Late-night celebration

The 2012-13 North Carolina men’s basketball season officially kicks off tonight with the annual Late Night with Roy procession of skits and dances, with a little basketball sprinkled in.

But until about a week ago, it wasn’t clear if the headliner would even be there.

Doctors found tumors on both of coach Roy Williams’ kidneys on Sept. 10 after he had been complaining of heartburn and indigestion that didn’t feel normal.

But on Oct. 4, doctors confirmed that, like the tumor that was removed Sept. 19, the second tumor was also benign.

“It was a whirlwind 24 days,” Williams said Thursday at the Tar Heels’ annual photo day.

For now, Williams is in the clear, but he will have periodical check-ups on the situation with the first one coming in six months.

“It had been 24 days that had been pretty emotional, pretty tough,” he said. “I had so much care and people contacting me — calling, emailing and writing letters and everything — it was off the charts. My team was great, my family was great”

Williams said that even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had called three times to check in on him.

The good news wasn’t just a relief to Williams — his players also breathed a collective sigh as they now can shift their focus to the upcoming season.

“We really didn’t know there for a little while what was going on,” sophomore guard Luke Davis said. “We were all just praying for him and having him in our thoughts and prayers and in our family’s. So when we found out, we were excited — gave him a hug. It was fantastic.”

Just two days after the surgery, Williams was already making appearances, although brief, at training sessions.

That was an encouraging sight for his team.

“He’s been around a lot more, and he’s been to most of the conditionings,” sophomore wingman P.J. Hairston said. “When he told us the tumor on the other kidney was benign, it was a big relief because we wanted him to get better. We want him to be on the court to practice.

“It’s just a great feeling to have him around now, and he’s moving around a lot more.”

Even before the first surgery, Williams made it clear that it was his intention to coach this team. Now that there isn’t any doubt that he’ll be on the court, there’s still one hurdle he has to clear before the season gets underway — Late Night with Roy.

The dance party marks the start of official practice for the men’s basketball team and, though it ends in a scrimmage, it’s really a celebration.

And never before have the Tar Heels had so much to celebrate in October.

The Tar Heels are keeping their plans for the season kickoff close to their chests but have promised a different show than what fans are used to.

While it may not follow the same format it usually does, there will still be plenty of dancing.

“You should expect — well you’re going to be surprised,” Davis said. “You’re going to think, here’s these guys, they’re athletic, they play basketball that’s about it. But you’ll see some real dance moves — especially from me.

“Speaking for myself, I don’t know about those other guys, but we’ll see when we get out there.”

Jackson Simmons, a sophomore forward from Webster, will be taking part in his second Late Night with Roy. While his own nerves have calmed, he’s a little concerned about the four freshmen.

“I’m a little bit more relaxed this year because I know what to expect,” Simmons said. “I’m actually a little worried about the freshman more because they’re smiling and cutting up during our warm-ups for Late Night, but I think they’re going to be a little nervous out there.”

Though they might be nervous about timing their dance steps, the Tar Heels can put to bed any worries about their coach.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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