<![CDATA[The Daily Tar Heel: Mens basketball]]> Sat, 21 Sep 2019 18:04:00 -0400 Sat, 21 Sep 2019 18:04:00 -0400 SNworks CEO 2019 The Daily Tar Heel <![CDATA[A look at UNC basketball's conference schedule for 2019-20]]> With the ACC's release of the 2019-20 men's basketball schedule on Thursday, the Tar Heels now have a complete picture of their slate for the coming season.

Following an exhibition against Winson-Salem State, North Carolina will begin the campaign, oddly enough, on Nov. 6 at home against Notre Dame. It will be the first time UNC opens the season with a conference game since a 1966 win against Clemson.

After a road matchup with Virginia on either Friday, Dec. 6 or Saturday, Dec. 7, the Tar Heels will begin conference play in earnest with a Jan. 4 game against Georgia Tech. In fact, 2019-20 is the first season in which ACC teams will play 20 conference games, an increase that comes after seven seasons of an 18-game league schedule.

UNC will play six different ACC teams twice: Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Virginia, N.C. State and Duke.

The Tar Heels will host four additional conferences foes - Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami - and visit four additional teams on the road - Florida State, Louisville, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

North Carolina will face the Blue Devils on Saturday, Feb. 8, a notable change from the usual weekday game for the teams' first matchup of the new year.


UNC's last game of the regular season will be at Duke on March 7.

Upon the schedule's release Thursday night, it seemed the ACC had left the door open for a little chicanery, as both UNC-Duke matchups were initially listed as being broadcasted on "ESPN/2/U/ACCN." A most devious scenario would have seen the ACC broadcasting both games on the ACC Network (ACCN), forcing millions of college basketball fans to pony up for the newly-launched channel to see what are regularly the most-watched college basketball games of the regular season.

Later that night, however, the ACC seemingly backed down, as both games were then listed as being broadcasted on ESPN. All told, 19 of UNC's 20 regular-season conference games will be televised nationally by an ESPN channel, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or the ACC Network.

The Tar Heels' previously announced non-conference slate is highlighted by dates with Ohio State, Gonzaga, and UCLA, as well as a November trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

North Carolina will look to follow up a 2018-19 season in which the team went 29-7 and captured a share of the ACC regular season title.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA['Back to square one': Brice Johnson seeking fresh start with Italian team]]> As Brice Johnson looked out the bus window, he could almost feel the stares.

It was early February 2018, and Johnson was en route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for a game as a member of the Grand Rapids Drive, the G-League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. The recently traded 6-foot-10 forward was on FaceTime with DeAndre Jordan, his old Los Angeles Clippers teammate.

Johnson looked up from his call to see teammates holding their phones, glaring at him in shock.

Then, he saw the ESPN notification himself. Less than two weeks into his time with the Pistons, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies - his third NBA team since being drafted No. 25 overall by the Clippers in 2016.

"I was like, 'Aye, I'm getting in a groove. Let's not mess this up,'" he said. "Then they end up doing that. I was like, 'Dang, alright. Back to square one.'"

Earlier this month, Johnson signed with Orlandina Basket, a club in Serie A2 Basket, an Italian professional basketball league.

Square one. Again.

After a four-year collegiate career as a Tar Heel that concluded with an All-American season and an NCAA title game appearance, this is Johnson's reality.

"There have been times I've just wanted to quit," he said. "I'm gonna be completely honest."

Johnson purchased a home in Durham after his stint with Memphis, which ended with him being waived at the end of the 2017-18 season. Being close to the UNC basketball team and other familiar faces has helped keep his head up.

So has reconnecting with Nolan Smith, a former All-American guard and 2010 national champion with Duke.

The two became fast friends after meeting in March 2017 - through then-UNC senior guard Nate Britt - at a UNC-Duke game in Chapel Hill. Britt grew up with Smith in Prince George's County in Maryland. Smith was a special assistant for the Blue Devils; Johnson was back in town to support the Tar Heels.

Smith's professional journey, in ways, parallels Johnson's. The 2011 first-round selection played for the Portland Trail Blazers for two seasons before the franchise chose not to re-sign him. He spent another two years overseas until a left ACL and meniscus tear derailed his career.

Throughout what's been a whirlwind career for Johnson so far, Smith has been in his corner, offering advice and guidance.

"When you're battling for something like your career, your love for the game will be tested," Smith said. "When you're wondering, 'Why am I not on a roster?' Your love for the game will be tested, and you can go to a dark place. So, just for him to stay positive and keep working hard, his talent will eventually get him to where he wants to get."

Even with plenty of support, Johnson said he hit his lowest point last Christmas.

At his home, it was just him and his dog. He waited for a call from his agent. It never came.

Johnson thought: Why am I at home? I'm a former first-round pick. Somebody at least wants to have me around on their team.

"I went from being on a team that played on Christmas day to being not anywhere on Christmas day," he said.

Soon, he fired his agent and hired a new one. His new agent, Jarinn Akana of Dynasty Sports Management, landed him the gig in Italy. Now, he looks to use the opportunity to play his way back into the NBA.

Smith is optimistic that it can happen sooner rather than later.

"His next step is, wherever he's going, to just go there with an open mind and with the mindset to kill, the same way he did in a Carolina jersey for many years," Smith said. "Just to go there with that same mindset. And then somebody's gonna see him."

During his time as a Tar Heel, Johnson often capped off highlight-reel dunks with fierce displays of emotion.

Johnson's 416 rebounds his senior year broke UNC legend Tyler Hansbrough's single-season rebounds record. He also set the program record for the most double-doubles in a season with 23 in the same year.

But success didn't come immediately. In his first two seasons at North Carolina, he only started four games.

"I pushed him harder than any player I've ever pushed over a four-year period," head coach Roy Williams said of Johnson to USA Today in 2016.

Johnson will now have to push himself just as hard to get over the learning curve, as he did in college, in the professional ranks.

"I'm ecstatic to go play," he said. "I don't care where it is. I just wanna be back on the court and be able to just prove myself."

@pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[We sat down with Brice Johnson to talk about his new career overseas]]> Brice Johnson was a first-team All-American as a senior in 2016 with the Tar Heels. The 6-foot-10 power forward led North Carolina to the 2016 NCAA title game, where UNC lost to Villanova on a buzzer beating 3-pointer. Since being selected No. 25 overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2016 NBA Draft, Johnson has been on three different NBA teams.

Earlier this month, the 25-year-old signed a contract with Orlandina Basket, an Italian professional basketball club in the Serie A2 Basket league. On Saturday, The Daily Tar Heel caught up with Johnson at his Teen Cancer America Hoop-a-Thon in Chapel Hill, discussing the highs and lows of his young career and his future overseas.


The Daily Tar Heel: Congrats on signing a contract with Orlandina Basket. Are you excited to play in Italy?

Brice Johnson: I'm just excited to be playing again. I mean, this has been a long couple years for me. Since being waived from Memphis, it's been an up-and-down road, but I'm just happy to be back on the court and be able to go out there and just play.

