Greg: UNC Basketball Pillars


With Halloween fast approaching, Roy Williams’ golf season is ending, which coincides well with the start of the 2022-23 basketball season. The retired three-time National Championship coach is likely to return to his seat on the field in North Carolina’s first opener against UNCW on November 7 with heavy focus on Hubert Davis’ composition in the fifth start and its similarities to the great Tar Heel. difference in the past.

Despite the feud among many in and around Chapel Hill 19 months ago, Williams declared the game had passed him by. His preference for playing two traditional big guys together was to swing in antiquity, crapnet has thrived on many crucial social media platforms for recruiting attendees, and the arrival of his transfer portal, name, photo, and example were enough to convince him that it was time to retire. Despite the enormous opportunities for Roy-ism slang at the time of the NIL, it is difficult to argue that the change, though difficult, was necessary for the correctness of the program.

That doesn’t mean everything changed when Davis took over in April 2021. As ACC’s pre-season Player of the Year Armando Bacot said last summer, the switch from Williams to Davis was more of an iPhone update than a renewal. Nowhere was this more evident than in the construction of Tar Heels’ starting lineup, which was originally recruited as Roy but adapted to Davis’ playability.

In a sport that has become increasingly centerless, Williams’ top teams were built around three major locations that served as pillars of his planning intentions. Paraphrasing what Dean Smith had taught him during his time as an assistant coach at Chapel Hill, Williams realized when he arrived in Kansas that he would need an experienced point guard to run his fast attack and an elite big man to score both at the edge. And control the panels to steal additional property while also driving speed. There was also a need for a defensive spark on the field to frustrate the best player on the opponent’s perimeter while collecting floor burns to inspire their teammates to match their strength.

What followed was the lineup trend that Williams would repeat throughout his 33 years as head coach. Kansas knocked out North Carolina State in the 1991 Final Four with Adonis Jordan’s starting point, Alonzo Jamison did the dirty work and Mark Randall took home the low American honors. Six years later, Williams’ best team in Lawrence was led by Jack Vaughn at the point and American Raif Lavrentz in the position while Jerrod Haas attacked and defended anyone offered by Jayhawk’s opponents.

His UN command teams continued this tradition. Raymond Felton introduced Williams’ chaotic rhythm to a Tar Heel fan base, Sean May was the NCAA Tournament’s best on the edge and on the glass, and Jackie Manuel’s height and athletic ability turned him into a stifling defensive mantle. Just ask JJ Redick. The result was a national title in 2005.

RJ Davis (Photo: Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina)

The next group of elite Tar Heel teams came in 2007, 2008 and 2008-2009 with Ty Lawson, the road runner in the back-running frame, pushing forward the offensive tempo and winning Tyler Hansbrough National Player of the Year in 2008. Marcus Jennard was the stick-and-stop man defensively during his first three years, although an injury in 2009 forced Danny Green to join the squad with a different style of defensive ability.

There have been adjustments along the way, sure. The 2012 squad boasted Condall Marshall in the points guard and Tyler Zeller in the position while forward John Henson took over the defensive poll. Marcus Page handed over point guard duties to Joel Perry in 2016 to take on more scoring responsibilities while locking opponents on the periphery to complement Bryce Johnson indoors. And during the 2017 national title race, Perry was in full command at this point with Theo Benson emerging as equal parts facilitator and defender on the wing to provide the balance for the subsequent duo of Kennedy Mix and Isaiah Hicks.

This current crop of Tar Heels, voted #1 in both national and conference pre-season polls, is a Roy Williams classic with new Hubert Davis updates. RJ Davis rose to the position as a UNC starting point guard late last season, scoring 96% of the minutes in his position on the NCAA tournament. He’s strong in New York with Berry’s rivalry guts and his under-appreciated shot ability. Bacot needs no introduction after tying 36-year-old David Robinson’s record for doubles in a single season (31) in 2021-22.

Then there’s Leaky Black, who was once envisioned by Williams as a key guard but turned under Davis’ tutelage into the best defender in the country and one of the best defenders in the program’s history.

This trio’s consistent contributions to the Carolinas’ traditional basketball roles have catapulted the Davis program into a position to charge for the title game last April. Their solid foundation allowed Caleb Love and Brady Manek to focus on providing enough firepower to get the Tar Heels within 20 minutes of their seventh NCAA Championship.

Love will be an important part of the 2022-23 journey as it often acts as the team’s late attack, and newcomer Pete Nance will try to make up for Maneke’s departure with his unique skills in the position, despite the core of the Carolina team. It lies in the resilient power of Davis, Black, and Paco.

It’s probably everything Williams envisioned when he started recruiting this group of players seven long years ago.


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