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Banghart's motion offense can create mismatches, will empower UNC women's basketball guards

20220109_Connors_womensbballvsvtech_eva-hodgson-13.jpg
Junior guard Eva Hodgson (10) prepares to move past a defender during the game against Virginia Tech at Carmichael Arena on Jan. 9th, 2022. UNC won 71-46.

UNC women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart’s motion offense empowers any player to attack mismatches. Everyone is expected to move the ball and anyone can drive from the perimeter, draw help and kick the ball out to the open woman.

The key to the offense last year, Carlie Littlefield, is gone after not receiving an extra year of COVID eligibility. A graduate transfer who played three seasons at Princeton before rejoining Banghart in Chapel Hill, Littlefield was a tempo-setter, able to buffer against shooting slumps with patient decision-making.

Littlefield's replacement can come from several sources. Two returners stand out: junior guard Deja Kelly and redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson. Kelly and Hodgson won’t be alone in replacing Littlefield. Anyone can create advantages and shots off the dribble in Banghart’s offense. 

Deja Kelly

Kelly led the team with 16.5 points per game last season and is expected to be the team’s primary ball handler this year. Kelly was recently named to the Nancy Lieberman Award watch list, an honor that awards the top point guard in women's college basketball.

Though not a traditional facilitator like Littlefield, Kelly regularly beats defenders off the dribble and is a triple-threat attacker from the paint, mid-range and deep. UNC will look to Kelly to create shots for herself off the pick-and-roll.

She made leaps in her shooting ability from her first to second year with the team, and has solidified herself as one of the team's biggest threats from behind the arc. 

Eva Hodgson

A spark-plug who Banghart called the "sixth starter" of last season's team, Hodgson may land a true starting role this year.

Hodgson is highly mobile and can look for the pass out of the pick and roll or use her strength and speed to attack the rim. 

A tireless mover off the ball, Hodgson was second only to Kelly in 3-point percentage last season. Comfortable shooting or attacking the rim off the catch from anywhere on the court, Hodgson is a true chameleon that can fit whatever mold Banghart asks of her.

Kayla McPherson

Perhaps the purest form of facilitator will come from redshirt first-year Kayla McPherson. An explosive athlete with an eye for passes no one else can see, the McDonald's All-American and former top-15 recruit will miss at least the non-conference portion of the schedule, but is still expected to crack the rotation when healthy.

She's someone that Banghart, as well as teammates Kelly and Kennedy Todd-Williams, said will surprise spectators later this season when she returns. McPherson averaged 36 points per game in her last healthy season in high school.

Paulina Paris

First-year Paulina Paris has the promise to develop into a dangerous pick-and-roll scorer and shooter. 

She's someone Banghart said will bring her unique "New York flair" to the game, and Todd-Williams said can "shoot the lights out". Head fakes, misdirection, hesitation moves, jab steps — Paris is unpredictable on the drive and is not afraid to shoot threes off the dribble.

Ariel Young

Redshirt senior Ariel Young, coming back from an injury that sidelined her in the 2021-2022 season, adds 3-point shooting and some of the best on-ball defense on the roster. Banghart harped on her intensity and passion in an interview on Oct. 31, and said that she "has that dog in her."

Young also adds a veteran presence to the team, which overwhelmingly consists of juniors and underclassmen. 

As the Tar Heels set their sights on becoming March Madness contenders again, a guard corps of advantage creators, shooters, versatile defenders and transition playmakers no doubt gives the team confidence in its competitiveness.

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@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com