DTH: Can you elaborate on what you mean by 'an up-and-down road?'

BJ: From being traded twice, to being cut at the end of the year after one game (with Memphis), basically, and then going through agents, having to change agents in recent months, and then, going to Puerto Rico and that not working out because of the coaching situation there. Now, just sitting around, trying to figure out what I'm gonna do, and then, finally being able to sign a contract and go out there and prove myself again. So, I'm just excited for it.

DTH: Why was your time in Puerto Rico with Indios de Mayagüez of the Baloncesto Superior Nacional basketball league so brief?

BJ: It's just the coaching thing. It was kinda set up for me to go down there and do well. The owners and everybody liked me, but the coach had other plans. He didn't want me to play; he wanted to play all the national guys there - there were a couple guys from the national team there. And he had a bunch of favorites on the team, so he wanted to play them more so than me.

DTH: When you look at this upcoming season, in your mind, what are some things you need to do to make your way back to the NBA?

BJ: I think it's just playing. Nobody's really seen me play, really since college. I got hurt coming straight out of college, got hurt in the preseason, and then played Summer League, did well, but then, that's not enough. They need to see me play more than that - that was just five games. I think my talent itself will show once I start playing the game and playing at a consistent rate, doing all the things I know how to do.

DTH: Did the start of your professional basketball career align with the expectations you had when you left UNC?

BJ: Honestly, it didn't. I mean, it did, in a sense, just because it started very high. I played Summer League, played very well in that down in Orlando. Going to training camp, I wasn't really expecting to play as much as I wanted to, just because we had an older team and there were a bunch of veteran guys. And then, I got hurt (with a herniated disk in my lower back), and that just derailed everything. Then, I came back at the end of the year. I thought I would be able to play, but I was already behind the curve a little bit and didn't really play at the end of the year.

Then, the Chris Paul trade happened. All of sudden, after that trade happened, they had a bunch of guys that came in. And obviously, they brought them in there for a reason. At that point, I'm already behind the eight-ball, because I didn't really do anything the last year. I tried to go to the G-League - I told them to just leave me down there so I could at least play and get better, because I was just gonna sit on the bench anyways.

Then, I ended up getting traded with Blake (Griffin), went to Detroit, kinda sat on the bench with them for however long that was. Then, I got traded again to Memphis. And then, got waived right before the last game.

Then, (I'm) waiting and waiting and waiting and then all of a sudden, I get to Christmas day of last year. And I'm like, 'I can't do this.' So, I fired my agent and got a new one. The new one found a job in Puerto Rico. I went to Puerto Rico, was playing pretty well, and then, the coach didn't want me there. The owners were like, 'Why isn't he playing?' and all this other stuff. They were just like, 'You know what? He's not gonna change; we can't change coaches right now.' So, I ended up leaving there.

DTH: What made you come back to the Durham-Chapel Hill area?

BJ: Being here, I get the opportunity to come (on UNC's campus) 24/7, use the facilities at all times. So, why not be here? I love this area. I was like, 'Hey, I'll just move back here.' So, I just moved back here, and I've been here working out, coming to play pickup with the (UNC) guys here and there when they're here.

DTH: With you being so close to campus, are you close with the guys on UNC's team now?

BJ: Yeah, I'm pretty close with them. Everybody calls Garrison (Brooks) my son. Everybody calls him 'Little Brice,' so I've taken him under my wing. I talk to him all the time; I give him tips here and there on what he needs to do during the game or to get on Coach's good side and stuff.

DTH: How has Coach Roy Williams been there for you, especially with you being this close now?

BJ: He's been great. He's just been trying to understand what the heck's going on and trying to help here and there by calling people and saying, 'Hey, he's available.' But at the end of the day, it's bigger than basketball with Coach Williams. He's like a father figure to me outside of my father. I can call him anytime that I want to and talk to him. But at the same time, I want to be my own man and do things on my own sometimes. At the end of the day, I still have him to call for advice and to help me out. So, it's always good to have him around and in my corner.

@pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Brice Johnson (11) goes up to block a shot from Josh Hart (3).

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<![CDATA[Brice Johnson's personal experience motivated him to host a cancer Hoop-a-Thon]]> When Nolan Smith asked Brice Johnson for a favor over a text message in mid-2017, Johnson didn't think twice.

The two - Johnson, a former first-team All-American forward at UNC, and Smith, a former first-team All-American guard at Duke - were new friends. Smith was set to host his first annual Teen Cancer America Hoop-a-Thon at Duke and wanted Johnson to make an appearance.

The cause was personal, and he couldn't say no. Johnson lost his mother, Renee, to colon cancer when he was 14.

"My mom's always been the person to give back to the community and do all the little things for the people that were less fortunate," Johnson said. "Just growing up seeing that, I've always wanted to do it. It's always been a part of me."

Two years later, on Saturday morning, Johnson hosted his own Hoop-a-Thon at the Dean E. Smith Center practice facility. And on Sunday morning, Smith hosted Day Two of the event at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium.

It marked the first year of the rivalry Hoop-a-Thon, the first event of its kind.

"There's nothing better in this area than involving Duke and Carolina," Smith said. "Both by themselves are very powerful, but you bring them together, and you just feel like you can accomplish so much more within the hospitals and within our community."

Fans registered for $25 online to shoot hoops for "Team Brice" or "Team Nolan." Participants were given two minutes to shoot with all funds raised supporting TCA programs in development at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Duke Cancer Institute.

Approximately 100 people shot baskets on Saturday. Former Tar Heels in attendance included Shammond Williams, Jawad Williams and Joel James. Current UNC guard Brandon Robinson paid a visit, too.

Johnson and Smith shot with participants, and UNC players from past and present took pictures and interacted with fans.

Like Johnson, the event was also personal for another Tar Heel.

Shammond Williams, a standout guard at UNC in the late 1990s, lost his aunt to brain cancer in 1999, his second year in the NBA with the Seattle Supersonics.

"It let me know regardless of what you have and what you can do financially, some days, you have no control over things," Williams said of his aunt Stephanie's death. "That was very difficult on my family, … but you just have to continue to strive and be strong. I began to understand the magnitude of cancer."

The impact of the event, and TCA's efforts, were apparent as well.

Matthew Barry, 24, is a former pediatric leukemia patient who was treated in a TCA facility, the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Institute at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's in Cleveland, Ohio. Barry was 19 when he was diagnosed and finished 40 months of chemotherapy plus blood transfusions in November 2017.

"Me being treated in a facility that (TCA) set up, I was very aware of what their mission was, what programs they try and get kids involved in, what their overall goal is," Barry said.

"... We're the forgotten age group because we're not necessarily kids, but we're not full-grown adults, so kinda the in-between. And people don't necessarily think about teenagers or young adults getting cancer. So, it's very important to create this sort of advocacy."

After finishing treatments, Barry is paying it forward, much like Johnson and Smith. Barry is an AYA TCA ambassador.

