It’s late September. The buzz around the football team is growing after this past weekend’s exciting comeback against Pitt. Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Switzer are the hottest names on campus. Head coach Larry Fedora and UNC football look primed to have another thrilling season, and some are even predicting an upset of FSU down in Tallahassee. It’s a fun time to be a football fan in Chapel Hill.
But North Carolina has always been a basketball school. And, even though the season is still over a month away, the hype train has officially left the station and is beginning to pick up steam. We can discuss how Joel Berry II and Isaiah Hicks should light up the scoreboard in their new starring roles and whether or not Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson can take their games to another level. We can even look at YouTube compilations of incoming players Seventh Woods and Tony Bradley, anticipating highlight plays in the Dean Dome.
Or we can watch the absolutely amazing videos Carolina basketball has been putting out recently. Set to a myriad of upbeat and catchy rap songs, the videos show the Tar Heels doing all the little things to get ready for the season: drills, drills, and more drills. No passing. No shooting. No dunking. No basketballs. Just a whole lot of running, working out and sweating.
Let’s closely inspect these videos UNC basketball has been offering and get appropriately hyped for the 2016-17 season:
Together We Grind pic.twitter.com/ezFX8uhZW8— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) September 20, 2016
The first video is soundtracked by a fictional song from the critically acclaimed FX show Atlanta. In the show, a low-level Atlanta drug dealer attempts to get out of his situation by turning to rap music. He calls himself Paper Boi and releases a song about getting as much money as possible. It’s a song about determination, working hard, and always trying to succeed.
These messages accompany a video that almost exclusively features the basketball team doing running drills. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard work that has to be done to lay the groundwork for a long, fruitful season. Throw in some truly exhausting rope arm drills—which look unbelievably painful judging by the strained expression on Kenny Williams’ face—and this team is clearly willing to do the ugly stuff for long-term success. Much like Paper Boi, this UNC team has found some fame and achieved a lot, but they’re still all about doing whatever it takes to win.
Now, with this hard-working mentality laid down in the first video, the following one suggests a looser, yet nonetheless determined mindset for the team:
It’s after practice. The players are tired. They’ve just finished running who knows how many sprints. Don’t even ask them about that awful battle rope. Instead, play them a looping hip-hop beat, and let them mug the camera.
This video is pure entertainment but still finds a way to suggest a deep focus from all of the players. Despite everyone being relaxed following practice, most of the players exhibit some concentrated stares. In particular, Hicks’ wide-eyed look at the camera seems to be his way of saying “I will dunk on everything this year.”
The highlight of this brief video has to be when Berry walks by the camera, notices it at the last second, turns towards it and does a little move. Pinson walks in front of him and then Berry coolly turns away, headed back to the locker room, exuding a ridiculous amount of suave confidence. If Berry does win ACC Player of the Year or becomes an All-American this season, those five seconds right there will have been the launching point.
Simply, it’s difficult to imagine someone watching that video above and not immediately falling in love with this team.
The final video, released yesterday, comes with a DJ Khaled quote and an aggressive, hard-hitting track by rappers Jay-Z and Future:
This is the most diverse video yet, including running drills that take place outside, a brutal game of tug of war, and a team huddle. Again, the main takeaway here is that this team is laboring away on all of the small, important things. The popular rap songs do make these videos interesting and exhilarating, but when you get down to the bottom of it, all these clips are showing these guys working their butts off.
Obviously, a strong social media presence doesn’t win ACC championships or get Final Four banners. It’s nevertheless comforting to see UNC getting back to the grind. The Heels will be good again this season, but hard work and determination could be what keeps them in the championship contender conversation.
Hats off to the social media team, too. Much of the offseason has centered around forgetting about the pain against Villanova while simultaneously ignoring the happenings in Lexington and Durham. And, with the loss of seniors like Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the team feels different for the first time in a few years. These videos replace those concerns with legitimate anticipation and have me ecstatic for the season to come in Chapel Hill.