didn’t work, he got his pole out and started fishing in the transfer portal himself, and he reeled in some monsters.
There’s not a much better job he could have done, bringing in Brady Manek, Justin, McKoy, and Dawson Garcia. Coach Davis said,
“We needed versatile bigs. We needed more depth. When I took the job, the only true big that we had was Armando. And so we needed more depth, we needed more versatility. After losing Garrison, Day’Ron and Walker Kessler, Armando needed some help. I couldn’t have asked for three better players to join our team... It’s important for us not only to bring in talented guys, but guys that are gonna fit our program, our culture. And so when people talk about Justin and Brady and Dawson, they’re Carolina guys. They’ve just gotten here this summer, but I feel like they’ve been here three or four years the way that they have meshed with our other teammates, our staff, this university. They get it done in the classroom, as well. And so it will be an active part of our recruiting, looking into the transfer portal, but it’s got to be the right fit. And Justin, Brady and Dawson are the right fit for us.”
Pump the Brakes
Coach Davis was asked about his whirlwind schedule ever since taking the job in April, and if he had a chance to “pump the brakes” and reflect on his time in the head coach seat. This gave Hubert a huge chuckle, as he responded,
“I don’t have any brakes. There are no brakes. It’s all gas pedal since April 5. It’s been push the gas pedal all the way down to the floor. We had a little bit of time at the end of the second session of summer school. There were a couple of weeks before they came back for the fall semester that we were able to get away and kind of catch our breath... We were at the beach and my wife was like, ‘My hope is that this is a time you can take your mind off everything and you can just relax and you can feel like you are 100 percent on vacation.’ So I turned to my wife and said, ‘You know I love you to death, but I don’t think this is a job where you can fully check out.’ There is something always going on. Something you are always thinking about.”
Sometimes, a baby is just ugly and you have to call it that. Carolina shot poorly, turned the ball over too much, and struggled with consistency. Coach Davis is under no illusion that the same team he coached as an assistant last season can show up this year and achieve great things without a lot of skill development. To that end, he said,
“A huge responsibility for us is to be on the floor with our guys relentlessly helping them get better. I always say for us as a team to get better individually each one of our players have to get better, and so in order to do that we’ve got to be on the floor helping them out. Out of all the things you know that I find joy in, in my job, being on the floor with the guys is at the top of the list so I just absolutely love that... Obviously, we need to shoot the ball better. For a large part of the season, we were the last in the ACC in terms of percentage shooting the ball from three-point range. We need other guys that can shoot the ball other than Kerwin Walton. We need to take care of the basketball. We gave up more turnovers than anybody in the ACC. And so just talking to our team about the importance and value of taking care of the basketball and making easy plays have been huge... I want them to be basketball players. I don’t want them to be one dimensional. So we can put them in different spots where they can be successful. In terms of what we needed to work on is just overall skillset and to get more talented and get better, and I just really feel like this summer we were able to achieve that.”
This summer has been a bit more like vintage years in Chapel Hill. After Covid-19 prevented summer pick-up ball with the alumni, the team -- especially the freshmen -- were robbed of transformative experiences gifted to all previous Carolina teams. No more.
Hubert Davis says over 35 former UNC players have come by summer practices.— Josh Graham (@JoshGrahamRadio) August 24, 2021
“Dawson (Garcia) told me ‘I can’t believe they know my name’”.
With everyone back in the fold, expect good vibes, great competition, steady growth, and a chance to achieve Coach Davis’s goals as a first-year head coach. Especially ruining Coach K’s farewell tour!