With junior guard Caleb Love sitting out the scrimmage due to hamstring tightness, RJ Davis had more opportunities to showcase his arsenal: sneaking wrap-around passes to Nance off the pick-and-roll, finishing over larger defenders with both hands and sinking deep pull-up threes coming off of screens.
After falling to Kansas last season in the NCAA championship game, the White Plains, N.Y. native had plenty of time to reflect in preparation for this season. And if Friday night was any indication, the core of veteran Tar Heels likely won’t be struggling with complacency or chemistry this season.
“I’ve watched the national championship game a lot,” RJ Davis said. “I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve watched it, just because of how hungry I am to get back there. I want a different outcome this year.”
New men’s faces show promise
First-years Seth Trimble, Tyler Nickel, Will Shaver and junior walk-on Beau Maye each contributed a few highlights of their own on Friday.
“Seth is tenacious on the defensive end,” RJ Davis said. “Super quick guard, athletic. Tyler can shoot the ball at a high clip.”
Trimble was tasked with guarding the crafty junior point guard and held his own on a few isolation possessions, pressing up on the starting point guard at the half court line. As Trimble gains more collegiate experience, fans can expect him to contribute as a defensive stalwart in the backcourt.
Nickel, who holds Virginia’s all-time high school scoring record, impressed offensively — particularly from behind the arc. Additionally, Beau Maye, brother of former UNC star Luke Maye, knocked down back-to-back deep balls from the left wing and also scored inside with a layup.
Barring any injuries in the frontcourt, the redshirt first-year forward Shaver likely won’t see significant minutes. He did, however, demonstrate solid court vision with a few clean backdoor passes.
Kennedy Todd-Williams is going be a force
Todd-Williams started all 32 games for the women last season as a sophomore and was third on the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game. She was especially impressive in two performances against Louisville and Arizona, which led to two statement wins for the Tar Heels.
On Friday night, she showed her ability to score from all levels of the floor with a baseline pull-up shot, a left-handed drive and two 3-pointers. She also ran the point for her team, and her overall versatility led to impressive ball movement.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.
Teammates Eva Hodgson and Malu Tshitenge agreed that Todd-Williams, who nearly doubled her scoring average from her first to second season, has made another jump as a junior.
“She’s literally in the gym all the time,” Hodgson said. “That kid sleeps in the gym, I swear, like actually. And it shows. In a situation like tonight, you were able to see all of her hard work paying off, and that’s exciting.”
Women’s frontcourt extending range
In the women’s scrimmage, UNC forwards Anya Poole, Alexandra Zelaya, Destiny Adams and Tshitenge put their shooting range on display.
The 6-foot-4 junior Zelaya hit a 3-pointer, Adams was 3-for-3 on baseline jumpers, while Tshitenge and Poole both pulled up from the foul line with success.
“The more our bigs can play within range, it gives us a lot more spacing,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “And we’ve got really dynamic guards that can play in space.”
Tshitenge attributed this improved range to UNC’s chemistry.
“Our guards now are trusting us to take those 15-footers and make those 15-footers," she said. "It really comes from trust from our guards and if our guards trust us, we’ve got to knock them down every time.”
@danielhwei | @shelbymswanson
@dthsports | email@example.com
Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.
Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.