Fundraising figures won't be released for a few weeks, a TCA representative said. Donations are still being accepted online, though.

It's only Johnson's first year as a TCA ambassador himself, but he vows this is only the beginning of his involvement with the organization.

"It was just great to have people out here," he said. "But we can do a lot more; we can do better. This is just my first year. I'm excited for what is happening, and I'm ready to do bigger and better things next year."

@pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Former Tar Heel Brice Johnson (second on the right) poses at the Teen Cancer America Hoop-a-Thon rivalry event.

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<![CDATA[Here's what UNC fans can expect from the new ACC Network]]> Just in time for the football season, the all-new ACC Network will launch Thursday at 7 p.m. EST and will be "the new, 24/7 national platform dedicated to ACC sports," according to GoHeels.

The network, referred to as ACCN on TV channel guides, will feature approximately 450 live televised events, including40 regular-season football games and 150 men's and women's basketball games, in its first year on air. Providers of the network currently include DIRECTV, Google Fiber, Hulu Live TV, Spectrum, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV.

Providers not currently carrying the network are Cox Cable, Comcast Cable, Dish Network, Sling TV and AT&T U-verse, among others. Thus, Thursday will be somewhat of a partial launch for the ACCN, with the remaining providers expected to strike deals with the network in the future. Other Power 5 conferences such as the Pac-12 and the Big Ten already have dedicated networks and partnerships with cable providers.

As an ESPN-affiliated network, the ACCN will be available via the ESPN app on computers, tablets, mobile phones andTV connected devices.

The ACCN also seems to be a crucial part of the conference's vision moving forward - John Swofford, ACC commissioner and former UNC athletic director, is reportedly overseeing the launch of the network.

Now for the important part: what can UNC fans expect from the ACCN?

The first thing to know is that the Tar Heels' home openers for both football and men's basketball - Sept. 7 against Miami and Nov. 6 against Notre Dame, respectively - will be broadcast exclusively on the ACC Network.

According to a GoHeels release, "There are two ways to watch UNC in action in those games and others broadcast on the ACC Network: get your tickets to the games and cheer on the Tar Heels in person or make sure your cable provider has the ACC Network among its available channels."

That's bad news for UNC fans whose providers haven't yet announced a deal with the ACCN. For those who will have access to the network, however, the most interesting bit of programming will likely be "All Access: A Season with Carolina Basketball." The multi-part series, beginning in October, will present a behind-the-scenes look at the 2019-20 North Carolina men's basketball team and highlight "... the many dimensions of the North Carolina basketball program, its notable alumni and what it's like to be part of the Carolina Family."

It'll feature moments like the one that was made public on Tuesday - Tar Heel guard K.J. Smith getting put on scholarship for the 2019-20 season.

While the conference has been tight-lipped about other team-specific programs - most of the announced shows, like "The Huddle," a football-centric program, will focus on all teams within a single sport - the ACC has said that it will achieve its goal of "... provid[ing] exposure for each of the ACC member institutions" without each school having its own block of time to program.

And while details are scant, that makes "All Access" seem like something of a singularity on the network, at least in its early stages. That should only up the excitement for the series in the eyes of the Tar Heel faithful - an intimate look at their favorite basketball team and a type of access that no other fanbase is getting. At least, not yet.

One thing's for certain: when the ACCN launches on Thursday, fans around the world will be tuning in - or angrily calling their TV providers - for a better look at one of the country's premier collegiate athletic conferences.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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ACC Commissioner John Swofford spoke to members of the Chapel Hill Sports Club at Squid's Restaurant, Market and Oyster Bar on Feb. 21 in Chapel Hill.

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<![CDATA[Brice Johnson to host Saturday Hoop-a-Thon in Chapel Hill for Teen Cancer America]]> More than three years after the conclusion of his North Carolina basketball career, Brice Johnson will compete against Duke once again.

Johnson will host day one of the third annual Teen Cancer America Hoop-a-Thon on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Smith Center practice facility. The former All-American forward will compete against former All-American Blue Devil guard Nolan Smith, who will host day two of the event on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Fans can register online for $25 to shoot hoops for "Team Brice" or "Team Nolan." Funds raised will help support TCA programs in development at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Duke Cancer Institute. Donations to either team can be made online, too.

Smith, Duke's director of basketball operations and a 2010 national champion, became a TCA ambassador in 2016 and has hosted Hoop-a-Thons at Duke for the past two years.

This is Johnson's first year as a TCA ambassador, sparking the idea for the first-ever rival Hoop-a-Thon.

"Brice has supported the TCA Hoop-a-Thon since the beginning, showing a side of the Duke-Carolina rivalry that most folks never see," Smith said in a statement. "I was so excited when he became a TCA ambassador, and we started planning these competing events, which will raise even more money for Teen Cancer America and the amazing work they do."

Participants will receive a 2019 TCA Hoop-a-Thon Rivalry T-shirt and will have two minutes to shoot hoops. The school that raises the most money for TCA will receive a traveling trophy to display until next year's event.

"Nolan's work with TCA, helping young people fighting cancer at Duke and UNC Hospitals, definitely inspired me," Johnson said in a statement. "I'm counting on all my Tar Heels out there to register for the event in Chapel Hill or go online and make a donation so we can beat Duke!"

@pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[UNC basketball's K.J. Smith put on scholarship for 2019-20 season]]> Redshirt junior K.J. Smith, a guard for the North Carolina men's basketball team, has been put on scholarship for the 2019-20 season, the team announced Tuesday via Twitter.

The video features head coach Roy Williams awarding the scholarship to Smith followed by raucous cheers from Smith's teammates. Smith then FaceTimed his father, UNC graduate and NBA champion Kenny Smith, telling him the news.

"Imma keep it real," the older Smith said. "It was earned, it wasn't given."

Smith played one season at Pacific University in 2016-17, starting three games and averaging 3.2 points in 13.0 minutes. He then sat out the 2017-18 season and transferred to North Carolina, the same school where his father was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC in 1987.

"I just feel like I'm a younger version of him, almost," Smith - or "Baby Jet," as his teammates call him - told the DTH in February.

As a redshirt sophomore, the younger Smith appeared in 22 games in Carolina Blue, averaging 1.8 minutes per game. He figures to be the only upperclassman who can play a true point guard role for the Tar Heels this season. Guards Cole Anthony, Anthony Harris and Leaky Black have less than a season of college experience combined.

Harris and Anthony are incoming first-years. Black, a sophomore, had a promising rookie season derailed by injury. While Anthony will most likely assume a starting role, Smith could see early limited minutes as a backup ball handler while Harris learns the ropes and Black works his way back into the lineup.

With a total of six newcomers in tow, North Carolina will kick off the 2019-20 season on Nov. 6 against Notre Dame.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[COLUMN: Has Roy Williams surpassed Dean Smith as the greatest UNC basketball coach ever?]]> When Dean Smith left his post at North Carolina in 1997, he retired as perhaps the greatest coach in college basketball history. With 11 Final Fours, a pair of national championships and 879 wins, then an NCAA Division I record, Smith etched his name on the Mount Rushmore of college basketball minds.

