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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: An open letter regarding our basketball coverage this season

Hunter Nelson Sports Editor

I still remember getting the text almost two years ago.

Following a long day of covering a football press conference over winter break, former sports editor Jared McMasters reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in remotely covering the men’s basketball game against Iowa later that night. As I stared out my cold Michigan window with no other plans to consider, I thought the opportunity could be the move.

Since then, my coverage has taken me from the pandemic-safe choice of Stream East – although I’m not sure I should disclose that option for legal reasons – to the Dean Smith Center to Cameron Indoor Stadium to Brooklyn to New Orleans. Through it all, though, one constant remained the same – despite the brand name of UNC basketball, none of the teams I was following were supposed to accomplish anything meaningful. 

Yes, even last year’s group that knocked Coach K off in the Final Four. I’m sure even the bluest of blue-heart Tar Heel fans would say that group was playing with house money. But with UNC entering this season with a “championship or bust” mentality as the nation’s top team, I look forward to The Daily Tar Heel staff producing coverage that can document the journey and follow the storylines that encapsulate the team as a whole. 

Those that know me might call me a UNC cynic. Frankly, I prefer the term “admirer of the game”. While I’ll never leave my seat to celebrate a Caleb Love dunk, I can still reveal a subtle grin to appreciate the screen that opened up the lane, or tip my hat to the stretch four that brought his defender to the perimeter.

Admittedly, I still chuckle when a friend uses the pronoun “we” when referring to the team in passing or takes a random cheap shot at a local school that wears red or dark blue. Yet each time I hear these remarks, I take pride in knowing I’m efficiently handling my duties as an objective storyteller.

In the past, I’d join the group of media members that would follow the same charades game in and game out. Exhausted players and coaches would toss out the generic phrase of “we’ve got to play better” or “we’ve got to fight harder,” and from there, I’d crank out a 640-word piece on an Armando Bacot 20-20 outing or breakdown the team’s poor shooting performance before calling it a night. 

This year, we hope to capitalize on the potential of the men's and women's teams to reverse these trends and deliver compelling narratives throughout the season. With extensive COVID protocols mostly halted, I'm excited for our DTH team to use our inside access to provide insightful stories that can analyze the team on a deeper level.

While the game-to-game coverage will look mostly the same, our team is aiming to tell stories that put the team's outcomes into the greater context of the regular season. Although stories about Bacot's dominance and Kennedy Todd-Williams' versatility might seem redundant on the surface, our goal is to analyze the significance of these events as they attempt to push each team forward.

I'm still not a Tar Heel fan. If you talk to those who do this for a living, they'll tell you that's not supposed to be my job. When the men's team fell short after being 20 minutes away from cutting down the nets in New Orleans, admittedly, my heart sank — not because my tears matched the color of the daytime sky, but because I knew our desk wouldn't have an opportunity to provide the high-quality championship coverage I know the community deserves. 

But now, although our end product rests solely on the shoulders of those between the lines, our sports team is chasing a softly-labeled title of our own.

This week, we begin our own redemption tour, and I hope you'll join us for the ride. 


Hunter Nelson, Sports Editor  


@dthsports | 

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