As it happens, though, Smith protege and current UNC head coach Roy Williams will soon surpass Smith - in at least one metric, that is.

Williams' ninth victory in 2019-20 will be his 880th all time - one more than Smith, under whom he served for a decade as a Tar Heel assistant.

Of course, 418 of those Williams wins came at the University of Kansas. Still, on the eve of that momentous occasion, it seems like a good time to ask: has Williams surpassed Smith as the greatest UNC basketball coach ever?

I must preface by saying that trying to figure out who is the better coach is like trying to figure out who's the most hatable Blue Devil. It's just not possible.

(OK, fine, it's Christian Laettner.)

Still, even if we could somehow come to a consensus, the answer to the question truly doesn't matter. It's bar conversation, the kind of thing that a college journalist might wonder about on a slow news day.

Ahem.

In any event, here're the relevant numbers. Williams has made nine Final Fours - five at UNC - to Smith's 11. Williams has nine ACC regular season titles to Smith's 17, and three ACC Tournament titles to Smith's 13. Williams is also a two-time ACC Coach of the Year, an award that Smith earned eight times.

Granted, it was a lot easier to dominate the conference when there were a lot fewer teams in it. Still, in nearly every metric, Smith has Williams licked - except the most important one.

Williams has three national titles to Smith's two.

Williams's third NCAA championship, which came in 2017, solidified his legacy as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball, current or former. The only others to have cut down the nets more than twice: John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp, Jim Calhoun and Bob Knight.

Does that make Williams better than his mentor? Not quite, I would argue.

Williams has accomplished about as much as Smith did on a national level, and he's done it in a lot less time (Smith helmed the Tar Heels for 36 years; Williams has been doing it for just 16). But Smith was largely responsible for creating what we know today as North Carolina basketball, a culture of excellence that lives on today.

Pointing to the passer upon a made basket, instituting a culture of selflessness, the famous "Carolina Way": that's what Smith brought to Chapel Hill. Not to mention his support of civil rights early in his career. By all accounts, that's the kind of man Smith was, on and off the court.

And Williams will be the first to tell you: he picked up where Smith - and Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty, who came between the two icons - left off.

"I'm 64 years old and everything I do with our basketball program and the way I deal with the University is driven by my desire to make Coach Smith proud," Williams said upon Smith's passing in 2015. "When I came back to Carolina, the driving force was to make him proud and I still think that today."

Williams is a proven recruiter, an excellent developer of talent and has a sharp tactical mind. But give credit also to Smith for laying the groundwork that has allowed ol' Roy to enjoy his remarkable run in Chapel Hill.

As Williams continues to pile up accolades, it's important that members of Tar Heel faithful - especially the young ones - don't forget how Dean Smith help set up Roy for success.

Pointing to the passer, in true UNC fashion.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball to play at Carmichael Arena against Wofford in December]]> Back like they never left.

The North Carolina men's basketball team will play its first regular season game at Carmichael Arena since 1986 when it hosts Wofford this season on Dec. 15.

According to a press release, the location of the game was switched because the Dean E. Smith Center will be hosting December Commencement that same day.

"Due to Wofford's playing schedule and Carolina's travel schedule to Gonzaga, it was necessary to play the game on the 15th, but of course we knew that is the date of Commencement," senior associate athletic director Clint Gwaltney said in the release. "We appreciate both Coach (Roy) Williams' and Wofford's flexibility in agreeing to move the game to another venue. It should be an outstanding environment in which to play that game."

The Tar Heels defeated William and Mary, 80-72, in Carmichael in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on March 16, 2010, but have not played a regular season game in the 6,822 seat arena since the Smith Center opened 33 years ago.

The last regular season men's basketball game in Carmichael, which now plays host to UNC women's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling, was a 90-79 victory over N.C. State on Jan. 4, 1986.

"Carmichael brings back great memories of my first eight years as an assistant to Coach Smith and the exciting game we played against William and Mary in 2010," Williams said. "Wofford will bring an outstanding team and the environment will be electric. I'm sure it will be a tough ticket to get and a special day for everyone who is lucky enough to be there for that game."

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[ANALYSIS: How does Cameron Johnson fit in with his new team, the Phoenix Suns?]]> NBA Draft night saw the Phoenix Suns move back in the draft order, and former Tar Heel forward Cameron Johnson shoot far higher than expected. The Suns traded their original number six slot to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 11th pick and forward Dario Šarić, and took Johnson with that 11th pick.

Many considered Johnson to be the best pure shooter in the draft, but almost no one predicted he would hear his name called that early. The Suns must have seen something in Johnson that would make him the best fit for their organization: likely, his knockdown perimeter shooting.

The Suns' pick-ups of Šarić and Johnson should beef up their 3-point proficiency, which was almost non-existent in prior years. Last season, the Suns were dead last in the NBA in 3-point percentage and 28th in 3-pointers made.

Pairing Johnson and other 3-point threats with rising superstar and elite shot creator Devin Booker could be an excellent template to get this young team rolling. With Booker and Deandre Ayton's pick-and-roll game taking up most of the defense's attention, Johnson will be able to find his spots on the floor to knock down open shots.

Believe it or not, Johnson also has the potential to become a leader in his first year on an NBA team. The Suns are one of the youngest teams in NBA history, while as a five-year college player Johnson has shown great growth and maturity. At 23 years old, Johnson is already older than most of the Suns' key players, including Booker, who is 22.

Many saw the Suns' selection of Johnson in the lottery as a bold move with so much potential talent still on the draft board, but in reality he's a relatively safe pick. Perhaps Phoenix is hoping to avoid past draft misses, like the selection of Josh Jackson with the fourth pick back in 2017, picked almost purely off of potential. Last season, Jackson averaged just 11.5 points on 41.3 percent from the field.

The Suns could have taken a player with more upside with their 11th pick, but they knew what they were getting when they selected Johnson: a mature knock-down shooter with the potential for a long NBA career.

@matthew_audilet

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[Here's all the former Tar Heels that signed new deals this NBA offseason]]> This summer was one of the wildest in recent NBA memory, and multiple former North Carolina basketball players played a part. Thus far, six former Tar Heels have signed new deals in NBA free agency, and four of those players joined new teams.

Keep reading to see who's going where, and who could factor into a wide-open NBA title race in 2019-20.

Danny Green

After winning his second NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in June, Green made the jump to another Finals contender, signing a two-year, $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

The veteran wing, who played at UNC from 2005 to 2009, adds an immediate boost on the defensive and 3-point fronts to a Lakers team highlighted by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Last season, Green shot a blistering 45.5 percent from deep on 5.4 attempts a game. This year, he can slide into a starting shooting guard role and lock down an opposing team's best perimeter player, then space the floor for the ball-dominant James on offense.

If things break right for Los Angeles, Green could earn his third NBA ring sooner rather than later.

Harrison Barnes

Barnes, who won ACC Rookie of the Year with the Tar Heels in 2011, will return to the Sacramento Kings on a four-year, $85 million contract, providing size, scoring and veteran leadership for a young team looking to crash the playoff party next season.

After being traded to the Kings partway through last season, Barnes averaged 14.3 points on 45.5 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from 3-point range.

Next year's Western Conference will be a war zone, but the Kings have an exciting core of young players that, with Barnes' help, can contend further down the line. De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield will all continue to develop, and Barnes will be instrumental in helping Sacramento make its next big leap.

Theo Pinson

After having his free agent rights renounced, Pinson ultimately re-signed with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, signing a two-year deal to remain with what is suddenly one of the league's most talented teams.

This offseason, the Nets signed All-NBA talents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, going from a fun group of youngsters who made a surprise playoff appearance last year to a team ready to contend for an Eastern Conference title.

That all depends the health of Durant, who is expected to miss all of next season with an Achilles injury. But his absence will only provide more opportunities for Pinson, who played in 18 games last season and averaged 4.5 points in 11.7 minutes.

Perhaps Durant can help mentor the second-year Pinson while the former sits out, turning Pinson into a more steady contributor when playoff time rolls around.

Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington

Bullock and Ellington, a pair of sharpshooting guards who got their start in Chapel Hill, both signed with the New York Knicks near the start of free agency. Bullock signed a two-year, $21 million contract, while Ellington inked a two-year, $16 million deal.

Recently, it was reported that the Knicks and Bullock's agent are working on a new deal after the team had concerns about Bullock's ability to play the full season for 2019-2020. The sharpshooting guard had not yet signed his previous deal with the team, and a new figure has not been announced.

The Knicks missed out big time in this year's free agent market, but perhaps their two Tar Heel signings can ease the pain. Both are veteran guards who can mentor the Knicks' semi-promising backcourt prospects, all while while providing floor spacing and 3-point shooting.

As for Bullock and Ellington... it's going to be a long season. Keep collecting those checks.

Ed Davis

Rounding out the Tar Heel-related transactions is Davis, who signed with the Utah Jazz for two years, $10 million. As a member of the Nets last season, Davis averaged 5.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, playing the role of an energy big man in a limited role.

In Utah, Davis can play a similar role for one of the most complete rosters in the Western Conference. At worst, he provides intensity on both ends and a propensity to swallow up rebounds and thrive in the pick-and-roll.

Don't be surprised if Davis comes off the bench and swings a playoff game or two in April or May.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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North Carolina forward Theo Pinson (1) drives the ball during Thursday night's home game against Duke.

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<![CDATA[COLUMN: Michael Jordan is one of the worst owners in the NBA, and now it's obvious]]> The Charlotte Hornets have not eclipsed 50 wins in a season since 1998.

This century, they have registered exactly two second round appearances, none since the franchise's return to Charlotte as the Bobcats in 2004.

They have burned through seven coaches in the last 15 years, reaching the playoffs just three times in that stretch. Two of those were courtesy of Steve Clifford, who was fired in 2018 after back-to-back 36-win seasons.

And the Hornets just lost Kemba Walker, perhaps the best player in franchise history - certainly the most exciting in a generation - to a conference rival (as much as you can have a rival when you've virtually gone decades without substantial playoff success).

I'm really sorry to do this, but it's time to ask that most unholy of questions. Are the Hornets just the Knicks with better PR?

Since the turn of the millennium, the New York Knicks, that laughingstock of the modern NBA, have won two playoff series to the Hornets' zero, won 50 games twice, and have been infinitely more relevant than Charlotte, if only mostly because they reside in the holy mecca of basketball. Still, the Knicks have posted three winning seasons this decade to the Hornets' two; remind me again why they're the worst run franchise in sports?

Granted, it might be because when it comes to free agency, the Knicks have managed to strike out more than a blindfolded Bryce Harper.

They could've landed Warriors star Kevin Durant this summer were it not for their bumbling owner, James Dolan - a trust-fund baby more concerned with his band JD and the Straight Shot (seriously) than with a Knicks return to glory. After it was announced that Durant was signing with the Brooklyn Nets, news broke that Dolan balked on offering Durant a max contract for fear of the Achilles injury Durant suffered in May.

Few in the NBA can even light a candle to Dolan when it comes to mismanagement of personnel and general incompetence. Michael Jordan is one such person.

Jordan took majority ownership of the Hornets in 2010, and has sneakily rattled off one of the worst stretches of team building in NBA history. His greatest hits include turning down six draft picks in favor of Frank Kaminsky, referred to in NBA circles as a "stiff" and defying other members of his organization to take Malik Monk over Donovan Mitchell.

Monk is shooting 37.6 percent from the field for his career, while Mitchell is well on his way to becoming a superstar.

And let's not forget Jordan's tenure as a shot caller for the Wizards, in which he took Kwame Brown with the first overall pick and proceeded to emasculate him in practice and to the media until Brown cowered his way out of the league.

So the draft isn't Jordan's forte. What about free agency, when he handed out albatross contracts to the likes of Cody Zeller, Nic Batum (ouch), Tyrus Thomas (OUCH), Bismack Biyombo…sorry, I just blacked out for a second there.

Recent history hasn't been much kinder. The start of the summer for the Hornets saw the team's two leading scorers, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, leave for greener pastures. Lamb signed a 3-year deal with the Pacers, while Walker bolted to the Celtics as part of a sign-and-trade.

At last, we can finally credit Jordan for something - leaving the mire of mediocrity and bottoming out.

Still, Walker's departure in particular raises questions. The Hornets say they weren't willing to offer Walker a supermax and go into the luxury tax, which, as a middling team, is perfectly fine - except if they knew that, why didn't they try to trade Walker and get some sort of return for him?

Instead, their onetime franchise player left the Hornets empty handed.

You can say those decisions aren't solely Jordan's fault, and you'd be right. But His Airness is also the one responsible for hiring the right people to make those decisions. That's what the best NBA owners do - hire the right people, then get out of the way. No interference necessary.

If there's one NBA sin Jordan has committed in his time in Charlotte, it's not trusting his personnel. If he wants to be the GM, be the GM. But undermining the people he hires will probably never work out - it certainly hasn't so far.

The Hornets completely bungled the Kemba Walker era. They've been hamstrung by bad contracts, near-ubiquitous misses on draft picks and a seeming acceptance of mediocrity, all of it exacerbated by a meddling owner.

Squint your eyes at that last sentence. Look really hard. Pretty Knickish, if you ask me.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Assistant Sports Editor Ryan Wilcox

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<![CDATA['A learning experience': Garrison Brooks prepares to lead UNC basketball]]> After a half hour fielding questions from a group of high school and college journalists, Garrison Brooks decided to stick around.

There he sat in the UNC basketball press room, graciously taking pictures with the girls and answering eager questions from the boys. He didn't do it because he had to, but because he wanted to. The teens swarmed him, but he didn't seem to mind. He was enjoying himself.

Steve Kirschner, head of communications for Tar Heel hoops, was quick to call it a "first" for Brooks - doing more than what was required in a media setting.

It seemed like something a leader would do.

Leader. It's a position the Lafayette, Alabama native hasn't yet found himself in midway through his North Carolina basketball career. Yet after six Tar Heel departures following the 2018-19 season - three graduations, two NBA draft exits and a transfer - head coach Roy Williams has made Brooks' new role quite apparent.

"He's made it very evident - crystal clear - that the juniors and the seniors have to play a big role," Brooks said. "Because we have six new guys, and they're not used to the Carolina way. He's made it clear to us that we have to be very good every day and lead by example."

Those six new faces are made up of a pair of grad transfers, a pair of McDonald's All-Americans and two more first years. The two transfers already have a combined six years of college basketball under their belts - but for the four first-years, the onus is on Brooks and a few others to show them that all-important Carolina way.

"As a leader, you try to make everyone feel comfortable around you," Brooks said. "Make them feel like they can come to you about anything, whether it's related to basketball, off the court, just becoming their friend, their brother."

Upperclassmen leadership or no, incorporating six newcomers into a college rotation will be tough. Brooks described the team's first practice this week as "a learning experience."

The Tar Heels lost more than 80 percent of their scoring from last season; thus, Brooks said his offseason focus so far has been on his shot and becoming more aggressive offensively.

He'll need to be.

That's not to say he won't have help. First-year Cole Anthony is one of the most complete point guard prospects of the decade, while grad transfers Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling will be UNC's designated 3-point threats.

And according to Brooks, the versatility of sophomore guard Leaky Black - on both ends - could provide a huge boost in the backcourt.

"If Leaky Black is 100 percent," Brooks said, "Leaky Black is one of the best defenders and best players in the ACC."

Meanwhile, Armando Bacot, a five-star center from Richmond, Virginia, is a worthy addition to the Tar Heels' crop of big men.

"The frontcourt could be really good," Brooks said. "My freshman year, we had a lot of guys, but I don't think we were as ready to play. Last year, we had a pretty good frontcourt, but unfortunately Sterling was hurt. I believe with the frontcourt of me, Sterling [Manley], Brandon Huffman and Armando, we can be really talented, really good, and make a huge impact."

The new additions, four of which came in the span of less than a month, ensured that next season would be a reload, not a rebuild. And, crucially, North Carolina's goal remains the same, according to Brooks: a national championship.

"I feel like that should be number one on everyone's list," he said.

Those title hopes ended last year at the hands of Auburn in the Sweet 16, a 17-point drubbing in which, Brooks readily admits, the Tar Heels got outplayed.

Does the loss still bother him? Somewhat, seemingly. What about the fact that it was to a team from his home state of Alabama?

"A little bit," Brooks said. "Because I have to go home and hear that nonsense."

In a season defined by new faces, Brooks is the only returning UNC starter. Coby White, Kenny Williams, Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye - all gone. More than 80 percent of Tar Heel points in 2018-19 - gone. Some of the most indelible names in recent UNC memory - gone.

Garrison Brooks, though, is sticking around.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[ANALYSIS: Assessing Nassir Little's fit on the Portland Trail Blazers]]> After the conclusion of last week's NBA Draft, many believed the steal of the night was Nassir Little, the 6-foot-6 former Tar Heel who fell to the Portland Trail Blazers with the 25th pick.

Portland's average of 114.7 points per game ranked them sixth in the NBA, and its 46.7 field goal percentage is 12th in the league. Additionally, the Trail Blazers ranked ninth in three-point percentage at 35.9 percent. This is an area where Little was inconsistent at times in his lone season in Chapel Hill. If he wants to put up big scoring numbers and fit well with Portland's style of play, Little will need to be more consistent on the three ball.

Little's 9.8 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game in 18 minutes off the bench at North Carolina showed his potential to be a solid scorer and contributor on the boards. While his numbers were great off the bench, the 19-year-old still has potential to be a phenomenal player with room to grow and polish his game. With an impressive wingspan and frame, Little can defend both guards and forwards and has an ability to move well laterally.

With NBA free agency already underway, the Trail Blazers have some important decisions to make. Al-Farouq Aminu already departed for the Orlando Magic on a 3-year deal, leaving a gap at the forward spot. Portland now needs the services of Little more than before, either on the wing or as a small-ball four.

Little will not be an instant solution, nor is he expected to be an immediate starter. But he offers Portland a scorer off the bench, and depth at the forward positions, their biggest position of need. Little will have time to improve his game, find a consistent rhythm beyond the arc and get used to Portland's style of play. Entering his rookie season, expect Little to be become a key piece in Portland off the bench and maybe even develop into a reliable young contributor for a Western Conference contender.

@A_ReynoldsDTH

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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First-year forward Nassir Little (5) takes a shot against Duke during the semifinals of the ACC Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. on Friday, March 15, 2019. UNC fell to Duke 73-74.

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<![CDATA[COLUMN: Examining the reasons for UNC's perplexing draft night]]> A year ago, North Carolina men's basketball had one consensus lottery pick, Nassir Little. The 6-foot-6 forward was a projected top-five pick lottery by most NBA draft boards and ready to take the league by storm. He just needed to do one thing - complete one mandatory year removed from high school, which he chose to do at UNC.

A year later Little wasn't a top five pick, he wasn't a top 10 pick, he wasn't even a lottery pick. Little spent most of draft night staring at the big screen, watching team after team pass on him, eventually going No. 25 overall to the Portland Trailblazers.

Meanwhile, two of Little's UNC running mates - Coby White and Cameron Johnson - entered the season with low draft expectations. Most experts pegged Johnson as an early second round pick and did not have White listed as a draftee.

Both were lottery picks, with White going No. 7 overall to the Bulls and Johnson going No. 11 overall, ending up with the Suns via trade.

The dichotomy begs questions. How did this happen? Whom is to blame? Whom is to credit?

For a portion of the college basketball fanbase the focus shifted immediately to head coach Roy Williams. After all, Williams hasn't landed as many top tier NBA talents as Kentucky's John Calipari or Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Under Williams, only five Tar Heels have bolted for the NBA after a single season: Marvin Williams, Brandan Wright, Tony Bradley, White and Little.

Defenders of Williams will point to White and Johnson as proof that Williams can develop talent if given the chance.

Naysayers will point to Little's perplexing draft night to hammer home the belief Williams is incapable of developing top tier talent.

But how can Williams both be given credit for elevating some players into the NBA lottery and simultaneously "ruining" the draft stock of another?

That doesn't add up.

To this point in North Carolina basketball history, 52 first round draft picks have been produced, 32 of those under Williams. If there's anything we know it's that the Hall of Fame coach knows how to develop talent (duh).

What, then, explains the conundrum that occurred on draft night?

Put simply, for most college players, if you're a projected lottery pick, you go. Why risk another year playing for free and putting your body at risk of injury when you can make millions? Thus, high school prospects with NBA hopes are left with two options during their mandatory year removed from high school:

The first, ball out.

Whether it be in college or overseas for a professional team, absolutely dominate competition. Put all the doubts to rest whether or not you belong in the league. Each year there are a few players in the lottery who do that. The rest are mostly educated guesses.

This year's crop of one and done players was made up of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Darius Garland, Coby White, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish, Tyler Herro and Romeo Langford. Williamson and Barrett were the only no brainers; both excelled during their only year at Duke. While their games are far from finished products, they're more than ready for the next level. For the rest, a reasonable argument could've been made for them to stay another year.

The second and less favorable option: spend quality time developing your game.

Ja Morant, De'Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver, Rui Hachimura, Cam Johnson and PJ Washington all did just that on the way to becoming lottery picks.

Morant wasn't ranked out of high school. Culver wasn't even a top 300 ranked high school player. Johnson - the most surprising of them all - spent five years in college battling through injuries, and Washington said in numerous conversations he needed more time to craft his game.

In each of their cases, they didn't really "choose" to go back to school, it was chosen for them. These players didn't have lottery pick potential after their first year, and for some even after years two and three. If they did, they would have left.

White and Johnson rose because they gave NBA teams more reasons to draft them this year. Both consistently showed a quality the NBA covets, the ability to score. Little struggled in that area, so he fell.

Evaluating talent isn't easy, people mature at different rates, but the NBA does themselves no favors with their one year removed rule. It creates a flawed evaluation process, limiting teams to one year of advanced level game tape on top prospects. A season's worth of college production matters, but that isn't enough information for the millions of dollars NBA teams are investing into draftees.

@JSIMP24

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[Renewed hope: Analyzing the Chicago Bulls' roster and how Coby White can help]]> The Chicago Bulls started last season with hopes of continued development for a core of young players. After a dismal 5-19 start, they fired their head coach Fred Hoiberg, and the season trended downhill from there.

A plethora of injuries plagued the young core of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr., with all missing time throughout the year. The Bulls' planned starting five never once saw the floor together in 2018-19.

By season's end, Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaq Harrison, Wayne Selden, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Robin Lopez strutted to the court for the final game. While their efforts were admirable, that's not the starting five the Bulls envisioned finishing the season for them.

In the offseason, the Bulls gave interim head coach Jim Boylen a contract extension and have been transparent about their desires to upgrade at the point guard position.

Enter Coby White, the sensational point guard from North Carolina who offers renewed hope for the Bulls after being drafted No. 7 overall in Thursday's NBA Draft. Before White was even able to leave the green room, he was met by Carter Jr., who will be one of White's teammates in Chicago.

Boylen hinted at the possibility of playing faster and explored different small-ball lineups at the end of last season. That fits right up White's wheelhouse.

In the open court, White's speed will have defenders on their heels fearing easy layups. If he can't get to the cup, he'll be able to pass out to Otto Porter Jr., the 6-foot-8 small forward who shot 40.6 percent from deep last season. When that doesn't work, White will be able to dish to LaVine, an athletic slasher who led the team in scoring last season, averaging 23.7 points per game.

In the half court, expect Boylen to put the UNC product in lots of screens with Carter Jr. and Markkanen. Carter Jr. has back-to-the-basket ability for White to dish down to in the low post. To help create space, the 6-foot-5 point guard can kick it out to Markkanen - an athletic forward who can stretch the floor and create his own shot off the dribble. Markkanen's ability to drift towards the 3-point line will give White more space to operate in the paint to look for his own shot or create for others.

Chicago will have to decide what they want to do with Dunn. Organizations are usually hesitant to give up on young talent, but if Dunn can bring back assets via trade, they may move him. At this point, though, the third year point guard has a depressed trade market.

If the Bulls choose to keep Dunn, they may have White come off the bench, allowing the UNC product to develop slowly, simultaneously allowing Dunn to increase potential trade value. If the duo takes the floor together, White would most likely move off the ball because of his 3-point shooting ability.

Regardless of what Chicago does with Dunn, they have options and the ability to get better. The Bulls have around $20 million in cap space. Look for the organization to target a solid veteran point guard who can show White the ropes and another big man for him to facilitate to.

@JSIMP24

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[Men's basketball 2018-19 season in review: ACC title highlights another strong season]]> Despite a less-than-ideal finish - an upset loss to Auburn in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament - there were still plenty of bright spots for the North Carolina men's basketball team in 2018-19.

The Tar Heels went 29-7 overall and posted a 16-2 mark in conference play, enough to split a regular season ACC title with eventual national champion Virginia. It was UNC's 32nd time capturing at least a share of the ACC regular season title and the ninth in head coach Roy Williams' 16 seasons.

After going 11-3 in a tough non-conference slate - including a Dec. 15 win against Gonzaga - the Tar Heels soon found themselves at a crossroads, suffering an 62-83 thrashing at the hands of Louisville in their third ACC game. Rather than roll over, the team responded by ripping off seven straight wins and going 16-2 to finish the regular season, tying the Cavaliers atop the ACC.

North Carolina also went 2-1 against a much-hyped Duke team in 2018-19. The 73-74 loss to the Blue Devils came in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., denying the Tar Heels a third win against their rival and a shot at a postseason conference title.

Still, North Carolina earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the 17th time in school history, an NCAA record. But after handling Iona and Washington in the first two rounds, UNC was outshot and outplayed in the Sweet 16 against Auburn, bringing the Tar Heels' season to an end with an 80-97 loss. The Tigers advanced all the way to the Final Four in Minneapolis, Minn. before falling to Virginia.

Roy Williams' squad never would have gotten that far without the help of a high-scoring Tar Heel triumvirate: graduate wing Cameron Johnson, who led the team with 16.9 points per game; Coby White, who posted 16.1 points per game in his first and last season in Chapel Hill; and senior forward Luke Maye, who was third on the team in points (14.9) and first in rebounds (10.5).

Those three accounted for 55.8 percent of North Carolina's points in 2018-19, and took turns carrying the scoring burden in different games. Rounding out the starting five were senior guard Kenny Williams and sophomore forward Garrison Brooks, while first-year Nassir Little was the Tar Heels' most valuable player off the bench.

A much-hyped recruit coming in to Chapel Hill, Little averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds before declaring for the NBA draft alongside White.

Thus, North Carolina lost its five leading scorers from 2018-19: Johnson, Maye and Williams, who all graduated, and the two rookie standouts. That void will have to be filled by returners Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black and Brooks, among others, along with incoming players like Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot.

The Auburn loss doesn't diminish UNC's accomplishments last season, nor does it change the fact that Roy Williams had created a veritable championship blend, the right mix of young talent and veteran experience needed to win a title. The ball didn't bounce North Carolina's way, but all the pieces were there.

Only time will tell if this year's Tar Heels can replicate the considerable success of the team that came before them.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[ANALYSIS: Don't overlook returning players for UNC men's basketball]]> In the one-and-done era of college basketball, early season attention usually goes to the team with the latest big-time high school recruits. However, postseason success often favors the well-constructed rosters, balanced with youthful talent and veteran experience.

Relatedly, a lot has been made of the job head coach Roy Williams did on the recruiting trail this offseason ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. Williams snagged five-star point guard Cole Anthony, five-star big man Armando Bacot Jr., four-star combo guard Anthony Harris and 3-star guard Jeremiah Francis from the high school ranks, along with graduate transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce.

Their arrival in Chapel Hill brings excitement and hope for another championship. It has also shifted attention away from the players that are already here and will continue to contribute. Here are three returning Tar Heels that will be vital to a successful season - and maybe even to hanging another banner in the Dean E. Smith Center.

Garrison Brooks

During his sophomore year, Brooks took large strides, earned the trust of Roy Williams and was rewarded with major increases in playing time on his way to becoming one of the Tar Heels' primary big men. Brooks jumped from 14.6 minutes per game in his first season in Chapel Hill to 23.0 minutes in his second.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds, both increases from his first-year averages of 4.5 and 3.5, respectively.

With the addition of Bacot, North Carolina may look to revert back to an inside-out focus offensively, playing bully ball in the paint in its half-court sets. If that's the case, Brooks could easily see continued growth in these areas.

Brandon Robinson

With Seventh Woods deciding to transfer to South Carolina, Brandon Robinson is the lone senior who saw valuable minutes for the Tar Heels last season. After sophomore Leaky Black went down with an ankle injury, Robinson saw his minutes increase, and he made the most of them.

The Douglasville, Ga., native averaged 11.9 minutes a game while shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 46.0 percent from 3-point range.

This year, the 6-foot-4 guard will be in prime position to battle for a starting job in the backcourt alongside Anthony. His length also adds value on the defensive side of the ball for a North Carolina team that likes to switch on screens. If Robinson can keep his shooting averages high, expect him to play an even larger role in his last season as a Tar Heel.

Leaky Black

This time last year, Black was part of a trio of first-years that generated plenty of hype for the Tar Heel faithful. Since then, rookie partners in crime Coby White and Nassir Little have declared for the NBA Draft after standout seasons.

After missing a chunk of the season due to injury, Black will return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore campaign and should have a big impact in the upcoming year.

At 6-foot-7, the Concord, N.C., native has the length and ability to legitimately defend three positions. On offense, Black showed an ability to handle the ball and run the North Carolina offense. If Williams decides to play him as a combo guard again, he should have success operating on the elbow over smaller guards.

@JSIMP24

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[Luke Maye, Kenny Williams sign with Bucks, Spurs after NBA Draft]]> One day after the 2019 NBA Draft, Luke Maye and Kenny Williams have found homes in the professional ranks.

After both went undrafted on Thursday, former North Carolina forward Luke Maye signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, while guard Kenny Williams signed with the San Antonio Spurs, according to a release from the athletic department.

Both Tar Heels graduated in the spring after four years with the program, highlighted by a national championship win in 2017.

Maye finished his career in Chapel Hill with 1,392 points and 942 rebounds, 10th most in program history. A Huntersville, N.C., native, he posted 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in 2017-18 and 14.9 points and 10.5 rebounds as a senior. Maye also became the first Tar Heel to average a double-double in back-to-back seasons since 1976.

Williams totaled 915 points and 143 three-pointers in his UNC career, starting for the Tar Heels in the 2016-17 national championship season before suffering a season-ending injury in early February. He scored in double figures 49 times, including posting 20 and 18 points in a pair of home wins against Duke the last two seasons.

Maye and Williams will join fellow Tar Heels Coby White, Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little, all of whom were drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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<![CDATA[For UNC, an NBA Draft to remember for many different reasons]]> Imagine that before the 2018-19 season, I told you that not one, but two UNC men's basketball players would find themselves as lottery picks in the next year's NBA Draft.

Now imagine that I told you that neither of them was Nassir Little.

It would've been hard to believe. Very hard to believe.

Gotta love draft night.

First-year guard Coby White was the first off the board for the Tar Heels, taken seventh overall by the Chicago Bulls. NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski described White as "perhaps the fastest rising prospect" in pre-draft workouts; in reality, White's stock has been on an astronomical trajectory since North Carolina's season began, a year in which he led the Tar Heels in assists and was second on the team in points. Before the year, White was seen as a late first round pick at best.

According to a post-draft statement from Roy Williams, White was also in "serious consideration" for the third, fourth, fifth and sixth overall picks. Not bad for a guy ranked 96th in his high school class three years ago.

Then, in what was considered the surprise of the night, the Phoenix Suns leapt at the chance to take UNC's Cameron Johnson 11th overall. Indeed, though many thought of Johnson as perhaps the best shooter in the draft, he was projected as a late first-round talent, not a lottery pick. White, upon hearing the news, summed the moment up pretty succinctly: "That's crazy. That's so love, bro."

Hey, at least the Suns know exactly what they're doing, right?

For one to rise, though, another has to fall. Little would have to wait another hour to hear his name called, eventually being picked 25th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. Among those drafted before him: Tyler Herro, Sekou Doumbouya, Goga Bitadze, Luka Samanic, Matisse Thybulle and, just before Little, former Virginia guard Ty Jerome.

Here's your reminder that before the year, Little was the No. 3 player in his high school class according to 247Sports, a consensus top-five pick with can't-miss athleticism and a ridiculous motor.

If he logged the same amount of minutes as, say, Darius Garland, the No. 5 pick who sat out most of last season due to injury, he likely would've still enjoyed a lottery pick selection. Instead, Little averaged 9.8 points per game off the bench in his lone season in Chapel Hill - not enough, seemingly, in the eyes of most scouts. That's why they play the games, as they say.

The good news for Little is that the draft is a crapshoot. Would anyone be shocked if he turned the motivation of his late selection into a long and productive NBA career? Not really. Williams said he was "dying" for Little as he waited to be picked, but called him "the absolute steal of the draft."

In any event, Thursday was still, by any metric, the most successful draft night in nearly a decade from a UNC perspective: three first round picks for the fourth time in program history (most since 2012, when there were four), while Little became the 52nd Tar Heel selected in the first round, an NCAA record. With Cole Anthony's arrival in Chapel Hill, many expect him to become the 53rd in a year's time.

Of course, the team that selected you is a lot more important than the slot in which you were taken. For Little, Portland is a franchise with a solid infrastructure, coming off of a Western Conference Finals appearance, with a desperate need for a young, athletic forward to lock down opposing wings: [Larry David voice] Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Chicago and Phoenix, though? Not so much. The Bulls last season were best known for having a drill sergeant as a coach who was still woefully unable to discipline his young players, while the Suns just made their *checks fingers* 258th consecutive trip to the lottery.

Only time will tell if White and Johnson can help turns things around for their new franchises. That's most of the fun of draft night - the unpredictability. Perhaps the night wasn't what Coby White, Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little had anticipated, with each having their own reasons as to why.

But that's over now. The chips have fallen. For three of the newest former Tar Heels, the only thing that matters is what comes next.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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